Russian Verbs of Motion: the Basics Explanation


It’s hard to find a student who wouldn’t have questions about the verbs of motion, so in this post, you’ll find the explanation of the basic idea that lies behind them.

I’ll show you how Russians think about moving in space and this will give you the key to understanding all this “motion thing”.

Read up to the end and do the test below the post.

What is a verb of motion?

In Russian, the verb of motion is the one that means moving from one place to another.

Here are some most popular examples.

  • go – ходить / идти
  • go by vehicle – ехать / ездить
  • run – бегать / бежать
  • swim – плавать / плыть
  • fly – летать / лететь
  • bring – носить / нести

The complete list of the verbs of motion

All in all, there are 17 words of motion in the Russian language. You can upload the full list in pdf here:

Russian verbs of motion chart in .pdf

To translate a verb in Russian, for example, “to go,” you’ll have to choose between 2 options “ходить” and “идти”. To make the right choice, you need to keep in mind the concept of unidirectional and multidirectional verbs that I’ll describe below.

Distinguishing unidirectional and multidirectional verbs

For the Russian language, it’s critically important to indicate how exactly you go. That’s why when you move in one direction you use one verb (we call them unidirectional), and if you move in 2 or more directions, you use others (we call them multidirectional).

Have you ever thought about the fact that we can “go” in many different ways.

  • We can move in one direction towards our goal. In this case, we could say: “I’m going to the shop now” (I’m on my way to the shop = unidirectional).
  • We can go somewhere regularly. For instance, “go to work”, “go to school” (I go there regularly = multidirectional).
  • Or we can move in a space without any particular dimension. We do this when we go along the park or go shopping moving from one store to another ( = multidirectional).

The same concerns other verbs of motion. You can swim to another bank of the river, or you can swim in the swimming pool back and forth or in the sea with snorkels and flippers with no direction, moving from one coral to another.

There’re some words that can help you distinguish multidirectional and unidirectional verbs.

Multidirectional clues:

  • обычно (usually)
  • всегда (always)
  • каждый день (every day), каждое утро (every morning) и.т.п.

Unidirectional clues:

  • сейчас (now)
  • сегодня (today)
  • завтра (tomorrrow)
  • other words meaning the nearest future.

However, you shouldn’t always look for these signals, but rely more on the meaning of the sentence.

This was the basic concept of the verbs of motion. Don’t hurry to study the forms of verbs until you get this basic idea.

The following worksheet with the answer key will help you to understand the concept of unidirectional and multidirectional verbs.

Free worksheet in .pdf: unidirectional vs multidirectional verbs

These were the basic things every student should know before diving into exploring verbs of motions in details.

However, some of the verbs are even more specific and not only mean moving in space but also how exactly we do that. I’m talking about the devilish four of the Russian verbs ходить, идти, ехать, ездить (translated in English as “to go”).

To learn them properly and to test your knowledge, see my next post where I show the difference between them in great detail.

And as usual, don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments section. I read them and try to answer everyone.

Anastasia Korol

Anastasia Korol is an enthusiastic Russian language tutor. She gives effective, goal-oriented lessons to students all over the world. Thousands of people have already followed her Instagram.

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