Coming from english, I don't see much difference in meaning between these words because they both translate to "change". Is it just a case of knowing with what situation it's supposed to be used in?



  • Осенью погода часто меняется: утром холодно, днём тепло, вечером снова холодно.

  • Я никогда не меняю деньги на улице, только в банке.


  • Когда я приехал в свой родной город через много лет, я с трудом его узнал: так он изменился!

  • Каждый хочет изменить свою жизнь к лучшему.

2 Answers 2


Менять and изменить are not synonims. This pair of verbs is видовая пара. Менять is imperfective (несовершенный вид), изменить is perfective (совершенный вид). Examples:

  • Вчера Вася изменил свою жизнь к лучшему, разведясь со сварливой женой.
  • В последние годы Вася много раз менял свою жизнь к лучшему.
  • Вася постепенно меняет свою жизнь к лучшему.

    • Родной город сильно изменился за последние годы.
    • Родной город много раз менялся за последние годы.
    • Родной город всё время меняется.

Learn about such grammar categories as несовершенный вид, совершенный вид, and видовая пара.

А synonim to менять is изменять. А synonim to изменить are поменять. They are mostly interchangeable.


  • to exchage (money) is always менять (деньги). Perfective is обменять, поменять, разменять. For excanging one currency to another, обменять (валюту) is most common. For exchanging banknotes or coins of different value (i. e. a dime for two five-cent coins), разменять is used.
  • to cheat a spouse or to betray somebody or something is translated as изменить (кому-либу, чему-либо). Imperfective is изменять. Example:

Вася изменил жене. Хорошо, что он не изменил идеалам коммунизма!


These two even have different aspects. A more meaningful question would be, how менять(ся) and изменять(ся) are different. Then поменять/разменять and so on naturally join the crowd :)

First, they are interchangeable to an extent, in SOME meanings. The basic difference is:

  • менять = to "modify"(be modified) OR to "replace" something (be replaced by something else)
  • изменять = to "modify" (be modified). And only that. The verb cannot mean that a thing not only changed its properties but got completely replaced by another thing.

Given that "менять" has a broader meaning, you can use different perfective counterparts for it:

  • "change" as in "They changed their opinion". → изменить(ся), also поменять(ся).
  • "change" in the meaning of "exchanging" things → обменять/поменять
  • "change" as "Last year they changed the headmaster (replaced by a new one)" → заменить/сменить
  • exchanging cash when your money is so big that a seller cannot give you change → разменять.

This is yet another evidence that on a more advanced level you find that the aspectual pairs are just a practical thing, not the truth central to the language. That is, you will always have an aspectual pair at hand when you need to convert an "event" into a "process" or "repeated event" (or vice versa). However, in reality each prefix has a cloud of meanings, and there are no prefixes that "just" convert a verb into a perfective.

The reason you have "pairs" is that for most verbs there is one prefix with a meaning that very much overlaps the verb's own meaning. For example, when you replace someone — then the "away", "off" meaning of the prefix "с-" overlaps your particular meaning of "менять": removing something and placing something else there. So "сменить" becomes a natural perfective counterpart. "Переменить" also works, to an extent, though I would not use it myself that often.

Also, "изменить"(изменять) has a second meaning: to betray, fail someone. In a more specific meaning, to cheat on your wife or husband (though still used in combinations like "My mind fails me").

  • To expand a bit on the last part of your answer, "на измене" is a popular slang term used to imply a state of confusion or fear. For example, "я на измене" - I am confused/uncertain how to act in this situation.
    – Ruslan
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:24
  • @Ruslan Where is it popular exactly, and what is the age of users? I've never heard that piece of slang in my life (though, I am under 30, so admittedly a bit shallow on slang of older people).
    – Shady_arc
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:36
  • I've heard it among younger people, under 30 as well... Although I wouldn't say its too common. I have only heard it once or twice in my life, don't remember where but if I had to guess I'd say it was almost certainly among the gopnik crowd.
    – Ruslan
    Aug 26, 2014 at 22:44

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