Граммотическое Задержание / Hold up, prefix time
Russian verb prefixes are a lot like English phrasal verbs; add a simple preposition after a verb and you can change it’s entire meaning. Just look at the verb “to hold”. Add the preposition “out” and you get a verb which means to withstand (to hold out); add “up” and a human object and you get a verb which means to rob that person (to hold someone up). A similar process occurs when we add prefixes to Russian verbs. Once you remember the meanings of these prefixes it becomes much easier to guess and remember the meaning of different prefixed verbs. Let’s look at a couple of the most useful verbs that can be formed from the base verb “держать” (to hold) to see what they can teach us about Russian prefixes.
Держать/Сдержать – to hold
Has the basic meaning of “to hold” and is used in many of the situations where its English counterpart would be used. That is, you can do more that just hold something in your hands (держать в руках). You can also, for example, hold a door (держать дверь) so that it does not close, or hold someone against their will (держать кого-то против своей воли). There are also times when держать works more like the verb “to keep”, like for example, when you want to tell people that you keep a bear as a pet (держать медведя в качестве домашнего животного), or when those same people as you to keep them up to date (держать в курсе) with how that works out for you.
Выдержывать/Выдержать – to withstand
The prefix вы- often signifies outwards movement. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise then that выдержать means exactly the same as to hold out in English – to withstand something difficult, painful, or to keep yourself under control under difficult circumstances. A boxer, for example, might get hit by his opponent several times but stay standing (противник ударил его несколько раз, но он выдержал). Another person might have endured an ancient trial in order to earn the respect of their tribe (она выдержала древнее испытание и заслужила уважение племени).
Поддерживать/Поддержать – to support
When going through a tough time you may need someone to support you, in which case you’ll need to know this verb. The prefix под- means “under” so you can think of this as someone holding you up from underneath, literally supporting your weight, be it physical or emotional. In Russian too поддержать can have a literal and a figurative meaning. For example, you can say, in the literal sense, that some scaffolding is supporting the roof of an old building (опоры поддерживают крышу старого дома), or, in a figurative sense, that the king secretly supports a group of bloodthirsty pirates (король поддерживает группировку кровожадных пиратов). It’s important not to confuse the verb поддержать with the verb подержать. If there’s only one д in the word then it means “to hold for a period of time”. You’ll commonly hear this when someone asks you to hold something for them while they do something else (подержи, пожалуйста).
Задерживать/Задержать – to detain
In many situations за- has the meaning of “behind”, this is one of those times. You can think of задержать as meaning “to hold behind”, or more specifically to detain. It can be used in both of the main senses of the word detain, that is, to make someone late or to catch/imprison someone. You might hear on the radio, for example, that the police caught a dangerous criminal in the city centre (полицейские задержали опасного преступника в центре города). Later on, if you want to talk to a friend about this but you’re worried that they’re busy, you can always make it clear that you don’t want to hold them up (я не хочу тебя задерживать).
Удерживать/Удержать – to restrain, prevent, withhold
У- is a bit of a weird prefix to explain. Most of the time it means near to or even with (think of the phrase “у меня есть”). The verb удержать has a similar meaning of holding something close, or to be more precise holding something so that it does not go away. One way of using this verb is to describe the process of preventing someone from falling, or moving in general. Picture a scene where a child is standing near to the edge of a fountain but his mother is holding him to stop him from falling (Ребёнок стоит у самого края фонтана, но мама удерживает его от падения). This verb can also be used to suggest that something is being withheld, for example, if an employer is trying to withhold wages from his employees (работодатель пытается удержать заплату сотрудников) or if a spy fails to withhold secret information (шпиону не удалось удержать секретную информацию).
Издерживать/Издержать – to spend
If you see the prefix из- then the verb it’s attached to is almost certainly going to be suggesting that something is going out of something else. Here we’re talking about money going out of your wallet. Издержать, despite containing the root verb “to hold”, actually means to spend. That said you can still use it to describe people who like to hold onto their money if you’re creative enough, like, for example, a nobleman who doesn’t like spending even a single rouble of his money (дворянин, который не хочет издержать даже одного рубля из своих денег).
Содержать/No Perfective Form – To consist of
You might have actually seen this word before if you’ve ever tried reading the back of a food packet in Russia. C- normally has the meaning of togetherness or coming together and the meaning of содержать that you’re most likely to encounter (think back to those food packets) is “to consist of”, so you can think of if as meaning “holding together the following things within itself”. Take, for example, the dough of traditional Russian pies. At least in some restaurants this dough contains not just water and flour but also vodka (это тесто содержит не только воду и муку, а также водку)
So there you have it. The verb держать and six of the most commonly used verbs based on it. If you can hold all these in your mind, they’ll definitely come in useful in future conversations.