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Прошлой зимой я поехал в Москву. Я долетел/прилетел на самолёте

I am confused about which one to use долетел or прилетел my resources tell me that:

прилететь совер. - 1) arrive (by air), fly in | 2) fly, come flying

долететь совер. - fly (to, as far as); reach; be wafted (to)

I am not sure which one to use, my brain is telling me to use прилетелbut that is just based on my very limited experience with Russian.

In English I want to be saying "Last winter I went to Moscow. I flew by plane."

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Both are possible and are fine. Also, "добрался" is possible, as mentioned in Artemix's and Herokiller's answers.

If you ask me how I would say it as a native speaker - I would say "добрался". More specifically, I would say: "Я добрался туда на самолёте". "Туда" (there, to that place) is not mandatory, but it sounds better that way.

Maybe I can say something about the slight difference between прилетел/долетел/добрался:

If you say прилетел - it's more like "I came/arrived (using an air transport) there by plane"

If you say долетел - it's more like "I made it to there (to Moscow) by plane"

With Добрался it has the same translation as with долетел, but долетел can be used onlywith air transport, and Добрался can be used with any means of travelling: car, train, plane, boat, even on foot.

Motion words with до- prefix have this sliiight shadow of meaning that you arrived and arrived successfully. For example, when I arrive somewhere by plane, I send an SMS to my family saying: "Я долетел". That way I slightly stress the fact that I made it by plane without accidents, in other words, that I didn't crash. 8)

Same works with приплыл/доплыл (if you're sailing), приехал/доехал (if you're driving or riding public transport or train), пришёл/дошёл (if you're on foot)

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  • 'Долетел', 'доехал', 'доплыл' etc. may also used to hint that the arrival relieved the traveller of bodily unpleasancies or emotional strain he'd been experiencing during the trip: 'Наконец-то долетел! Можно размять ноги и покурить.' – ach Apr 23 '14 at 14:29
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Grammatically, they are both alright, but actually, saying "by plane" already means that you "flew", you can say "Прошлой зимой я летал/слетал в Москву"; in case you want to use 2 sentences you'd better say "Прошлой зимой я побывал('ve been) в Москве. Я добрался(got, arrived) на самолете".

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Actually both variants are grammatically correct, but the meaning is slightly different.

  • Я прилетел на самолете simply means that you arrived. By saying "прилетел" you don't want to focus on the transport you have used.
  • By saying Я добрался на самолете you are focusing on the fact that you have managed to reach your destination by using plane.

You want to use second case either because:

  • You want to say that there were no other possibilities to reach that point: "В этот край таёжный / только самолетом можно долететь" - In this Soviet song it is said that to get to taiga (nothern forest) you have no other option but to use a plane.
  • Or maybe you planned to use some other transport, but because of the different reasons it was not possible and you had to improvise. As a result you have managed to buy tickets on the plane and finally you got to the Moscow by plane: "Поезда не ходили. Пришлось сдать билеты и ехать в аэропорт. До Москвы я добрался на самолете".
  • You wanted to get as far as possible and you managed to reach Moscow by using plane: "На самолете нам удалось добраться аж до Москвы".
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these two words have a little different emotional coloring. прилетел is more official. долетел means you had long process of flight ("летел, летел и долетел") and probably you want to tell us how boring or full of adventures was your перелёт.

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  • Generally, долетел doesn't have to mean that you reached your destination, e.g. долетел до середины, while прилетел implies reaching a certain destination – Aleks G May 8 '14 at 21:04
  • in a context "Прошлой зимой я поехал в Москву. Я долетел на самолёте" it does. – codeine May 11 '14 at 9:36

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