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Thread: Figuring out verb stem at first glance

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    Figuring out verb stem at first glance

    I've been trying to make use of the one-stem system to remember verb conjugations because I plan on being in Russia for a long time. So for example I understand that the suffix of читать is -АЙ, and the suffix of писать is -A. The questions is, can one tell simply by looking at the verb whether it's -АЙ or -A, or does the suffix have to be memorized for each verb?

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    Завсегдатай it-ogo's Avatar
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    As far as I understand, you need it to to make an imperative читать - читай, писать - пиши.

    I don't see any rule. Even Russian children can't get it intuitively and often say "писай", "писаю" instead of "пиши", "пишу" until get used to say "пиши", "пишу". So I am afraid that "-ать" verbs with imperative with ending "-ать" rather than suffix "-а-" and ending "-ть" are exceptions to be memorized.
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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Honestly, I don't see much advantage (for foreigners at the beginning level) in trying to memorize something as "abstract" as verb stems. I mean, you're not writing a graduate-level paper on comparative morphology of East Slavic verbs, you're just trying to speak Russian without sounding like Tarzan!

    I think it's probably less confusing (even though it seems like extra work) to memorize these six concrete forms for most verbs:

    (1) infinitive
    (2) masc. past
    (3) 1st-sing. non-past (the я form)
    (4) 2nd-sing. non-past (the ты form)
    (5) 3rd-pl. non-past (the они form)
    (6) the imperative

    So, for писать, "to write", you'd learn:

    писать
    писал
    я пишу
    ты пишешь
    они пишут
    пиши!

    And for печь, "to bake", you'd learn:
    печь
    пёк
    я пеку
    ты печёшь
    они пекут
    пеки!

    For просить, "to request":

    просить
    просил
    я прошу
    ты просишь
    они просят
    проси!

    For пить, "to drink":
    пить
    пил
    я пью
    ты пьёшь
    они пьют
    пей!

    This way, you're reinforcing "model conjugational paradigms" at the same time you're learning new verbs, including consonant mutations and stress-shift patterns. To put it another way, once you know the paradigm for пить, all you need to memorize about бить, вить, лить and шить is that "they behave like пить."

    And as you progress, you'll begin to realize that you don't need to learn all six forms anymore -- for many verbs, knowing only the infinitive plus the 3rd. pl. non-past will let you predict the whole conjugation correctly. For instance, if you know писать ("to pee") and они писают ("they are taking a leak"), you'll just KNOW that the masculine past is писал ("he peed"), the imperative is писай! ("go ahead and tinkle!") the past active participle is писавший ("[the ones] who have gone wee-wee"), etc. But that instinctive knowledge will come as a result of thoroughly memorizing the conjugations of more basic "model verbs" like читать (они читают).

    P.S. I would guesstimate that there are roughly two or three dozen "model" conjugation paradigms for Russian verbs, but I don't think it's worthwhile for beginners to rote-memorize all of these patterns in one sitting! Rather, you'll just get to the point where you look up a new verb in the dictionary and realize, "Oh-ho, THIS particular -ать verb acts just like стать, but not like дать or ждать or вставать or писать or читать." (That's six different paradigms right there, by the way! Since all of these are basic, high-frequency verbs, it won't be too long in your Russian studies before you know their conjugational patterns by heart -- probably without ever needing to learn what their so-called "stems" are.)
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    Moderator Lampada's Avatar
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    Роберт, ты пропустил он/она пишет, пьёт, печёт, ждёт, даёт, встаёт.

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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lampada View Post
    Роберт, ты пропустил он/она пишет, пьёт, печёт, ждёт, даёт, встаёт.
    I left out the 3rd-person singular forms (as well as 1st-pl and 2nd pl) because I was trying to suggest a "minimum number" to be learned -- if you know ты печёшь, you can correctly deduce the forms он/она печёт, мы печём, вы печёте. However, if you only know the infinitive печь plus я пеку, you wouldn't necessarily guess ты печёшь and они пекут.

    P.S. But I left out "он/она даёт" because the irregular verb дать has no such form -- the 3rd-singular is "он/она даст"! (For rebmaboss, there is such a verb form as "он/она даёт", but it belongs to the infinitive давать, not дать.)

    P.S. The verb давать could be considered "semi-regular" or maybe "quasi-irregular" -- the conjugation is a bit odd, yet it's basically a normal "E-type" verb:

    давать ("to give," imperfective)
    он давал, она давала ("he/she was giving")
    я даю ("I give")
    ты даёшь ("you give")
    он/она даёт ("he/she gives")
    мы даём ("we give")
    вы даёте ("you give")
    они дают ("they give")
    давай!

    But дать is really and truly and weirdly irregular because it's neither a "Е"-type nor an "И"-type:

    дать ("to give," perfective)
    он дал, она дала ("he/she has given")
    я дам ("I shall give")
    ты дашь ("you will give")
    он/она даст ("he/she will give")
    мы дадим ("we will give")
    вы дадите ("you will give")
    они дадут ("they will give")
    дай! ("give!")

    Note: Given мы дадим and вы дадите, by every logical rule you would predict the 3rd plural to be они дадят -- but, nope, it's дадут. Furthermore, given the 3rd-plural form дадут, you would predict the imperative to be дади! -- but it's дай, just to fool you. And then the я, ты, он/она forms are just SUPER-bizarre. That's why this one is "truly irregular," while давать is just "sort of irregular."
    Lampada likes this.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Throbert McGee View Post
    Honestly, I don't see much advantage (for foreigners at the beginning level) in trying to memorize something as "abstract" as verb stems. I mean, you're not writing a graduate-level paper on comparative morphology of East Slavic verbs, you're just trying to speak Russian without sounding like Tarzan!
    Oops, I forgot to mention that I'm not a beginner, I've been learning and studying the language for three years. So you're right, I am realizing the conjugational patterns by heart, I just hoped that there was an easier way-- a way to know that a verb conjugates like "видеть" simply by looking at the infinitive. So I'm guessing that there's not?

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    Властелин Medved's Avatar
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    Писай is a word, btw. It means: Pee! (Now!)
    The only difference between Писать aka pee and Писать aka write is different stressed syllables.
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