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Get Back to Business: Essential Russian Business Phrases

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In many cultures, the sphere of business is associated not only with money, but also with a specific language style. If you plan to do business with Russian speaking partners or move to Russia for work, knowing some Russian business phrases would be useful, as there are situations when everyday language is just not enough. Well, turning to business, I won’t teach you how to earn millions, but I can help you spare a lot of embarrassment by teaching you some fundamental Russian courtesy rules.

In this guide, you’ll learn some basic Russian business phrases for various occasions, from job interviews and your first days of work to giving presentations, writing business letters, and making phone calls. Also—the icing on the cake—you’ll find out why Russians don’t use “Mr.” and “Mrs.” in business environments, and what you should use instead. Let’s get down to business!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Russian Table of Contents
  1. Learning Basic Courtesy
  2. Nailing a Job Interview
  3. Interacting with Coworkers
  4. Speaking in a Meeting
  5. Business Emails and Phone Calls
  6. What’s Next?

1. Learning Basic Courtesy

The first thing you need to know is how to talk and act to leave a great impression. This includes using appropriate business Russian greetings and knowing the difference between formal and informal “you.” Let’s take a look. 

Greetings

  • Здравствуйте. (Zdravstvuyte.) — “Hello.”
  • Доброе утро. (Dobroye utro.) — “Good morning.”
  • Добрый день. (Dobryy den’.) — “Good afternoon.”
  • Привет. (Privet.) — “Hi.” [casual]

To greet your boss, business partners, or colleagues that you don’t know well, use any of the first three options. That said, you can never go wrong with здравствуйте. It’s not locked to a specific time of day (unlike “Good morning”) and it can be used as a respectful greeting toward anyone. Leave привет for your work buddies and friends.

There’s a joke about the Russian language being really unwelcoming to beginners. The first word you learn—здравствуйте—salutes you with an unholy mixture of consonants, so you might need some time to practice this one. 

    ➢ You can check the pronunciation of this word in our dictionary.

❗️Pay attention to the silent в, which is not pronounced (здравствуйте).

Business Partners Shaking Hands

How would you greet your new partner in Russian?

It’s not common in Russia to ask how someone is doing unless you really care about their actual state of things. Here’s a list of phrases you might find useful for these occasions:

[Formal]

  • Как ваши дела? (Kak vashi dela?) — “How are you doing?”
  • Хорошо. А у вас? (Khorosho. A u vas?) — “Fine. And you?”

[Casual]

  • Как дела? (Kak dela?) — “How are you doing?”
  • Хорошо. А у тебя? (Khorosho. A u tebya?) — “Fine. And you?”
  • В последнее время не очень. (V posledneye vremya ne ochen’.) — “Not so good recently.”

Please keep in mind that nobody expects you to complain in a business environment. Asking “How are you?” is just a matter of courtesy.

In Russia, it’s notably uncommon to address people using “Mr.” or “Mrs.” If we want to show respect, we use the person’s first name + patronymic name. A patronymic is a special name derived from a person’s father’s name:

Здравствуйте, Василий Иванович. (Zdravstvuyte, Vasiliy Ivanovich.) — “Hello, Vasiliy Ivanovich.” 

Ivanovich is the patronymic name. It means that Vasiliy’s father’s name is Ivan.

Goodbye

  • До свидания. (Do svidaniya.) — “Goodbye.”
  • Всего доброго. (Vsego dobrogo.) — “Take care.”
  • Пока! (Poka!) — “Bye!” [casual]

Formal and Casual “You”

As you might have already noticed, there are distinct ways of addressing people depending on whether the situation is formal or informal. Thus, you should be careful with how you approach a person, as many people are sensitive to this.

There are two ways to address your work partner: вы (vy) [formal] or ты (ty) [casual]. If you’re not sure how to address someone, just remember this table:

ВыТы
  • strangers
  • older people
  • anybody you want to treat with special respect
  • family members
  • close friends
  • children
  • fellow colleagues that you know well

A safe bet is to follow your partner’s lead. If they’re addressing you politely, you might want to avoid talking to them informally.

    ➢ It’s not just the pronoun that changes when you switch between the styles. The formality affects the verb endings as well. To see how verbs change in each case, check out our article about Verb Conjugations.

2. Nailing a Job Interview

Job Interview

In the previous section, you learned how to greet a person in the workplace. 

Now, let’s consider some questions that your future employer or an HR representative might ask you during the interview.

  • Есть ли у вас опыт работы? — “Do you have any work experience?” 
    (Yest’ li u vas opyt raboty?)
  • Где вы раньше работали? — “Where did you work before?”
    (Gde vy ran’she rabotali?)

    • Я пять лет работал(а)* в компании ABC. — “I’ve worked for ABC for five years.”
      (Ya pyat’ let rabotal-a v kompanii ABC.)


      Я работал(а) в продажах. — “I worked in sales.”
      (Ya rabotal-a v prodazhakh.)


      Я работал(а) журналистом. — “I worked as a journalist.”
      (Ya rabotal-a zhurnalistom.)

* [The ending -a is added if the speaker is a woman.]

  • Какое у вас образование? (Kakoye u vas obrazovaniye?) — “What is your educational background?”

    • Я закончил(а) Карлов университет в Праге. “I graduated from Charles University in Prague.”
      (Ya zakonchil-a Karlov universitet v Prage.)

      Моя специальность — гостиничное дело. — “I have a degree in hospitality.”
      (Moya spetsial’nost’ — gostinichnoye delo.)

      Я учился [m] / училась [f] в Париже на дизайнера. — “I studied design in Paris.”
      (Ya uchilsya / uchilas’ v Parizhe na dizaynera.)
    ➢ You can find more school-related terms to talk about your degrees on our Education vocabulary list.
  • Какие языки вы знаете? (Kakiye yazyki vy znayete?) — “What languages do you speak?”

    • Я свободно говорю по-испански. — “I speak Spanish fluently.”
      (Ya svobodno govoryu po-ispanski.)

      Я немного говорю по-русски. — “I speak a bit of Russian.”
      (Ya nemnogo govoryu po-russki.)

      Я знаю китайский и японский. — “I speak Chinese and Japanese.”
      (Ya znayu kitayskiy i yaponskiy.)
    ➢ There’s a good chance you can find your native tongue on our list of 38 languages spoken worldwide.

An interview is a stressful event for most job-seekers. Especially if it’s not going to be in one’s native language! But believe me, many HR representatives and CEOs are more likely to care about your professional experience and how useful you can be to the company than how you conjugate verbs and use cases. If you don’t understand the interviewer’s question, don’t hesitate to ask them to repeat.

  • Не могли бы вы повторить, пожалуйста? — “Could you repeat, please?”
    (Ne mogli by vy povtorit’, pozhaluysta?)
  • Простите? — “Pardon me?”
    (Prostite?)

❗️ Keep in mind that Простите? should be said with a rising intonation to make it a question. Otherwise, it will sound like an apology.

If you feel too anxious while sitting in the hall waiting for your interview, just take ten deep breaths to trick your brain into a state of calmness.

A Businessman Looking Smug during an Interview

What do you think this person is saying about himself at the interview?
Come up with three sentences in Russian.

3. Interacting with Coworkers

When you receive that finally-I’m-hired call and an invitation to start working on Monday, it’s time to brush up on your introduction lines (if you didn’t before the interview). Your nosy colleagues will be curious about a foreigner on the team! 

Remember to mirror the politeness level your partner is using with you; chances are, your peers will address you informally right away.

Here are some phrases for effective Russian business communication with your new work team! 

Nice to meet you.

First, some questions that you might want to ask your colleague during small talk:

[Casual]

  • Извини, как тебя зовут? — “Sorry, what’s your name?”
    (Izvini, kak tebya zovut?)

  • В каком отделе работаешь? — “In what department do you work?”
    (V kakom otdele rabotayesh’?)
  • Давно ты тут работаешь? — “How long have you been working here?”
    (Davno ty tut rabotayesh’?)
  • Где ты раньше работал? — “Where did you work before?”
    (Gde ty ran’she rabotal?)

And a couple of ideas for how you could react:

[Casual]

  • Ясно. (Yasno.) — “I see.”
  • Понятно. (Ponyatno.) — “I got it.”
  • Прикольно! (Prikol’no!) — “Cool!” [familiar]

However, you should be careful with these reactions. They can be real conversation killers if used improperly. Consider them to be a solid full stop, so if you don’t want an awkward silence to interrupt your discussion, use the combination “reaction + follow-up question” to keep the conversation going.

I need help.

[Casual]

  • Можешь помочь мне с презентацией? — “Could you help me with the presentation?”
    (Mozhesh’ pomoch’ mne s prezentatsiyey?)

  • Можешь объяснить, как это работает? — “Could you explain how it works?”
    (Mozhesh’ ob’yasnit’, kak eto rabotayet?)
  • Я не понимаю, что надо делать. — “I don’t understand what I need to do.”
    (Ya ne ponimayu, chto nado delat’.)
  • Умеешь пользоваться этой штукой? — “Do you know how to use this thing?”
    (Umeyesh’ pol’zovat’sya etoy shtukoy?)

These phrases are suitable for a conversation with your fellow coworkers. If you need to ask a senior colleague for help, you need to increase your level of politeness. Find an example of a formal dialogue in our “Asking for Help” lesson from the “Business Russian for Beginners” course.

I’m sorry.

The last thing you want to do when you’ve already messed something up is to apologize poorly. You need to be extra-careful with formality here; you don’t want to call your boss “dude” in the heat of the moment.

  • Извини(те). — “Sorry.”
    (Izvini-te.)
  • Извини(те) за опоздание. — “I’m sorry I’m late.”
    (Izvini-te za opozdaniye.)
  • Прости(те), я не видел(а)*, что мне звонили. — “I’m sorry, I didn’t see that you had called.”
    (Prosti-te, ya ne videl-а, chto mne zvonili.)

* [The ending -a is added if the speaker is a woman.]

❗️We add -те to извини and прости if we want to sound polite

We’ve written a whole article about How to Say Sorry, with a wide variety of apologies for any occasion. Using these phrases, you’ll be forgiven, guaranteed. 

Thank you!

  • Спасибо. — “Thank you!”
    (Spasibo.)
  • Спасибо за помощь. — “Thanks for the help.”
    (Spasibo za pomoshch’.)
  • Молодец! — “Well done!”
    (Molodets!)
  • Так держать! — “Good job!”
    (Tak derzhat’!)
People Worried about the Internet Connection and Deadline

When the Internet suddenly shuts off ten minutes before the report delivery deadline.
Have the phrases for apologizing already popped up in your mind?

4. Speaking in a Meeting

Now let’s go over some useful phrases for Russian business meetings! 

Expressing opinions

  • Я согласен. (Ya soglasen.) — “I agree.” [m] / Я согласна. (Ya soglasna.) — “I agree.” [f]
  • Всё верно. (Vsyo verno.) — “That’s correct.”
  • Извините, я с этим не согласен / не согласна. — “Sorry, I can’t agree with you here.” [m/f]
    (Izvinite, ya s etim ya ne soglasen / ne soglasna.)
  • Пожалуй, тут я не соглашусь. “I’m afraid I must disagree here.”
    (Pozhaluy, tut ya ne soglashus’.)
  • Проблема в том, что… — “The problem is that…”
    (Problema v tom, chto…)
  • Давайте сделаем так… “Let’s do this…”
    (Davayte sdelayem tak…)
  • Я предлагаю повысить цены. — “I suggest that we increase the prices.”
    (Ya predlagayu povysit’ tseny.)
  • Все согласны? “Can we all agree on that?”
    (Vse soglasny?)

Giving presentations

If you give a presentation in front of new colleagues or partners, it’s worth saying a couple of words about yourself. Speaking about something familiar and trivial will help you relax if you feel anxious, and your new partners will have a better idea of who the speaker is.

  • Меня зовут Майк. — “My name is Mike.”
    (Menya zovut Mayk.)
  • Я представляю отдел продаж компании ABC. “I represent the sales department in ABC.”
    (Ya predstavlyayu otdel prodazh kompanii ABC.)

Check out our lesson “Introducing Yourself in a Business Meeting” to gain some cultural insight on the matter!

And here are some basic phrases for the presentation itself.

  • Сегодня поговорим о продажах. “Today we will talk about the sales.”
    (Segodnya pogovorim o prodazhakh.)
  • Сегодня мы обсудим новые сделки. “Today we will discuss the new deals.”
    (Segodnya my obsudim novyye sdelki.)
  • Обратите внимание на этот график. — “(Please) take a look at the chart.”
    (Obratite vnimaniye na etot grafik.)
  • Посмотрите на эту статистику. — “(Please) have a look at these statistics.”
    (Posmotrite na etu statistiku.)
  • Всем спасибо за внимание. — “Thank you all for your attention.”
    (Vsem spasibo za vnimaniye.)
  • Буду рад(а)* ответить на ваши вопросы. — “I will be glad to answer your questions.”
    (Budu rad-a otvetit’ na vashi voprosy.)
  • Иван ответит на вопросы после собрания. — “Ivan will answer the questions after the meeting.” 
    (Ivan otvetit na voprosy posle sobraniya) [if you feel insecure about answering the questions yourself]

* [The ending -a is added if the speaker is a woman.]

People with Mixed Opinions during a Business Meeting

Все согласны?

5. Business Emails and Phone Calls

Even with the rising popularity of messengers, sending emails is still the most popular way of in-company communication in Russia. The phone is still a thing, as well.

Email etiquette

While casual emails to your colleagues are not going to be much different from a message on a social network, the etiquette of formal emails is much stricter, so this is what we’re going to focus on in this section.

  • Уважаемая Екатерина Сергеевна! — “Dear Ekaterina Sergeyevna”
    (Uvazhayemaya Ekaterina Sergeyevna!)
  • Уважаемый Александр! — “Dear Alexander”
    (Uvazhayemyy Aleksandr!)
  • Здравствуйте, Александр! — “Hello, Alexander”
    (Zdravstvuyte, Aleksandr!)
  • Добрый день! — “Hello!” (lit. “Good afternoon”)
    (Dobryy den’!)
The greetings are listed in order of formality, starting with the most formal one. If you know the full name of the person you’re emailing (the first name + the patronymic name), you should address them accordingly. 
  • Я хотел(а)* бы узнать, готова ли презентация. “I’d like to know if the presentation is ready.”
    (Ya khotel-a by uznat’, gotova li prezentatsiya.)
  • Хотел(а) бы напомнить о завтрашнем дедлайне. “I’d like to remind you about tomorrow’s deadline.”
    (Khotel-a by napomnit’, o zavtrashnem dedlayne.)
  • Хотел(а) поинтересоваться стоимостью курса. — “I was wondering about the price of the course.”
    (Khotel-a pointeresovat’sya stoimost’yu kursa.)

* [The ending -a is added if the speaker is a woman.]

  • Спасибо! “Thank you!”
    ((Spasibo!)
  • С уважением, “Faithfully yours,
    Майк Сантос Mike Santos”
    (S uvazheniyem, Mike Santos”
Business Phrases

Business calls

Within the company, you’re likely to call your colleagues via Skype or some other video conference software. However, if you’re going to call other companies, you might want to use the phone.

Let’s start with Алло? (Allo?), or “Hello?” Like in English, it’s a versatile word that can be used both when you pick up the phone and when you can’t hear the person well. But only on the phone—not face-to-face, please.

Here are some practical Russian phrases for business phone calls.

Calling

When you call the company, they usually introduce themselves when answering the phone. If you just hear a cold “Алло?”, the strategy would be the following (don’t forget to greet the person!):

  • Здравствуйте, это магазин «Шик»? “Hello, is this the ‘Shik’ shop?”
    (Zdravstvuyte, eto magazin «Shik»?)
  • Здравствуйте, это Сергей Иванович? — “Hello, is this Sergey Ivanovich?”
    (Zdravstvuyte, eto Sergey Ivanovich?)
  • Я хотел(а)* бы поговорить с Сергеем Ивановичем. — “Could I speak to Sergey Ivanovich, please?”
    (Ya khotel-а by pogovorit’ s Sergeyem Ivanovichem.)
  • Пожалуйста, соедините меня с отделом продаж? “Could you put me through to the sales department?”
    (Pozhaluysta, soyedinite menya s otdelom prodazh?)

* [The ending -a is added if the speaker is a woman.]

Receiving calls

  • Слушаю. — “Hello?” [lit. “I’m listening.”]
    (Slushayu.)
  • Добрый день. Компания ABC. — “Good afternoon. It’s ABC company.”
    (Dobryy den’. Kompaniya ABC.)
  • Вас плохо слышно. — “I can’t hear you well.”
    (Vas plokho slyshno.)
  • Минутку, пожалуйста. — “One minute, please.”
    (Minutku, pozhaluysta.)
  • Я вас с ним соединю. — “I will put him on.”
    (Ya vas s nim soyedinyu.)
  • Извините, сейчас он занят. — “I’m sorry, he’s busy at the moment.”
    (Izvinite, seychas on zanyat.)
  • Может, мне ему что-нибудь передать? — “Would you like to leave a message?”
    (Mozhet, mne emu chto-nibud’ peredat’?)
  • Можете перезвонить чуть позже, пожалуйста? — “Could you call again a bit later, please?”
    (Mozhete perezvonit’ chut’ pozzhe, pozhaluysta?)
  • До свидания. — “Goodbye.”
    (Do svidaniya.)
  • Извините, вы ошиблись номером. — “Sorry, you’ve got the wrong number.”
    (Izvinite, vy oshiblis’ nomerom.)

You can listen to a sample phone conversation in one of our lessons from the “Business Russian for Beginners” course.

A Man Holding a Map and Talking on the Phone

Who is he calling? Why?
Come up with a simple phone conversation in Russian to practice the new phrases.

6. What’s Next?

I think you’re now ready to do business in Russia and chat with your Russian speaking colleagues! You know how to introduce yourself, interact with your coworkers, write business emails, and how to not make your boss angry if you messed something up! Obviously, these Russian business phrases are just the tip of the iceberg, but they’re a good place to start. 

When you feel comfortable using the phrases listed in this article, you can explore our “Business Russian for Beginners” course to improve your knowledge. If you happen to have any questions about doing business in Russia or the formal style used in the business environment, our teachers on RussianPod101.com will help you dispel any doubts. 

With our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, you get personal one-on-one coaching with a tutor. Feel free to ask any business- or language-related questions. If you want to practice your business phrases, you’ll receive assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and voice recording tasks to improve your pronunciation. Give it a try!

Eager to learn more? The following material will help you gain even more knowledge about business phrases in Russian.

Is there anything we didn’t cover that you still want to know? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll do our best to help! 

Happy learning with RussianPod101!

About the author: Dzhuliia Shipina is a Russian linguist and a language teacher. For the past few years, she’s been traveling around the world and sharing her passion for languages with other inquiring minds. She invites you to explore the beauty of Russian and unravel its mysteries together.

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