Lesson 66 - Verbs. Determinate vs. Indeterminate.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate verbs


Determinate Verbs of Motion

This set of verbs (determinate vs. indeterminate) has many different names. Some textbooks also call this actual vs. habitual. If you think of this set in both terms, it may help, because habitual (indeterminate) is obvious – it’s a habit that is done often, while actual (determinate), for example, means that there is a previously determined destination.

Verbs of motion can be similarly characterized as the imperfective/perfective set. Some verbs mean habitual motion, round-trip, or meandering trips, like going to and from school, and other mean a one-way, straight, one-time trip, like walking to the corner store.

Determinate verbs are the one-way, definite destination type. "I go to school" means a lot for English speakers. It implies a habitual action and a round trip, because we assume that the speaker will also be returning from school. In Russian, the meaning can be quite different. If one uses the "идти" form of the verb of motion, it means one thing, and the "ходить" form means another. The “идти” form means a one-way trip, on foot to school. The latter form – “ходить” means a habitual, perhaps round-trip variant, also on foot.

Again, the best way for you to decide which verb to use is to complete the sentence you are creating as much as possible. "I go tо school” (every day, by the same route on foot) tell you exactly which verb to use. "I carry a bookbag (on my back, every day) as I walk to class" can help you decide between "нести" and "носить" as well.

Indeterminate Verbs of Motion


Indeterminate verbs are simply the verbs that are habitual or that have no previous-decided upon destination. "I drove around the city,” means that there was no destination, but that you and the car wandered aimlessly around the city. "I go to school every day" - this is a habitual motion, so the indeterminate verb would be used - whether the speaker goes on foot (ходить) or by car (ездить).

Jul 6, 2012 9:03 PM
Language Skills
English, Russian, Ukrainian
Learning Language