I saw the following sentence in a dictionary and wondered how it makes sense to use a perfective here:

Коллекция подобралась постепенно.

Perhaps I'm not understanding the sentence correctly, but it looks like The collection came together -or- was selected little by little, gradually. Wouldn't a process such as this elicit the use of the imperfective?

  • 1
    Why can't the process be completed? For comparison, you can read through a book slowly.
    – KCd
    Aug 13, 2014 at 2:49
  • You're right. That makes sense too I guess.
    – CocoPop
    Aug 13, 2014 at 4:50
  • 1
    I saw an interview with an actor (or musician) that has a collection of hats (or it was saucers?). He told that once he brought a hat from a country he visited. Next year he brought another one. People who knew him began to present him different hats and so the collection emerged (even without his intention to create it or continious searching for hats). I think this examle fits the "коллекция подобралась постепенно".
    – Artemix
    Aug 13, 2014 at 7:23

3 Answers 3


I believe here "постепенно" serves well to substitute "не сразу", i.e. the result was not achieved at first try or the person did not initially intend to make a collection but "eventually" it became clear that he had a collection.

Since the verb already means there was a process, the adverb refers to how long the process leading to the occurence of an action of the verb had been.

As a more obvious example of such use , "Он медленно подошёл к столу" also works and does not sound wrong to my ear. "Я быстро пришёл к этому выводу", "Том встал и быстро вышел", "Родители приехали весьма и весьма быстро". All of these work (admittedly, here "быстро" is not only about "speed" but also means "very soon, after a short time").


The word постепенно indeed means gradually but I would also be focused here on the verb подобралась. Because it is not a common use case of this word.

Strictly saying this word should be used when a speaker described a situation where some collection was chosen from a variety of collections whilst (s)he needed only one specific collection fitting to his/her particular purpose. Like in this example:

Код к электронному замку подобрался не сразу


Она была высокого роста, но, тем не менее, партнёр по танцам ей постепенно подобрался

Another, much far use case of this word can be found it this example

Этот ранненый медвеженок подобрался нашей группой во время экспедиции и был послан в зоопарк. Here in in the meaning of "to be taken"


Зверь подобрался к своей жертве на расстояние прыжка. Here in the meaning of "to get closer"

But that's another story :)

However, if the speaker's intention was just expressing the point that the collection had been completed with time delays or just not quickly, then the word should be changed on собралась:

Коллекция собралась постепенно

At the same time I believe that the certain sentence (as it is in the question) can be well and even equal to the latter in old fashion language, probably.

Another point proving this statement could be the next consideration. In modern Russian language this word подбираться usually requires a proper context with the conditions and requirements on for which purpose the main object, like the collection should fit, for example:

Я собирался сдавать вступительный экзамен по литературе и, к счастью, к этому моменту у меня подобралась коллекция великолепных эссе.


Нашему отделу дали новый проект, но шансов его успешно выполнить очень мало, так как коллектив у нас подобрался не по этому профилю.

As can be seen the word постепенно is not the one which is used normally with подобрался.

To sum up, I would say it's definitely possible in the expressing even simple idea of time delays during collecting - native speakers will not hear a mistake in it, but at the same time that would make them expecting you are either extending a context or being originally from a previous epoch ;) Hope it helps.

  • So подобраться means to gather or collect things or people carefully and strategically? That would make sense, because that's a process in and of itself. Thanks for your help.
    – CocoPop
    Aug 13, 2014 at 12:47
  • Yeah, basically, "подбирать" is closely connected to the idea of "matching" things (also it is just used in the sense of "picking" something from the ground)
    – Shady_arc
    Aug 13, 2014 at 17:35

I think the idea is that the collection is already exists even if you are going to continue to add things to it.

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