The Rules of Stem-Ending Combination
The simplicity of the Russian language has been mentioned before in this grammar. Unfortunately, Russians cannot control every aspect of their grammar and one aspect of verb formation causes a few problems. While vowels and consonants get along quite well in Russian, vowels don't like other vowels and most consonants don't get along with each other.
This means that when endings are added to stems, so long as the stem ends in a vowel and the ending begins with a consonant, or vice versa, the process of building a verb from stems and endings is a simple matter. When you add an ending beginning with a vowel to a stem ending on one, however, one of them has to go—and it is usually the one on the stem.
Consonants are different, however; they are stronger than vowels and all but four of them put up a fight. The weaklings are й в н м; like vowels they simply vanish from the stem in the presence of a consonant at the beginning any ending. The remainder manage some sort of resistance, and sometimes they pay the price and sometime the invader on the ending pays. This page will give you the specific rules for adjusting the vowels and consonants when combining endings and stems.
The General Rule of Combination
The basic rules for combining endings with stems of all forms in both conjugations are simply these:
(1) When an ending beginning with a vowel is attached to any stem ending on a vowel, the stem vowel is removed. This rule of combination will be coded red in the following examples. The Basic Spelling Rules are coded yellow. (You can control the motion of the verb forms on some browsers by pressing the button in the scroll bar on the right of the screen.)"s/he/it returns"
"I look, watch"
(2) When an ending beginning with a consonant is added to a stem with a wimpy consonant (в й м н), the stem consonant is removed."lived"
"to become, begin"
(3) When an ending beginning with an tough consonant (all others beside the wimpy ones fingered above), either the stem consonant or the ending consonant may be dumped, or the stem consonant may be significantly altered. The rules of combat are laid out in the concomitant rules to follow.
Concomitant changes in the Present-Future Tense and Imperative:
(ва) is dropped before the present-future endings (but not in the imperative where there is no ending for these verbs):
давать give : (в)ставать get up (у)знавать find out даю даём встаю встаём узнаю узнаём даёшь даёте встаёшь встаёте узнаёшь узнаёте даёт дают
встаёт встают узнаёт узнают but давай! Give! but вставай! Get up! but узнавай! Find out!
(ов)/(ев) are replaced by уй and юй, respectively, before the present-future ending.
паковать "pack" пакуешь пакует горевать "worry" горюешь горюет
(e) is dropped in consonant stems, but retained in stems ending on -a in the present-future tense.
зап(е)р- запру "I will lock" выб(е)ра- выберу "I will (s)elect"
In the Imperative, е replaces ь in the non-syllabic stems like пьй- : пей! "drink!", бьй- : бей! "beat!"
Concomitant changes in the Past Tense and Infinitive:
д and т are removed before -л: and so on: вела, вело, вели "led, took".
After all other fixed consonants, -л is dropped if no vowel follows it (in cases of the zero masculine gender marker).but мог-ла мог-ло мог-ли "could"
but вез-ла вез-ло вез-ли "hauled"
- Before a й which is removed from a monosyllabic or asyllabic stem:
replace о with ы мой-ть > мыть "to wash" replace е with и брей- > брить "to shave" replace ь with и пьй- > пить "to drink"
EXCEPTION: пой- : петь, пел, пела, пели "sang"
In non-syllabic roots (stems without any affixes), н and м are replaced by а before consonant endings.
начн-у, начн-ёшь, начн-ёт but "to begin" жм-у, жм-ёшь, жм-ёт but "to squeeze"
Concomitant Changes of Fleeting Vowels:
Fleeting vowels realize themselves in Russian prefixes before non-syllabic verb stems or in verbs stems which themselves have fleeting vowels when the fleeting vowel is not present.с(о)йд-: сойти but сойду, etc. "come down"
с(о)б(е)ра-: собрать but сберу, etc. "gather"
от(о)з(о)ва-: отозвать but отзову, etc. "call away"
Fleeting vowels in verb stems which end on the vowel a are realized in the present-future forms and not in the infinitive and past tense. For consonant stems on p, the rule is reversed: the vowel is pronounced in the past tense and infinitive but not in the present future. The following table illustrates.
Infinitive Past Tense Present-Future Tense выб(е)ра-ть > выбрать выб(е)ра-у > выберу выз(о)ва-ть > вызвать выз(о)ва-у > вызову ум(е)р-ть > умереть ум(е)р-у > умру зап(е)р-ть > запереть зап(е)р-у > запру
This completes the basic system of the Russian verb. Ready to show off your mastery? Here are a few exercises to see how well you are doing.
In the exercises below, fill in the blank with the proper form of the verb stem given on the left: present tense, past tense, infinitive or imperative. If you are correct, you will see правильнo or отлично pop into the window on the far right. If you make a relevant error, you will receive a hint in the same box. Yellow vowels mark the positions of fixed accent; white vowelss mark the position of moveable accent in the infinitive and past tense. If the final consonant is yellow, the stem is end-accented, according to the rules of accent.
Now that you have the idea of how verbs are conjugated, use the Russian Verb Analyzer by Russkii filolog to check your knowledge of the forms of other Russian verbs.
Russian Verb Conjugator by Sergei Starostin
Type in the infinitive of any Russian verb, press the button, and see all its forms in tables in a new window (KOI8 fonts). The analyzer works on all other parts of speech, too.
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© 1996 Robert Beard