I was reading a paragraph about the activities that happen in a typical work day. One sentence reads, "Во время обеденного перерыва, с двенадцати до часу, я успеваю пообедать в столовой и немного отдохнуть." My question is why use the perfective form пообедать when the piece is talking about typical days - in other words things that happen over and over again, not just a one time deal. It's also confusing because isn't успеваю imperfective?

  • I'm sorry, but the question includes an assertion which is not grounds for concluding of the necessity for perfective verbs. You wrote in a typical work day ... why use the perfective form пообедать when the piece is talking about typical days - things that happen over and over again, not just a one time deal. — After that we get an array with unique elements. Each unique element is пообедать, further we must only point and reason to one thing пообедать. In short, the assertion is reason which do not directly address the requirements of the rules of grammar for perfective verbs.
    – Avtokod
    May 19, 2015 at 2:50
  • @Avtokod: Please write this in Russian for me - it looks like an interesting point, but I can't make it out.
    – CocoPop
    May 20, 2015 at 12:23
  • I may be wrong, but I think the use of the perfectives also indicates that you do these activities separately, in that order, and not at the same time. In other words, first you finish eating, then you relax a bit.
    – CocoPop
    May 20, 2015 at 12:33
  • @CocoPop , (1) Мне показалось необычным говорить о последовательности пообедать, пообедать, ... в контексте imperf.verbs, ведь в context-free grammar правильно вести рассуждение исключительно в отношении единственного слова пообедать. Если из какого-то определения aspects-in-Russian это следует, то было бы интересно взглянуть на такое.
    – Avtokod
    May 20, 2015 at 16:13
  • @CocoPop , (2) Легко проверяется факт, что в русском, в литературе, используют успеваю ходить|успевают обедать дома|успевают отдыхать. Проблема здесь есть, ведь семантически успеваю [что сделать?] предполагает завершенность [действия], требуется глагол сов.вида. Однако для не успеваю отдыхать исчезает семантическая причина требовать глагол сов.вида. Остальные случаи, которых еще много, подчиняются этому замечанию.
    – Avtokod
    May 20, 2015 at 16:15

3 Answers 3


Usually, perfective is about state transition, imperfective is about state.

Успеваю пообедать means "I have time to have a lunch and get some rest", meaning that by the end of the break both lunch and rest are completed, not just begun.

If you used imperfective, this would mean that during your breaks you have the ability to make time for lunch and rest (but possibly somehow lose that ability once the break is over). The sentence would be grammatical but sound really weird.

A couple of examples:

Я успеваю писать "I have time to write (and keep up with my writing pace)"

Я успеваю написать "I have time to have it written (by some moment)"

Вечером я успеваю мыть машину "In the evenings I have time to wash my car (I wash the car fast enough in the evenings, but probably not at the mornings)"

Вечером я успеваю помыть машину "In the evening I have time to wash my car (so that it's clean by the time I go to bed)"

As for the успевать itself, it's imperfective because you can't use perfective verbs in present. Using the same endings on corresponding perfective verbs will put them in future. Я успею… means "I will have time to…"

  • "Успеваю обедать" does not sound weird. And for your examples, there is no really difference between "вечером я успеваю мыть/помыть машину" etc. While "успею" accepts only perfective, "успеваю" accepts both perfective and imperfective just fine.
    – Matt
    May 19, 2015 at 8:27

Успеваю deals exhaustively with the repeated nature of the action, which is itself, in any given instance, a single and completed one.

  • so I have every reason to say that не успеваю makes an imperfective verb out of пообедать.
    – Avtokod
    May 19, 2015 at 3:58
  • @Avtokod I'm afraid I don't follow. May 19, 2015 at 4:05
  • why? You have a right to your point of view. Много читаю, успеваю ходить в кино. | К 7 часам я успеваю убирать (свою комнату).| Из обедающих лишь 28% успевают обедать дома, у остальных нет времени. Успеваю+несов.глагол = сов.глагол. You have written out this.
    – Avtokod
    May 19, 2015 at 4:49
  • @Avtokod I mean I have no idea what you're talking about. May 19, 2015 at 5:12

Well, you may use imperfective here as well: "Во время обеденного перерыва, с двенадцати до часу, я успеваю обедать в столовой и немного отдыхать". Both variants are OK.

  • 1
    Does успеваю немного отдыхать really seem OK to you?
    – Quassnoi
    May 19, 2015 at 15:12
  • @Quassnoi Yes, it does.
    – Matt
    May 19, 2015 at 17:41
  • is there no difference between the two, in your opinion?
    – Quassnoi
    May 19, 2015 at 17:52
  • Nope, 'успеваю немного отдохнуть' definitely sounds wrong.
    – Alissa
    May 19, 2015 at 21:01
  • @Quassnoi Well, Russian imperfective may correspond to either indefinite or continuous time. Here it sounds a bit like continuous. But the difference is really slight and Russian is not so concerned at this, so one may choose the verb freely here. Only verb matching (обедать-отдыхать vs пообедать-отдохнуть) and the tempo of the speech matter here.
    – Matt
    May 20, 2015 at 7:21

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