A subjective look at ходил vs шёл

Recently I was reading a Facebook post in Russian with an interesting example of a motion verb in the past. Here it is, without the verb:

Потом я прилетал из Америки и сразу (went) ____ в “Мемориал” еще раз, и еще раз. Без бабки не появлялся, конечно.

Then I flew in from America and immediately went to “Memorial” again, and again. I never appeared without a babka, of course.

(I should clarify that the бабка in question is a cake!)

image of chocolate cake

What’s the best way to say “went” for this context?

We’re talking about repeated actions (ещё раз, и ещё раз), so we’ll want an imperfective. Since we’re talking about going somewhere local, without mentioning a vehicle, we won’t necessarily use a ‘vehicle’ verb like ехать or ездить.

That leaves ходил and шёл as options. Which verb do you suppose the writer used?

Потом я прилетал из Америки и сразу шёл в “Мемориал” еще раз, и еще раз. Без бабки не появлялся, конечно.

Why шёл, not ходил? Often we use multidirectional ходить for repeated trips in the past, because you do normally need to return before you make another trip. But here the writer is talking about bringing a cake when going to visit this organization:

…мне было ясно, что “бруклинсая шоколадная бабка” должна быть у меня при себе в обязательном порядке.

It was clear to me, that I absolutely needed to have a Brooklyn Chocolate Babka with me.

The return trip isn’t important.

This brings up an interesting point about motion verbs: it’s not always about an objective statement of what happened. Context matters: you may only be talking about the trip there (not back). 

So keep an eye out for these “edge cases” where you might see unidirectional идти and ехать when a round trip is made (objectively), but we really only care about the trip in one direction.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.