Читать - (imperfect) to read as an action, a process. - Я читал - I read (in the past), I was reading, I've been reading. It tells us about an action in the past, but it doesn't tell us if the process has a result. Is the book finished? Did we read an entire book? Who knows, may be yes, maybe no. It doesn't matter. There was just some action in the past. A result? Not sure.
Прочитать - (perfect) to read an entire something (a book, a letter, a caption), or an entire part of something (the first half of the book, the second chapter etc). There is a result of reading.
- Я прочитал книгу - I('ve) read an entire book, the book is finished, there's nothing to read more.
That's why perfect verbs can be in the form of the future and past tenses (something will be done, something is/was done). The present tense action is always not finished.
- Я читаю (imp.) - I read, I am reading. The action of reading is still going on, the book is not finished. Let's say by the moment, I've read half of the book, that's my result: Я прочитал половину книги. (perf.)
- Я уже читал эту книгу - I already read this book (once in the past)
- Я уже прочитал эту книгу - I've already read this book (in the recent past)
- Я читал эту книгу 5 раз. - I read this book for five times (maybe entire, maybe not, it's more like English Past Simple)
- Я прочитал эту книгу 5 раз. - I (have|had) read this entire book for five times (5 results from the beginning to the end, the emphasis is on the result)
Yes this is hard for me too. Try thinking of the sentence in English "He went to the store." Is he still at the store? Did he come back? In English, the sentence "He went to the store" does not convey the rest of the story. It seems that the whole story is filled in with Russian perfective or imperfective verbs.
Thank you for the very thorough explanation. I just wonder whether we can ever use the word уже with imperfective verbs. In the following website, it was explained that we cannot. Thank you in advance for the reply. http://www.russianforeveryone.com/Rufe/Lessons/Course1/Grammar/GramUnit13/GramUnit13_1.htm
Читал (в русском понимании!) может означать и Прочитал! И Прочёл! Запросто!!! Да, читал я её уже сто раз!!! :) Пример: Мама написала сыну записку и ушла на работу. А вечером спрашивает? Ты читал мою записку? И это вполне означает: Ты прочёл (прочитал) мою записку? The same, как говорят французы.:) (Да читал я её сто раз и ничего не понял!)
Hm, okay then. In Britain though it would sound a bit Yoda-ish, unless you put stress on the 'have'. And (I think..) in formal language it's bad form to split pronouns from unstressed auxiliaries. Which is maybe why DL doesn't accept it - in the Russian the focus is on 'эту книгу', whereas 'I already have read' puts it on the verb.
I recognize that the Russian word order suggests an emphasis is on 'эту книгу,' but I'm having trouble thinking up a context where that makes sense.
In English, adding emphasis to either "already" or "have," with either word order, sounds reasonable to me and I can think up contexts for each case. I just imagine arguing with a kid. Likewise for emphasis on "read," ("I've already READ the/this book," "I already HAVE read the book," I HAVE already read the book," "I've ALREADY read the book," "I've read the book ALREADY," "I read the book ALREADY," "I've READ the book already," and "I READ the book already.") Maybe for emphasis on "book"....."Have you read the fourth chapter yet?" "YES! I've already read the BOOK!" (meaning "the WHOLE book.")
Now... which of these cases, of different stress, would be handled in Russian by word order and which by vocal emphasis? Lacking context makes translation infinitely more difficult.
I'm not a native Russian-speaker so please don't take what I say as gospel, but I'll have a go at answering your question (if any native speakers want to chip in that would be grand).
To the first part, showing that the emphasis is on the book in English could be done by vocally stressing 'this': 'I've already read THIS book' - i.e., 'and not THAT one', or something like that.
Secondly: vocal stress and word order in Russian aren't really the same thing. Russian likes to put its sentences in topic-comment order, and because it's an inflected language this can be done much more freely. The sentence in question here isn't stressing 'эту книгу' per se, but saying that the particular book I have read is the "new" information (the comment), and that the fact that I have been reading is the "old" information - the topic. If, on the other hand, you and I were discussing one book in particular and I wanted to say that I had in fact read it, the Russian would be something like 'я уже эту книгу прочитал(а)' (I think...). This is not to do with stress, but really to do with topic-comment structure based on context.
The trouble is that Russian can be very nuanced in this regard, whereas in English we would have a lot of trouble expressing the same nuance in so few words, and without vocal stress or italics.
There is a professional term "вычитывать/вычитать" что-либо, meaning reading through in order to check or correct it. For example, "вычитывать книгу, статью, сайт, презентацию и т.д." - to read through the book, article, site, presentation etc.
But out of the professional printing production it means to find something out by reading.
- Я вчера вычитал в газете, что Земля - круглая!
- Yesterday, reading a newspaper I found out that the Earth is round!
- The scientists wrote that cows like classical music
- Учёные написали, что коровам нравится классическая музыка
- (ironically) Where did you read that?
- (иронично) Ты где это вычитал?
I hope you'll get a more authoritative reply than mine, but here goes:
There are some standard ways that regular verbs use to switch from imperfective to perfective, but I can't always count on them. If I try, I'm wrong half the time. The "rules" are more useful at helping you recognize the aspect of a verb you've encountered, but again, not always. There's no substitute for memorizing the verbs and their aspects.
I think using the word "read" in past and present was a bad choice since, in English, "I read" and "I read" (present and past) can't be understood unless utilizing context or being able to hear the word. Using buy, understand, see, know etc. are verbs that can be better utilized in this situation and have been introduced in earlier lessons, unless there are some exceptions to preclude them that I am unaware of.