Get 35% off with our best holiday deals. Today only!
Get 35% off with our best holiday deals. Today only!
RussianPod101.com Blog
Learn Russian with Free Daily
Audio and Video Lessons!
Start Your Free Trial 6 FREE Features

Basic Russian Words for Beginners: An Essential Minimum

Thumbnail

There are about 150,000 words in modern Russian. But worry not—even I, a native speaker, probably know only half of those words. (Difficult to count, you know?) 

Anyway, as a beginner in Russian, you’d need no more than 300-500 words to start expressing simple ideas. For this reason, our list of basic Russian words for beginners could be a good place for you to start.

On this list, you’ll find the essential vocabulary needed to talk about people, places, everyday objects and their attributes, and simple actions. You’ll learn how to count to ten and use your first prepositions to talk about location.

Make sure to check the intro chapter (How to Make the Most of this Beginner Vocabulary List) first, and then we’ll get started.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. How to Make the Most of this Beginner Vocabulary List
  2. Pronouns
  3. Nouns
  4. Verbs
  5. Adjectives
  6. Numbers
  7. Adverbs
  8. Prepositions and Conjunctions
  9. Question Words
  10. What’s Next?

1. How to Make the Most of this Beginner Vocabulary List

Beginner words are like bricks for building basic sentences. But you can’t assemble a strong wall without some mortar—and in a language, this “mortar” is grammar. 

The relationships between words are much more complex in Russian than in English. It’s not always easy or practical to replace one word with another, and you need to have an idea of how words interact with each other in a sentence. 

You’ve probably heard that it’s better to learn vocabulary in chunks. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid learning separate words and cram full sentences instead, though some find this approach effective. But whenever looking up a word, it’s worth checking the dictionary entry notes and some example phrases to see how the word fits into a sentence. The word itself and its entourage often form collocations

Collocations define the word’s closest “friends.” For instance, if it’s a verb, it might have a preposition it’s usually used with: to be interested in, to rely on. If it’s an adjective, it could have its favorite intensifier: ridiculously expensive (and not completely), very tired (and not utterly).

And, again, let’s not forget about the grammar. Russian nouns, for example, have grammatical gender. The gender of a noun determines the ending of the adjective attached to it. Most prepositions assign a specific case to a noun, changing its ending as well. Yes, it’s all about the endings.

RussianPod101 keeps both of these aspects in mind. Most of our vocabulary lists include examples so you can see how each word functions in a sentence.

I’m not expecting a beginner to be familiar with Russian grammar yet. To make your life easier, I’ve mentioned some basic grammar features for every part of speech. Ideally, you should keep them in mind when trying to insert a word into a phrase. Otherwise, you might end up with a bunch of words that you have no idea what to do with. Those grammar notes are there just to give you an idea of what you could learn next. No need to push yourself; take it slowly.

Here’s your Beginner Words Toolkit that will help you get started:

➤ Our article Russian Grammar in a Nutshell for the basic characteristics of the main parts of speech

➤ A dictionary with simple collocations and/or example sentences. Why not try Yandex Translate or Linguee, for instance? 

➤ A flashcard tool to keep your vocabulary in order and to revise it on a regular basis

And, obviously, the list itself! ⬇

A Girl Studying Flashcards with Fruit Names on Them

Make flashcards for the new words you’re learning. You can quiz yourself by looking at one side of the card then flipping it to see the answer. Make sure you master both directions and don’t forget to shuffle the cards every day.

2. Pronouns

Pronouns are the first words you should add to your Russian beginner vocabulary base. It would be difficult to have a fluid conversation without them, as they reduce redundancy and help maintain flow. 

We’ll cover three types of Russian pronouns here: personal, demonstrative, and indefinite. 

Personal Pronouns

These change their form depending on the person, number, case, and (sometimes) gender. 

➤ We’ve carefully crafted a guide on Russian pronouns for those who want to know everything about them. (And a little bit more.)

PersonEnglishRussian
1st person singularIя (ya)
2nd person singularyou
[informal]
ты (ty
3rd person singularhesheitон (on)
она (ona)
оно (ono)
1st person pluralweмы (my)
2nd person pluralyou
 [formal and plural]
вы (vy)
3rd person pluraltheyони (oni)

Demonstrative Pronouns

These change their form depending on the number, case, and gender. 

EnglishRussian
masculinefeminineneuterplural
this / theseэтот (etot)эта (eta)это (eto)эти (eti)
that / thoseтот (tot)та (ta)то (to)те (te)

  • этот дом (etot dom) – “this house”
  • эти люди (eti lyudi) – “these people”
  • та машина (ta mashina) – “that car”

Indefinite Pronouns

These pronouns only inflect for case.

EnglishRussian
somebodyкто-то (kto-to)
somethingчто-то (chto-to)

A Woman with Her Family Ordering Something from a Bakery

Эти, пожалуйста. (Eti, pozhaluysta.) – “These ones, please.”

3. Nouns 

Russian nouns change their form depending on the gender, case, and number. Pay attention to the gender when looking a word up in a dictionary.

➤ We’ve done extensive research on noun behavior and summarized it in our Russian declension guide!

People

personчеловек (chelovek)
peopleлюди (lyudi)
manмужчина (muzhchina)
womanженщина (zhenshchina)
kidребёнок (rebyonok)
childrenдети (deti)
motherмама (mama)
fatherпапа (papa)
sisterсестра (sestra)
brotherбрат (brat)
daughterдочь (doch’)
sonсын (syn)
husbandмуж (muzh)
wifeжена (zhena)
familyсемья (sem’ya)
boyfriendпарень (paren’)
girlfriendдевушка (devushka)
friend [m]друг (drug)
friend [f]подруга (podruga)

➤ If you’d like to start talking about occupations as well, check out our list of the most common jobs.

Time 

You’ll notice that, unlike in English, we don’t capitalize the days of the week or—a spoiler for the future—the names of months. Also, the week in Russia starts on Monday.

minuteминута (minuta)
hourчас (chas)
dayдень (den’)
weekнеделя (nedelya)
monthмесяц (mesyats)
yearгод / лет (god / let)
  • один год (odin god) – “one year”
  • два года (dva goda) – “two years”
  • двадцать пять лет (dvadtsat’ pyat’ let) – “twenty-five years”
Год(а) is used with numbers ending in 1, 2, 3, 4
Лет is used with numbers ending in 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0
morning
in the morning
утро (utro)
утром (utrom)
afternoon
in the afternoon
день (den’)
днём (dnyom)
evening
in the evening
вечер (vecher)
вечером (vecherom)
night
at night
ночь (noch’)
ночью (noch’yu)
Mondayпонедельник (ponedel’nik)
Tuesdayвторник (vtornik)
Wednesdayсреда (sreda)
Thursdayчетверг (chetverg)
Fridayпятница (pyatnitsa)
Saturdayсуббота (subbota)
Sundayвоскресенье (voskresen’ye)

Talking about Days in Russian

Food & Restaurant

fruitфрукты (frukty)
vegetablesовощи (ovoshchi)
waterвода (voda)
coffeeкофе (kofe)
teaчай (chay)
juiceсок (sok)
breadхлеб (hleb)
riceрис (ris)
pastaмакароны (makarony)
saladсалат (salat)
meatмясо (myaso)
fishрыба (ryba)
dessertдесерт (desert)
tableстол (stol)
chairстул (stul)
spoonложка (lozhka)
forkвилка (vilka)
knifeнож (nozh)
glassстакан (stakan)
menuменю (menyu)

➤ Learn in three minutes how to make an order in a Russian restaurant.

A Table Filled with Several Dishes of Different Foods

Name in Russian as many objects as you can find here!

Places

worldмир (mir)
countryстрана (strana)
city townгород (gorod)
streetулица (ulitsa)
houseдом (dom)
shopмагазин (magazin)
restaurantресторан (restoran)
hotelотель (otel’)
downtownцентр города (tsentr goroda)
police stationполиция (politsiya)
hospitalбольница (bol’nitsa)
airportаэропорт (aeroport)
schoolшкола (shkola)
universityуниверситет (universitet)
companyкомпания (kompaniya)
toiletsтуалет (tualet)
seaморе (more)
mountainгора (gora)
forestлес (les)
placeместо (mesto)

➤ Learning how to ask for directions in Russian will help you not get lost while exploring the city! 

Basic Items

phoneтелефон (telefon)
PC laptopкомпьютер (komp’yuter)
the internetинтернет (internet)
penручка (ruchka)
pencilкарандаш (karandash)
bookкнига (kniga)

Means of Transport

carмашина (mashina)
busавтобус (avtobus)
trainпоезд (poyezd)
planeсамолёт (samolyot)
taxiтакси (taksi)
bicycleвелосипед (velosiped)
subwayметро (metro)

Body Parts

headголова (golova)
eyeглаз (glaz)
noseнос (nos)
mouthрот (rot)
toothзуб (zub)
earухо (uho)
hairволосы (volosy)
arm handрука (ruka)
leg footнога (noga)
finger toeпалец (palets)
stomachживот (zhivot)

➤ If you happen to need a list of body parts in order to talk to a Russian doctor, we’ve got you covered: Most Useful Phrases for Talking to Your Doctor.

Conversation

questionвопрос (vopros)
answerответ (otvet)
wordслово (slovo)
phraseфраза (fraza)
ideaидея (ideya)

A Student Raising Her Hand in Class

У меня вопрос! (U menya vopros!) – “I have a question!”

4. Verbs

There are two types of regular verbs in Russian, plus the irregular ones. They change their form depending on the tense, mood, and aspect; sometimes, they can conjugate for number and gender as well. 

➤ If all these linguistic terms sound too confusing, we’ve broken down Russian verb conjugation into digestible pieces in one of our articles.

When looking up a verb in a dictionary, pay attention to whether there’s any preposition that comes with the verb as well as how the noun changes next to it. Knowing the aspect—perfective or imperfective—can also be useful at times, but let’s save that for later. 

Reverso Conjugator can help you with the verb forms if needed.

With that out of the way, here are the most useful Russian beginner verbs: 

to go (on foot)идти (idti)
to ride to driveехать (yehat’)
to comeприходить (prihodit’)
to arrive
(on a vehicle)
приезжать (priyezzhat’)
to go awayуходить (uhodit’)
to departуезжать (uyezzhat’)
to loveлюбить (lyubit’)
to likeнравиться (nravit’sya)
to wantхотеть (hotet’)
to be able toмочь (moch’)
to do to makeделать (delat’)
to readчитать (chitat’)
to writeписать (pisat’)
to speak to talkговорить (govorit’)
to listenслушать (slushat’)
to hearслышать (slyshat’)
to askспрашивать (sprashivat’)
to replyотвечать (otvechat’)
to knowзнать (znat’)
to rememberпомнить (pomnit’)
to forgetзабывать (zabyvat’)
to seeвидеть (videt’)
to watchсмотреть (smotret’)
to thinkдумать (dumat’)
to understandпонимать (ponimat’)
to takeбрать (brat’)
to giveдавать (davat’)
to searchискать (iskat’)
to findнаходить (nahodit’)
to showпоказывать (pokazyvat’)
to waitждать (zhdat’)
to beginначинать (nachinat’)
to continueпродолжать (prodolzhat’)
to finishзаканчивать (zakanchivat’)
to seemказаться (kazat’sya)
to decideрешать (reshat’)
to allowразрешать (razreshat’)
to forbidзапрещать (zapreshchat’)
to tryпробовать (probovat’)
to sleepспать (spat’)
to eatесть (yest’)
to drinkпить (pit’)
to workработать (rabotat’)
to restотдыхать (otdyhat’)

5. Adjectives

Russian adjectives “agree” with nouns and change their form depending on the gender, number, and case. In dictionaries, all Russian adjectives are masculine. To combine them with feminine nouns, for example, you’d need to slightly change the ending.

➤ We’ve covered these aspects in detail in our article about the top 100 Russian adjectives.

goodхороший (horoshiy)
badплохой (plohoy)
bigбольшой (bol’shoy)
smallмаленький (malen’kiy)
cheapдешёвый (deshovyi)
expensiveдорогой (dorogoy)
longдлинный (dlinnyi)
shortкороткий (korotkiy)
beautiful
handsome
красивый (krasivyi)
ugly
scary
страшный (strashnyi)
simple
light
лёгкий (lyogkiy)
difficultсложный (slozhnyi)
fastбыстрый (bystryi)
slowмедленный (medlennyi)
importantважный (vazhnyi)
favoriteлюбимый (lyubimyi)
newновый (novyi)
oldстарый (staryi)
youngмолодой (molodoy)
fat
thick
толстый (tolstyi)
thin [person][object]худой (hudoyтонкий (tonkiy)
strongсильный (sil’nyi)
weakслабый (slabyi)
kindдобрый (dobryi)
angry evilзлой (zloy)
hotгорячий (goryachiy)
coldхолодный (holodnyi)
sweetсладкий (sladkiy)
saltyсолёный (solyonyi)
spicyострый (ostryi)
deliciousвкусный (vkusnyi)
blackчёрный (chyornyi)
whiteбелый (belyi)
blueсиний (siniy)
redкрасный (krasnyi)
greenзелёный (zelyonyi)
firstпервый (pervyi)
lastпоследний (posledniy)
sameтакой же (takoy zhe)
differentдругой (drugoy)
the bestлучший (luchshiy)
the worstхудший (hudshiy)

A Blue Car

Come up with at least four Russian adjectives to describe this car!

6. Numbers

Numbers also agree with nouns and change their form depending on the case.

1один (odin)
2два (dva)
3три (tri)
4четыре (chetyre)
5пять (pyat’)
6шесть (shest’)
7семь (sem’)
8восемь (vosem’)
9девять (devyat’)
10десять (desyat’)

➤ If that seems too easy, try learning how to count to 100!

7. Adverbs

Adverbs are the least troublesome of the bunch. They’re satisfied with their initial form, so most of them don’t decline. The only exception is when they “compete” and form the degrees of comparison. 

yesterdayвчера (vchera)
todayсегодня (segodnya)
tomorrowзавтра (zavtra)
lateпоздно (pozdno)
earlyрано (rano)
soonскоро (skoro)
primarilyсначала (snachala)
thenпотом (potom)
neverникогда (nikogda)
rarelyредко (redko)
sometimesиногда (inogda)
oftenчасто (chasto)
alwaysвсегда (vsegda)
hereздесь (zdes’)
тут (tut)
thereтам (tam)
everywhereвезде (vezde)
insideвнутри (vnutri)
outsideснаружи (snaruzhi)
maybeможет быть (mozhet byt’)
alsoтоже (tozhe)
many 
much
много (mnogo)
few 
little
мало (malo)

8. Prepositions and Conjunctions

Prepositions change the case of the noun they combine with. 

➤ Check out our article on Russian prepositions to witness it firsthand!

inв (v)
onна (na)
underпод (pod)
aboveнад (nad)
withс (s)
withoutбез (bez)
aboutо (o)
fromот (ot)
untilдо (do)
nearоколо (okolo)
throughчерез (cherez)
afterпосле (posle)
andи (i)
orили (ili)
butно (no)
becauseпотому что (potomu chto)
that’s whyпоэтому (poetomu)

9. Question Words

The final set of Russian beginner words we’ll look at today are question words. They can be used either at the beginning of a question or independently.

  • Что ты сказал? (Chto ty skazal?) – “What did you say?”
  • Что? (Chto?) – “What?”

Who?Кто? (Kto?)
What?Что? (Chto?)
Where?Где? (Gde?)
When?Когда? (Kogda?)
At what time?Во сколько? (Vo skol’ko?)
Why?Почему? (Pochemu?)
What for?Зачем? (Zachem?)
How?Как? (Kak?)
Where to?Куда? (Kuda?)
Which one?Какой? (Kakoy?)
Whose?Чей? (Chey?)
How much?
How many?
Сколько? (Skol’ko?)

A Woman Chatting on the Phone and Smiling

Где встретимся? (Gde vstretimsya?) – “Where shall we meet?”

10. What’s Next?

How many words do you think we’ve covered in this article? Almost 300! 

How many of these were new to you? And, more importantly, how do you remember all of them now?

Again, there’s little point in learning separate words without studying how to combine them. It would be like looking at a pile of bricks without knowing how to use them to build a house. So, don’t forget about the grammar, try to learn words in chunks, study the dictionary entry notes, and check some example sentences. Later on, you’ll be able to see the patterns yourself and predict the behavior of a word.

Also, using flashcards and spaced repetition has been proven effective in remembering words. New neural connections in your brain build through repetition, so don’t shy away from getting back to your vocabulary list every now and then. Producing new words—for example, writing your own sentences with them—and recognizing them in texts or speech helps with retention as well. This means that graded reading and listening will make them stick even faster! 

That’s where our teachers could help you. You can get a private tutor with RussianPod101’s Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher. Your tutor will help you choose a pathway to begin your Russian journey. Feel free to ask them anything about Russian grammar, vocabulary, or culture—they’re there to help you! You can also opt to receive assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and even voice recording tasks to improve your skills. Too many benefits to fit in one paragraph. Just give it a try!

➤ Eager to learn more? RussianPod101 has lots to offer! 

  • Check our collection of Core Russian Words with audio and example sentences.
    You can learn up to 2000 of the most common Russian words!

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 to unravel its mysteries together.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian