I recently learned that

Куда ты собрался?

usually gets translated as

Where are you going?

Or, at least it does on Reverso.

This raised at least a couple of questions for me. The first is the title of this post — What is the difference between

Kуда ты идёшь?


Куда ты собрался?

The second thing that piqued my curiosity is the fact that "собрался" is past tense perfective. If one makes the decision to use собраться, why not use a future tense form of it? But, as you can see from the Google Ngram below, "Куда ты соберёшься?" doesn't even make the cut:

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I am also curious about the frequency of past tense perfective verbs being translated as present tense verbs in English. Does this happen with great frequency? Are there certain types of verbs that tend to do this? Is "собираться" one of them, and, if so, does this group of verbs have a category with a name? And, finally, is there a particular name for when a verb is past tense in the original language, but present tense in the translated language?

If you want more context, this whole inquiry came about after a learning session in which one of my Russian tutors on iTalki is helping me understand the dialog in this short film:


The phrase in question is found just shortly after minute 1:20, and conjugated for a female obviously (собралась vs. собрался).

I didn't realize I had so many questions about this phrase until after the session ended, but that's okay because somebody else might be curious about this, too.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Quassnoi
    Jan 7, 2022 at 3:48
  • 1
    «Куда ты собрался?» is short for «Куда ты собрался идти?» Jan 11, 2022 at 23:32

5 Answers 5


This depends on context — particularly whether the question is posed while the person addressed is preparing to leave, or in the process of actually leaving.

  1. While preparing to leave (e.g. ironing their clothes):
    • Kуда ты идёшь? - Appropriate;
    • Куда ты собрался? - Not appropriate because preparations to leave are not yet concluded;
    • Куда ты собираешься? (Where are you preparing to go?) - Appropriate, because the question is about an ongoing process;
  2. After preparations are concluded, but before starting off (e.g. the person addressed has put on new clothes, but hasn't walked out the door):
    • Kуда ты идёшь? - Appropriate;
    • Куда ты собрался? - Appropriate. It may imply disapproval — particularly if there were no visible preparations.
  3. When someone is in the process of leaving (e.g. on the street):
    • Kуда ты идёшь? - Appropriate;
    • Куда ты собрался? - Appropriate; The crux here is that someone's appearance and/or behavior is unusual and suggests some special occasion.
  • Note that in 1 "Куда ты собрался?" is not appropriate in a positive meaning, but completely correct in the "disapproval" case - "you decided (собрался) to party with the other girl and now ironing your clothes". Jan 12, 2022 at 2:25

Let me start with the basics. Собирать means 'to gather', 'to put lots of things in one place'. Собираться means 'to gather oneself (or one's things)', 'to pack (one's belongings)'. Соберись! could mean either 'pack yourself!' or 'pull yourself together!', 'focus!', 'get ready!'). Getting ready for something implies being about to do it, in your example, to go.

Собрался is in the past tense because you're finished getting ready and now you're about to go. The full phrase might have been:

  • Куда ты собрался идти? (Where have you gotten yourself ready to go?)

But usually in this phrase идти is dropped as it's already implied by куда, leaving just:

  • Куда ты собрался? Where are you off to?
  • 1
    Sergey, you don't disappoint. Great answer!
    – CocoPop
    Jan 4, 2022 at 16:06
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    I think I've even seen just Куда ты? with no идти to speak of, right?
    – CocoPop
    Jan 4, 2022 at 16:08
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    @CocoPop, That's right. Куда ты? or Ты куда? work as complete sentences as well. Jan 4, 2022 at 16:11
  • 1
    Thank you! Happy New Year to you.
    – CocoPop
    Jan 4, 2022 at 16:12
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    In fact, «Ты куда?» is so overused, it's usually met with an irritated retort: «На куды́кину го́ру!». To avoid the cliche, my wife sees me off with: «Ты куда, Одиссей, от жены, от детей?..» @CocoPop Jan 4, 2022 at 16:24

I believe that собираться can effectively be compared to English (to be) about to. That would explain why it doesn't work in the future, since we, similarly, wouldn't say you'll be about to go except in some esoteric context. So my interpretation of Куда ты собрался? would be "Where are/were you off to?", or with a touch of disapproval, "Where do you think you're going?"

Another interpretation of собрался is was going to when we talk about future intentions in a past scenario. That's why there's no future equivalent, because in the present, we would just use the future tense:

[past intention] I was going to call you when I had the time, but it never panned out.

[present intention] I'm going to call you when I have the time.

  • What could, in your oppinion, relevant translations of your two last examples be? [for the past intention] Я собрался вам (по)звонить, когда время будет, но не спланировалось or Я собирался вам (по)звонить, когда время было/будет, но не спланировалось. [fot the Present intention] Я собрался вам (по)звонить, когда есть/будет время or Я собираюсь вам (по)звонить, когда есть/будет время.
    – Eugene
    Jan 8, 2022 at 17:43
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    I'd say, Я собирался тебе (по)звонить, and Я позвоню тебе.
    – CocoPop
    Jan 8, 2022 at 18:00
  • Thank you. I am also interested in the translation of subordinate clauses. I.e. [for the past intention] "...когда время было or будет"?
    – Eugene
    Jan 8, 2022 at 18:58
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    I thought I would have known. But native speakers downvoted my answer. It means I was wrong on some issues.
    – Eugene
    Jan 8, 2022 at 19:07
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    @Eugene that doesn't sound right я собрался позвонить, когда будет время. Don't really want to analyze why, but that sounds ungrammatical. Should be я собирался позвонить, когда будет время.
    – il--ya
    Jan 16, 2022 at 6:33

The main difference in the use of perfective "собраться-собрался" and impf. "собираться-собираешься" consists in the nuances they express. It can be one of "packing up/putting something on, clothes etc" or "planning, intending to do smth". Irrespective of whether you see someone packing up their things/belongings or preparing/putting on/changing clothes or having already put them on, or you run into them in the doorway, you can use either "собрался" or "собираешься" in the meaning of "having planned/intending to do smth":

  • (someone is packing up their belongings or putting on/changing clothes)

    -"Куда собрался/собираешься/вознамерился/намереваешься?" (to put it literally, it would mean: "What have you planned to go to do, that I see you packing up/getting dressed?")

    -"Cобрался/собираюсь/вознамерился/намереваюсь: погулять/cходить за продуктами/съездить в Вегас/уйти от тебя/совершить ограбление/научиться танцевать самбу! (I've planned/intend to...).

  • (you meet someone in the doorway, who's already dressed)

    -"Куда собрался/собираешься/вознамерился/намереваешься?"

    -"Cобрался/собираюсь/вознамерился/намереваюсь: погулять/cходить за продуктами/съездить в Вегас/уйти от тебя/совершить ограбление/научиться танцевать самбу!

  • 1
    @CocoPop But it is not my initial pattern. If I'm not mistaken it used to be: "What have you planned to go to do that I see you packing up/getting dressed?" And the answer should be: "I'm going to take a walk/to leave you/to knock a bank over/to take a trip to Vegas". And it is not "Where are you going?", it may be closer to "Where are you off to?" In Russian, as far as I've been in the know, "Куда собрался/собираешься" has little to do with "Куда ты идешь?" as far as a destination point is concerned.
    – Eugene
    Jan 7, 2022 at 18:27
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    @CocoPop I highly asses your touch (in dealing) with my English. Inasmuch as I take in "take up" as "occupy oneself with, engage in, go in for etc", could I say: "I've been meaning to go study dancing Samba" to set off the idea of getting into studying Samba?
    – Eugene
    Jan 8, 2022 at 22:25
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    @CocoPop I see. Would you allow of adding "go": "I've been meaning to go learn samba."?
    – Eugene
    Jan 8, 2022 at 22:44
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    Absolutely! 👍🏼
    – CocoPop
    Jan 8, 2022 at 22:51
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    @CocoPop That's the key point for the implication of " куда собрался/собираешься/собираешься". Thank you a raft of lots! (I don't abide by idiomacy. It makes any language unrestrained and lavish in a good sense)(:
    – Eugene
    Jan 9, 2022 at 9:43

In English the verb "to be going to" has 2 separate meanings: 1. To move physically, usually by foot; 2. To prepare, have the intention to do something.

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