О Памяти (On Memory)

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Memorising the difference in meaning between verbs with the same root and different prefixes can be tricky. This blog is here to help with that process, starting with the most obvious candidate – verbs formed from помнить (to remember).

I`m sure we can all agree that memory is one of the most important parts of learning any language. For those who are learning Russian it`s especially important; there`s just so much you can forget. There`s case declension and verb conjugation, aspects (both perfect and not), flexible sentence construction, and that`s not to mention exceptions – it`s really a lot.
A particularly memory intensive part of Russian are all the verbs you`ll find which are built from the same root but have different prefixes attached. Trying to remember the difference between all these similar words can have a huge impact on how well people understand you, and how well you understand them. Well, this blog is here to help with that process, starting with the most obvious candidate – verbs formed from помнить (to remember).
Помнить/No Perfect form – To remember
Let`s start with the root verb помнить. This means “to remember” in its simplest form, that is, to have memory of someone or something. The verb has no perfect form as it suggests the existence of a memory and has no clear result.
Извините, я не помню Ваше имя.
I`m sorry, I don`t remember your name.
Давай пойдем в этот новый музей! Ты помнишь, как туда добраться?
Let`s go to that new museum! Do you remember how to get there?
Я помню как мы ели шашлык на даче прошлим летом. Было так вкусно!
I remember when we ate Shashlik (Russian kebab) at the Dacha last summer. It was so tasty.
Вспоминать/Вспомнить – To recall/bring to mind
This verb is often confused with помнить because both can be translated as “remember” in English, but, whereas помнить refers to a memory you already have in your head, вспоминать/вспомнить refers to the process of trying to recall information. Often the prefix вс- has the meaning of upward movement, so you can remember this verb by thinking about trying to drag something up from the depths of your memory.
Опера начинается в… в… хм. Сейчас, вспомню.
The opera will start at… um… err… One second, I`ll remember [the time] soon.
А Вы не знаете кто я? Я не могу вспомнить!
You don`t know who I am do you? I can`t remember!
Каждый раз, когда я вижу здания в классическом стиле, я вспоминаю Петербург.
Every time I see classical buildings I remember St Petersburg.
Запоминать/Запомнить – To memorize
Those who`ve already looked at how prefixes work with the verbs of motion will know that the prefix за- can have the meaning of quickly entering and exiting a place. Even if students often say that new information goes in one ear and comes of the other, the meaning of запоминать/запомнить is quite the opposite. This verb means to memorize information and get it stuck in your head permanently.
Я не могу запомнить значения всех этих приставок!
I can`t memorize the meanings of all these prefixes!
Написать все новые слова от руки – это очень хороший способ запомнить их.
Writing down new words by hand is a good way to memorize them.
“Что делаешь?” “Запоминаю речь для конференции.”
“What are you doing?” “Memorising [my] speech for the conference.”
Напоминать/Напомнить – To remind
In spite of the hard work of the teachers at Derzhavin, and in spite of the fact that you spend your free time reading informative blog posts like this one, you will inevitably, at some point, forget something. Should you find yourself in this situation, you can use the verb напоминать/напомнить to ask someone to remind you of what you forgot. You can even use it to ask someone to remind you not to forget in the first place.
Напомни мне, как называется это кафе.
Remind me, what`s this cafe called?
Окей гугл, напомни мне сделать домашнее задание в семь вечера.
Okay Google, Remind me to do my homework tonight at 7. (If you`re using google now and you go to options/settings/search language and activate Russian, then you can try this.)
Это место напоминает мне о России.
This place reminds me of Russia.
Припоминать/Припомнить – To remind someone of something bad they`ve done
Another easily confused verb. Припоминать/припомнить also means to remind but it`s used in a very particular situation. Specifically, it`s used when talking about the process of reminding someone of something bad or embarrassing they did in the past.
Да, я опоздал, хватит мне припоминать!
Yes, I was late, stop going on about it already!
Десять лет назад я разбил любимую кружку моего брата и до сих пор он мне припоминает об этом.
Ten years ago I broke my brother`s favourite mug and he`s still reminding me of it to this day.
Да правда, я обращалась к тебе невежливо, ты не мог мне не припомнить, не так ли?
It`s true, I was impolite to you, you couldn`t not remind me of that, could you?
So there you have it. The verb помнить and four of the most commonly used verbs based on it. Do your best to memorise these and it will certainly help you in future conversations. If you forget a word, come back and read this post again to remind yourself of it. And if you`re feeling extra confident that you understand everything perfectly, have a go at translating the sentence below.
“Я хотел тебе порекомендовать один ресторан, но название его сейчас не помню. Напомни мне попытаться вспомнить его позже. Не сделаешь это и я тебе буду припоминать всю жизнь.”