One verb, many nuances

One verb, many nuances
01 December 2020

Слушать means ‘to listen’ and is always followed by the accusative case. 

Слушаю музыку. I’m listening to music. Он слушает друга. He’s listening to his friend talking. Ты меня никогда не слушаешь! You never listen to me!

Straightforward enough. But did you know that there are eleven more forms on top of this, each one conveying a slightly different meaning?

As you continue to take your Russian to the next level, you will come across these different forms more and more in various contexts. Being able to actively use them will also give your Russian a new level of sophistication and nuance.

But of course, you’ll have to learn them first! And the best way to do that is to learn them all together, studying the different forms side by side. That way, you will be able to properly see the differences between them, which are sometimes minute, and you’ll be less likely to get them mixed up. So, let’s dive in!

Прослушать (+acc)

Functional and flavourless, this is simply a perfective form of ‘слушать’, meaning essentially: to complete the action of listening to something.

Мне надо прослушать композицию, чтобы понять, что ты о нём говоришь. I need to listen to the piece in order to understand what you’re saying about it.

Послушать (+acc)

This is quite casual, and means listening to something for a short-ish time, and not necessarily listening to the whole thing. I might послушать a podcast in my spare time if I suddenly feel like listening to something informative, but then I get bored after a short while and stop without thinking anything of it.

Мне интересно, дай мне послушать! I’m interested, let me have a read!

Дослушать / дослушивать (+acc)

To listen to something to the end, for example in a situation where it’s important to you that you finish listening.

Я прийду после того как я дослушаю этот доклад. I’ll come after I’ve finished listening to this report.

Выслушать / выслушивать (+acc)

This one is quite serious. In reality it means not only listening to someone, but really paying attention, and ‘hearing them out’. It is also used to describe situations where an individual’s internal organs are being investigated, e.g. when a doctor listens to a patient’s heart.

Ты должен выслушать меня. You need to listen to me.

Заслушать / заслушивать (+acc)

V. formal. For example, a hearing in a court, or any other official context in which somebody is putting forward some kind of case.

Суд заслушает подозреваемого завтра утром. The court will hear the suspect tomorrow morning.

Подслушать / подслушивать (+acc)

Hearing something you shouldn’t be hearing – either as a result of a deliberate effort, or just because the walls are thin. 

Они могут подслушать! They might overhear!

(По)слушаться (+acc)

‘Слушаться’ means to listen to someone, but differs from ‘слушать’ in that it describes the behaviour of a person as well as the act of listening: it describes a person who doesn’t just pay attention to advice, but also acts in accordance with it.

Он слушается маму. He does as his mum says.

Наслушаться (+gen)

When you listen to something until you can listen no more. If you use this verb, it means you’ve listened enough, or perhaps too much. 

It can be used in a positive or negative sense, for example:

Он такой интересный человек, я не могу наслушаться его рассказов! He’s such an interesting person, I can’t get enough of his stories!

Она наслушалась этой дурацкой радиостанции – вот почему она так думает. She’s been listening to that silly radio station too much – that’s why she thinks in that way.

Вслушаться / вслушиваться в (+acc)

This is when you just manage to hear something, in a situation where the thing you’re listening to is difficult to discern.

Я вслушивалась в их разговор, чтобы понять, о чём они говорят. I listened closely to their conversation in order to find out what they were talking about. 

Ослушаться / ослушиваться (+gen)

To disobey or defy somebody, or their advice/command. 

Он ослушался родителей и пошел на вечеринку. He ignored his parents’ orders and went to the party.

Прислушаться / прислушиваться к (+dat)

This means to heed something, take account of it in some way, pay attention to it. This verb can be used in the same way as ‘слушать’ or ‘слушаться‘, but, unlike them, ‘прислушаться’ is more often used with an inanimate object, e.g. a voice, common sense, a call to do something, etc. 

Вам следует прислушаться к этому предупреждению. You should heed this warning.

Well, that’s all of them (I think)! But of course, that’s only one verb. Now we’ll move on to all the different forms of ‘говорить’.

… I’m joking of course! The good news is that if you liked this topic, there is a whole lot more to explore. Enjoy!

This article was brought to you by Olivia, a current student at Liden & Denz Moscow


Posted by Olivia Wright

Hi, I'm Olivia and I'm currently studying German and Russian at the University of Cambridge in the UK. I was introduced properly to Russia and its culture two years ago, when I started learning Russian from scratch, and am now a big fan!

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