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12 Simple Russian Phrases You’re Guaranteed to Need

Russian is one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to learn. Still, this shouldn’t keep you from studying the language. Doing so will allow you to visit the beautifully diverse Russia, where you can find modern cities to rival the Western capitals, as well as vast natural landscapes.

Saint Basil's Cathedral - Russian Phrases

If you want to get ready for your trip to Russia, you would do well to get acquainted with at least the most basic Russian phrases.

Note: You should be familiar with the Russian alphabet to know how to pronounce most of these phrases, though we will explain how to say the hardest ones. If you are not knowledgeable of Russian pronunciation just yet, don’t worry! On average, learning the Cyrillic alphabet can be achieved in 3 or 4 hours.

How to Introduce Yourself in Russian

If you want to make friends in Russia and give a good impression, these are the first Russian phrases you should learn!

Здравствуйте — Hello

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re completely new to the Russian language, this is how you say “Hello” to someone in a neutral way. This phrase is used with strangers, adults you don’t know very well, and practically anyone you’re not very close with. It is pronounced /zdrast-vuy-te/, which looks very intimidating. What can you do to pronounce so many consonants together? Split the word into many parts and practise them separately.

Now, if you want to greet someone you are already familiar with, things are easier. In that case, you should say Привет, which is pronounced /pri–vet/ and could be translated as “Hi”.

Есть ли у Вас хобби? — Do you have any hobbies?

After a few conversations with Russians, you will realise that this question comes up very often. The truth is that Russians love asking this, so you should be prepared to answer back. Some of the phrases you could use are:

Да. Я катаюсь на лыжах — Yes, I ski

Я играю в баскетбол — I play basketball

Я люблю путешествовать — I love to travel

Как дела? — How are things?

A common mistake that many non-natives make is to greet someone with this phrase. In most cases, it may sound out of place unless you’re familiar with the person with whom you are talking. So, you can use it with friends or people you already know, but avoid using it with strangers you meet in a queue, for example.

Вам нравится Россия? — Do you like Russia?

Most Russians are proud of their country, so your answer to this question should always be “Да” (yes). You may hear some locals criticise the way things are done in Russia, but they don’t appreciate it when foreigners do the same. So, to keep things amicable, it is always best to praise the place you’re visiting.

How to Be Polite in Russian

Even if you are not very proficient in the language yet, you should know how to express yourself politely. Though most people will understand that you’re still learning Russian and will not take what you say the wrong way, it is best to express yourself properly from the beginning to develop good habits. Learn how to use these Russian phrases!

Happy Russian women at a celebration - Russian phrases

Photo by bearfotos via Freepik

К сожалению, нет — To my regret, no

If a Russian friend asks you if you want to go out, but you’re too tired from touring the city all day, this is the best way to answer. You could simply say Нет (No), but you may come across as a bit rude.

Извините — I’m sorry

This is the most common way to say “I’m sorry”, so it’s the one you should learn first. Yet, you could also use Простите (excuse me) in many situations. Most of the time, they are interchangeable, but Извините covers a wider range of scenarios.

Пожалуйста — Please and you’re welcome

Пожалуйста can be used to say both “Please” and “Thank you”. Though it may seem confusing at first, after interacting with Russians for a while, you’ll realise which meaning they are using according to the context. And if you think about it, this actually makes things easier, since it’s one less word to learn!

The pronunciation of this word will require practice, though. It is pronounced as /po-zha-luysta/, with the word stress on “zha”. If you are having problems pronouncing this syllable, think of how you say the first syllable of “genre” and you’ll get it!

Спасибо — Thank you

This word is quite simple in comparison to the previous ones. There are no double meanings or difficult consonant clusters. It is pronounced as /spa-si-bo/ with the word stress on “si”, which shouldn’t present a challenge.

Express Your Language Ability in Russian

If you’re just beginning to learn Russian, or even if you’re an intermediate student, you are not always going to understand everything. When that happens, these Russian phrases will come in handy.

Я не понимаю — I don’t understand

Вы можете говорить медленнее? — Can you speak slower?

Повторите, пожалуйста — Please repeat that

Как сказать … по-русски? — How do you say … in Russian?

If you want to communicate in the language, these Russian phrases will certainly help you. But if you want to connect with the locals on a whole new level and get an insider’s point of view of an amazing culture, you are going to need the help of a native Russian instructor. Explore our Russian courses with native tutors and personalised curriculums to develop your language skills and become fluent in the language.