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Common Russian Phrases for Beginners

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So, you’ve probably already conquered the Russian alphabet—congrats! Now it’s time to work on your vocabulary. Save the grammar for later. But instead of jumping into word lists right away, let me offer you something better: Russian beginner phrases you can start using today. 

I’ve been learning languages for more than a decade myself. I know that unpleasant feeling of not being able to make up a sentence when it’s finally my time to shine. Learning a few ready-made phrases solves this problem: At the heat of the moment, you won’t have to manipulate separate words. The whole phrase would just pop up in your mind. It’s like magic!

In this article, I’ll cover the 50 most common Russian phrases for beginners. You’ll learn the basic greetings and self-introduction lines, essential courtesy phrases, and some expressions that’ll help you order food in a restaurant, buy a souvenir, and not get lost in the city. This set of phrases will be particularly helpful if you plan to visit Russia, as not many Russians speak English

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. Greetings and Self-introductions
  2. Courtesy Phrases
  3. Shopping
  4. Eating Out
  5. Asking for Help
  6. What’s Next?

1. Greetings and Self-introductions

It all starts with a hello! Let’s begin by going over a few basic Russian phrases you’ll need to know as you meet new people and make friends. 

Hello. [formal]Hi. [informal]
Здравствуйте. 
(Zdravstvuyte.)
Привет. 
(Privet.)
These are universal greetings. They can be used at any time of day.

If you want to be more specific (or just want to flaunt your knowledge of Russian), keep reading.

Good morning.
Доброе утро. 
(Dobroye utro.)

Good afternoon.
Добрый день. 
(Dobryy den’.)

Good evening.
Добрый вечер. 
(Dobryy vecher.)

How are you doing? [formal]How are you? [informal]
Как поживаете?
(Kak pozhivayete?)
Как дела? 
(Kak dela?)

I’m fine, thank you.
Всё хорошо, спасибо.
(Vsyo khorosho, spasibo.)

Now, straight to introducing ourselves and getting to know other people.

What’s your name? [formal]What’s your name? [informal]
Как вас зовут?
(Kak vas zovut?)
Как тебя зовут?
(Kak tebya zovut?)

My name is Amelie.
Меня зовут Амели
(Menya zovut Ameli.)

Where are you from? [formal]Where are you from? [informal]
Откуда вы?(Otkuda vy?)Откуда ты?(Otkuda ty?)

I’m from France.
Я из Франции.
(Ya iz Frantsii.)

Nice to meet you.
Приятно познакомиться.
(Priyatno poznakomit’sya.)

Nice to meet you, too.
Мне тоже. 
(Mne tozhe.)

Literally: Me too.

➤ You might be surprised to see how many ways there are to greet people in Russian! Our guide to Russian greetings is there to prove it.

Two Businesswomen Smiling and Shaking Hands

Amelie and Olga just met. How would they greet each other? How would they introduce themselves?
Challenge yourself and come up with a short dialogue for this imaginary scene to practice!

2. Courtesy Phrases

  • Cultural Note:

There’s one word in Russian that can turn a rude thug into a courteous gentleman. And this word is Пожалуйста (Pozhaluysta) – “Please.” Simply adding this word to the end of your request is enough to make you sound polite. 

Interestingly, we use the same word for both “Please” and “You’re welcome.” In the following chapters, pay attention to how it’s used. Пожалуйста. :)

Please.
Пожалуйста.
(Pozhaluysta.)

Thank you.
Спасибо.
(Spasibo.)

You’re welcome.
Не за что.
(Ne za chto.)

Excuse me.
Извините.
(Izvinite.)

I’m sorry. [formal]I’m sorry. [informal]
Простите, пожалуйста.
(Prostite, pozhaluysta.)
Извини.
(Izvini.)

That’s okay.
Ничего страшного.
(Nichego strashnogo.)

Literally: Nothing scary.

Goodbye. [formal]Bye. [informal]
До свидания.
(Do svidaniya.)
Пока.
(Poka.)

A Woman Waving Goodbye to Her Husband and Little Baby as She Leaves for Work

Do you think she’s saying «Пока» or «До свидания»? Why?

3. Shopping 

Do you plan on buying a souvenir for your loved one, or maybe a loaf of bread from a local grocery store? In either case, knowing these beginner phrases in Russian will help you have a smooth shopping experience. 

May I have a bottle of water, please?
Можно бутылку воды, пожалуйста? 
(Mozhno butylku vody, pozhaluysta?)
The base structure:

May I have _____, please?
Можно _____, пожалуйста?
(Mozhno _____, pozhaluysta?) 

[I’d like] a loaf of bread, please.
Булку хлеба, пожалуйста. 
(Bulku khleba, pozhaluysta.)

Do you have milk?
У вас есть молоко?
(U vas yest’ moloko?)

How much is the shirt?
Сколько стоит рубашка?
(Skol’ko stoit rubashka?)

How much in total?
Сколько будет всё вместе?
(Skol’ko budet vsyo vmeste?)

Do you accept credit cards?
Вы принимаете карты?
(Vy prinimayete karty?)

➤ You can find more words and phrases for shopping on RussianPod101.com.


A Young Couple and Their Daughter Choosing Pastries at the Store

You know some Russian already! Help the lady buy a cake.
Word hint: cake – пирожное(pirozhnoye)

4. Eating Out

Russia boasts a number of delicacies that’ll have your mouth watering from the first time you step into a traditional restaurant. Before your trip, make sure to learn these useful Russian phrases for dining out! 

I’m hungry.
Я хочу есть.
(Ya khochu yest’.)

Literally: I want to eat.

I’m thirsty.
Я хочу пить.
(Ya khochu pit’.)

Literally: I want to drink.

For here or to go?
Будете есть здесь или возьмёте с собой?
(Budete yest’ zdes’ ili voz’myote s soboy?)

Could I have the menu, please?
Можно меню, пожалуйста?
(Mozhno menyu, pozhaluysta?)

Do you have a lunch menu?
У вас есть бизнес-ланч?
(U vas yest’ biznes-lanch?)

What would you recommend?
Что бы вы посоветовали?
(Chto by vy posovetovali?)

I’m allergic to…
У меня аллергия на…
(U menya allergiya na…)

I’d like to have a salad.
Я буду салат.
(Ya budu salat.)

I’d like to have soup, please.
Можно мне суп, пожалуйста?
(Mozhno mne sup, pozhaluysta?)

The bill, please.
Можно счёт, пожалуйста?
(Mozhno schyot, pozhaluysta?)

➤ To be able to make a more specific order in the restaurant, check our vocabulary list Useful Phrases for Ordering Food.


A Couple Ordering at a Restaurant

Congrats, you’ve found a bonus phrase!
Вы готовы сделать заказ? (Vy gotovy sdelat’ zakaz?) – “Are you ready to order?”

5. Asking for Help

Our final set of Russian beginner phrases consists of expressions you might need to use during your trip should something go wrong, such as communication issues or getting lost.

Could you help me, please? [formal]Please help me. [informal]
Не могли бы вы помочь, пожалуйста?
(Ne mogli by vy pomoch’, pozhaluysta?)
Помоги, пожалуйста.
(Pomogi, pozhaluysta.)
These simple phrases will get you places. Don’t underestimate the magical powers of “please.”

Lost in Translation

Do you speak English? [formal]Do you speak English? [informal]
Вы говорите по-английски?
(Vy govorite po-angliyski?)
Ты говоришь по-английски?
(Ty govorish po-angliyski?)

I don’t speak Russian very well.
Я плохо говорю по-русски.
(Ya plokho govoryu po-russki.)

I don’t speak Russian.
Я не говорю по-русски.
(Ya ne govoryu po-russki.)

How do you say “Red Square” in Russian?
Как сказать “Red Square” по-русски?
(Kak skazat’ “Red Square” po-russki?)
Quick answer: Красная Площадь (Krasnaya Ploshchad’)

Could you repeat, please? [formal]Repeat, please. [informal]
Не могли бы вы повторить, пожалуйста?
(Ne mogli by vy povtorit’, pozhaluysta?)
Повтори, пожалуйста.
(Povtori, pozhaluysta.)

Or simply:
Что? (Chto?) – “Sorry?”

Could you repeat a little slower, please?
Можно ещё раз, но помедленнее, пожалуйста?
(Mozhno yeshchyo raz, no pomedlenneye, pozhaluysta?)

I don’t understand.
Я не понимаю.
(Ya ne ponimayu.)

I’m sorry; I don’t know.
Извините, я не знаю.
(Izvinite, ya ne znayu.)

Asking for Directions

  • Cultural Note:

It’s time to introduce another important courtesy-related word: «Извините» (Izvinite) – “Excuse me.” It serves the same purpose as its English equivalent and can be used before you “bother” a stranger.

Interestingly, we use the same word for “sorry” as well.

Excuse me, where is the restroom?
Извините, где здесь туалет?
(Izvinite, gde zdes’ tualet?)

Excuse me, I’m looking for the subway.
Извините, я ищу метро.
(Izvinite, ya ishchu metro.)

Is there an ATM around here?
Здесь неподалёку есть банкомат?
(Zdes’ nepodalyoku yest’ bankomat?)

Excuse me, how can I get to the park?
Извините, как добраться до парка?
(Izvinite, kak dobrat’sya do parka?)

Is it far?
Это далеко?
(Eto daleko?)

➤ Check our lesson on directions, and learn how to say “turn right” and “turn left” as well. Fewer chances to get lost in town!

A Tourist Holding and Examining a Map

You’re in Saint Petersburg, and you’re looking for The Hermitage.
You have no GPS, and the map won’t help you since it’s obviously not the map of Saint Petersburg.
How would you ask somebody for directions?

6. What’s Next?

Browse our collection of lessons to learn even more Russian beginner phrases. I bet you’d be especially interested in our Survival Phrases series! It covers more topics that would be particularly useful while traveling in Russia: riding the bus, catching a taxi, greeting a business partner, and more.

After this, you can start to expand your vocabulary and explore some basic grammar. But no need to dive into the grammar just yet: What’s the point of knowing how to combine words if you have no words to combine? At the beginner level, it might be more efficient to focus on word chunks and set phrases instead, like the ones mentioned in this article.

Also, if you happen to have any questions about the Russian beginner phrases we covered, our teachers will help you dispel any doubts. With RussianPod101’s Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, you get personal 1-on-1 coaching with a tutor. Feel free to ask anything about Russian grammar, vocabulary, or culture—our teachers are there to help you! You can also choose to receive assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and voice recording tasks to improve your pronunciation. 

Too many benefits to fit in one paragraph—just give it a try!

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 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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