Verbs of Motion

Learn about unidirectional and multidirectional verbs in Russian

A verb of motion is a verb that describes movement through space. Some examples are: to go, to run, to fly, and/or to drag. In Russian, these types of verbs can be more descriptive than the ones in English.

To understand the idea behind this concept, consider this comparison:

A triangle is a different shape than a square. Both a triangle and a square, while being a word to describe a form or a shape, we still have two words to describe two different types of shapes.

Similar to the shape example, in the Russian language, we distinguish the differences between a unidirectional movement vs a multidirectional movement and have different words describing the same motion depending on the movement flow. In Russian, there are two groups of verbs of motion. To better understand this concept, take a look at the table below.

Unidirectional Multidirectional
  1. Moving in one direction, being on your way with a final destination in mind heading to a specific place.
  2. Expressing a settled plan for the future.
  1. Moving to the destination and moving back to the starting position.
  2. Moving in multiple directions without a certain destination in mind. General motion with no specific goals.
  3. Making multiple trips.


There are two verbs in Russian for the English verb "to go".

Unidirectional - идти

  • Я иду в кафе - I am going to the cafe. ( I am on my way to the cafe)
  • Мы идём в театр завтра - We are going to the theatre tomorrow. (a settled plan)

Multidirectional - ходить

  • Мы ходили на концерт - We went to the concert. (We moved to our destination and now we are back. This sentence is synonymous to the sentence "We were at the concert.")
  • Они долго ходили по городу - They walked around the city for a long time. (They wandered around a city aimlessly for a long time)
  • Каждый день я хожу на работу - I go to work every day. (I make multiple trips)

This concept is important to understand, as the concept is applied to all verbs of motion.

Unidirectional Multidirectional Translation
идти ходить to go (on foot)*
ехать ездить to go (by transport)*; drive
лететь летать to fly; go by plane
плыть плавать to swim; go by ship
бежать бегать to run
вести водить to take, to lead( on foot)
везти возить to take; to bring ( by vehicle)
нести носить to carry; to take ( on foot)
ползти ползать to crawl
лезть лазать to climb
тащить таскать to drag

* Russian also differentiates motion on foot and by means of transport. If not specified, going to places within the city is expressed with unidirectional verbs of motion.

Я хожу в бассейн 3 раза в неделю. - I go to the swimming pool 3 times a week.

More examples

Идти - ходить

  • Куда ты идёшь? - Where are you going? (Where are you heading?)
  • Иду в магазин. - I am going to the store.(I am on my way to the store)
  • Ты ходишь в зал? - Do you go to the gym? (Do you attend the gym?)
  • Больше не хожу. - Not anymore. (I don’t attend it anymore)

Ехать - ездить

  • Когда ты едешь в Санкт - Петербург? - When are you going to Saint Petersburg? (What is your plan? When are you heading to Saint Petersburg? Saint Petersburg is another city, obviously, you have to use some transport)
  • Не еду. Директор сказал, не надо. - I am not going. The boss says there’s no need.
  • Ты ездил в Санкт - Петербург? - Did you go to Saint Petersburg? (Did you make a trip there and back?)
  • Не ездил. Не было денег. - No, I didn’t. I had no money.

Бежать - бегать

  • Он бежал на автобус, но опоздал. - He ran to catch the was, but was late. (he was headed to a certain point running)
  • Я бегаю в парке по утрам. - I jog in the park in the mornings. (I run in the park with no particular destination)

Лететь - летать

  • Я завтра лечу в Лондон. - Tomorrow I am flying to London (I have a definite plan of going to London.)
  • Я летаю в бизнес - классе. - I fly business class. (Generally, I travel by business class)