4.5 Нет времени объяснять!

In modules 4.3 and 4.4 you learned that when the speaker knows (or infers) that the listener wants or would like to do something, the imperfective imperative is used to grant approval or to make an invitation. In this and the next module, we turn to two cases of a very different kind of speaker-listener dynamic.

There is no need for further comment at this point, so proceed to exercise A.

Exercise A

All of the following dialogues contain a bolded imperfective imperative. Read the dialogues, and after each select the true statements.

Exercise B

What feature is common to all the exchanges in exercise A?

Now let’s add some perfective imperatives.

Exercise C

Read the dialogues, and after each select the true statements.

Exercise D

Choose the statement(s) that most accurately describe(s) the way the perfective and imperfective imperatives are used in exercise C.

Now that you are informed about the contexts of absolute urgency that require the imperfective imperative, exercise 5 gives you the chance to make the choice yourself.

Exercise E

Choose the aspect that is most appropriate in the context.


Final thoughts

This module has introduced another kind of usage of imperfective imperatives that commonly refer to single completable events. In contrast to modules 4.3 and 4.4, in which the speaker uses an imperfective imperative to accommodate the (perceived) wishes of the listener, imperfective imperatives in emergencies are of a markedly different type. They are strongly speaker-oriented: the speaker sees the impending danger and is in a position to make the decision, and then urges the listener to take some action to avoid the danger.

Such imperfective imperatives are about getting something done: process has nothing to do with it.
The reason for the imperfective imperative is that the decision for the action to be completed has already been made. In imperfective imperatives in emergencies, it is the speaker who has made this decision; this dynamic contrasts with the use of imperfective imperatives in granting approval and in social invitations, where the speaker knows or infers that the listener has made the decision to complete the action.

Perfective imperatives are never appropriate for slit-second emergencies because they communicate a covert request for the listener to choose to carry out the action and then do so. This creates a delay in time which conflicts with the urgency of the situation.
Imperfective imperatives in emergencies generally occur with a small group of verbs. Берегись! ‘Watch out!’ is very common. Спасайся ‘Save yourself!’ is perhaps somewhat antiquated, but can be encountered. Other common verbs are motion verbs of running and running away (бежать and убегать respectively).

The next module treats another major speaker-oriented use of imperfective imperatives.


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Russian Aspect in Conversation Copyright © 2023 by Stephen M. Dickey, Kamila Saifeeva and Anna Karpusheva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.