Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Perfect" verbs

I want to offer a bit of a feeble explanation for why I am not yet fluent in Russian. I learned something today about the verb “to eat.” There are actually multiple ways to say “to eat,” but the one Alla uses most often is kushit, pronounced koo-shit. (If you speak Russian, don't freak out. I'll try to make amends at the bottom.)

A month or two into my Russian studies, the teacher commented that so far we’d only been learning imperfect verbs, and now we would advance to perfect verbs. For almost every imperfect verb, we learned, there is at least one perfect verb. For example, kushit transforms to pokushit. Pokushit means “to eat completely.” So, before you start speaking, you have to consider whether you are talking about finishing a meal or talking about having some bites. Fine. We’ve all learned to deal with this.

Now, life is beginning to present alternative versions of perfection. Today Alla asked me if I wanted to “dokushit” the leftovers from last night. Before I could answer, I needed to learn the difference between pokushit, which I already understood, and dokushit. It turns out that the latter means “to finish.” Subtle.

I’m off to dokushit some kutletey.

A correction prior to posting: It turns out that the verb in question is kushat, not kushit. In case you cared. But I’m not changing it because I think the incorrect version will be funnier for some readers.

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