“To Be…” 39 Russian Verbs to Learn for an Existential Crisis

“To be, or not to be…”

When you hear those words, you may automatically picture a man casually holding a human skull.

But if you’re preparing for your next major existential crisis, there’s something you need even more than a skull: verbs.

Yes, “to be” is one of the most common verbs in the English language.

In Russian, too, there are some verbs you’ll just constantly encounter.

Before you plan your next great soliloquy, study up on the common Russian verbs below!


Why Learn Common Russian Verbs?

First of all, you’re likely to use common verbs often. These words are common because they’re tremendously useful, so you’ll definitely want them in your vocabulary to describe basic actions that you do every day.

Plus, you’re likely to hear/read them often. Regardless of whether you’re listening to Russian music or reading Russian fables or anything else, you’ll undoubtedly encounter these words. Studying them now will help ensure you understand them in context.

Finally, knowing common Russian verbs builds a strong foundation for your vocabulary. Studying these commonly used verbs first will enable you to use them. And as you use your Russian skills more often, you’ll pick up other words along the way. When paired with Russian learning resources, learning these verbs can help give you a great start on your road to fluency.

How to Learn Russian Verbs

Converse in Russian.


Using your vocabulary is a terrific way to reinforce it, so it’s time to get talking! Language exchange is an ideal way to use your new verb vocabulary with a native speaker. And language exchange websites like MyLanguageExchange.com make it easy to find a perfect language exchange partner for you.

Practice common conjugations.

Once you’ve learned the infinitives of the verbs (explained below), you’ll want to practice the conjugations, too. Because effectively using verbs requires lots of conjugating, you’ll need to do some Russian grammar exercises to flex your conjugation muscles.

PracticeRussian.com is one free, convenient way to do this. It offers a convenient test that presents you with a verb and lists a tense. Then, all you need to do is conjugate. There’s even a keyboard feature, so you don’t need to have a Russian keyboard installed or have even learned to type in Russian to use the site.


If you prefer a handy app, Russian Verb Trainer (iOS | Android) is a good go-to. Not only does it contain 200 of the most common verbs, it also provides pronunciations and conjugation practice.

Study Russian Online can help you practice your present tense or past tense conjugations online for free. You’ll be given a sentence containing the infinitive form of the verb. You’ll then conjugate to make the verb fit in the sentence.

This Sporcle conjugation quiz is another free online practice option. It asks you to list all the present tense conjugations for several common verbs. Since the test is timed and speed is of the essence, this is also good typing practice.

Use flashcards.


Any language learner will tell you that flashcards are a great way to memorize vocabulary words. Whether you’re using flashcard apps, online flashcards or even crafting your own flashcards from scratch, they’re a simple and straightforward way to learn Russian verbs.

One online option is Quizlet. Quizlet allows you to make your own flashcard sets, but you can also access a user-created common verb set for easy, immediate studying. Plus, if you get sick of flashcards, you can also play games or take tests on the vocabulary.


Sporcle offers a unique take on flashcards in that they’re more like games than conventional cards. You can create your own, but if you’re looking to practice common Russian verbs, you might prefer this user-created quiz that asks you to pair common Russian verbs with their English meanings.

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FluentU is a full language learning program which bases its Russian lessons on authentic videos, so you can watch these videos to see verbs used in context. It also has a flashcards feature that employs an SRS (spaced repetition system) algorithm to give you a good mix of old and new vocabulary. Since the program’s main focus is video content, the flashcards integrate video and other multimedia content for more contextual learning.

39 Verbs Russian Learners Can’t Live Without

The verbs in this list are presented in the infinitive. When studying languages, we traditionally memorize the infinitive because it’s considered the most basic version of the verb.

In English, this is the “to ___” form of the verb. In Russian, most infinitives end in -ать, -ить or -еть, though there are many exceptions to this rule.

One tricky thing about Russian grammar you should know is that there are two aspects for verbs: perfective and imperfective. This list focuses mostly on imperfective verbs since these are usually the more common verbs.

Imperfective verbs are used for actions that are ongoing, incomplete and/or repeated. They are also used in past and future tense when the results are not the key focus.

This list also includes a handful of the most commonly used perfective verbs. Perfective verbs are only used for past and future tenses and indicate an action done only once and completed.

Don’t get too hung up on this yet, but it’s important to keep in mind as you move forward. Now for the verbs!


Быть  to be

Он хочет быть богатым. (He wants to be rich.)

Мочь  to be able (to be in a position to do something)

Я могу тебе помочь. (I can help you.)

Уметь — to be able (to know how to do something)

Я умею играть на скрипке. (I can play violin.)

Жить  to live

Я живу в США. (I live in the USA.)

Иметь — to have (see below)

Иметь is kind of like “to have” or “to own.” However, it’s important to note that у меня (“I have”) and similar constructions are used more often to indicate possession.

That being said, иметь is still worth keeping in your vocabulary. It’s frequently used in more scholarly and/or formal contexts. Plus, it’s part of many phrases, like иметь в виду (“to have in mind; to keep in mind”).

However, be careful with how you use this verb. Colloquially, it can have an adult meaning.

Не имеет смысла пить дешевую водку. (It doesn’t make any sense to drink cheap vodka.)


Чувствовать  to feel/sense

Я плохо себя чувствую. (I don’t feel well.)

Хотеть  to want

Я хочу печенье. (I want cookies.)

Любить  to love/like

Я люблю спать. (I love to sleep.)


Знать  to know

Вы знаете дорогу? (Do you know the way?)

Думать  to think

Я думаю, что это хорошая идея. (I think that is a good idea.)

Понимать — to understand

Понимать is usually used when discussing ongoing understanding.

Вы понимаете по-английски? (Do you understand English?)

Понять — to understand

Понять also means “to understand,” but it’s used when the understanding is isolated to one moment in time.

Вы поняли, что я только что сказал? (Did you understand what I just said?)


Видеть  to see

Я вижу мёртвых людей. (I see dead people.)

Смотреть  to watch

Он смотрит телевизор весь день. (He watches TV all day.)

Слышать  to hear

Вы что-то слышали? (Did you hear something?)

Слушать  to listen

Я слушаю Nickelback. (I listen to Nickelback.)


Идти — to go

Идти means “to walk” or “to go.” It’s usually used when there’s one specific direction and/or it happened on one specific occasion.

Я иду в магазин. (I’m walking/going to the store.)

Ходить — to go

Ходить also means “to walk” or “to go.” However, it’s used when the movement is ongoing/frequent and/or there’s no specific direction or multiple directions.

Я каждый день хожу в школу. (I walk/go to school everyday.)


Делать — to do/make

Что вы делаете? (What are you doing?)

Брать  to take

Он ничего не брал. (He didn’t take anything.)

Давать — to give

Давать is used when the action is ongoing or frequent.

Я всегда люблю давать советы. (I always like to give advice.)

Дать — to give

дать also means “to give,” but is used to describe a one-time action.

Он даёт мне деньги. (He gives me money.)

Работать  to work

Она работает в офисе. (She works in an office.)

Есть  to eat

Кошка ест рыбу. (The cat eats fish.)

Пить  to drink

Кошка пьёт молоко. (The cat drinks milk.)

Играть  to play (a game, sport or instrument)

Он играет в футбол. (He plays football/soccer.)

Стоять  to stand

Я стою на концертах. (I stand at concerts.)

Сидеть  to sit

Пожалуйста, не сиди в моём кресле. (Please don’t sit in my chair.)

Лежать  to lie

Я лежу на диване. (I’m lying on the couch.)

Спать  to sleep

Я не люблю спать в самолёте. (I don’t like to sleep on airplanes.)

Читать  to read

Кто читает любовные романы? (Who reads romantic novels?)

Писать  to write

Мне нравится писать о белках. (I like to write about squirrels.)

Стать  to become

Он стал астронавтом. (He became an astronaut.)

Ждать — to wait

Я не хочу ждать. (I don’t want to wait.)


Сказать  to say

Что он сказал? (What did he say?)

Говорить  to talk

Мы говорим каждый день. (We talk every day.)

Спрашивать  to ask

Почему вы спрашиваете? (Why do you ask?)

Попросить  to invite/request

Мне нужно попросить одолжение. (I need to request a favor.)

Ответить  to answer

Он ответил на вопрос. (He answered the question.)


So if you’re looking to speak, to read, to write or to understand Russian, look no further than these common Russian verbs to dramatically improve your skills!

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