4.7. Сходи посмотри…

This module covers a topic that deviates from the way Russian verbs are ordinarily taught (and studied): the difference between иди ‘go!’ and сходи ‘go [and come back]!’. It is important to point out that when we refer to a choice between imperfective идти ‘go’ and perfective сходить ‘go [and come back]’, we do not mean to say that these verbs form an aspect pair. The former is recognized as being aspectually paired with пойти; the issue of which imperfective verb сходить is paired with is unclear, though a reasonable assumption is that it is paired with imperfective multidirectional ходить in its round trip meaning. In any case, students need to know when to use the imperative of сходить and when to use the imperative of идти in situations in which both are very common in spoken Russian.

In previous modules, verbs of motion, especially идти ‘go’, have occurred from time to time. In contrast to the great bulk of other verbs in these modules, go as a verbal notion shows some peculiarities in imperatives. While perfective пойти occurs commonly in past-tense usage, it occurs relatively rarely in the imperative.

It should come as no surprise that when we tell someone to engage in the activity of going in one direction, we use imperfective идти:

Иди дальше. [continuation of motion in one direction]
‘Keep going.’
Иди и не оборачивайся. [a new motion process in one direction]
‘Go and don’t turn around.’

When we tell someone to go this way and that or to a single destination repeatedly, we use the indeterminate ходить:

Xоди сам по магазинам. [walking around]
‘Go around to the stores on your own.’
А ты, Маринка, в церковь ходи, чтобы хотя бы вдыхать ладана. [repeated trips to one destination]
‘And you, Marinka, go to church, at least to inhale the incense.’

When telling someone to go somewhere or to go and do something, the main aspectual opposition seems to be between imperfective идти ‘go’ and perfective сходить ‘go [and come back]’; the perfective departure verb пойти, which you learn early on in Russian, is used less commonly.  (Note: this module does not focus on the choice between unidirectional imperfective verbs such as идти, etc. and multidirectional imperfective verbs such as ходить, etc., which are commonly covered in textbooks.

The following exercises should help attune you to the factors that condition the choice between идти and сходить.

Exercise A

Read the dialogues, and after each dialogue select the statements that best characterize what is going on with the imperative. Then answer the question at the end of the exercise.


While the imperative of идти may also refer to a trip from which a return is a tacit assumption, it differs from the imperative of сходить in one or more interrelated ways. You will get exposed to these in exercise B.

Exercise B

Read the dialogues, and after each dialogue select the statements that best characterize what is going on with the imperative. Then answer the question at the end of the exercise.


Again, while сходить and идти are not an aspectual pair, they are commonly alternative possibilities in contexts in which someone tells someone to go somewhere on a single occasion. The imperatives of the two verbs differ in two ways. First, they differ in their lexical meaning: сходить implies a round trips whereas идти does not. Second, they are each used in accordance with the principles we have learned so far for perfective and imperfective imperatives: perfective сходить occurs in imperatives that communicate first-time requests whereby the listener in principle has the option of opting out; imperfective идти occurs mostly in imperatives of authority—the speaker is invoking their authority to get the listener to do something now, and is not interested in a deliberation.

With the above in mind, proceed to exercise C. Note that in some of these dialogues both verbs are possible, so pay attention to the feedback for both where relevant.

Exercise C

Choose the verb that seems more appropriate in the context, иди(те) or сходи(те). If the feedback for your choice indicates that both choices are acceptable, be sure and check to see how both choices are described.


Final Thoughts

This module has gone out on a limb, as it were, to cover the difference between the imperatives of imperfective идти and perfective сходить even though the verbs are not aspectually paired. The reason for this is because they commonly occur in the imperative in situations in which people tell people to go somewhere, i.e., they both occur in discourse more or less as alternative neutral go-verbs. This is true of сходить despite its additional assertion of a return trip—references to motion events can easily presuppose a return trip in a suitable context. Of course, other verbs occur more or less in the same contexts. For example, there are speakers who would use уходи or even пойди in dialogue (11) of exercise C. Similarly, when telling someone to go do something that does not take a lot of time, there are speakers who use a construction consisting of the imperative of пойти followed by another perfective imperative, e.g., пойди посмотри… However, this construction seems to be limited both regionally and generationally, and that younger urban speakers are more likely to say сходи посмотри… In sum, students should be good if they apply these rules in conversation.


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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.