One of the most complicated topics in the study of Russian is how to use the verbs of motion. This is due to the fact that you not only have to choose the right verb, conjugation and tense, but you must also remember that the meaning of the verb can vary significantly depending on the prefix. For example, there are twelve prefixes for the verb ходить (to go) that can change the meaning of the word into something completely different, even to its opposite. To find out how to avoid getting lost in this, read on!


"Tell us about a walk through the city with the use of the words выходить, обходить, переходить и заходить."

"I think I'd rather stay at home."by Susie Armitage


First of all, let’s remember that we only use the verb ходить when we want to talk about movement that is on foot, or without the aid of any mechanized transport. Otherwise, you need to use the verb ехать.


For example:


  • Я люблю ходить пешком. I love to walk.
  • Много ходить – полезно для здоровья. Walking is good for your health.
  • Ходить над пропастью – опасно. It is dangerous to go over the abyss.



However, it is much more common to use ходить with the following prefixes:


  • Приходить
  • Проходить
  • Заходить
  • Переходить
  • Выходить
  • Входить
  • Отходить
  • Сходить
  • походить
  • Подходить
  • Обходить
  • Уходить


All these words represent movement, but the meaning is significantly different depending on the prefix. For example, Заходи is a generous invitation (come in), while уходи means that you are not welcome (go away). So, how do you avoid getting confused between the prefixes of ходить and, thus, getting yourself into a potentially awkward situation.


Firstly, you need to remember that the words входить and выходить are opposites and have very different meanings. The prefix в- (во-) and the closely related prefix за- represent inward movement, while вы- indicates outward movement.


  • Занято. Не входить. Occupied. Do not enter.
  • Заходить нужно в первую дверь, а выходить через последнюю. You need to enter the first door, and exit through the last.
  • Аварийный выход. Emergency exit.





The prefix пере- indicates transportation across obstacles, such as a pond or a road. Essentially, it can be translated as “to cross.”


  • Пешеходный переход. Crosswalk.
  • Чтобы подойти к фонтану, нам пришлось переходить дорогу. To get to the fountain, we had to cross the road.
  • Мы переходили реку по мосту. We crossed the river on the bridge.



Other the other hand, the prefix про- indicates that you are “passing” an obstacle.


  • Сложно проходить без перерыва три часа и не устать. It is difficult to pass through here for three hours without taking a break and not get tired.


Also, про- means to “pass by.”


  • Я проходил мимо большого красивого здания. I was passing by a large beautiful building.


The prefix Об- means that there is a barrier on the way and you have to change directions for a while (translated as “pass over” or “bypass”). This can also indicate a circular motion (to go around).


  • Туристам пришлось обходить упавшее дерево. Tourists have to pass over the fallen tree.
  • Мы обошли здание, но так и не нашли вход. We went around the building but did not find the entrance.



По- indicates aimless movement for no particular reason (in passing).


  • От долгого сидения в кресле у директора затекли ноги, и он немного походил по кабинету. As a result of sitting in a chair for a long time, the Director had numb feet. He walked around the office for a while.
  • Она походила по коридору и снова зашла в комнату. She walked around the hall and entered the room again.


The prefix у- indicates an intention to leave a place where you are staying, or to give up someone.


  • Было шесть часов вечера и рабочие собирались уходить домой. It was six o'clock in the evening and the workers were going home.
  • Ему не хотелось уходить от жены и сына. He did not want to leave his wife and son.



Под- means “to approach,” while от- means the opposite: to move away from something or somebody.


  • Поезд подходил на станцию в три часа и отходил через семь минут. The train was approaching the station at three o'clock and departed after seven minutes.
  • Никита подошел к расписанию. Nikita approached the schedule.
  • Маша отошла от подружек, чтобы позвонить. Masha stepped away from her girlfriends to make a call.



C- involves going to a place for a short time and then returning back.


  • Я уже сходил в магазин. I already went to the store.
  • Я схожу к соседке на минутку. I'm going to the neighbor’s for a minute.



При- indicates that we are going to stay at the destination for some time and do some business there.


  • Я прихожу на работу каждый день. I come to work every day.



As you can see, each of these verb prefixes changes the meaning of what is being said. Also, all these prefixes are used with other verbs of motion and, in almost all cases, they keep their meaning. By memorizing the meanings of the words listed above, you will easily be able to recognize and understand words such as переехать, перепрыгнуть, перескочить, and переплыть.


Now, try to connect other prefixes to these verbs and deduce their meaning. However, be careful because sometimes the meaning of these prefixes depends on the context when they are used with different verbs. For example:


  • переиграть кого-то: to be a winner.
  • переиграть что-то: to replay something, to restart, to change plans.


Therefore, I propose that you start by memorizing the prefixes for the verb ходить and then use them in your everyday conversations. It will enrich your language and make it more beautiful. Then, you can proceed with other groups of verbs and prefixes. I wish you the best of luck with your studies!!


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