‘Leaving’ in Russian

Three Russian verbs for ‘to leave by transport’ (here presented in the order imperfective/perfective): уезжать/уехать, выезжать/выехать, отъезжать/отъехать [uyezhat’/uyekhat’, viyezhat’/viyekhat’, otyezhat’/otyekhat’]. Note that ‘transport’ includes travelling with the aid of animals such as horses.

All of these verbs mean ‘to leave one place for another’, but I find it very tricky at times to choose the right one. First, a rundown of how they are generally used:

Уезжать/уехать is for leaving for good, or far away: Семья продала дом и уехала в Австралию [sem’ya prodala dom i uyekhala v Avstraliyu]. ‘The family sold their house and went to Australia.’

Выезжать/выехать means to leave an enclosed space; or to leave urgently, for example, for the scene of an emergency: Полиция выехала на место крушения пропавшего «кукурузника» [politsiya vyyekhala na myesto krusheniya propavshevo ‘kukuruznika’]. ‘The police went to the site of the crashed kukuruznik (plane).’ (Source.)

Отъезжать/отъехать seems to me to be the rarest of the three, meaning to move away from a place, not from within its boundaries; to start moving; to pull off or out. I feel a sense of moving away from a place, not from within its confines. Подозрительный автобус отъехал от одного избирательного участка [podozritel’ny avtobus otyekhal ot odnovo izbiratyel’novo uchastka]. ‘A suspicious bus left one polling station.’ (Source.)

Some problem cases for me:

‘I pulled out of the parking space.’ Я выехал с парковочного места [ya viyekhal s parkovochnovo mesta] sounds like the most correct option, but I can’t be sure. Perhaps it’s better just to say я тронулся, I started moving.

‘I’ve already left (on my way to you)’, as in, I’m on my way as we speak. Я выехал (к тебе) [ya viyekhal (k tebye)], perhaps? But that sounds too much like you’re in some distress and I’m coming to help. In this case Russian probably doesn’t emphasise the ‘leaving’ the way English does, and Russians are perhaps more likely to say я еду к тебе [ya yedu k tebye], ‘I’m on my way to you’, lit., ‘I’m travelling towards you.’

‘I’m going to Oslo on Saturday.’ Я уезжаю в Осло в субботу. Here I know I’m right, but I think this is an interesting example because it shows that уезжать, the ‘far away and for good’ nature of which was stressed heavily at university, can sometimes mean leaving for a short time.

As always, feedback from native speakers, and any other comments, would be very much appreciated!


2 thoughts on “‘Leaving’ in Russian

  1. “Выехать с парковочного места” is correct. Because “выехать” also means to leave some space in oder to let someone else use it. E.g. “Выехать со съёмной кватриры (чтобы туда могли заехать другие жильцы)”.

  2. I use уезжать/уехать all the time for just normal stuff I’m doing (errands, etc.), which Kolya says isn’t incorrect, but that it does have more of a connotation of it being awhile before you return (which is all relative, I suppose), just like you said. I didn’t know that! Here I’ve been tossing it around like it’s выезжать/выехать. He says your other sentences are totally normal (but added that he would just say с парковки).

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