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Comparison between Russian perfective and Spanish preterite?

To what degree do these two tenses equate to each other? As both an English and Spanish speaker that the two concepts align more closely than the Russian perfective does to any of the English past tenses, but I'm not sure how close of an equivalency there really is.

Explanations and resources in both English and Spanish, that you feel are reliable, are welcome. :)

November 23, 2015



Perfective isn't a tense. It's an aspect. In English and Romance languages aspect isn't separated out as a separate property of verbs but is expressed differently by the different tenses, and we're not used to thinking of it at all.

This is a very general description in Spanish, and it has audio, which gives the bulleted Russian examples. This is okay in English.

Do a web search on

aspect russian verbs

and you'll find plenty of descriptions in English. Read several. Choose which seems best to you. If you can view Google books the explanations in grammars/primers by Wade or Stilman, Stilman, and Harkins are pretty good.

For me at least this is taking a long time to really internalize--understanding the concept is not enough.

[Added] You're on the right track, asking about the preterite. The Spanish imperfective and preterite past tenses, which developed from the Latin imperfective and perfect tenses, differ in aspect: the imperfective is used for process and repeated/habitual action, and the preterite is used for completed, one-time actions. In Russian the distinction is made in the future tenses as well, but not in the present, which by the nature of things can only express an ongoing (imperfective) action.


Different Spanish speaking countries use the preterite in different ways, which makes it hard to give a definitive answer to this question. But as far as I know none use it exactly the way Russian does. I've never run across anyone using the preterite to describe events in the future.

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