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In the book "A comprehensive Russian grammar" by Terence Wade, three different rules are shown for how a first conjugation verb ending in -ить is conjugated. It does not explain when each rule is applicable. Is there a rule for this?

The three examples that are given in the book are:

  1. бить: я бью (so the и goes away)
  2. брить: я брею (so the и becomes an е)
  3. гнить: я гнию (so the и stays)

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The ending -ить does not tell you much about how a verb is conjugated. As you've seen, verbs ending in -ить can be conjugated differently. Let me throw in:

  • люби́ть - люблю́
  • жить - живу́

Note that бре́ю and гнию́ also differ in emphasis.

Moreover, verbs that are conjugated similarly, can have different infinitives:

  • брею, бреешь, бреет, INFINITIVE: брить
  • грею, греешь, греет, INFINITIVE: греть

Your best bet is to consult a dictionary; e.g. the Russian Wiktionary has conjugation tables for most verbs. As you learn more verbs, you'll learn which ones are conjugated similarly:

  • бить, пить, лить - бью, пью, лью,
  • любить - люблю, копить - коплю, etc

Andrey Zalizniak's Grammatical Dictionary of Russian lists 16 conjugation classes, but even those are not comprehensive: some verbs have their own distinct conjugation, e.g. мыть - мо́ю, плыть - плыву́, моло́ть - мелю́ and many others.

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  • Excellent explanation and excellent English!
    – CocoPop
    Jan 10 at 18:16

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