Has anyone ever thought why in swearing people use not only the imperative "иди", but also (and even more frequently) the form "пошёл"?

5 Answers 5


The past tense is used not only in swearing but also in very rude commands. A very angry teacher, for example, could tell her student:

Ну-ка встал и вышел из класса!

As a vivid example I remembered the infamous scandal about the Russian pop singer Philippe Kirkorov who was very rude to a journalist. At this point in this video he starts using constructs in question:

Взяла и ушла отсюда! (with incorrect stress on взяла)

Встали и ушли! (uses polite plural form, feel the irony :)

... Встала и ушла отсюда! (to hell with the plural form :)

As an intuitive speculation, I think that the past tense is used because it implies that you're not asking, rather, it's as if so certain that the other person will obey that you can as well use the past tense! Something like that :)

Another variation of this phenomenon could be considered the using of first person plural past for insisting (but not rude) requests:

Побежали! (instead of Побежим!)

Пошли! (instead of Пойдём!)

  • 5
    About "пошли", one of my teachers about 25 years ago used to say: "Никогда не говорите: "пошли", потому что могут послать" (sorry, it's not really translatable into English)
    – Aleks G
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 16:04
  • I wonder if it actually a past form or is it a conditional, as in "I wish you'd go to hell". Do you think it's a possible explanation, too?
    – Olga
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 18:09
  • 1
    @Olga: I don't actually know, but personally I don't think it's the conditional Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 23:37
  • Anyway, no matter what the history of this form is, its usage is clearer now. Thanks!
    – Olga
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 23:43
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    @AleksG, the obvious objection is "Не пошли".
    – bipll
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 19:58

I think the past imperative emphasizes the same degree as in German dass-clauses: Geh weg! vs. Mach, dass du weggehst!

So, the past not only refers to a command like one to a dog, but expresses a real intention. It's also that because of the existence of "пошёл на..." "иди на..." expresses a moderate degree of a curse. As if I'm not seriously asking someone to go away. Though in some cases even "иди на..." might be enough to get killed at once.

  • Hi! What do you mean by real intention? Does imperative not express it?
    – Olga
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 18:34
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    If some other means of more radical expression are existing, no! So, "иди на..." often is "a lazy answer of disagreement" rather than a curse for somebody to be sent far-far away. A more mitigated but colloquial form is "на ... послан" (passive here just can indicate a joke and no serious intention to curse someone, not "having someone sent"). The absolutely transparent form of impolite disagreement here is "да иди ты на..." (as an answer to a suggestion of the first person)
    – Alex Om
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 19:35
  • A great variety, I see. So, actually, only "пошёл на ..." functions as curse, while other forms express other reactions?
    – Olga
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 21:23
  • Yes, if you talk to a known person "иди на..." while having a conversation, it is so. But if you talk to a stranger, "иди на" would be a curse.
    – Alex Om
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 21:41

"Иди на.." implies general recommendation like a kind of status within the context that provokes the curse or like an advice to keep the subject away from the speaker. "Пошел на.." expresses stronger imperative, more like a request for immediate action to terminate the irritating subject like "do it now". Sometimes used when speaker feels that his/her previous "иди на.." curse is being ignored but this time in conjunction with stronger (more offensive) direction. "Пошел на.." is more aggressive.


Using past tense as imperative is aggressive, offensive, and not accepting any resistance. You may understand "Пошёл..." as "You must have been already going".

This form can be used in any phrase.

But, as Armen said, it can be not offensive if someone says "Побежали", "Понесли", "Взяли", meaning "us". That may be understood as "Let's run"


Can suggest next explanation.

If I say "встала и вышла", I don't want to take a responsibility for the action (to stand up and gou out). So, she did it by her self.

If I say "встань и выйди", I take a responsiblitiy for the action. I command!

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