11.6 - Value added

On page 11.2 we discussed the role of prefixes (particularly з-, по-, на-, про- and за-), in changing the aspect of a verb from imperfective to perfective. In addition to this function, prefixes also play a part in adding layers of meaning to the verb.

In the verb «писати» (to write, to be writing), for example, the perfective is formed by adding the prefix на-, giving the form «написати». If, however, one replaces the standard perfective prefix на- with, for example, за-, this gives «записати», meaning "to write/note down, record". Below is a selection of compounds of «писати»:

perfective imperfective principal meanings
записати записувати note down, record
переписати переписувати copy, re-write
дописати дописувати finish writing; write articles (e.g. for a newspaper) (imperfective only)
пописати пописувати to write a large quantity or in many places; to cover with writing or drawing (perfective only); to write from time to time; to write (literature) badly, scribble (imperfective only)
вписати вписувати insert, make an entry (e.g. in a register)
відписати відписувати to reply in writing (e.g. to a letter); bequeath
підписати підписувати sign
недописати недописувати not finish writing; leave (something) unwritten
розписати розписувати depict, draw, paint
виписати виписувати make a copy of an extract of a text; take out a subscription (to a periodical)
описати описувати describe
списати списувати make a copy of; write off (e.g. a loss)
надписати надписувати inscribe, superscribe; endorse

As can be seen from the table above, the prefix is an integral part of each verb, rather than a marker of its aspect (which is shown through internal change of the stem).

The table above shows the range of meanings which verbs acquire through the use of prefixes. A good dictionary will help the reader understand these, but it is worth learning the most frequently occurring meanings of the prefixes:

Prefix Type of action Rough English equivalent
(where relevant)
в- (у-) in(to) in-, imm-
ви- out
completion, emission
ex-, e-
від- away, from
discharge of an obligation
до- movement to
completion of unfinished action
з- (с-) completion
за- completion  
на- completion
exhaustive or intensive action
movement to or onto

над- over or above super-, over-
недо- failure to complete action  
о-, об- around
thorough action
de-, circum-
пере- across
trans-, re-
під- under
action with negative connotations
sub-, under-
по- limitation by time
про- action limited by a period
при- joining, bringing together  
роз- separation


To practise recognising the meanings of prefixed verbs in perfective and imperfective go to Exercise 11.6A and Exercise 11.6B.

Part of the collection of resources at UkrainianLanguage.org.uk
© 2007 Marta Jenkala