I've been thinking about the verbs of motion recently, and this is a particularly difficult topic for English speakers, because we only need one verb to indicate the kind of motion, but there are three in Russian. But the choice of verb isn't what I want to talk about yet - it's the choice of preposition to accompany it.
First, let's quickly analyse an motion action. Whether we indicate each part of it or not, an action has a starting point, a journey (the actual movement) and a finishing point.
You can state where you are going to or where you are coming from, and this is the part I want to focus on, because there are 3 prepositions for each of these. Let's start with "to"...
If you've been studying Russian for a while, then you've most likely come across "в" and "на", whose objects take the accusative case. We use these to talk about places and events we are going to. But which preposition do I use? Have a read of this article, and it'll prove enlightening: http://www.yearlyglot.com/2010/05/differentiating-the-russian-prepositions-v-and-na/.
So here we've established two of the prepositions, but what's the third?
The third is used for animate objects, and the preposition is "к" + dative case. For example, "к брату", "к сестре" and "к врачу". However, these don't mean "to my brother", "to my sister" and "to the doctor", they actually mean "to my brother's place", "to my sister's place" and "to the doctor's office". By "place", I mean wherever they may be. By default, it means their house, but if it's already been established where they are, then that's the location.
So that's "to" a place, but what about "from"? Actually, this is incredibly easy, because depending on what the "to" preposition is, you just need to swap it for another. Here's what I mean....
If "в" + accusative is "to" a place, then "from" a place is "из" + genitive.
If "на" + accusative is "to" a place, then "from" a place is "с" + genitive.
If "к" + dative is "to" a place, then "from" a place is "от" + genitive.
But wait, it gets better....
The rule for "at" a place also fits in here.
If "в" + accusative is "to" a place, then "at" a place is "в" + prepositional.
If "на" + accusative is "to" a place, then "at" a place is "на" + prepositional.
If "к" + dative is "to" a place, then "at" a place is "у" + genitive.
To / From / At
в + acc. / из + gen. / в + prp. (for places)
на + acc. / с + gen. / на + prp. (for places)
к + dat. / от + gen. / у + gen. (for people)
In this post I'll be discussing the verbs of motion themselves:
There are 3 "varieties" of motion verb that require explanation: 2 imperfective verbs (unidirectional and multidirectional) and 1 perfective verbs. For the purpose of simplification, I'm going to assume that you already know what the difference between imperfective & perfective verbs are. If you don't here's a very brief summary:
Imperfective: repetitive actions or actions where the duration (i.e. the actual "doing" bit) is the relevent part of the action.
Perfective: single actions in the past or future, where the result of the action is the relevent piece of information.
Let's get to it....
A unidirectional verb is used when there is one destination in mind, and where the journey to that place is the focus.
A multidirectional verb is used where there is more than one destination in mind or no destination at all. For example, "Я хожу" means "I am walking around".
Multidirectional verbs also indicate motions where the return journey is implied. For example "Я ходил в магазин" means "I walked to the shop (and I've since come back)". One more "feature" of this type of verb is that it's used with habitual journeys, i.e. trips that you make more than once; unidirectional verbs are NEVER for this.
Perfective verbs are linked closer to the unidirectional verbs, because these are only used with single destinations, where the end of the journey is the only important part.
It's as simple as that!
If you have any queries about which verb to use in a particular translation, feel free to ask!
Here is a short exercise focussing on the difference between uni- and multi-directional verbs ходить and идти (to go on foot, to walk)*
Choose the correct form:
Я (хожу, иду) в магазин за хлебом – I am going to the store to get some breаd.
Я каждый день (хожу, иду) на работу. – I walk to work everyday.
Он часто (ходит, идёт) ко мне в гости. – He often comes to visit me.
Я не люблю (ходить, идти) в кино по субботам.- I don’t like to go to the cinema on Saturdays.
Сегодня вечером я (хожу, иду) в кино. – I am going to the cinema tonight.
(Идёт, Ходит) дождь. – It is raining.
*Note: Russian distinguishes between going somewhere on foot and by vehicle. For going on foot verbs идти and ходить are used. For going by vehicle verbs ехать and eздить are used.
Here is the correct version with my explanations:
Я (хожу, иду) в магазин за хлебом. --> Я иду в магазин за хлебом. <-- one continuous motion in one direction toward a stated goal --> unidirectional verb
Я каждый день (хожу, иду) на работу. --> Я каждый день хожу на работу. <-- "каждый день" signals us it is a repeated action, that's why we should use multidirectional verb of motion.
Он часто (ходит, идёт) ко мне в гости. --> Он часто ходит ко мне в гости. Again, "часто" indicates a habitual action.
Я не люблю (ходить, идти) в кино по субботам. --> Я не люблю ходить в кино по субботам. "По субботам" is a signal word for a repeated actions + multidirectional verbs are used after verbs любить, уметь, нравиться, and бояться.
Сегодня вечером я (хожу, иду) в кино. --> Сегодня вечером я иду в кино. <-- a unidirectional verb in the present tense is used to express an action that is intended for the near future, just as in English.
(Идёт, Ходит) дождь. --> Идёт дождь. <-- set expression; idiomatic use of "идти" for "raining" (along with "snowing": Идёт снег). Multidirectional verb is impossible to be used here as the subject in these expressions is understood to move in one direction only (from the sky towards the ground).