Russian Basic Phrases


When you are in Russia it is important to realise that Russians have two manners of speaking, formal or friendly. It would be considered slightly rude to use the wrong form in the wrong situation. Use the friendly (or familiar) form when you are speaking to someone you consider a friend. In situations where you have never met the person before you would use the formal form, for example in shops or with taxi drivers. You would also use the formal form as a sign of respect to teachers, or in places like business meetings. Keep this in mind as you work through these Russian lessons. This is much easier than it sounds, as there are only a couple of words that change. (Mainly the Russian word for “you”.)

Please and Thank-You.
The two most important words you will learn in Russian are please and thank-you. You can just add these to any sentence to make it more polite.

PlayСпасибо (“spa-see-ba”) – Thank-You

PlayПожалуйста (“pa-zhal-sta”) – Please (and You’re Welcome)

The word Пожалуйста is also used to mean “You’re Welcome”, after somebody says thank-you. You should always say this after someone thanks you. Пожалуйста is pronounced a little different than it is written, you can basically forget the “уй”.

Yes and No.
Two other very important Russian words are “Yes” and “No”.

PlayДа (“da”) – Yes

PlayНет (“nyet”) – No

Saying Hello.
When you are in Russia and you meet somebody, the first thing you will want to do is to say “hello”. There are two forms of this word.

PlayЗдравствуйте (“zdra-stvooy-tye”) – Hello (Formal)

PlayПривет (“pree-vyet”) – Hi (Informal)

Здравствуйте may be a little difficult for you to pronounce at first, but it is the most common Russian greeting so you should try to practice it. Привет is also commonly used with friends. However, keep in mind that Привет is informal (much like “hi” in English), and should only be used with friends. If somebody says Привет to you, then it is normally safe to proceed in the friendly tone.

Introducing Yourself.
In order to introduce yourself, you may need the following phrases.

PlayМеня зовут … (“men-ya za-voot”) – My name is …

PlayКак вас зовут? (“kak vas za-voot”) – What is your name?

PlayОчень приятно (“och-en pree-yat-na”) – Pleased to meet you.

Note: The above 3 phrases are gramatically unusual. You should just learn the whole phrase, not the individual words.

How are you?
The most natural way to ask someone how they are in Russian is to ask: “how are things?”

PlayКак дела? – How are things?

PlayХорошо спасибо – Good/Well thank-you

PlayПлохо – Bad

Saying Good-Bye.
There are also two words for saying good-bye.

PlayДо свидания (“da-svee-da-nee-ye”) – Good-bye. (The до is pronounced as if it is part of the next word)

PlayПока (“pa-ka”) – Bye (Informal, slang)

You should generally use до свидания, which is appropriate in formal or informal situations. You may also hear people say Пока, but we suggest you only use it with friends.


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