So, often if one digs deep enough one will find that every perfective verb in fact has an imperfective. Except, the problem is these imperfectness seem to be very old or don't exists at all anymore.

My question is, will speakers of russian understand them?

For example let's take the verb жарить:



Are the imperfectives used at all?—I've found them in dictionaries, but Russians tell me that they don't know of them. Why is this? Are they just very old?

Every perfective verb I've ever learned has one of these imperfective if you look hard enough, which is logical, they should have one. How should I deal with this when I'm learning words?

  • perf/imperf can be verified: 18.7 / 22.7
    – Avtokod
    Commented Aug 3, 2015 at 22:40
  • 1
    Will speakers of Russian understand them? - Yes.
    – InitK
    Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 14:47

2 Answers 2


In the provided example the imperfective forms of the verbs do exist, as confirmed by the dictionary entries. Those words are understood by the people in this forum. Hence the only question is how often they are used. One of the useful tools is Corpus of Russian Language - Charts. You can type a word in a form and look at how usage frequency changed over the last two hundred years. This would be a more objective measure of how the word is used, rather then a personal opinion of an individual.

Ruscorpora shows that the verb "изжаривать" (as oppose to "изжарил") is not referenced by its database. So even though this particular combination of prefix and root is possible and is understood, people do not find much use for it.

The second example "зажаривать" has been used infrequently. By using this form Corpus of Russian Language - Search you can see the snippets of text with examples of how this verb was used.

  • Thanks for your help)) I'm slightly obsessed with finding imperfectives for all the verbs I learn. It's probably a bad habit, as now I have lots of really rare words floating around in my head.
    – VCH250
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 2:00
  • You are welcome. You can try making new verbs by applying each of the verbal prefixes: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:Russian_verbal_prefixes to a known verb. In the process you will find more rare words. All combinations are possible, just not all of them are used.
    – Vitaly
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 13:53
  • 1
    @ vitaly Is the prefix низ ever used. I've learned roughly 10,000 words in the the last years and I've never seen a verb with низ
    – VCH250
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 23:13
  • @CoreyRoberts-Reynolds +1 for your question. There are indeed very few verbs with prefix "низ". They are: низвергнуть, низводить, низложить, низойти (perfective of нисходить), низринуть.
    – Vitaly
    Commented Aug 18, 2015 at 0:41

Let's talk specifically about examples you've provided. Both of these pairs are perfectly valid in Russian and the difference between them is pretty transparent for native speaker. The other thing is that "изжаривать" is used in practice in it reflexive form - "изжариваться" - and indeed is used more rarely (but still used) than other three forms.

So here are examples of word usage:

  • "Сколько же можно бесцельно изжариваться на солнце?".
  • "Чего ж ты так баклажаны-то изжарил, прямо до угля?"
  • "Надо зажарить баклажаны, вот что!"
  • "Сначала ты зажариваешь баклажаны на огне, а потом уже, на углях, готовишь мясо".

The closest analogy will be phrasal verbs in English. Some of them are used pretty often, some sound valid but are used rarely. Some are obsolete, some are just wrong.

By the way, a friendly hint, you can just google all these words. It will give you some ideas on their usage. Also, there's a Google's Russian competitor, Yandex, which quite often is a better option for searching Russian words.

  • @ shabunc Why do Russian speakers tell me that those two imperfective don't exist?) Actually, it's weird, Russian speakers tend to not know their own language very well, especially if it's an old word. In english, of course I don't know lots of old words, but I usually have feeling whether one exists. Most Russians just say the word doesn't exist.
    – VCH250
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 19:11
  • what about this pair? посыхать—посохнуть—is it understandable?)
    – VCH250
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 19:12
  • @CoreyRoberts-Reynolds sorry but if we will try to answer considering every possible pair it would be quite unpractical and too broad. As of this two verbs both of them are not used de-facto.
    – shabunc
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 19:26
  • @ shabunc I was looking more for a theoretical answer. In other words, people almost always say they don't exist period, and they have no meaning (the rare imperfective); my question was why that is the case, but it's cool, nvm)) Thanks for the help!)
    – VCH250
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 23:50
  • @CoreyRoberts-Reynolds the told you so because they are rarely used. It is a very common thing, native speakers do not thing about any lingustics issues in most cases. Just like you don't think when exactly you are using or not using articles, you just use them.
    – shabunc
    Commented Aug 12, 2015 at 14:33

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