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The word “choose” has an imperfective aspect (выбира́ть) and a perfective aspect (вы́брать).

What is the best way to translate “please choose”: “пожалуйста, выбирайте” or “пожалуйста, выберите” and which aspect should be used with imperative in general?

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    Выбирайте is imperfective, выберите is perfective. – Quassnoi Sep 25 '14 at 9:22
  • Yes, because both imperative forms are irregular I have mixed them up. I have removed the nonsense and reformulated the question so that everything is making sense again. – Roland Seuhs Sep 25 '14 at 11:58
  • Generally use the perfective for a positive command and the imperfective for a negative command ("don't X"). – SAH Oct 10 '16 at 11:21
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Imperfective aspect is about state and perfective aspect is about state transition.

So if you are talking about the outcome of a single action ("please pay"), you would use perfective (пожалуйста, заплатите), because what you really want is to make an incomplete payment complete (state transition).

You could use imperfective here as well (пожалуйста, платите), but this would mean that you are more interested in seeing the person paying rather than obtaining the result. For instance, if a patron is waiting for a POS terminal to get fixed and you ask them to retry their payment, пожалуйста, платите would be the correct form.

If you were talking about the state of things ("please pay your bills on time"), you would use imperfective (пожалуйста, платите по счетам вовремя). This would mean "be a good person and organize your life so that you never have overdue debts".

If you said пожалуйста, заплатите по счетам вовремя, this would mean "there are a bunch of bills on your desk, please, at least this one single time, make them paid before they expire"

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  • +1 but isn't платите по счетам imperfective because of its repeated nature? – jwalker Sep 25 '14 at 9:45
  • @jwalker: state may or may not imply the repeated nature. In this very case it does, but in, for instance, храните деньги в сберегательной кассе or живите долго и процветайте it does not. – Quassnoi Sep 25 '14 at 10:11
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It is also important to add that the perfective imperative sounds quite rude in some verbs because it is focused on obtaining a result. It normally happens to verbs related to position and motion.

For example, "сядьте" would sound rude and it could be used in court: "Подсудимый, сядьте" (Accused, sit down, please), while "садитесь" is the polite form used if you have guests at home or if you come to an office: "Проходите, садитесь". (Come in and have a seat, please) As you can see, the situation is the same for the verb "проходить-пройти", the imperfective aspect of it is the polite one. Some other verbs that work like that are: "ложиться-лечь", "вставать-встать", "раздеваться-рездеться", etc.

The case of "пожалуйста, выбирайте" and "пожалуйста, выберите" is similar. The first one sounds more polite because your interlocutor gives you time to choose, it is a process, while in the second one you have to choose immediately.

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  • +1, nice observation. However, in case of a website or a printed form, perfective would be just OK. Using imperfective not in spoken language would be quite ostentatious - a person is taking all their time anyway. – Quassnoi Sep 25 '14 at 10:42
  • Yes, agree. I meant colloquial speech, of course. – RussianTeacher Sep 25 '14 at 10:45
  • @RolandSeuhs: выберите is perfective form. Выбирайте would be more polite in spoken language (this would imply "please have a chance to choose and it's OK if you don't choose anything") – Quassnoi Sep 25 '14 at 11:47
  • You are right, I got that mixed up - I will edit my question – Roland Seuhs Sep 25 '14 at 11:49
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As for google, the initial estimate of the number of matches can be overestimated by orders of magnitude. In fact, google found 270 matches for пожалуйста, выбирайте and 220 matches for пожалуйста, выберите (the initial estimates were about 250,000 and 1,000,000).

As for your question, if the action is simple and one-time, (i.e. choosing a payment method), "пожалуйста, выберите" should be used.

No, this is not an exception. Why do you think it should be?

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  • This does not answer the question at all because I knew that already. The question was: Is выбира́ть/вы́брать an exception or is there another reason why the imperfective aspect is used for “please choose”? – Roland Seuhs Sep 25 '14 at 9:06
  • But the google-situation is an interesting observation. I just checked it and (because everybody's google is different depending on location, coockies, etc.) for me it was 372/231. – Roland Seuhs Sep 25 '14 at 9:11
  • The answer is: no, that is not an exception. Why do you think it may be an exception? – user31264 Sep 25 '14 at 9:55
  • @RolandSeuhs It seems that for some reason you think that "выберите" is imperfective. But it is perfective, so no exception here. Mostly perfective should be used when you need a result. Use imperfective imperatives when focusing on the manner of action ("Write legibly, please") or not to be rude with verbs of motion and some actions ("Come in, please"). Also, imperfective imperatives are used as an assertive, a bit rude command in case the person obviously ignored your initial request or clear hints. – Shady_arc Sep 25 '14 at 11:34
  • You are correct, because both forms have irregular imperative forms I mixed that up, thanks. – Roland Seuhs Sep 25 '14 at 11:50

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