27.1 Introduction to Verbal Aspect (Prefixed Perfective Verbs)

27.1 Introduction to Verbal Aspect (Prefixed Perfective Verbs)

In this module, you will be introduced to the concept of verbal aspect in Ukrainian. You will learn to distinguish between imperfective verbs and their prefixed perfective counterparts, as well as between some basic meanings they convey.

Завдання 1

Examine the photos and captions below. Then answer the questions that follow.


The imge is captured from a top view and everything is placed on top of a white cloth. An open book is parallel to a pair of glasses and a cup of coffee.
Я ду́же люблю́ чита́ти! Це моє́ улю́блене заня́ття.


A girl in front of a brick all holding a book over her face.
Як прочита́ти цей ціли́й (whole) підру́чник на екза́мен?!


Two classes of water next to each other on a wooden table.
Я намага́юся пи́ти бага́то води́ влі́тку.


A person is handing a glass of milk to another.
Ти ма́єш ви́пити все це молоко́! Воно́ ко́рисне.


Most Ukrainian verbs are members of the so-called “aspectual pairs,” in which one verb is imperfective and the other verb is perfective. This is the category of verbal aspect in Ukrainian. Broadly speaking, verbal aspect conveys the nature of the action expressed by a verb – whether it is a repeated action, a completed one, etc.

In previous modules, you have worked exclusively with imperfective verbs: чита́ти, працюва́ти, писа́ти, etc. Each of these verbs, however, has a perfective counterpart:

чита́ти – прочита́ти
працюва́ти – попрацюва́ти
писа́ти – написа́ти

In simple terms, you could think of the imperfective verb as a “default” one: it is used to refer to an action in general (Я люблю читати) and to refer to a repeated or habitual action (Я часто пишу імейли). The perfective verb, by contrast, refers to a one-time action in specific circumstances and emphasizes its completion (Я маю прочитати цю книжку).

Many (but not all) perfective verbs are formed from imperfectives with the help of various prefixes. There is no way to know which prefix to add (although по– is the most common one), so it is best to simply memorize Ukrainian verbs as aspectual pairs:

ба́чити – поба́чити
пи́ти – ви́пити
плати́ти — заплати́ти

Завдання 2

Anna has written a to-do list for herself for tomorrow. Read this list below and mark those verbs that denote actions which she is planning to complete in their entirety. Then answer the questions that follow.


The most common prefix used to form perfective verbs out of imperfective verbs is по-. Many of the imperfective verbs with which you are familiar from previous modules take this prefix:

ду́мати – поду́мати
чу́ти – почу́ти
сні́дати – посні́дати
обі́дати – пообі́дати
вече́ряти – повече́ряти
слу́хати – послу́хати
ба́чити – поба́чити
гуля́ти – погуля́ти
чека́ти – почека́ти
рекомендува́ти – порекомендува́ти
говори́ти – поговори́ти
проси́ти – попроси́ти

With all of these verbs, the perfective denotes doing an action (in its entirety) one time – попроси́ти = to ask one time in specific circumstances:

Мо́жна у Вас попроси́ти сіль і пере́ць?
(Can I ask you for salt and pepper? – a question addressed to a waiter)

Some perfective verbs with the prefix по– are best translated as “to do something for some time [and stop]”:

Я ду́же вто́млена. Тре́ба поспа́ти.
(I’m very tired. I need to sleep for a bit.)

Some other verbs whose perfectives are best translated this way are:

працюва́ти – попрацюва́ти
танцюва́ти – потанцюва́ти

Occasionally, one needs to use a completely different English verb or phrase to convey the meaning of a Ukrainian perfective verb:

люби́ти – полюби́ти (to love – to fall in love)

Завдання 3

Listen to the sentences below and select the best English translation for the infinitive verb that you hear.

Завдання 4

Complete the sentences below with the most appropriate verbs from the bank.


Other common prefixes used to form perfective verbs out of imperfective verbs are the following:

PrefixImperfective - Perfective
про-чита́ти – прочита́ти
жи́ти – прожи́ти
при-готува́ти – приготува́ти
паркува́ти – припаркува́ти
на-малюва́ти – намалюва́ти
писа́ти – написа́ти
ви-пи́ти – ви́пити
с-каза́ти – сказа́ти
фотографува́ти – сфотографува́ти
планува́ти – спланува́ти
з-розумі́ти – зрозумі́ти
роби́ти – зроби́ти
ї́сти – з’ї́сти (note the apostrophe after the prefix!)
за-плати́ти – заплати́ти
співа́ти – заспіва́ти
губи́ти – загуби́ти
телефонува́ти – зателефонува́ти

Завдання 5

Listen to the sentences below and indicate whether the infinitive verb you hear denotes a one-time action (оди́н раз) or a regularly repeated action (бага́то разі́в). Then answer the question that follows.

Завдання 6

Look at the photos below and select the best caption for each.


Many -ся verbs also form perfectives with the help of prefixes:

диви́тися – подиви́тися
знайо́митися – познайо́митися
ба́читися – поба́читися
вчи́тися – навчи́тися
ціка́витися – заціка́витися

Finally, a few verbs in Ukrainian do not have perfective counterparts. Some examples include the following:

ма́ти (to have)
ко́штувати (to cost)
подорожува́ти (to travel)
намага́тися (to try/to strive)

Завдання 7

Complete the conversation below using the most appropriate verb forms from the bank.

Завдання 8

Listen to the sentences below and create a rejoinder by providing the perfective counterpart of the imperfective infinitive that you hear. Then respond to the question that follows.

Мовний пазл

Look through the activities you have just completed and choose the correct statements to summarize what you have learned.

А тепе́р тест!

Complete the conversation between a couple and a waiter in a cafe using the most appropriate verb forms from the bank.