Dumplings. Beef stroganoff. Blini.
What do all of these typical Russian foods have in common with learning Russian?
They all require you to put in the right ingredients and the right amount of time.
But what are the ingredients that Russian language learners should be grabbing off the shelf?
Well, if you’ve already started to pick up the Cyrillic alphabet and some basic grammar skills, you can also start collecting useful Russian phrases for everyday situations. Memorizing these phrases (and how to use them correctly) will help you build a strong foundation for communication with native speakers.
Mix these up with dedication, hard work and the willingness to practice, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for Russian fluency.
Let’s get cooking!
What to Know Before Using These Phrases
- Many Russian words and phrases are spoken differently if you’re having a casual versus formal conversation. For example, the English personal pronoun you has two forms in Russian, ты/вы.
When you address someone casually, use the pronoun ты, but when you address someone more formally, such as a teacher or stranger, use the pronoun вы. (If you’re familiar with Spanish, this is similar to the difference between tu, the informal “you,” and usted, the formal “you.”)
The same applies to certain expressions, which will only be appropriate to use in either casual or formal settings—we’ll provide examples for both below.
- Russian adjectives change endings depending on whether the noun they’re modifying is male is female. For example, you would say cиняя рубашка (blue shirt), but синий диван (blue couch), changing the endings for the word blue based on if it’s used with a male or female noun.
- These Russian phrases are best learned in context so that you can use them appropriately. This partly has to do with the points mentioned above—phrases typically need to be adapted grammatically or semantically depending on the context—but it’s also just a matter of effective learning techniques. Don’t expect these phrases to just stick in your head after one read.
Instead, carry these phrases in your phone or print them out so you can always refer to them. Whether you’re living in Russia and actually able to use them, or just using them in your head, they’ll become much easier to remember and more natural to use. Innovative language tools like FluentU can also help in this regard—FluentU is specifically designed to create an authentic language learning environment no matter where you are.
41 Useful Russian Phrases for Everyday Situations
Здравствуйте (Hello — formal)
Use the formal hello when greeting a stranger, a business partner or anyone of importance.
Привет (Hello — casual)
Use the casual hello when greeting someone informally in a restaurant or bar, or interacting with a child or someone much younger than you.
Очень приятно (Nice to meet you)
Извините, пожалуйста – (Excuse me please)
In English, we’re used to saying “excuse me” when trying to get through a crowd, but “sorry” if someone has been hurt or inconvenienced. However, in Russian, the term above is interchangeable for both types of situations.
Как вас зовут? (What is your name? — formal)
Как тебя зовут? (What is your name? — casual)
Меня зовут… (My name is…)
Как дела? (How are you?)
The most literal translation of this phrase would probably be “how are things going,” but it’s interchangeable with asking, “how are you?”
У меня всё хорошо, спасибо (I am fine, thank you)
Asking for Directions
Где находится…? (Where is… located?)
Whether you’re asking to find a local attraction or a street, phrase it like this.
Где я могу найти…? (Where can I find…?)
Important words for giving or getting directions:
направо (to the right)
налево (to the left)
перед (in front of)
за углом (around the corner)
Ordering in a Restaurant
Я хочу есть (I’m hungry)
Мы хотим есть (We’re hungry)
Although you don’t need to announce the fact that you’re hungry in the actual restaurant as that’s fairly obvious, you may need to let a business associate or a tour coordinator know that you need a meal break.
Идём кушать (Let’s go eat)
Идём в ресторан (Let’s go to a restaurant)
Можно, пожалуйста, меню? (Can I please have the menu?)
Что вы посоветуете? (What would you recommend?)
Russian cuisine differs based on the region of Russia you may visit. It’s always a good idea to ask what the specialties in each restaurant are to have the best, most authentic experience.
Я буду… (I will [have]…)
This is a helpful phrase to know even if you can’t read or pronounce the Russian dishes, because after saying that you want to order something, you can simply point to its picture on the menu.
Mожно ещё, пожалуйста? (Can I have more please?)
Although many American restaurants will charge you to order extra, some Russian establishments will happily provide you with more soup or drinks free of charge.
Mожно счёт, пожалуйста? (May I have the check please?)
Although the term “receipt” is interchangeable in English for store and restaurant receipts, the correct term for a restaurant check in Russian is счёт.
Спасибо (Thank you)
Don’t forget to thank your waiter or waitress!
ты красивая (You’re good looking — female)
ты красивый (You’re good looking — male)
красивый means “beautiful,” and it’s totally acceptable to say it to Russian men although in English it would be more socially acceptable to say handsome.
Можно, пожалуйста, твой номер телефона? (Can I have your phone number please?)
Remember that if you’re calling from an international number, you’ll need to dial the country code to call a Russian number.
Давай поговорим по телефону (Let’s speak on the phone)
Давай встретимся (Let’s meet in person)
If you’ve been communicating with someone by email or phone, you may ask them to meet in person with this phrase.
Ты мне нравишься (I like you)
Although this phrase doesn’t have to be used in a solely romantic way, it implies that you find the other person attractive, funny or interesting.
Я тебя люблю (I love you)
The meaning is universal in all languages!
Меня зовут… и я звоню из … (My name is… and I’m calling from…)
This is a standard business greeting when calling a company or an individual.
Я могу назначить встречу с…? (Can I make an appointment with…?)
“Appointment” in this sense refers to a meeting or sit-down with another person.
Мне нужно встретиться c… (I need to meet with…)
This is a good way to let a receptionist in an office know who you’re looking for.
Mогу я поговорить с…? (May I speak with… ?)
Whether calling a business or a residence, this is the proper way to ask this question.
Mы можем организовать встречу? (Can we arrange a meeting?)
Я предлагаю… (I am offering…)
Be upfront about what you’re offering, whether it’s to take a meeting break, come to a compromise or sell an item.
Я интересуюсь… (I am interested in…)
State what you need from the person or business you’re in contact with.
The above Russian phrases can help you express yourself in a variety of situations. Remember to always be polite, friendly and have an on-hand Russian phrase book if you stumble.
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