Prefix по- with Nouns, Adverbs and Verbs

Prefix по- is commonly used in Russian. You can see it in nouns or adverbs, but the question of how we use this prefix with verbs is what interests learners the most.

We’ll talk a lot about verbs but let’s start with example of words that have that по- prefix.

Adverbs: поначалу (at first, firstly, in the beginning), подолгу ((for a) long (time); for hours / days / months), помаленьку (little by little), получше (a little better), по-русски (in Russian), поверх (over, above; on top of), etc.

Deverbal nouns: подарок (gift) from дарить (to give), повод (cause, reason) from водить (to lead), поход (excursion, hike) from ходить (to go), погреб (cellar) from погрести (to bury, to inter), покос (haymowing) from косить (to mow, to cut), повозка (cart, wagon) from возить (to drive, to transport, to cart ), поезд (train), поездка (trip) from ездить (to ride, to drive); посмешище (laughing-stock) from смеяться (to laugh), etc.

When you see a verb with the prefix по-, you can be sure it’s a perfective verb. Well, almos always.

For example, there are verbs like покупать (to buy). По is a prefix here, but the verb is imperfective.

Sometimes по is not a prefix at all: помогать, полагать, etc.

But in general по- is used to make imperfective verbs perfective (simply put).

The meaning of these verbs can become different though.

When we talk about the result of an action, we often use the verb with по-.

Он покраснел (impf краснеть – to turned red). – He blushed.

Он поседел (impf седеть – to turn gray). – He turned gray.

Он подобрел (impf добреть – to become kinder). – He became kinder.

Он помрачнел (impf мрачнеть – to darken, to grow gloomy). – He became gloomy.

Он побрился. (impf бриться) – He shaved.

Они поговорили. – They had a conversation.

Меня побили. – I was beaten.

Их покусала собака. – They were bitten by a dog.

Ей понравилось. – She liked it.

Я рассказал ему, и он поверил. – I told him and he believed.

Мы ему позвонили и предупредили. – We called and warned him.

When you describe a sequence of actions, you may use many по- verbs:

Prefix по- in Russian: Examples

It is also used when the action is short.

‎Мы немного ‎поговорили. – We talked a little.

Мы немного поспали. – We slept a little.

Я побыл с ней полчаса. – I stayed with her for half an hour.

Нужно просто встать и немного походить.– You only need to get up and walk a bit.

See Also: Difference between идти, ходить and other similar verbs

Он позвал на помощь, и Король Хуай решил отправить армию. – He called for help, and King Huai decided to send an army.

На следующее утро мы проснулись, позавтракали, и она уехала домой. – The next morning we got up, had breakfast and she went home. (short single action)

Человек, не останавливаясь, помахал рукой. – The man, without stopping, waved his hand. (short single action)

Понюхай эти розы. – Smell these roses. (short single action)

Надо покормить собаку. – The dog needs to be fed. (It is hungry now.)

Доктор позовёт вас, когда он будет готов. – The doctor will call for you when he’s ready. (short single action)

Beginning of motion:

Поехали! – Let’s go!

Он побежал туда! – He ran over there!

Куда ты пошёл? – Where are you going?

Он поднялся и полетел. – He rose and flew away.


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