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Perfective or imperfective?

July 29, 2013

Russian aspect is hard for us non-native speakers. It’s not like English, the imperfective is used more broadly than in some other languages that make a perfective/imperfective distinction, and even when the perfective seems called for, some native speakers can’t rule out the unmarked imperfective form. And usage changes over time.

I’ve been struggling with it long enough that, even if I don’t get them all right in my own speech, I’m usually not surprised by which aspect writers use. But here I was:

I didn’t touch anything after her death, I kept thinking, Zhenia will come, then she can do what she wants: if she wants, she can change it how she likes, and if she doesn’t want to, she can leave everything as her mother had it.

Я ничего не трогал после покойницы, все думал: приедет Женя, тогда как сама хочет, — захочет, пусть ________ по своему вкусу, а не захочет, пусть ________ все по-материному. (book 1, chapter 11 of Leskov’s No Way Out [Некуда, 1864])

So, native and non-native speakers, what forms would you put in the blanks? No fair looking before you answer, but after that follow the link above or search for the first six words of the quote for the solution.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. lizoksbookshelf permalink
    July 29, 2013 7:51 pm

    I admit I peeked… but would have said допускаю разные варианты. I am not a native speaker but think my preference would have been two perfectives (expecting a result-oriented action from either choice) though the actual text does make sense to me because the change could be seen as an ongoing process whereas leaving things would not.

    I’m curious as to how you would have answered. Or did you vote for the two perfectives?

    • July 29, 2013 8:00 pm

      I would have gone with two perfectives too. I’m surprised both by the imperfective and by the fact that the two aren’t the same, even though they look so parallel.

      • lizoksbookshelf permalink
        July 30, 2013 8:24 am

        Yes, “parallel” felt appealing to me, too!

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