Learn Russian phrases with FluentU, an immersive way to learn Russian with authentic native-level video content! Each video has a list of key phrases from it, so you can into each lesson fully briefed and ready to learn.
Why Should You Learn Russian Phrases First?
Learning to speak Russian is no easy task, so you need to do it efficiently for the best results.
The first step is to learn common Russian phrases and expressions. Why? Because learning entire sentences will ensure that you’re using the correct grammar and the correct vocabulary for a given situation.
Especially if you’re planning to visit a Russian-speaking country, you need to be able to communicate your needs clearly and accurately, which is why essential Russian phrases are just as important as your passport.
This principle holds true even if your goal is to speak Russian fluently (and not just get by). How so?
- The best way to learn to speak Russian is by…speaking it. You need to know how to start and maintain a basic conversation to be able to pick up a new Russian word or two from your native-speaker friend.
- Once you start learning basic Russian words, having a good understanding of how the Russian language is structured, as phrases demonstrate, will help you use your new words correctly.
- Learning useful Russian phrases will help your efforts pay off sooner. While more obscure words can be fun and interesting, they aren’t going to help you in the short term to the same extent. Using common Russian phrases and seeing how they apply to your day-to-day life can help you stay motivated to keep learning Russian.
Another step that will help you in this regard is learning to read the Russian alphabet! While you can say “kak dela” and likely be understood, как дела has certain pronunciation nuances that can only be expressed in Cyrillic. This becomes especially important as you learn longer phrases, which can quickly become very mangled by transliteration.
Basic Russian Phrases
- Пожалуйста (Please/You’re welcome.)
While this word may be a bit of a mouthful, it’s two-for-one!
- Спасибо (Thanks)
- Не за что (Don’t mention it/lit. not for what)
Note: While learning to speak English usually doesn’t involve a heavy emphasis on formal versus informal phrases right away, the Russian language is very different in this regard.
Every single time you greet someone or use a phrase containing a verb or pronoun in the second person, you have to consider whether it would be appropriate to use the informal form or not.
While most Russian speakers will appreciate your efforts to learn their language, regardless of whether you address them in a formal/informal way, you don’t want to risk offending anyone. In fact, you will likely get far more appreciative remarks from them when you show respect for their customs and culture (in this case, meaning formality).
For the rest of this list, the following format will be used unless otherwise noted: Phrase starts and then contains a formal variation/informal variation. The formal form is also used when addressing a group of people, so keep that in mind as well.
- Здравствуйте (Hello)
While this word might feel a little hard to pronounce, it’s essential for starting a Russian conversation in a more formal setting or with someone older than you.
- Привет (Hi)
This term should be used with friends or peers in an informal setting. It’s a great basic Russian word to learn because it’s useful in a wide variety of contexts.
- Доброе утро (Good morning)
- Добрый день (Good afternoon)
- Добрый вечер (Good evening)
Note: You may have realized that “good night” was not included here. This is because that phrase isn’t used as a greeting in Russian. Rather, it’s something you say to someone that you presumably live with, whether you’re a houseguest or a family member, right before you go to bed.
- Как вас/тебя зовут? (What’s your name?)
- Меня зовут… (My name is ____.)
- Очень приятно (Nice to meet you.)
Starting a conversation and small-talk basics
- Как дела? (How are you?)
Be warned: If you ask a Russian how they’re doing, expect an honest and at times lengthy answer. Whatever you do, don’t use this phrase and keep walking as you might in the English-speaking world. It will come across as rather odd and will most likely be perceived as quite rude.
- Что нового? (What’s new?)
- Откуда вы/ты? (Where are you from?)
This phrase has a wide range of uses. Whether you’re asking a group of Russians what part of the country they hail from or whether you suspect the guy standing next to you in Saint Basil’s Cathedral is from your hometown, you need to know how to ask someone where they’re from.
- Я из… (I’m from ___.)
About language learning
- На каких языках вы говорите/ты говоришь? (What languages do you speak?)
- Я говорю по… (I speak ___.)
When speaking Russian is a struggle
- Повторите/повтори ещё раз, пожалуйста. (Repeat that once more, please.)
- Пожалуйста, говорите/говори помедленнее. (Please speak more slowly.)
- Я не понимаю. (I don’t understand.)
- Я только немного говорю по-русски. (I only speak a little Russian.)
- До свидания (Goodbye)
This is a common way to part ways in a more formal setting, but it can be used to add a bit more weight to your words as well. So if you aren’t going to see someone again for a while, it makes much more sense to use this variation instead of the next one on this list.
- Пока (Bye)
This is an informal word that can also translate to “while” or “so far,” so it shouldn’t be used in more emotional goodbyes.
- Увидимся (See you)
Russian Phrases for Travel
At the hotel
- Где гостиница? (Where is the hotel?)
- У меня есть бронь. (I have a reservation.)
- Где мой номер? (Where is my room?)
- Где ресторан? (Where is the restaurant?)
- Дайте/дай мне, пожалуйста… (Give me please ___).
- У меня аллергия. (I have an allergy).
Be sure to learn the Russian words for what you’re allergic to, as this phrase is fairly useless without such additional info.
- Счёт, пожалуйста. (Check, please).
- Где туалет? (Where is the bathroom?).
- У вас есть…? (Do you have ___?)
- Сколько это стоит? (How much does this cost?)
- Сколько я должен/должна? (How much do I owe?)
This phrase is an exception to the formatting usually used here for contrasting formal and informal forms of a phrase. In this case, it refers to the difference between masculine and feminine forms of a word. So if you’re a man, you would use должен, and if you’re a woman, должна.
- Помогите, пожалуйста! (Help, please!)
Notice that no informal/singular form is given here. This is because when you’re screaming for help, usually you’re addressing anyone standing in the vicinity, not one random individual.
- Где больница? (Where is the hospital?)
- Полиция! (Police!)
- Мне больно. (I’m in pain.)
This phrase literally translates to “to me it’s painful.” Because it’s quite vague, be prepared to explain where you’re hurt.
- Мне нужен врач. (I need a doctor.)
- Без муки нет науки. (Without torture, there is no science.)
Believe it or not, this is the Russian language version of “no pain, no gain.”
- Не имей сто рублей, имей сто друзей. (Don’t have a hundred rubles, have a hundred friends.)
This expression is great for practicing the imperative verb form and is very relevant to trying to learn Russian! Your native speaker friends are likely to get you much farther than any amount of money spent on low-quality textbooks.
- Будет и на нашей улице праздник. (There will be a celebration on our street too.)
This proverb takes on a certain poignancy when one remembers the brutal realities of day-to-day Soviet life, and indeed most parts of Russian history.
- Всяк глядит, да не всяк видит. (Everyone looks, but not everyone sees.)
- Делать из мухи слона. (To make an elephant out of a fly.)
This idiom has the same meaning as “to make a mountain out of a molehill.”
- Без царя в голове. (Without a king/tsar in the head.)
This means that the person in question is stupid or mindless.
- Льёт как из ведра. (It’s pouring like from a bucket.)
This is the Russian equivalent of “it’s raining cats and dogs.”
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For more intriguing and useful phrases to learn, start using FluentU. Its library of authentic Russian videos is full of fun expressions to toss into any conversation. Give it a try today and watch yourself picking up all kinds of cool new phrases to use.