Teaching Practices Of Prefixal Verbs Of Motion To Foreign Audience


The paper is devoted to the issues of effective organization of training in a foreign community, in particular, the most efficient approaches to prefixal verbs of motion at different stages of training. In the practical course of the Russian language for foreign students, one of the difficult topics is the study of prefixal verbs of motion. The ambiguity of semantic, formal identity of verbs, large quantitative composition of this language group leads to difficulties of studying prefixal verbs and their use in speech. The paper presents the errors from written works of foreign students and gives the analysis of their causes. The paper analyses the possibilities of using various techniques, including the system of training exercises. It considers methodological techniques of dealing with lexical and grammatical units of the studied language at the stages of introducing new educational material, its consolidation and activation in speech, such as the demonstration of a speech model, translation, comment, diagrams, tables, frames, drawings. Besides, the paper highlights the rational combination of systematic performance of training exercises, which lay down a strong language base, and various techniques, which activate the reclusive activity of foreign students, form and develop their speech, help to master such complex and voluminous educational material as prefixal verbs of motion. The provisions set forth in the paper are based on the study of scientific and methodological literature, teaching manuals on Russian language for foreigners, observations in the educational process, as well as personal experience of teaching Russian language to foreign students.

Keywords: Prefix verbs of motiontraining exercisesactivation of speech actions


The verb holds an important place in the practical course of the Russian language for foreign students, which is caused by its syntax role (to serve as a predictive center of a sentence), the presence of categories in a verb indicating the subject of action, duration of its action and the nature of its course, as well as the wealth and variety of semantics of verb units ( Shirochenskaya & Havronina, 2002).

Verbs of motion hold a special place in the study of verbs. Their study begins with prefixless verbs opposed on the basis of unidirectionality/multidirectionality of motion, with the most commonly used pairs, such as: идти-ходить (go), ехать-ездить (drive), бежать-бегать (run), плыть-плавать (swim), лететь-летать (fly), нести-носить (carry), везти-возить (convey), вести-водить (ride) .

One of the features of prefixless verbs of motion is their ability to attach numerous prefixes resulting in a huge array of new lexical units with more than 200 motion verbs ( Korchik, 2012).

Lexical-semantic-grammatical specificity of prefix verbs of motion predetermines the difficulties of their learning by foreign students.

Figure 1: Prefix под-
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Figure 2: Prefix в-
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Figure 3: Prefix при-
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Problem Statement

In the modern system of the Russian language there are numerous verbal prefixes characterized by a variety of meanings, as well as “having special regularities of syntax and lexical combination of adverbial words and prefixal verbs” ( Babakhanyan, 2015, p. 28). Thus, more than 20 productive prefixes can interact with correlative verbs of motion. Each prefix bears a certain meaning that it attaches to a verb to which it joins.

The prefixes attached to the motion verbs can be divided into two large groups – spatial value and nonspatial value prefixes. The spatial value prefixes specify the direction of motion in space in relation to any reference point: motion inside – войти в дом (enter a house) , motion from inside – выйти из дома (get out of a house) , motion behind an object – зайти за дом (get behind a house) , motion away from an object – отойти от дома (go away from a house) , motion to an object – подойти к дому (approach a house) , as well as motion near an object, through an object, on top of an object, etc.

The main attention is paid during classes with foreign students to the verbs with these prefixes. This is caused by the usage, frequency, communicative value of verbs with spatial prefixes. They are widely used in the field of domestic everyday communication in monologue and especially in dialogue speech; such verbs are also widespread in fiction literature where there are episodes in the narration connected with motion, movement of characters in space.

When prefixes are attached, the motion verbs lose their opposition on the basis of unidirectionality/multidirectionality of motion and form verbal-aspect pairs: входить – войти (enter), приезжать – приехать (arrive), переплывать – переплыть (swim across), вылетать – вылететь (depart), забегать – забежать (run in), приводить – привести (carry), провозить – провезти (transport), относить – отнести (deliver) , etc.

The work on prefixal verbs of motion begins already in the introductory and grammatical course of the Russian language for foreign students. According to the requirements for the first level (basic) of language proficiency, the linguo-didactic program determines the next minimum. Verbs идти-ходить (go), ехать-ездить (travel) with prefixes в-, вы-, при, у-, под-, от-, по, про-, пере-, до-, за- , i.e. a foreigner shall be able to distinguish and to actively use the verbs formed from the most widespread word stems ( Esina, 2017).

Research Questions

As the teaching practice shows, the prefixal verbs of motion are difficult for all foreigners studying Russian. The mistakes of students in understanding verbs and in their use indicate such difficulties, for example: *Когда отец ездил в город, он приносил нам подарки. (When a father went to the city, he brought us gifts). *Туристы вышли из отеля, пришли к автобусу и стали ждать гида. (Tourists left the hotel, came to the bus and waited for the guide). *Начался сильный дождь, и дети убегали домой. (The heavy rain began, and the children ran home).

The analysis of extensive “negative language material” ( Scherba, 1957), i.e. real mistakes of foreigners, shows that the mistakes are not random, but systemic, as they are explained by special lexical-semantic and grammatical properties of the prefixal verbs of motion and patterns of their functioning. The special feature of a Russian prefixal verb is that the meaning of a verb includes three components: indication of the way of motion – on foot/by transport (or medium – hard surface, water, air); indication of motion relative to an object and indication of the processability/completion (or multiplicity/momentariness) of action.

In terms of each component of the meaning the verb is opposed to other verb: подойти/подъехать, подойти/прийти, подойти/подходить (approach/arrive/come) . The wrong choice of these oppositions, the use of one verb instead of another leads to mistakes: * Грузовик, который привез мебель, подошел к самому подъезду. (The truck that brought the furniture came to the entrance). *Если хотите записаться на экскурсию, надо подходить к старосте. (If you want to sign up for a tour, you have to approach the leader).

Correction of mistakes is not limited to the comment “They don’t speak like this in Russian”. In each specific case it is necessary to find out what the mistake is, what is its cause, and to show what shall be done to correct it. The foreigners make such mistakes in the use of the motion verbs with other prefixes: * Тренер дал команду уходить из воды. (The coach ordered to leave the water). *Рахиму не нравится его специальность, он хочет уйти на другой факультет. (Rahim does not like his specialty, he wants to leave for another faculty).

The complex and bulky material cannot be absorbed in a single step over a short period of time. The topic “Prefixal verbs of motion” is considered a cross-cutting issue, which is studied throughout the training period.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the paper is to consider the most expedient approaches to prefixal verbs of motion which, as has been shown, have their own lexical, semantic and grammatical features at different stages of training.

Research Methods

The methods and techniques of the study are conditioned by the nature of the language material. In the course of the work, a synchronous-descriptive method was used with observation, interpretation, generalization and classification of language material; method of language unit matching, structural-semantic analysis.

The analytical method was used for methodical interpretation of mistakes.


In the study of any lexical or grammatical unit of a non-native language, several stages are identified, such as the introduction of new educational material, its consolidation and the activation of learned units in speech. At the introduction stage, students are introduced to the new language phenomenon mainly by demonstrating a speech pattern.

A speech pattern is a specific sentence that highlights a new unit being studied, in this case a prefixal verb of motion. For example, verbs prefix под- and от- are demonstrated in sentences: Виктор подошел к киоску. (Victor approached the kiosk). Виктор отошел от киоска. (Victor left the kiosk).

In nationally oriented textbooks, for example, a textbook for francophones, a translation is given next to a speech sample: Victor s’est approché du kiosque. Victor s’est éloigné du kiosque ( Bron-Tchitchagova & Havronina, 2002).

In addition to speech samples, at the stage of introduction the schematic and graphical means are used – tables, diagrams and in particular frames, arrows, generically representing the direction and nature of motion, for example, object approach: подъехать (Figure 01 ), crossing the border: въехать (Figure  02 ), and being in location – target of movement: приехать (Figure 03 ).

To get acquainted with the new material, the means of subject-image visibility – various drawings – are also used.

In some textbooks speech samples, drawings are followed by comments – description, interpretation, specification of a verb meaning, its difference from close units, explanation of features of their use, for example, it is explained what is the difference between the verbs выйти and уйти , уйти and отойти and in what cases in what contexts and situations they are used.

The study of motion verbs by foreigners is practical, a student shall master verb units in order to use them in oral and written speech. This is not enough only to understand a verb, it is necessary to acquire language means, including motion verbs, at the skill level.

The skill is understood as an action matrixed into muscle memory ( Zimnyaya & Leontiev, 1976) “and characterized by integrity, lack of elementwise awareness” ( Azimov & Schukin, 2018, p. 19). According to researchers, the skill is characterized by certain qualities such as:

  • correct execution of the action;

  • rate of action execution;

  • stability – strength of action quality;

  • flexibility – skill readiness to function in different conditions.

The formation of language skills shall be oriented towards the formation of speech skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing as the ability to freely operate language means to solve various communicative problems arising in the process of communication. It can be argued that it is the formation of speech skills based on automated skills that is the main task of teaching a foreign language, since the level of skills depends on the success of a foreigner’s participation in communication in a non-native language.

Skills and abilities are generated – formed, developed and improved in the process of specially organized, purposeful training. The main form of training skills and abilities is exercises. the Modern Dictionary of Methodical Terms and Concepts defines the exercise “as the structural unit of methodical organization of an educational material used in the educational process”. With the help of exercises, it is possible to perform actions with the studied material and to form speech actions based on them. Exercises represent focused, interconnected “structural units for the methodical organization of the training material used in the training process” ( Azimov & Schukin, 2018, p. 39).

Let us add another definition, which, in our opinion, reveals the essence of the exercise as a type of educational activity. “Exercise is multiple repetition of the action for the purpose of its acquisition, based on its awareness and accompanied by control and correction, self-control and self-correction” ( Petrovsky, 1976, p. 73).

Over the years of practice of teaching Russian as a foreign language a large number of types and kinds of exercises have been accumulated, including training exercises, during which a new lexical-grammatical material, in this case prefixal verbs, is mastered.

The so-called language exercises are used to master new language material: imitation, substitution, transformation, reproduction, design ( Havronina & Balykhina, 2008). With the transition from one type of exercise to another, there is a complication of language material and actions, which implies the increase in the share of the student’s autonomy – from the repetition of a speech sample after the teacher to self-statement following own internal stimulus in accordance with the topic or situation ( Vohmina, 1993). During classroom activities it is recommended to perform exercises mainly in oral form, for self-study in home conditions written exercises are preferable.

Language exercises are seen as preparatory, since during their execution students are only prepared to use language speech material in speech activities. Language exercises prepare a student to participate in communication laying the necessary base, forming automatism of using the studied material in speech.

The study of prefixal verbs continues throughout the training period on ever-expanding and complicating speech, situational, thematic, text material. Not only the material becomes more complicated, but also the types of exercises.

Alongside with language exercises it is necessary to use techniques that would intensify the verbal and cogitative activities of students and bring them into reproductive and productive speech. Thus, some training exercises can be complicated, for example, by the task “Say the following in a different way”: Вечером у меня будут друзья (ко мне придут друзья). (In the evening I will have friends (friends will come to visit me)). Дед не хочет жить в городе (хочет уехать). (Grandfather doesn’t want to live in the city (wants to leave)). Семья теперь живет в другом районе (переехала в другой район) . ( The family now lives in another neighborhood (moved to another neighborhood)). Such techniques as paraphrasing of specified proposals, use of synonymous replacements revive purely training activities.

It shall be noted that language exercises are generally built on similar sentences that do not form coherent text. In order to train the prefixal verbs of motion it is useful to use coherent texts describing a variety of both ordinary, regular and isolated situations of movement of people in space, such as daily road to school, to university, to work or to theatre, to circus, to museum, or tourist trip, excursion and others. Such texts serve a pattern similar to which students can build their own texts.

An effective technique to train prefixed verbs of motion is to play dialogues, in particular dialogue-questions. Thus, in the situation suggested to students “Person in an unfamiliar city and resident of the city”, the first questions the second, how to get to the station, how to find a bus stop, where to move to the other side of the street, how many stops to drive, at what stop to get out, etc.

The use of motion verbs is connected with the expression of spatial relations, with the designation of the direction of motion – where and from where, which can be represented by means of subject-figurative and schematic-graphical clarity – drawings, diagrams, maps. Visualization of educational material on this topic is one of effective methods of development of speech skills. Students are given, for example, a map-route with the objects of visit – a bank, a cafe, a shop, a metro station, a newspaper kiosk, etc., and are given the task to guide a character along this route.

As a self-study homework, students can be asked to draw up a tour route around the native city for foreign tourists, and then voice it in the class.


Prefixal verbs of motion are complex and voluminous educational material, the mastery of which poses serious difficulties for all foreigners studying Russian for the purposes of communication in the language. They are studied throughout the training period and the study is based on the combination of systematic training exercises ensuring a strong language base, and a variety of techniques, which activate creative, reclusive activities of students bringing them into speech.


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