Talking about the future in Russian

Future tense in Russia has two types: simple future and compound future. Simple future is more common but it can be really hard to learn. Let me explain why.

We’ll start with compound future, because it’s much easier to remember. 

Compound Future in Russian

It is made up of two verbs. Here’s how its form looks like:

We don’t use the verb быть in the present, but we DO use it when we talk about the future and the past.

Let’s look at some examples. We’ll make the future form of the verbs жить (live) and смотреть (look, watch).

As you can see, the only thing that changes here is the first verb. This means the only thing you have to remember is the conjugation of the verb быть. 6 different forms and nothing more. Can you believe it? 

The use of Compound Future: examples

As a rule, we use the compound tense when talking about repeated, uncomplete or continuing actions.

Я буду жить в другом городе. – I will live in another city.

Моя мама будет учить детей. – My mother will teach children. 

Ты будешь меня слушать? – Will you listen to me?

Я не буду это есть. – I will not eat it.

Мы будем смотреть кино. – We’re going to watch a movie. 

Simple Future in Russian

From now on things will get more complicated. Be prepared. Just look at that. (I took the same verbs – жить and смотреть.) 

Horrible, right? And it’s only two verbs. Imagine you have to remember them all, and their future forms are all different.

Well, I have first of all, I have to tell you that not all of them take the prefix по-: some of them have another prefix and some don’t take any prefix at all. Here are some more examples:

the verb – видеть (to see)

я увижу
ты увидишь
он/она/оно увидит
мы увидим
вы увидите
они увидят

the verb – открывать (open)

я открою
ты откроешь
он/она/оно откроет
мы откроем
вы откроете
они откроют

The point is that every russian verb has its perfective copy. So, we have two infinitive forms of verbs:

жить – пожить
смотреть – посмотреть
видеть – увидеть
учить – выучить
открывать – открыть
давать – дать
понимать – понять

We use these exact forms when forming simple future in Russian. And (bad news) you have to learn them all.

The Use of Simple Future

Simple future is mostly used when talking about the actions or events that will only happen once in the future:

Завтра я пойду/схожу в библиотеку. – Tomorrow I’m going to the library. (just tomorrow.)

Он придёт сегодня, чтобы забрать свои книги. – He’ll come today to take his books back.

Мы посмотрим фильм потом. – We’ll watch the movie later.

Simple Future vs. Compound Future: what should I use?

And this is where the hardest part is starting. 

Compound Future is used when talking about regularly occurring, repetitive actions. Simple Future shows that you will do something once.

Я буду ходить в школу каждый день. – I will go to school every day.
Сегодня не пойду в школу. – I won’t go to school today.

Я буду делать это постоянно. – I will do this all the time.
Я сделаю это завтра. – I’ll do this tomorrow.

Compound Future is also used when talking about continuing actions, when Simple Future is mostly used for short ones and more focused on the result of the action:

Я уверена, что выучу это правило. – I’m sure, I will learn this rule. (I will now this rule = result.)
Я буду учить это правило, пока не запомню. – I will be learning this rule until I remember it.

But sometimes these two tenses can be used interchangeably, even when continuing action happens:

Сегодня я буду говорить с вами об искусстве. Today I’m going to talk to you about art.
Сегодня я поговорю с вами об исскустве.
Можно, я буду жить у тебя? Can I live in your place?
Можно, я поживу у тебя?In this situation, however, the second sentence implies that it won’t be long: Можно, я поживу у тебя, пока у меня нет денег? (Can I live in your place, while I don’t have money?)

For some verbs the compound form is rarely or almost never used. 

Когда-нибудь ты поймешь. – Sometimes you’ll understand.

“Будешь понимать”, “буду понимать”, “будет понимать” – these phrases are very rare to hear. The few examples I can think of now are:

Вы будете понимать немецкую речь и хорошо говорить на немецком“. – You will understand german speach and speak German very well. (A phrase you can hear at the German course as a promise. This means you will always understand what German people say after the course.)

Как я буду понимать тебя, если ты постоянно говоришь загадками? – How will I understand you, if you talk in riddles all the time?

You can also say “пойму”, but it sounds more natural when talking about the current situation:

Как я пойму тебя, если ты говоришь с набитым ртом? – How will I understand you (=what you’re saying) if you’re talking with full mouth?

Leave a Comment