Verbs for Starting and Stopping

Amidst the quest for linguistic prowess, learners often overlook specific vocabulary crucial for expressing actions’ commencement and conclusion—elements that native Russian speakers effortlessly integrate into their daily conversations. In this article, we’ll delve into the Russian verbs that encapsulate the essence of starting and stopping actions.

To start doing:

  • Стать
  • Начать
  • Приняться
  • Взяться

To stop doing:

  • Перестать
  • Кончить/ закончить
  • Прекратить
  • Бросить

I don’t have exact figures, but I suspect that these verbs occur much more frequently in Russian than similar verbs in English, and somehow they are related to the verbal aspect because they express the same idea: setting the boundaries of an action.  All of these verbs are perfective, and they are combined with imperfective verbs when they indicate the starting or ending point of an action.

Commencing Actions:

1. Начать (Nachát’) – To Begin:

Direct, no-frills initiation of an action.

Аня начала (p.) плакать (imp.).

Anya started crying.

2. Стать (Stat’) – To Become / To Start:

Conveys a change in the state of things:

a) In the environment

На улице стало темно. It was getting dark outside.

Скоро станет тепло и прилетят птицы. Soon it will be warm and the birds will come.

In the above examples you can see how the scenery changes, and стать marks exactly that – the change of scenery.

b) In one’s mind (notice the Dative case here!):

Я хотела купить новую сумку, но мне стало жалко денег, и я вышла из магазина. I wanted to buy a new bag, but then I didn’t want to waste my money on it, so I left the store.

c) And finally стать signifies the beginning of an action, but rather than focusing on the starting moment, it states the change of status quo,”:

Она стала бегать быстрее всех в команде. She got to run faster than anyone else on the team.

3. Приняться (Prinyat’sya) – To Take Root / To Start (with Imperfective Verbs):

May signify starting something unexpected or out of place.

Он принялся объяснять, что он тут оказался случайно, но ему никто не верил. He went on to explain that he was here by accident, but no one believed him.

4. Взяться (Vzyat’sya) – To Take Oneself (with Imperfective Verbs):

Enthusiastically or energetically starting an action.

Отец вышел на пенсию и взялся разводить цветы. My father retired and took up flower farming.

Concluding Actions:

1. (За)Кончить ((Za)Konchit’) – To Finish / To End:

Designates the conclusion of an action and focuses on that exact moment.

Приглашенная звезда-пианист кончил играть, зал взорвался аплодисментами. The guest star pianist finished playing, and the hall burst into applause.

2. Перестать (Perestat’) – To Stop / To Cease:

Signifies a shift from action to inaction, just as стать means the opposite.

Мы стали часто гулять и перестали смотреть телевизор. We started going for walks a lot and stopped watching TV.

3. Прекратить (Prekratit’) – To Stop / To Cease (often abruptly):

Implies a swift termination of an action.

Немедленно прекратите играть на вувузеле! Stop playing the vuvuzela immediately!

4. Бросить (Brosit’) – To Quit / To Abandon:

Often paired with specific activities like курить (to smoke), пить (to drink), etc.

Бросить курить очень легко! Я сам сто раз бросал! Quitting smoking is very easy! I’ve quit a hundred times myself!

Bonus Verbs:

1. Пойти (Pojti) – To Go:

Used with imperfective verbs to express energetic commencement.

Бабка встала и как пошла на меня орать! The old lady got up and started yelling at me!

2. Закругляться (Zakruglyat’sya) – To Wrap Up:

Self-sufficient verb indicating the conclusion of an activity.

Вот и мне пора закругляться. Well, it’s time for me to wrap this up.

Embrace these verbs as your linguistic tools to articulate actions with finesse, understanding that their perfective nature serves as limit setters for imperfective verbs. Download the vocabulary cards to enhance your Russian language journey. Happy learning!