5.6. Всё будет хорошо – я узнавала!

In this module we move on to another function of imperfective past-tense statements of fact in conversational discourse. Note that the functional categories of our modules are artifacts of an attempt to organize the communicative functions of imperfective statements of fact. Reality, however, is less clear-cut and here (and elsewhere) you will find that some uses arguably represent cases of two different functions. We will comment on this overlap as needed as we move forward.

Without further ado, let’s proceed to the first exercise.

Exercise А

Examine the dialogues, and after each dialogue choose the statement that most accurately characterizes the actions of the speaker. Then answer the question at the end of the exercise.


Now that we have seen that past-tense imperfective verbs are used to refer to actions that are somehow mentioned only to support some view held by the speaker, let us turn to some past-tense uses of the same verbs in the perfective aspect.

Exercise B

Examine the dialogues, and after each dialogue choose the statement that most accurately characterizes the actions of the speaker. Then answer the question at the end of the exercise.


Now you should be ready to try your hand at the final exercise.

Exercise C

Choose the aspect that is most appropriate in the context.

Final Thoughts

The kind of imperfective statements of fact referring to completable actions covered in this module have been described as mentioning an event in support of some view or opinion of the speaker, to back some claim that the speaker makes. As pointed out in the comment after exercise A, as such they are not mentioned as events that are important by virtue of their place in a temporal/causal sequence in the circumstances in which they originally occurred. Sometimes mentioning an action in support of some point of view overlaps with mentioning that action as the way in which the speaker learned some piece of information. An example is from exercise A:

Полина жалуется своей подруге: 

– Что-то я ленивая стала в последнее время…. Не хочу ничего делать, хочу только лежать.
– Слушай, а может, ты просто устала? Я читала в одной статье в Интернете, что люди часто путают лень с выгоранием. Может, отпуск возьмёшь, отдохнёшь немного?

When this overlap occurs, it is because some piece of information supports a claim made by the speaker and the imperfective statement of fact tells how the speaker came to know that piece of information. Thus, in the example above читала in some larger sense occurs to support the speaker’s view that Polina may just be tired, whereas in a more narrow sense it is occurring to indicate the source of the information (that people confuse feeling lazy with burnout).

In dialogue (5) of the exercise C we see a kind of chaining of communicative purposes:

Я смотрел на днях документальный фильм, там рассказывали, что панды могут быть очень агрессивными…

Here the speaker initially mentions seeing the documentary to set up the background for the action whereby they learned the fact that panda bears can be very aggressive; all of this supports the speaker’s view that panda bears are not so cute and harmless.

At this point we can again make use of the idea of an orthogonal purpose for imperfective statements of fact: when mentioning an action only to support some view or opinion, the speaker ignores the episode in which the event occurred as well as its place in the temporal/causal sequence of that episode. That is to say, the speaker’s purpose in backing some claim that they are making is a purpose that has nothing to do with the original purpose of the event. The notion of an orthogonal goal of the speaker for imperfective statements of fact was indeed used in the discussion of dialogue (4) in exercise A: the statement about the mother’s advice (Мне мама посоветовала) is perfective because it is mentioned with reference to the goal of the mother’s advice, whereas in the statement of fact about making the cutlets (Я готовил так на днях – совсем другое дело), the action is mentioned by the speaker with his own purpose in mind (supporting his view about adding onions) and not with reference to its original goal, which was for the cutlets to be eaten.

In the next module we move on to a very different kind of orthogonal purpose.


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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.