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Negation in Russian: Don’t Be a “Yes-man”

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about the new experiences and discoveries that the magic “yes”-word can draw us toward. But sometimes we have to say no. Be it an invitation to a boring party, your kid begging for a 57th toy at the store, or a fast-food clerk offering you extra double mustard for your burger. 

“No.”

With me, you’ll learn about the subtleties of negation in Russian. Together we’ll unearth the simple ways of negating words and statements, discuss the infamous double negation, and go over the most common negative words and expressions. I’ve also saved negation in questions and imperative sentences for last. You’ll be well-prepared, on all fronts!

A German Black Forest Cake

Can you say no to this?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. 3 Simple Ways to Say “No”
  2. Double Negation: Negative Pronouns and Adverbs
  3. Negation in Questions & Using the Negative Imperative
  4. More Typical Negative Phrases for the Road
  5. What’s Next?

1. 3 Simple Ways to Say “No”

Yes, you have some variety here. But don’t hold your breath: they’re not interchangeable, and each has its own function in the sentence.

1. НЕ (versatile simple negation)

We use не for simple negation. In other words, to make the opposite of a word. Just placing it in front of the word you want to negate will do the trick.

Verbs

  • Не думаю. – “I don’t think so.”
    (Ne dumayu)
  • Я его не вижу. – “I don’t see him.”
    (Ya yego ne vizhu)

Nouns

  • Это не кот, а собака. – “It’s not a cat, it’s a dog.”
    (Eto ne kot, a sobaka)
  • Это самолёт, а не птица. – “It’s a plane, not a bird.”
    (Eto samolyot, a ne ptitsa)

Pronouns

  • Это не я. – “It wasn’t me.”
    (Eto ne ya)
  • Это не его дом. – “That isn’t his house.”
    (Eto ne yego dom)

Numbers

  • Я тут не первый раз. – “It’s not my first time here.”
    (Ya tut ne pervyy raz)
  • Их не двое, а трое. – “There are three of them, not two.”
    (Ikh ne dvoye, a troye)

Adjectives

  • неинтересный фильм – “not an interesting movie”
    (neinteresnyy fil’m)
  • несмешная шутка – “not a funny joke”
    (nesmeshnaya shutka)

Adverbs

  • Это не всегда хорошо. – “That’s not always good.”
    (Eto ne vsegda khorosho)
  • Пушкин известен не только в России. – “Pushkin is famous not only in Russia.”
    (Pushkin izvesten ne tol’ko v Rossii)

You might’ve noticed that sometimes we separate the particle не from the other word, and sometimes we merge them. At this moment, just remember that we write не separately with most verbs, nouns, pronouns, and numbers. Adverbs and adjectives are much more capricious in this regard. It’s difficult to even sum it up in one paragraph, so let’s get back to it once you’ve leveled up to the advanced stage. That’s ‘simple’ negation, right?

2. НИ (strong negation)

This particle for strong Russian negation is mostly used for emphasis.

Rejecting both options

  • Мне не нравится ни то, ни другое. – “I don’t like either of them.”
    (Mne ne nravitsya ni to, ni drugoye)
  • Не хочу ни торт, ни печенье. – “I want neither cake, nor cookies.”
    (Ne khochu ni tort, ni pechen’ye)

“Not a single…”

  • Он ни разу не позвонил. – “He didn’t call even once.”
    (On ni razu ne pozvonil)
  • Она ни слова не сказала. – “She didn’t say (a single) word.”
    (Ona ni slova ne skazala)

“No matter…”

  • Как бы мы ни старались, ничего не получалось. – “No matter how hard we tried, nothing worked.”
    (Kak by my ni staralis’, nichego ne poluchalos’)
  • Я буду с тобой, что бы ни случилось. – “I’ll be with you no matter what.”
    (Ya budu s toboy, chto by ni sluchilos’)

НИ usually triggers a double negation. You can try to guess what this means by looking at the examples above, and then check the next chapter to see if you were right.

3. НЕТ (negation of the whole sentence)

Used as a negative reply.

  • – Ты дома? (Ty doma?) – “Are you home?”
    – Нет. (Net) – “No.”
  • – Кушать хочешь? (Kushat’ khochesh’?) – “Are you hungry?”
    – Нет. (Net) – “No.”

Нет is pretty neutral overall, but if you want to sound more polite in a formal setting, you can use: 

Нет, извините. (Net, izvinite) – “No, sorry.” 

Or:

Нет, спасибо. (Net, spasibo) – “No, thank you.”

A Black and White Cat with Green Eyes

That’s a dog. Am I right?
You can try to convince me otherwise in Russian.

2. Double Negation: Negative Pronouns and Adverbs

When the strong negation particle ни (or negative words starting with ни) is used together with the simple negation particle (не), this creates double negation in Russian. Negations stack up instead of canceling each other out. In a sense, it’s like a cumulative effect.

Let’s say you’re in a dark room and can only move by touch. In English, you’d say “I see nothing.” In Russian, it would be:

  • Я ничего не вижу. (Ya nichego ne vizhu) [lit. “I don’t see nothing.”] 

That’s how it works.

Double simple не, however, might have the opposite effect: they can be mutually destructive.

  • Я не мог не засмеяться. – “I couldn’t help but laugh.” [lit. “I couldn’t not laugh.”]
    (Ya ne mog ne zasmeyat’sya)
  • Не могу об этом не думать. – “I can’t stop thinking about it.” [lit. “I can’t not think about it.”]
    (Ne mogu ob etom ne dumat’)

Now, what are these negative words starting with ни? Grammatically speaking, some of them belong to pronouns and some—to adverbs. The biggest difference is that pronouns usually decline (change their form depending on the grammatical case) while adverbs don’t. But for your convenience, I’ve put them all in one place, and left a note as well.

Wiktionary can help you with the declensions. Just copy/paste or type the Russian word in the search box, then find “Declensions.” Try it out with the word “никто,” for instance.

Also, some negative pronouns and adverbs have a ‘sibling word’ with one letter that is different. The stréss shifts, changing the pronunciation of the word together with its meaning. Some of these words ‘take the wrong path’ and lose their negative attribute to become a completely new word.

Никтó (nikto) – “nobody” [declines]

Никто не пришёл. 
(Nikto ne prishyol)
“Nobody came.”
Нéкто (nekto) – “somebody unfamiliar / little-known”

Некто постучал в дверь. 
(Nekto postuchal v dver’)
“Somebody knocked.”
Никогó (nikogo) – “nobody” [“никто” in Genitive]

Дома никого нет. 
(Doma nikogo net) 
“There is nobody home.”
Нéкого (nekogo) – “there is nobody to…” [declines]

Ей некого позвать на день рождения. 
(Yey nekogo pozvat’ na den’ rozhdeniya)
“She has nobody to invite to her birthday.”

❗️no double negation with “некого”
Ничтó (nichto) – “nothing” [declines]

Ничто его не беспокоит. 
(Nichto yego ne bespokoit)
“Nothing worries him.”
Нéчто (nechto) – “something”

У меня уже есть нечто подобное.
(U menya uzhe yest’ nechto podobnoye)
“I already have something similar.”
Ничегó (nichego) – “nothing” [“ничто” in Genitive]

Ничего не осталось. 
(Nichego ne ostalos’)
“There’s nothing left.”
Нéчего (nechego) – “to have nothing to…” [declines]

Мне нечего надеть. 
(Mne nechego nadet’)
“I have nothing to wear.”

❗️no double negation with “нечего”
Нигдé (nigde) – “nowhere”

Его нигде нет. 
(Yego nigde net)
“He’s nowhere to be found.”
Нéгде (negde) – “there is no place to…”

Ему негде жить. 
(Yemu negde zhit’) 
“He has no place to live.”
Никудá (nikuda) – “(to) nowhere”

Никуда не пойдёшь, ты наказан. 
(Nikuda ne poydyosh’, ty nakazan) 
“You aren’t going anywhere, you’re grounded.”
Нéкуда (nekuda) – “there is nowhere to…”

В этом городе некуда пойти вечером. 
(V etom gorode nekuda poyti vecherom) 
“In this town, there is no place to go out at night.”
Никогда (nikogda) – “never”

Я никогда не был в России. 
(Ya nikogda ne byl v Rossii) 
“I’ve never been to Russia.”
Нéкогда (nekogda) – “no time to…”

Мне некогда этим заниматься. 
(Mne nekogda etim zanimat’sya) 
“I have no time for this.”
Никак (nikak) – “by no means,” “impossible”

Никак не могу найти свои ключи. 
(Nikak ne mogu nayti svoi klyuchi)
“It’s impossible to find my keys.”
Нискóлько (niskol’ko) – “not a bit”

Мне нисколько не страшно. 
(Mne niskol’ko ne strashno) 
“I’m not scared a bit.”
Нéсколько (neskol’ko) – “some,” “a couple” [declines]

Тут есть несколько интересных мест. 
(Tut yest’ neskol’ko interesnykh mest)
“There are a couple of interesting places here.”
Никакой (nikakoy) – “none,” “not one” [declines like an adjective, combines with a noun]

У меня нет никаких идей. 
(U menya net nikakikh idey)
“I don’t have any ideas.”
Ничей (nichey) – “nobody’s” [declines, has a gender and number, used with a noun or separately]

Ему не нужны ничьи советы. 
(Yemu ne nuzhny nich’i sovety) 
“He doesn’t need anybody’s advice.”

A: Это чей карандаш? (Eto chey karandash?) – “Whose pencil is it?”
B: Ничей. (Nichey) – “Nobody’s.”
Нéзачем (nezachem) – “there is no need to…”

Незачем об этом беспокоиться. 
(Nezachem ob etom bespokoit’sya) 
“There is no need to worry about that.”
Ниотку́да (niotkuda) – “out of nowhere”

Он появился как будто из ниоткуда. 
(On poyavilsya kak budto iz niotkuda) 
“It’s like he appeared out of nowhere.”
Нéоткуда (neotkuda) – “from nowhere”

Помощи ждать неоткуда. 
(Pomoshchi zhdat’ neotkuda) 
“There won’t be any help coming (from anywhere).”

A Guy Looking into a Mostly Empty Fridge at Night

How would you complain in Russian about the absence of food in the fridge?
One of the phrases mentioned above might come in handy.

3. Negation in Questions & Using the Negative Imperative

Russian word order is a blessing. It’s relatively flexible, yet it doesn’t change according to the punctuation mark at the end of the sentence; it can be subtle, but is overall easy to get along with. So why this ode to the word order all of a sudden? 

Right, the questions. When you ask a negative question, nothing changes in terms of word order. Just place the negation where it belongs: simple negation in front of the word you wish to negate, other negative words depending on the context.

  • Почему ты не ешь? – “Why aren’t you eating?”
    (Pochemu ty ne yesh’?)
  • Тебе не с кем пойти? – “Don’t you have anybody to go with?”
    (Tebe ne s kem poyti?)

An interesting thing about negative Russian questions is that sometimes negation can actually mean affirmation. Gently drawing your attention to the examples before you get confused:

  • Не хочешь чего-нибудь выпить? = Хочешь чего-нибудь выпить? 
    ([Ne] khochesh’ chego-nibud’ vypit’?)
    “Would you like to drink something?”
  • Ты не работал вчера? = Ты работал вчера?
    (Ty [ne] rabotal vchera?)
    “Did you work yesterday?”
  • Не хочешь куда-нибудь сходить? = Хочешь куда-нибудь сходить?
    ([Ne] khochesh’ kuda-nibud’ skhodit’?)
    “Would you like to go out?”

That might be a hard pill to swallow. But seriously, when in doubt, stick to the ‘affirmative’ questions. 

➤ By the way, we have an article about Russian questions if the topic has piqued your interest.

The same formula works for the imperative sentences. When you don’t want somebody to do something, simply put не in front of the ‘prohibited’ action.

  • Не смотри! (Ne smotri!) – “Don’t look!” [informal]
  • Не ходи туда! (Ne khodi tuda!) – “Don’t go there!” [informal]
  • Не смейтесь! (Ne smeytes’!) – “Don’t laugh!” [formal]

➤ If you struggle to understand how the Russian imperative works, you can figure it out with one of our lessons in the Upper Beginner series.

A Guy Flirting with a Female Colleague

Ask your Russian colleague out. Give it a shot; you have a hint in this chapter.

4. More Typical Negative Phrases for the Road

(That are not always negative)

To wrap up our article on negation in the Russian language, let’s go over a few negative phrases that will come in handy on a daily basis. 

  • Ничего! (Nichego) – “It’s okay.”

– Прости, я не смогу прийти.
(Prosti, ya ne smogu priyti)
“Sorry, I won’t be able to come.”

– Ничего!
(Nichego)
“It’s okay.”

  • Очень даже ничего. (Ochen’ dazhe nichego) – “Not half bad.”

А эта машина очень даже ничего. – “Well, this car isn’t half bad.”
(A eta mashina ochen’ dazhe nichego)

  • У меня нет… (U menya net) – “I don’t have…”

У меня нет телевизора.
(U menya net televizora)
“I don’t have a TV.”

У меня нет девушки.
(U menya net devushki)
“I don’t have a girlfriend.”

  • больше не… (bol’she ne) – “not… anymore”

Я больше не могу есть.
(Ya bol’she ne mogu yest’)
“I can’t eat anymore.”

Она больше не может ждать.
(Ona bol’she ne mozhet zhdat’)
“She can’t wait anymore.”

  • ещё не… (yeshchyo ne) – “not yet”

Я ещё не готов.
(Ya yeshchyo ne gotov)
“I’m not ready yet.”

Они ещё не пообедали.
(Oni yeshchyo ne poobedali)
“They haven’t had lunch yet.”

  • почти не… (pochti ne) – “hardly,” “barely”

Я почти не спал прошлой ночью.
(Ya pochti ne spal proshloy noch’yu)
“I barely slept last night.”

Я почти не говорю по-русски.
(Ya pochti ne govoryu po-russki)
“I barely speak any Russian.”

  • совсем не… (sovsem ne) – “not at all”

Я совсем об этом не подумал. 
(Ya sovsem ob etom ne podumal)
“I haven’t thought about it at all.”

Я совсем не устал. 
(Ya sovsem ne ustal)
“I’m not tired at all.”

  • чуть не… (chut’ ne) – “nearly”

Я чуть не упал.
(Ya chut’ ne upal)
“I nearly fell.”

Я чуть не проспал. 
(Ya chut’ ne prospal)
“I nearly overslept.”

  • не-а (ne-a) – “nope”

– У тебя есть ручка?
(U tebya yest’ ruchka?)
“Do you have a pen?”

– Не-а.
(Ne-a)
“Nope.”

A Guy Slipping on the Wet Floor with a Wet Floor Sign Beside Him

Я чуть не упал!

5. What’s Next?

Have you learned a lot about Russian negation today? I hope for this one, the answer will be affirmative! 

Let’s do a quick recap. 

  • For a simple negation, you put НЕ in front of the word.
  • For a strong negation, you use НЕ plus НИ.
  • For a negative reply, you say НЕТ.

There are also a bunch of Russian negative pronouns and adverbs that can be used in a sentence. How many can you recall right away, without peeking into the notes? Some have a ‘sibling’ word that might seem similar, but they’re pronounced differently, so pay attention to the stress! The very meaning of the word depends on it, after all. No pressure.

Negation doesn’t cause much trouble in questions and imperative sentences. Just a small two-letter particle is placed in front of the word. 

By the way, if you still have more questions about Russian negation, 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 opt to receive assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and voice recording tasks to improve your pronunciation. There are too many benefits to fit in one paragraph, just give it a try!

Eager to learn more? RussianPod101 has more to offer! 

  • A video on word order, negative sentences, and questions. Three-in-one.

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.

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

The Only Guide to Russian Tenses You’ll Ever Need

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Let me guess. You’re at a stage where you already know how to introduce yourself and talk about your family, and now you’re ready to get down to real business. Hesitating between the verb conjugation and noun cases, your choice fell on Russian tenses. Fair enough. You need a way to tell the world about your past adventures, current feelings, and ambitious plans. Stick with me, and I’ll show you how it’s done.

We’ll go step by step, starting with the Russian verb basics like the infinitive, person, number, and verbal aspects before seamlessly switching to the tenses: present, past, and future. Russian tenses are not a piece of cake, but we’re going to have one bite at a time anyway. Shall we?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. Basic Concepts
  2. Present
  3. Past
  4. Future
  5. What’s Next?

1. Basic Concepts

No need to sugarcoat it: Russian verb conjugation might seem intimidating. However, you can breathe a sigh of relief: there are only three tenses in Russian—present, past, and future. Before we dive into the tenses, though, let’s cover some basic info on verbs to help you better understand the logic behind the tense formation.

A- The Infinitive Form and the Verb Groups

When you look up a verb in a dictionary, you find its infinitive form. In the world of conjugation, the infinitive will be your guide and best buddy. This is because verb tenses are formed by modifying the infinitive (usually changing its ending), and sometimes the infinitive is helpful in identifying the conjugation group of the verb.

    “Conjugation group, you said?”

Yes, there are two conjugation groups in Russian, each with its own set of endings. We didn’t waste much time thinking of how to name them, so they’re simply “Group 1” and “Group 2.” In most cases, you can predict which group a verb belongs to by looking at the ending of its infinitive.

Russian verbs: First and second conjugation groups
Group 1

Endings -еть, -ать, -ять, -уть, -ти
(-yet’, -at’, -yat’, -ut’, -ti)

Examples:
Богатеть (bogatet’) – “to get richer”
Играть (igrat’) – “to play”
Гулять (gulyat’) – “to stroll”
Гнуть (gnut’) – “to bend”
Ползти (polzti) – “to crawl”
Group 2

Most verbs ending in -ить (-it’)

Examples: 
Говорить (govorit’) – “to speak”Учить (uchit’) – “to learn” / “to teach”

11 exceptions, which are verbs that seemingly belong to Group 1:
  • Дышать (dyshat’) – “to breathe”
  • Держать (derzhat’) – “to hold”
  • Гнать (gnat’) – “to drive fast”
  • Ненавидеть (nenavidet’) – “to hate”
  • Слышать (slyshat’) – “to hear”
  • Вертеть (vertet’) – “to spin something”
  • Смотреть (smotret’) – “to look”
  • Видеть (videt’) – “to see”
  • Обидеть (obidet’) – “to offend”
  • Терпеть (terpet’) – “to tolerate”
  • Зависеть (zaviset’) – “to depend”

Pro tips

1. To start, just keep in mind that most verbs ending in -ить belong to Group 2, and the rest belong to Group 1. To level up, try to remember the 11 exceptions as well!

2. Many infinitives end with -ть, but sometimes -ться can pop up. It’s a typical ending for reflexive verbs like одеваться (odevat’sya), meaning “to dress.” Just ignore the -ся part for now.

B- Person and Number

The ending a verb takes depends on the person and number as well. Here’s a list of possible ‘person + number’ combinations represented by personal pronouns. Keep in mind that any pronoun can be replaced by a noun (for instance, “my parents” instead of “they”).

Pronoun typeRussianEnglish
1st person singularя (ya)I
2nd person singularты (ty)you (casual)
3rd person singularон, она, оно (on, ona, ono)he, she, it
1st person pluralмы (my)we
2nd person pluralвы (vy)you (plural) / you (formal)
3rd person pluralони (oni)they

Examples: 

  • я читаю (ya chitayu) – “I read”
  • мы читаем (my chitayem) – “we read”
  • студенты читают (studenty chitayut) – “the students read”

➤ Check out our list of the Most Useful Pronouns if you would also like to hear how these pronouns are pronounced.

A Couple Sitting on the Sofa Reading Together

oни читают (oni chitayut) – “they read”

C- Aspect

Apparently, the Russian tense system seemed a bit too simple, so we decided to implement the concept of aspect. 

There are two verb aspects in Russian: imperfective and perfective

The imperfective aspect represents an ongoing or repeating action.

The perfective aspect usually indicates a completed action.

Can you think of something similar in English? (Take a second to think.) Right, a similar concept is used in English with the contrast of continuous/simple and perfect tenses.

Compare:

  • я ел (ya yel) – “I was eating”
  • я поел (ya poyel) – “I’ve eaten”
  • я буду читать (ya budu chitat’) – “I will be reading”
  • я прочитаю (ya prochitayu) – “I’ll finish reading”

Try to guess which forms are perfective and which ones are imperfective. How did you arrive at your answer?

❗️ Aspects are only relevant when we talk about the past and the future. We don’t use aspects in the present.

You must’ve been attentive enough to notice that each perfective verb had a prefix added. This is, indeed, the usual way of making a perfective form. Suffixes are used as well, but they’re not as common.

D- The Part that Changes

Again, you can try to guess a verb’s type by the ending of its infinitive form. This would work in most cases. Then, you’d usually just remove the -ть / -ти part of the infinitive to make the infinitive stem and add a corresponding ending to it. Easy-peasy.

However, some verb forms require the present tense stem. You can find it by cutting off the ending of the verb’s third person plural form (“they”). 

Yes, you didn’t misread it: To find the stem, you need a verb that is already conjugated. That’s the surefire way to get your conjugations right. This stem is used to create a variety of verb forms: present, future, imperative, and some others. Sometimes, the infinitive stem and the present tense stem end up being the same, but don’t let your guard down!

Context Conjugator will support you during the early stages of verb conjugation. But learning to see the conjugation patterns on your own will make your life easier in the long run.

The formula

The present tense stem [for the present and the simple future]
Regular verbs

In third-person plural, remove the last two letters and add the new ending:

“To play”: играть [infinitive] > играют [third plural] > игра [stem]
“To learn”: учить [infinitive] > учат [third plural] > уч [stem]

Reflexive verbs

In third-person plural, remove the reflexive part -ся and two more letters. Add the new ending, place -ся or -сь (for “I” and “you” formal) back:

“To dress”: одеваться [infinitive] > одеваются [third plural] > одева [stem] + ся / -сь
я одеваюсь – “I dress”
ты одеваешься – “you dress”
The infinitive stem [for the past]
Regular verbs

Remove the last two letters from the infinitive (usually -ть or -ти):

“To play”: играть [infinitive] > игра [stem]
“To learn”: учить [infinitive] > учи [stem]
Reflexive verbs

Remove the reflexive part -ся and two more letters from the infinitive (usually -ть or -ти), then put -ся (for “I” and “he”) or -сь back:

“To dress”: одеваться [infinitive] > одева[stem] + -ся / -сь
“To study”: учиться [infinitive] > учи [stem] + -ся / -сь

он учился – “he studied”
они одевались – “they dressed”

A Man Contemplating a Decision with a Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other

Играть или учиться? (Igrat’ ili uchit’sya?)
“To play or to study?”

2. Present

A- When?

We use the present tense for:

  1. General facts

    Ночью на небе появляются звёзды. — “At night, the stars appear in the sky.”
    (Noch’yu na nebe poyavlyayutsya zvyozdy.)
  1. Habitual actions

    Каждое утро я пью кофе. — “Every morning I drink coffee.”
    (Kazhdoye utro ya p’yu kofe.)
  1. The present state of affairs

    Я живу с родителями. — “I live with my parents.”
    (Ya zhivu s roditelyami.)
  1. An action that’s happening right now

    Мы смотрим фильм. — “We’re watching a movie.”
    (My smotrim fil’m.)
  1. An action that’s been taking place for a period of time

    Мы гуляем уже три часа. — “We’ve been walking for three hours already.”
    (My gulyayem uzhe tri chasa.)
  1. Timetables and future arrangements

    Поезд отправляется в 7 утра. — “The train departs at 7 a.m.”
    (Poyezd otpravlyayetsya v 7 utra.)

    Завтра мы идём в музей. — “We’re going to the museum tomorrow.”
    (Zavtra my idyom v muzey.)

As you can see, the Russian present tense is like the English present simple, continuous, and perfect continuous wrapped up into one tense. Yes, 3-in-1! 

B- How?

Finally, we’ve made it to the present tense endings that we use for each conjugation group. Remember that, ideally, you should work with the present tense stem (see “Basic Concepts”). Sometimes the two types of stems coincide, but if you’re only relying on the infinitive stem, the conjugation results might be unpredictable.

Group 1Group 2
играть (igrat’) – “to play”

я играю* (ya igrayu) – “I play”
ты играешь (ty igrayesh’) – “you play” [informal]
он играет (on igrayet) – “he plays”
мы играем (my igrayem) – “we play”
вы играете (vy igrayete) – “you play” [formal, pl.]
они играют* (oni igrayut) – “they play”
учить (uchit’) – “to learn,” “to teach”

я учу* (ya uchu) – “I learn”
ты учишь (ty uchish’) – “you learn” [informal]
она учит (ona uchit) – “she learns”
мы учим (my uchim) – “we learn”
вы учите (vy uchite) – “you learn” [formal, pl.]
они учат* (oni uchat) – “they learn”
* Use the endings -ю, -ют after vowels
or the soft sign (я думаю, они читают).

Use -у, -ут after consonants (я расту).
* Use the endings or -ат after the letters Ж, Ш, Ч, Щ, and all hard consonants.

Use and -ят after soft consonants and vowels.

Look at the endings once again and try to see the similarities between the two groups. If you manage to figure out the patterns on your own, the rules will stick better. It’s also an extremely satisfying experience to solve a problem by yourself, so give it a try.

Anyway, you were right if you said that the only difference is that from the first group changes into for the second group, and -у/-ю is replaced with -а/-я.

A Man Drinking Coffee Early in the Morning

Fill in the blank:
Каждое утро я _______ . (Kazhdoye utro ya ________.)
“Every morning I ___.”

3. Past

A- When?

We use the past tense in Russian to describe:

  1. An action that happened regularly in the past

    Она каждый день занималась спортом. — “She used to do sports every day.”
    (Ona kazhdyy den’ zanimalas’ sportom.)
  1. An action that began and ended in the past (the result is not important)

    Вчера я гулял в парке. — “Yesterday I walked in a park.”
    (Vchera ya gulyal v parke.)
  1. An action that was occurring for a period of time in the past

    Я ждал тебя весь день. — “I’ve been waiting for you all day.”
    (Ya zhdal tebya ves’ den’.)
  1. An action that began and ended in the past (the result is important, and the completeness of the action is emphasized)

    Я сходил в магазин. — “I’ve been to the shop.” [you can see that my hands are full of bags]
    (Ya skhodil v magazin.)

    Когда мы пришли, он уже ушёл. — “When we arrived, he had already left.”
    (Kogda my prishli, on uzhe ushel.)

As you can see, the Russian past tense is quite different from the English one. It’s a mixture of the English present perfect, past perfect, past continuous, past simple, and some other tenses. No need to draw parallels between the two languages here. It’s better to try grasping the main idea behind it: the action happened and was left in the past, even if this past was there just a second ago.

Also, if you remember what we covered about aspects, you can see that the first three instances refer to the imperfective past and the last one to the perfective.

➤ Confused about the aspects? Don’t hesitate to backtrack to the “Basic Concepts” section.

B- How?

To form Russian verbs in the past tense, we use the infinitive stem that we were talking about in the “Basic Concepts” section.

You need to drop the infinitive ending -ть and add the following endings instead:

    → masculine: (-l)
    → feminine: -ла (-la)
    → neuter: -ло (-lo)
    → plural: -ли (-li)

❗️ The past is the only tense where gender plays a role.

Groups 1 and 2 [same endings]
играть (igrat’) – “to play”

я играл(a) (ya igral-a) – “I played” [m/f]
ты играл(а) (ty igral-a) – “you played” [inf.] [m/f]
он играл (on igral) – “he played”
она играла (ona igrala) – “she played”
оно играло (ono igralo) – “it played”
мы играли (my igrali) – “we played”
вы играли (vy igrali) – “you played” [form., pl.]
они играли (oni igrali) – “they played”
учить (uchit’) – “to learn,” “to teach”

я учил(а) (ya uchil-a) – “I learned” [m/f]
ты учил(а) (ty uchil-a) – “you learned” [inf.] [m/f]
он учил (on uchil) – “he learned”
она учила (ona uchila) – “she learned”
оно учило (ono uchilo) – “it learned”
мы учили (my uchili) – “we learned”
вы учили (vy uchili) – “you learned” [form., pl.]
они учили (oni uchili) – “they learned”

C- Additional notes

1. If the infinitive ending is -чь, the ending changes to or . If there’s one or more е in the word, the last one will become ё. However, it only concerns the masculine form.

печь (pech’) – “to bake” → пёк (pyok) – “was baking” [m] (пекла [f], пекло [n], пекли [pl])

2. If the infinitive ending is -ти, all you need to do is drop the ending. To create the feminine, neuter, and plural forms, just add -ла, -ло, or -ли respectively. 

ползти (polzti) – “to crawl” → полз (polz) – “crawled” [m] (ползла [f], ползло [n], ползли [pl])

3. Many words with the -ти ending change their stems while forming the past, so try to memorize them.

идти (idti) – “to go” → шёл (shyol) – “went” [m] (шла [f], шло [n], шли [pl])

4.  A perfective form usually turns up with a prefix, but the endings normally stay the same. What changes, however, is the meaning.

Compare: imperfective > perfective

  • есть (yest’) – “to eat”
  • я ел (ya yel) – “I was eating” [masculine]
    я поел (ya poyel) – “I’ve eaten”

    я ела (ya yela) – “I was eating” [feminine]
    я поела (ya poyela) – “I’ve eaten”

  • он ел (on yel) – “he was eating”
    он поел (on poyel) – “he’s eaten”
  • она ела (ona yela) – “she was eating”
    она поела (ona poyela) – “she’s eaten”

  • оно ело (ono yelo) – “it was eating”
    оно поело (ono poyelo) – “it has eaten”

5. The verb “to be” deserves special attention. We mostly use it in the past and the future with adjectives and adverbs. It also serves as a means of making compound future forms. We’ll look deeper into them in the next chapter (“Future”).

The verb Быть (Byt’) – To be
я был(а) (ya byl-a) – “I was”
ты был(а) (ty byl-a) – “you were” [inf.] [m/f]
он был (on byl) – “he was”
она была (ona byla) – “she was”
оно было (ono bylo) – “it was”
мы были (my byli) – “we were”
вы были (vy byli) – “you were” [form., pl.]
они были (oni byli) – “they were”
Examples:
  • Там было холодно. — “It was cold out there.”
    (Tam bylo kholodno.)
  • Я был дома. — “I was home.”
    (Ya byl doma.)
  • Это было для нас хорошим уроком. — “It was a good lesson for us.”
    (Eto bylo dlya nas khoroshim urokom.)

A Woman in Winter Clothes Shivering in the Snow

How do you say “It was cold out there” in Russian?

4. Future

A- When?

We use the future tense in Russian for:

  1. An action that will be ongoing or repeated at some point in the future [imperfective aspect]

    Завтра утром я буду на работе. — “Tomorrow morning, I’ll be at work.”
    (Zavtra utrom ya budu na rabote.)

    Мы будем каждый день ходить в ресторан. — “We will go to a restaurant every day.”
    (My budem kazhdyy den’ khodit’ v restoran.)
  1. An action that will be finished at some point in the future [perfective aspect]

    К 7 вечера мы уже закончим. — “We’ll be done by 7 p.m.”
    (K semi verchera my uzhe zakonchim.)

B- How?

There are two ways to form the future tense in Russian.

Way 1: Compound future [for the imperfective aspect]

An appropriate form of the verb быть (byt’), meaning “to be,” + the infinitive 

Groups 1 and 2 (identical formation)
1. играть (igrat’) – “to play”

я буду играть (ya budu igrat’) – “I will play”
ты будешь играть (ty budesh’ igrat’) – “you will play” [inf.]
он будет играть (on budet igrat’) – “he will play”
мы будем играть (my budem igrat’) – “we will play”
вы будете играть (vy budete igrat’) – “you will play” [form., pl.]
они будут играть (oni budut igrat’) – “they will play”
2. учить (uchit’) – “to learn,” “to teach”

я буду учить (ya budu uchit’) – “I will learn”
ты будешь учить (ty budesh’ uchit’) – “you will learn” [inf.]
он будет учить (on budet uchit’) – “he will learn”
мы будем учить (my budem uchit’) – “we will learn”
вы будете учить (vy budete uchit’) – “you will learn” [form., pl.]
они будут учить (oni budut uchit’) – “they will learn”

❗️ The same works for adjectives and adverbs as well:

  • Там будет холодно. — “It will be cold out there.”
    (Tam budet kholodno.)
  • Я буду дома. — “I will be home.”
    (Ya budu doma.)
  • Это будет для нас хорошим уроком. — “It’ll be a good lesson for us.”
    (Eto budet dlya nas khoroshim urokom.)

Way 2: Simple future [for the perfective aspect]

The perfective form of the verb + the present tense endings

Group 1
играть (igrat’) – “to play”

я поиграю* (ya poigrayu) – “I will play a bit”
ты поиграешь (ty poigrayesh’) – “you will play a bit” [inf.]
он поиграет (on poigrayet) – “he will play a bit”
мы поиграем (my poigrayem) – “we will play a bit”
вы поиграете (vy poigrayete) – “you will play a bit” [form., pl.]
они поиграют* (oni poigrayut) – “they will play a bit”
* Use the endings -ю, -ют after vowels
or the soft sign (я думаю, они читают).

Use -у, -ут after consonants (я расту).
Group 2
учить (uchit’) – “to learn,” “to teach”

я выучу* (ya vyuchu) – “I will learn”
ты выучишь (ty vyuchish’) – “you will learn” [inf.]
она выучит (ona vyuchit) – “she will learn”
мы выучим (my vyuchim) – “we will learn”
вы выучите (vy vyuchite) – “you will learn” [form., pl.]
они выучат* (oni vyuchat) – “they will learn”
* Use the endings and -ат after the letters Ж, Ш, Ч, Щ, and all hard consonants.

Use and -ят after soft consonants and vowels.

There’s no clear answer as to which prefix to use with the perfective form. The meaning might differ drastically depending on the prefix.

Compare:

  • он идёт (on idyot) – “he is walking”
  • он придёт (on pridyot) – “he will come”
  • он уйдёт (on uydyot) – “he will leave”
  • он отойдёт (on otoydyot) – “he will stand back”

My advice is to just learn the verb together with the prefix and the meaning it brings. Treat it as a new word. You’ll soon start seeing the logic behind many prefixes because they’re not completely random. Similarly to the particles of English phrasal verbs, they tend to have a specific meaning. For instance, the prefix по- often indicates that an action was short: 

поиграть (poigrat’) – “to play a bit”
почитать (pochitat’) – “to read a bit”
поспать (pospat’) – “to sleep a bit”

A Couple Getting Done Playing a Video Game Together

Поиграем? (Poigrayem?)
Shall we play?

5. What’s Next?

How do you feel about Russian tenses now? Are you ready to talk about present, past, and future events in Russian? In this article, we’ve covered the most typical cases of verb conjugation, mostly focusing on regular verbs. But if you feel like looking deeper into the topic, feel free to see our list of helpful resources below.

While reading, you must have noticed many similarities between the Russian and English systems of tenses. Try to remember those by mere analogy, and for the rest, I encourage you to look for the patterns in each tense. There is some logic behind them.

Obviously, mastering the Russian tenses and remembering all the endings would require lots of practice. This is where our RussianPod101 teachers can come to your aid! With our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, you get personal one-on-one coaching with a tutor. Feel free to ask any questions you have about Russian tenses or verb conjugation—our tutors are there to help you! You can also request some grammar and vocabulary exercises to drill the conjugation patterns into your mind. In addition to this, you’ll receive some speaking and writing assignments to boost your Russian skills on all fronts! Give it a try!

Eager to learn more? 

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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How Long Does it Take to Learn Russian?

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Russian is not an easy language to learn. It often takes much longer to master than one might imagine when first starting out. 

If you’re like most of us, your time is quite limited and you might be wondering this all-too-common question among aspiring learners: How long does it take to learn Russian? 

Even though this question has no definite answer, we’ll try to discuss it as thoroughly as possible in the article below. We’ll talk about the different factors that can affect the speed of your learning progress, how long it takes on average to achieve each level of Russian, and how to learn Russian fast and effectively

Let’s go!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. How Long Will it Take to Learn Russian? 3 Defining Factors.
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Elementary Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Advanced Level?
  5. Conclusion

How Long Will it Take to Learn Russian? 3 Defining Factors.

First of all, let’s look at three of the biggest factors that impact how long it takes to learn Russian. Ask yourself how each of these points applies to you or your situation; this will give you a better idea of what to expect for the road ahead. 

Language Experience

Since you’re reading this article, you must know a good bit of English. If English is the only language you speak, then you might not like what we’re going to say next. Unfortunately, learning Russian can be a real challenge for native English speakers

This is because the two languages are not at all similar. As a Slavic language, Russian has very specific pronunciation, grammar, and syntax rules that you’ll need time to get used to. The good news is that you’re not alone. Just think of all the other people reading this article who are thinking about learning Russian (or who have already taken the plunge). 

    → Any time you have a question to ask or a frustration to vent, you can head over to the RussianPod101 forum to chat with other learners and native speakers.

Now, how long would it take to learn Russian if you know a second (or even a third) non-Slavic language in addition to English? In this case, you’ll face many of the same problems but will also have one big advantage. Because you know more than one language, your brain is already accustomed to the process of studying foreign lexicology, grammar, etc., so it will take you less time to pick up Russian.

What if you belong to the minority of people reading this who know Belarussian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, or any other Slavic language? Let us tell you that you’re lucky. Your path to learning Russian will be really easy, because you’ll understand many of the concepts straight away.

A Boy with a Book

If you already know one Slavic language, it won’t be difficult for you to guess the meanings of some Russian words.

Motivation

How can you expect to learn the Russian language effectively without being motivated? It’s simply impossible, so you’d better come up with some kind of motivation before you start. Just think of why you need to accomplish this.

You’ll be most motivated to continue your Russian studies if you know you’ll get certain benefits from it later. Maybe Russian-language skills will help you get accepted to the university of your dreams, get promoted at work, or win the heart of someone you love? Such motivation will push you forward really quickly!

Passion for linguistics is another great source of motivation. Some people are so hungry for new languages that they study them one after another. 

There are also foreigners who simply love Russia and want to learn more about it, including the language that the Russians speak. Their main motivation is interest.

Self-Discipline and Schedule

It’s no surprise that mastering any language requires not only motivation, but also discipline. If you only studied Russian when you felt like it, for fun, it would take much longer to learn than if you studied with a specific goal in mind and on a regular basis. 

If you’re wondering how to learn Russian quickly without sacrificing quality, remember one simple thing: The more you speak Russian, write in Russian, and listen to Russian speech, the better your results will be. To study systematically, most people attend language courses. People with a high degree of willpower study on their own. In either case, the learners in question study according to a set schedule.

That said, there’s one other way to learn Russian well: immerse yourself in a Russian-speaking environment. In this case, you wouldn’t need to be very disciplined or bound to a schedule. If you ever have the opportunity to spend at least several months in Russia, don’t miss it!

A Timer in the Shape of a Tomato

If you have troubles with self-discipline, you can try the Pomodoro Technique.

How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Elementary Level?

Taking the first steps into the world of the Russian language is incredible! You’re enthusiastic and full of energy at this stage. However, the very beginning is also when you’re most likely to lose interest just as quickly as you gained it, so be careful.

How long should it take to learn Russian if you want to achieve the elementary level, or A1? If you’re an absolute beginner, 6 weeks of intensive study will be enough. By intensive, we mean about 120 hours of studying. This figure may sound scary, but in fact it’s only 20 hours per week for 1.5 months (or 2 hours per day for about 2 months).

At this stage, your main goal is to memorize the Russian alphabet, a few useful words, and the most important everyday phrases. Start by learning the necessary vocabulary, and then a bit later you should practice making full sentences. Don’t forget that memorizing words in context is much easier than doing so without context.

After 120 hours of practice, your vocabulary will be wide enough to help you get by in a limited number of everyday situations. You’ll be able to:

  • make an order in a Russian cafe or restaurant;
  • buy something in a Russian shop;
  • ask a native speaker for directions.

In other words, an elementary knowledge will help you survive while traveling in Russia, but no more. If you want to communicate with Russians confidently, you need to achieve at least the intermediate level.

A Man Making an Order at a Restaurant

Going to visit Russia? Basic knowledge of the Russian language will be extremely helpful!

How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Intermediate Level?

If you’ve succeeded in achieving the elementary Russian level, then you’re probably really excited to level up again! But you should be aware that reaching this level will require much more time and effort than the previous one. 

Most students achieve the intermediate level (B1) in approximately 1.5 years. During this time, they spend around 500 hours actively learning. This equates to no more than 1 hour daily. 

Of course, you can go on learning Russian for 2 hours per day as you’ve been doing. Doing so, you’ll break new ground in 9 months. But keep in mind that your motivation will probably be a bit lower than it was at the very beginning. 

At this stage, you must pay attention to:

  • understanding grammar rules and implementing them; 
  • learning more complicated vocabulary, patterns, and structures;
  • mastering pronunciation.

The main sign that you’ve reached the intermediate level will be your ability to:

  • understand the most important parts of podcasts, YouTube videos, TV shows, and movies (with the use of English subtitles);
  • read adapted texts or books (with the frequent use of a dictionary);
  • participate in everyday conversations with native speakers (though you still won’t have enough knowledge to hold spontaneous, complex conversations). 

At the intermediate level, you’ll sometimes be unsure about how to compose sentences, pronounce words, and the like. This is absolutely okay! All these doubts will go away once you reach the advanced level.

A Group of People Taking a Selfie

Wanna make Russian friends? If you know Russian at the intermediate level, it will be easy!

How Long Does it Take to Achieve the Advanced Level?

Most students are satisfied with the intermediate level, and there’s only a small number of foreigners who decide to achieve the advanced one. If you want to be one of them, prepare to double your time and effort.

The advanced level is also called C1. The process of achieving it usually takes 900 hours. This is about 3 years of everyday practice. At this level, you’ll be able to:

  • understand texts related to various themes and read Russian literature;
  • write letters, issues, and essays on problematic topics;
  • understand audio information as a whole;
  • maintain conversations with the help of different linguistic tools.

Keep in mind that this is not the end of your studies. After a few more years of regular practice, you can approach C2 and become a real expert in the Russian language—in other words, you’ll be able to speak like a native. But the only possible way to reach this level of fluency is to live in Russia for some time. This will allow you to become familiar with various Russian accents and learn slang words most widely used by locals.

A Woman Holding an Open Book Above Her Head

Even though reading Russian books seems too difficult for you right now, it’s not impossible—believe us!

Conclusion

Now you know that mastering a language is a complex process that takes constant learning and practicing. But don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. You’ll find tons of free materials on RussianPod101.com that will satisfy your language learning cravings. 

Don’t forget that we also offer our Premium PLUS students one-on-one coaching with a private tutor through MyTeacher. This will certainly speed up your progress and ensure you gain a more thorough knowledge of the language and culture.

Before you go: What’s your Russian-language proficiency level? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Russian Proverbs: A Glimpse of Russian Wisdom

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“Better late than never.”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

You’re constantly surrounded by proverbs, and you probably don’t pay much attention to them until you start learning a new language. This is where the fun begins: The meanings of foreign proverbs can be difficult to guess, you can’t usually translate them literally, and some of them don’t even have an equivalent. Yes, you’ll find a few Russian proverbs like this. But what if you look at them from another angle?

Have you ever wondered where proverbs come from? Many of them haven’t changed in centuries! They’ve been carrying wisdom from one generation to another, up until modern times. We use proverbs to console a beloved one, to give advice, or to cheer somebody up. Proverbs can be controversial, and some of them tackle the same issue from different (sometimes opposite!) angles. All in all, they reflect who we are and the values we stand for, and these values are different from one country to another.

Today, you have the chance to get a glimpse of Russian wisdom through Russian proverbs. These wise words will provide you with insight into the Russian attitude toward money and friendship, work and discipline, consolation and disapproval. You might not become enlightened right away, but I hope these proverbs get you curious to learn more about Russian people and culture.

A Woman Giving the Thumbs-up Sign

Хорошее начало — половина дела.
“Good beginning is half the battle.”

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. Worldly Wisdom
  2. Studies and Work
  3. Taking Risks
  4. Discipline
  5. Money
  6. Friends & Family
  7. Sarcasm
  8. What’s Next?

1. Worldly Wisdom

♦︎ Before you jump at the opportunity to broaden your cultural horizons, my advice is to get familiar with the proverb, read the literal translation, then think about the meaning it might convey. Simply connecting the English proverb with its Russian equivalent won’t leave any trace in your memory. Give it a good guess first. Remember: “Easy come, easy go.”

RussianНет худа без добра.
(Net khuda bez dobra)
LiterallyThere’s no bad without the good.
Keep your chin up! Whatever trouble comes your way, don’t let it spoil your mood. Even the most difficult situation might have an advantage.

“Every cloud has a silver lining.”

RussianПервый блин всегда комом. 
(Pervyy blin vsegda komom)
LiterallyThe first pancake is always lumpy.
Don’t get frustrated if you fail when trying something for the first time. It’s uncommon for one to succeed right away.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

RussianУтро вечера мудренее.
(Utro vechera mudreneye)
LiterallyThe morning is wiser than the evening.
When you’re struggling to come up with a solution, you should give your mind some rest. It might reward you with bright ideas afterward!

“Sleep on it!”

RussianСлово не воробей: вылетит — не поймаешь.
(Slovo ne vorobey: vyletit — ne poymayesh’)
LiterallyA word is not a sparrow: once it flies out, you won’t catch it.
You should be careful with what you say. Words can hurt.

“What’s said can’t be unsaid.”

RussianПоспешишь — людей насмешишь.
(Pospeshish’ — lyudey nasmeshish’)
LiterallyIf you rush things, you’ll just make others laugh.
It’s fine to take your time, one step at a time. Don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of saving time.

“Haste makes waste.”

RussianВ каждой шутке есть доля правды.
(V kazhdoy shutke est’ dolya pravdy)
LiterallyThere is a grain of truth in every joke.
It’s believed that we joke about what actually matters to us. Obviously, that’s not always the case, but sometimes people read too much into it.

“Many true words are spoken in jest.”

2. Studies and Work

Students and working professionals alike can gain something of value from these Russian proverbs about work and learning! 

RussianПовторение — мать учения.
(Povtoreniye — mat’ ucheniya)
LiterallyRepetition is the mother of learning.
When it comes to learning, one would have to be quite talented (or using mnemonics) to remember something on the first try. Don’t shy away from reviewing key vocabulary lists and grammar rules once in a while to brush up on them.

“Practice makes perfect.”

RussianКто не работает, тот не ест.
(Kto ne rabotayet, tot ne yest)
LiterallyHe who does not work, neither should he eat.
Diligence and hard work are encouraged—strongly enough to threaten you with starvation.

“One has to sing for his supper.”

RussianБез труда не вытащишь и рыбку из пруда.
(Bez truda ne vytashchish’ i rybku iz pruda)
LiterallyWithout effort, you can’t even pull a fish out of the pond.
Again, the message here is that you need to put in some effort to get a positive result.

“No pain, no gain.”

RussianРабота не волк, в лес не убежит. 
(Rabota ne volk, v les ne ubezhit)
LiterallyWork isn’t a wolf, it won’t run into the forest.
However, sometimes you can relax and not rush into action right away. Use this saying as an excuse. 

“Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.”

Now wait a minute… Isn’t that the opposite of what all those “go-achieve-it-all” books advise?

Habits for Highly Effective Language Learners


Russian Pancakes with Red Caviar

Russian pancakes with red caviar
Even if the first one was lumpy, practice makes perfect.

3. Taking Risks

Risk-taking is really two sides of the same coin. Here are some Russian proverbs and sayings on the topic that cover both sides of the story! 

If you feel adventurous

RussianКто не рискует, тот не пьет шампанского.
(Kto ne riskuyet, tot ne p’yot shampanskogo)
LiterallyThose who don’t take risks don’t drink champagne.
Some believe that this expression originated from car racing, where the rally winners were showered with champagne. Others claim the proverb dates back to the early champagne-making days when bottles would accidentally explode, so going down to pick one up in the cellar was a risky adventure. Anyway, whatever side you take, remember:

“Who dares wins.”

RussianНе попробуешь — не узнаешь.
(Ne poprobuyesh’ — ne uznayesh’)
LiterallyIf you don’t try, you’ll never find out.
This one is self-explanatory. You need to give it a chance to see if it’s going to work out.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

RussianПоживём – увидим. 
(Pozhivyom – uvidim)
LiterallyWe will live and then we will see.
No need to pretend to be Nostradamus and try to predict the future. Sometimes it’s better to patiently wait and see what happens next.

“Time will tell.”

Russian– Ни пуха ни пера. 
– К чёрту!


Ni pukha ni pera. 
K chertu!
Literally “Neither fluff, nor feather.”–
“(Go) to the devil!”
Use the first phrase to wish somebody luck. And to receive it, don’t forget to send the person to the devil. (That’s not really nice, if you think about it.)

The expression arose among hunters. “Fluff” and “feather” implied game and game birds respectively. Hence the superstition: If you wish somebody luck directly, the evil spirits would show up to deprive you of your hard-earned spoils. So, after bad-mouthing each other, the hunters could head to the forest with peace of mind. Nowadays, it’s used whenever you want to wish somebody luck, similar to “Break a leg.”

♦︎ It’s often truncated to just “Ни пуха.” But you should still respond with “К чёрту!”

If you are on the cautious side

RussianЛучше синица в руках, чем журавль в небе.
(Luchshe sinitsa v rukakh, chem zhuravl’ v nebe)
LiterallyA tomtit in your hands is better than a crane in the sky.
It’s preferable to have something small but certain than to risk losing everything by trying to get something better.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

RussianТише едешь — дальше будешь.
(Tishe yedesh’ — dal’she budesh’)
LiterallyDrive slower, and you will get further.
Slow down. Take a breath. Those who don’t rush will succeed. 

The proverb works well both figuratively and literally. Drive safely!

“Little by little, one travels far.”

RussianСемь раз отмерь, один отрежь.
(Sem’ raz otmer’, odin otrezh’)
LiterallyMeasure seven times before cutting once.
In Russian, we encourage you to think not twice, but seven times, before you take action. 

“Look before you leap.”

RussianЗа двумя зайцами погонишься — ни одного не поймаешь.
(Za dvumya zaytsami pogonish’sya — ni odnogo ne poymayesh’)
LiterallyIf you chase after two hares, you’ll end up not catching even one.
It’s better to focus on one thing instead of spreading yourself too thin.

“Grasp all, lose all.”

A Student Studying and Highlighting Something in a Textbook

Your friend is having an exam tomorrow. How would you wish him luck in Russian?

4. Discipline

Most of these are used by parents trying to adjust their kids’ behavior to “expected” standards. 

RussianЛюбопытной Варваре на базаре нос оторвали.
(Lyubopytnoy Varvare na bazare nos otorvali)
LiterallyNosy Barbara got her nose torn off at the market.
Don’t ask awkward questions. Don’t touch this. Don’t do that.

“Curiosity killed the cat.”

RussianМечтать не вредно.
(Mechtat’ ne vredno)
LiterallyDreaming won’t hurt.
Feel free to dream big, but—just so you know—you won’t get anything.

Parents typically use this phrase when their child acts up begging for a toy in the shop. It can also be used to sober up a friend and discourage them from fantasizing too much.

“Yeah, dream on!”

RussianХорошего понемножку.
(Khoroshego ponemnozhku)
LiterallyJust a bit is enough.
Know your limits and don’t expect much. 

“Enough is enough.”

RussianВ большой семье клювом не щёлкают.
(V bol’shoy sem’ye kyuvom ne shchelkayut)

also

Кто не успел, тот опоздал.
(Kto ne uspel, tot opozdal)
LiterallyYou don’t snap your beak in a big family.

also

Who’s late is late.
So basically, the “first come, first served” rule in action.

“You snooze, you lose.”

Phrases Your Parents Always Say


5. Money

Could you use a little advice in the financial department? Then study these Russian proverbs about money and gain some useful Russian insight on the matter. 

RussianСкупой платит дважды.
(Skupoy platit dvazhdy)
LiterallyThe stingy one pays twice.
Those who only chase low prices might end up buying something else instead. You usually get what you pay for. 

“Buy nice or buy twice.”

RussianКопейка рубль бережёт.
(Kopeyka rubl’ berezhet)
LiterallyA kopeck saves a ruble.
In order to save much, you shouldn’t neglect little.

“Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves.”

RussianКрасиво жить не запретишь.
(Krasivo zhit’ ne zapretish’)
LiterallyYou can’t forbid living well.
This one can be used ironically, in reference to people who live beyond their means—or with envy (and a glimmer of hope) when gossiping about the rich.

“Living well isn’t against the law.”

RussianСобака на сене лежит; сама не ест и другим не даёт.
(Sobaka na sene lezhit; sama ne yest i drugim ne dayot)
LiterallyA dog is lying on the hay: won’t eat it itself and won’t let others eat either.
This proverb expresses disapproval of people who only hold onto something so that the others can’t use it. Greedy and selfish rolled into one.

“Dog in the manger.”

Money-Related Expressions for Everyday Life


An Older Man on Vacation Holding a Fan of Money and a Cigar

Красиво жить не запретишь.

6. Friends & Family

Wherever you are in the world, relationships are an essential aspect of everyday life. That in mind, here are a few Russian proverbs about friendship and family.

RussianДруг познаётся в беде.
(Drug poznayotsya v bede)
LiterallyYou get to really know your friend when trouble comes.
A person who helps you during a difficult time is the person you can trust. 

“A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

RussianНе имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей.
(Ne imey sto rubley, a imey sto druzey)
LiterallyDon’t have a hundred rubles, rather have a hundred friends.
Friendship is more valuable than money. (Nobody said one excludes the other, though.)

“A friend at court is better than a penny in a purse.”

RussianВ гостях хорошо, а дома лучше.
(V gostyakh khorosho, a doma luchshe)
LiterallyIt’s good to be visiting, but it’s better at home.
If you feel relief coming back home and share the idea of “My house is my castle,” you know very well where this proverb comes from.

“There is no place like home.”

RussianС милым рай и в шалаше.
(S milym ray i v shalashe)
LiterallyIf you’re with your loved one, it’s a paradise even in a hut.
You can endure any trouble if you’re with your beloved one—even living in poor conditions.

“Love in the cottage.”

RussianМуж и жена — одна сатана.
(Muzh i zhena — odna satana)
LiterallyThe husband and the wife are the same demon.
This proverb refers to a couple with the same interests, aspirations, and ways of thinking and acting. I’d say you were lucky to find a person like that, but the proverb has a rather pejorative connotation.

“They are, indeed, of the same breed.”

Top 10 Quotes About Family

Top 10 Quotes About Friendship


7. Sarcasm

We’ve all said sarcastic things from time to time, no? Let’s conclude our list of Russian proverbs with some sarcastic sayings and phrases. 

RussianКогда рак на горе свистнет.
(Kogda rak na gore svistnet)
LiterallyWhen the crawfish whistles on the mountain.
When you hear this, rest assured: whatever you’ve been talking about is not going to happen. No crawfish have been detected whistling yet.

“When pigs fly.”

RussianЛюбовь зла, полюбишь и козла.
(Lyubov’ zla, polyubish’ i kozla)
LiterallyLove’s evil, you might even fall for a goat.
Interestingly, in Russian, we use the same word for both “male goat” and “jerk” (козёл). Anyway, falling for either of them is a dubious pleasure.

“Love is blind.”

RussianСила есть — ума не надо.
(Sila yest’ — uma ne nado)
LiterallyThe strong don’t need to be smart.
This phrase can be used to express your disapproval of people who prefer to solve problems with force, or those who thoughtlessly show their strength off.

“All brawn and no brains.”

RussianДо свадьбы заживёт.
(Do svad’by zazhivyot)
LiterallyIt will heal before your wedding.
You’ll often hear this said when you hurt yourself. It works best with kids; you might need to come up with something else if the person you’re trying to comfort is already married, though…

“You’ll be alright.”

RussianПлохому танцору яйца мешают.
(Plokhomu tantsoru yaytsa meshayut)
LiterallyPoor dancer is impeded by his own balls.
It’s always easier to blame circumstances or other people than to accept your failure. Well, when there’s nobody else to accuse, blame your body parts… (That’s dud advice, by the way.)

“A poor workman blames his tools.”

A Little Girl Who Skinned Her Knee

Kids being kids. How would you console her in Russian?

8. What’s Next?

Today you’ve discovered more than thirty Russian proverbs! There’s a saying for every possible situation in life, and what we’ve seen today was just the tip of the iceberg. Did you learn anything new about the way Russians treat friendship, family, and work? Which proverb caught your attention most of all? Let us know in the comments below!

Was it easy to guess the meaning of the proverbs without reading the translation right away? Many proverbs aren’t self-explanatory, and you might need some help interpreting them, especially when it comes to connotations. 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 about a confusing proverb you’ve seen recently or any other language-related question. Tutors will be there for you if you decide to work on your Russian, as well: you’ll receive assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and voice recording tasks to improve your pronunciation. Just give it a try!

Eager to learn more? This material will help you learn more about Russian culture:

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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Russian Grammar in a Nutshell

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Are you just getting started in Russian? Whether you’re wondering what to learn first or getting lost in Russian grammar, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll discover the fundamental Russian grammar topics, from the word types to verb conjugation, noun cases, basic sentence structure, and other Russian grammar rules. 

We recommend that you compare Russian grammar with the grammar of your native language. Take notes concerning what’s common and what’s different. You may be surprised at some of the things you learn, and you might even gain some insight about how your own language works. 

Put things into perspective. Explore and discover.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. Exploring Vocabulary
  2. Uncovering the Grammar Behind Some Parts of Speech
  3. Sentence Structure
  4. What’s Next?

1. Exploring Vocabulary

We’ll start by classifying the main building material of the language—the vocabulary. By exploring the parts of speech, you can see how words might be connected with each other in a sentence and what function each of them fulfills.

Russian isn’t much different from other European languages in terms of word categories. And even if some parts of speech might not seem familiar to you, nothing will come as a great shock.

In Russian grammar, nouns name things and people:

  • цветок (tsvetok) — “flower”
  • мама (mama) — “mother”

Pronouns replace nouns from time to time:

  • я (ya) — “I”
  • они (oni) — “they”

Adjectives describe things and people:

  • хорошие новости (khoroshiye novosti) — “good news”
  • умный мальчик (umnyy mal’chik) — “smart boy”

Verbs add some action:

  • я танцую (ya tantsuyu) — “I dance
  • кот спит (kot spit) — “the cat is sleeping

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs:

  • медленно идти (medlenno idti) — “to walk slowly
  • очень интересно (ochen’ interesno) — “very interesting”

Participles combine the features of both verbs and adjectives:

  • бегущий мальчик (begushchiy mal’chik) — “a boy that is running”
  • улыбающаяся девушка (ulybayushchayasya devushka) — “a girl that is smiling”

Verbal adverbs give additional action to characterize the main activity:

  • Он сидел в углу, читая книгу. — “He was sitting in a corner (and) reading a book.”
    (On sidel v uglu, chitaya knigu)
  • Она легла спать, думая о нём. — “She went to bed thinking about him.”
    (Ona legla spat’, dumaya o nyom)

Numerals count things and people:

  • три раза (tri raza) — “three times”
  • со второй попытки (so vtoroy popytki) — “on the second try”

Prepositions link words and show how they relate to each other:

  • машина у дома (mashina u doma) — “a car at the house”
  • картина на стене (kartina na stene) — “a picture on the wall”

Conjunctions connect clauses in complex sentences or homogeneous words:

  • Я хотел встать пораньше, но проспал. — “I wanted to get up earlier but overslept.”
    (Ya khotel vstat’ poran’she, no prospal)
  • дети и родители (deti i roditeli) — “children and parents”

Particles modify the nuances of meaning and add some emotion:

  • Ну и бардак! (Nu i bardak!) — “What a mess!”
  • Вряд ли он там. (Vryad li on tam) — “I doubt that he’s there.”

Interjections add emotional exclamation:

  • Ура! (Ura!) — “Hooray!”
  • Ай! (Ay!) — “Ouch!”

❗️It’s important to mention that there are no articles in Russian (like “a” or “the”). This is a relief for many learners!

The City of Ekaterinburg

What do you see in the picture? Describe it with 3 nouns and 3 adjectives.Maybe you can even make a phrase with a preposition?

2. Uncovering the Grammar Behind Some Parts of Speech

In this Russian grammar overview, we’ll focus on the parts of speech with the largest grammatical layer underneath. This will ensure that we only discuss topics that you’re likely to encounter when you first start learning Russian.

Nouns

In Russian grammar, noun declension refers to how a noun changes form according to a set of aspects. These aspects are: number, gender, animacy, and case. We’ll briefly discuss each one below.

Number 

Like in English, Russian nouns can be singular or plural:

  • дом (dom) — “house”
  • дома (doma) — “houses”
  • машина (mashina) — “car”
  • машины (mashiny) — “cars”

Many uncountable nouns don’t have a plural form:

  • рис (ris) — “rice”
  • мука (muka) — “flour”

Gender

Most Russian nouns are also divided into three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.

  • кот (kot) — “cat” [m]
  • сестра (sestra) — “sister” [f]
  • молоко (moloko) — “milk” [n]

There are, however, a few nouns that practically have no gender because they are only used in the plural form. There are similar words in English, as well:

  • штаны (shtany) — “pants”
  • ножницы (nozhnitsy) — “scissors”
  • очки (ochki) — “glasses”

The good news about Russian gender is that it’s pretty easy to identify a noun’s gender by its ending:

  • most masculine nouns end with a consonant or : стул, музей
  • most feminine nouns end with -а/я or: собака, песня, ночь
  • most neuter nouns end with -о/е: окно, море

➤ Keep in mind that there are exceptions to some of these rules, which you’ll discover with time. That said, you’ll only need four minutes to figure out the basics of how Russian genders work. Check out our video about Genders on RussianPod101.com.

Animacy

Animate nouns usually denote people or animals:

  • учитель (uchitel’) — “teacher”
  • волк (volk) — “wolf”

Inanimate nouns include non-living objects and abstract things:

  • телефон (telefon) — “phone”
  • политика (politika) — “politics”

Cases 

There are six cases in Russian that we use to show how words are related to each other. The ending we use depends on the gender and number of a noun, and whether it’s animate or inanimate (for Accusative only).

Here’s an example of what the Russian case system looks like:

CaseSingularновая машина — “a new car”Pluralновые машины — “new cars”
Nominativeновая машина (novaya mashina)новые машины (novyye mashiny)
Genitiveновой машины (novoy mashiny)новых машин (novykh mashin)
Dativeновой машине (novoy mashine)новым машинам (novym mashinam)
Accusativeновую машину (novuyu mashinu)новые машины (novyye mashiny)
Instrumentalновой машиной (novoy mashinoy)новыми машинами (novymi mashinami)
Prepositionalо новой машине (o novoy mashine)о новых машинах (o novykh mashinakh)

➤ You can also check out our list of 50 Common Russian Nouns to start expanding your vocabulary. Vocabulary holds the bricks you need to build your sentences!

A Silver Car against a White Background

How would you say “a new car” in Russian?

Adjectives

The form of Russian adjectives must agree with the number, gender, and case of nouns. You can analyze the cases table once again to see how adjectives change their ending for each case. 

There are a couple of additional features that characterize Russian adjectives, such as their full and short forms and the different categories they can be split into. But what we’ll focus on here is the way we compare things using adjectives.

Degrees of comparison

Most descriptive adjectives have two degrees of comparison: comparative and superlative.

  • На улице тепло. — “It’s warm outside.”
    (Na ulitse teplo)
  • Становится теплее. — “It’s getting warmer.” [comparative]
    (Stanovitsya tepleye)
  • Это самое тёплое место. — “It’s the warmest spot.” [superlative]
    (Eto samoye tyoploye mesto) 

➤ See our list of the Most Common Adjectives to learn some more new words. They’ll combine well with the nouns you discovered in the previous chapter!

Verbs

No need to sugarcoat it: Russian conjugation can be tough. However, there are some patterns that verbs follow, and if you remember them, conjugation won’t seem so overwhelming anymore.

Moods

There are three moods in Russian: indicative, imperative, and conditional.

Using them, we can either mention a fact, give an order to another person, or talk about a hypothetical situation:

  • Я сижу дома. (Ya sizhu doma) — “I’m staying home.” [indicative]
  • Иди домой! (Idi domoy!) — “Go home!” [imperative]
  • Я бы поискал, если бы был дома. — “I would’ve looked for it if I’d been home.” [conditional]
    (Ya by poiskal, yesli by byl doma)

Voices

Russian verbs have two voices: active and passive.

  • Я построил дом. — “I built a house.” [active]
    (Ya postroil dom)
  • Этот музей был открыт в 1950 году. — “The museum was opened in 1950.” [passive]
    (Etot muzey byl otkryt v 1950 godu)

Aspects

Russian verbs also have two aspects: imperfective and perfective.

Aspects are used to differentiate between actions that are ongoing or habitual (imperfective) and those that have already been completed (perfective).

  • Я гулял в парке каждый день. — “I used to walk in the park every day.” [imperfective]
    (Ya gulyal v parke kazhdyy den’)
  • Я погулял с собакой. — “I’ve walked my dog.” [perfective]
    (Ya pogulyal s sobakoy)

➤ Number, person, and gender also affect the verb conjugation. Find more information about this, as well as a detailed table with verb endings and examples, in our article about Russian Verb Conjugation.

➤ Learn the 50 Most Common Verbs so you can talk about basic actions in Russian.

A Japanese Meditation Garden

Я бы каждый день гулял в этом парке.
“I would walk in this park every day.”

3. Sentence Structure

The next set of Russian language grammar rules we’ll discuss have to do with sentence structure. This refers to how sentences are formed in Russian.

Word order

The word order is pretty flexible in Russian. That is to say, the words can generally be rearranged freely without changing the meaning of the sentence. 

  • Вчера я смотрел фильм. — literally: “Yesterday I watched a movie.”
    (Vchera ya smotrel fil’m)
  • Я вчера смотрел фильм. — literally: “I yesterday watched a movie.”
  • Я смотрел фильм вчера. — literally: “I watched a movie yesterday.”

Sometimes we use the word order to emphasize a specific part of the sentence or to make it sound more poetic. It works exactly like English inversion. However, it’s easier for a beginner to stress a word with intonation, rather than by rearranging the word order. The word order you’re used to in English—SVO (Subject + Verb + Object)—would work just fine in most cases. 

➤ The flexible word order in Russian doesn’t mean the order can be random though. To learn about its nuances, please check out our article about Russian Word Order.

Questions

In Russian, we also use the question words (where, when, who, etc.) to form questions, but we don’t use inversion. We don’t have auxiliary verbs either. The only means of forming a question in Russian is your intonation. Here are a couple of basic rules:

  1. With the question words, we start high and use a falling intonation at the end of the sentence.

    Где здесь метро? — “Where is the subway entrance around here?”
  1. If there are no question words, we emphasize the word we want to draw attention to by raising the intonation.

    Ты хорошо отдохнул? — “Did you rest well?”

Obviously, Russian intonation is not as simple as that, but these two basic patterns are a good place to start. Anyway, this topic is best learned through active listening and practice, rather than through text.

➤ See our vocabulary list of the Top 15 Russian Questions You Should Know and listen to how they’re pronounced. How does the intonation change in each question?

A Man Holding a Map and Talking on the Phone

The man is looking for the subway. What should he ask his Russian friend?

Negation

A simple way to add negation in Russian is to place не (ne) in front of the word you’d like to negate. 

  • Я не дома. (Ya ne doma) — “I’m not home.”
  • Она не врач. (Ona ne vrach) — “She’s not a doctor.”
  • Я не курю. (Ya ne kuryu) — “I don’t smoke.”

Double negation is common in Russian as well. This means that we can combine не with negative pronouns (nowhere, nobody, nothing, etc.).

  • Я никогда не был в Японии. — “I’ve never been to Japan.”
    (Ya nikogda ne byl v Yaponii)
  • Он ничего не нашёл. — “He hasn’t found anything.”
    (On nichego ne nashyol)

Another peculiar word is нет (net). It can be used in a variety of contexts:

  • Здесь ничего нет. — “There is nothing here.”
    (Zdes’ nichego net)
  • «Ты ел?» (Ty yel?) — “Have you eaten?”
    «Нет». (Net) — “No.”
  • Ты его видел или нет? — “Have you seen him or not?”
    (Ty ego videl ili net?)

4. What’s Next?

Once you master all of these topics, you’ll have covered the biggest chunk of Russian grammar. Have you taken notes about what Russian grammar has in common with your native language? Have you spotted many differences? 

Learning the grammar of another language might be a long journey, but we can make it enjoyable. If you happen to have any questions about how to conjugate verbs, put words in order, or differentiate between an adjective and a participle, our teachers at 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 grammar-related questions. If you want to practice a specific topic, you’ll receive some grammar assignments, vocabulary exercises, and voice recording tasks to improve your pronunciation. Give it a try!

Eager to learn more? This material will help you move one more step forward with your Russian:

Happy learning with RussianPod101!

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

Is Russian Hard to Learn?

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If you’re thinking about learning Russian but are hesitant to get started, you may be asking yourself: “Is Russian hard to learn?” 

You’ve read in the language forums that it is, and maybe you’ve even heard this firsthand from someone you know who’s learned the language. But here’s a spoiler: it’s not that bad. And even though I’m a native Russian myself, and learned how to speak Russian at the same time as I learned how to walk (oh, a double struggle!), I can sympathize with the experience of my students and apply my own language-learning observations to help them combat common issues.

So if you still haven’t decided whether you want to include Russian in your daily schedule or not, I might be able to help you decide. In this article, we’ll talk about why you would want to learn Russian in the first place, how easy it is to learn, and what you should start with to get onboard.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Russian Table of Contents
  1. Why Should You Learn Russian?
  2. Is it Hard to Learn Russian?
  3. I Want to Learn Russian. Where Should I Start?
  4. What’s Next?

1. Why Should You Learn Russian?

Let’s start with the most obvious reasons. Just in case you weren’t aware, Russian is one of the most spoken languages in the world. Worldwide, it’s almost as popular as French and Arabic, and even more widespread than German. 

There are around 260 million people speaking Russian around the globe. According to recent statistics, Russian is still widely spoken in Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Estonia, and some other neighboring countries. And that makes learning the language a good investment for travel enthusiasts. You can experience freezing winters, enjoy boiling hot steam baths, try shchi and pelmeni, and see for yourself that there are no bears walking in the streets (if anybody still believes in this stereotype).

Many of my students learn Russian for business or study. Whether you have a business trip to Russia or work with Russian partners, some Russian might help in your working relations and networking. A person working in tourism who has basic Russian language knowledge is a real gem: Russians often travel abroad without knowing any English. 

As for studies, higher education is affordable in Russia, and the vibrant student life will definitely leave a trace in your memory—that is, if you decide to assimilate with locals and not just hang out with your English-speaking friends.

Also, Russia has lots to offer in terms of culture. You might not see lots of Russian movies in theaters or hear Russian songs on every corner, but they exist in abundance. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find Russian movies with subtitles, so this is a good incentive to learn the language. Not to mention the benefits that literature-lovers can experience: you’ll find peace in Tolstoy’s elaborate descriptions, enjoy the witty nature of Krylov’s fables, and relish in the emotional styling of Yesenin’s poems.

Learning Russian is also a good choice for those craving a challenge. English-speakers tend to learn languages similar to their own: Spanish, German, French, etc. But Russian is hard for English-speakers compared to most Germanic and Romance languages. It’s something different and totally unusual, but at the same time, not as drastically “alien” as Japanese, for example. 

But if the motivation comes from inside, no logical reasoning is necessary to convince you to learn the language. Whether you just like the sound of Russian, want to enjoy the Trans-Siberian journey, or understand what Dima Bilan is singing about, if it truly makes you excited, then just go for it!

Russian Pastry

Russian cuisine is definitely worth trying! Guess if it’s savory or sweet.

2. Is it Hard to Learn Russian?

I believe that by now, you’re secretly hoping to hear a strong “no.” I would lie if I said that Russian is the easiest language to learn; it has its own specificities, but it’s still easier than many people say it is. Let’s start with the easy parts.

A- The Good News

1. Cyrillics is not too different from the Latin alphabet. There are even some familiar letters (like е, а, м, с, р, etc.). Yes, some of them are pronounced differently from what you would expect, but they’re easy to write, and you can start reading Russian words in literally one day.

2. Many words are borrowed from English. Yes, they are written with the Russian alphabet, but when you learn to read it, you’ll recognize the words in a heartbeat. Try:

  • футбол (futbol)
  • телефон (telefon)
  • маркетинг (marketing)
  • компания (kompaniya)
  • лампа (lampa)

    ➢ You can check the meanings of these words in a dictionary to see if you were right.

3. Genders are easy to determine. Russian categorizes words into one of three genders: feminine, masculine, and neuter. Usually, you just have to check the ending of the noun to see what gender category it belongs to.

4. There are fewer tenses than in English. We only have three tenses in Russian: past, present, and future. That’s enough; three is a good number.

    ➢ Read more about the tenses and other properties of verbs in our article about Verb Conjugation.

5. Questions are simple. For Yes/No questions, we use intonation. For open questions, we just place the question word at the beginning, and that’s it. No special question structures or word order changes.

  • Сегодня мы смотрим кино. (Segodnya my smotrim kino) — “Today we’re watching a movie.”
  • Сегодня мы смотрим кино? — “Are we watching a movie today?”
  • Где ты был? (Gde ty byl?) — “Where have you been?”
  • Что ты купил? (Chto ty kupil?) — “What did you buy?”
  • Почему торт не купил? (Pochemu tort ne kupil?) — “Why didn’t you buy the cake?” 

6. It’s easy to say “no.” In most cases, to make a negative sentence in Russian, you simply add не (ne) before the word you want to make negative.

  • Я не курю. (Ya ne kuryu) — “I don’t smoke.”
  • Мы не дома. (My ne doma) — “We aren’t home.”
  • Она не такая. (Ona ne takaya) — “She isn’t like that.”

7. Russians appreciate the initiative. It’s rare to hear a foreigner speak Russian, so any attempt to do so will evoke praise and excitement. No need to wait for a pint of beer to untie your tongue; feel free to proudly demonstrate your Russian skills right away. No sarcasm intended.

8. Speakers of other Slavic languages have an (un)fair advantage. If your mother tongue is Polish, Czech, Serbian, or a similar language—congratulations! You have a free upgrade of three times the speed in learning Russian right from the start. These languages come from the same language family, so many words sound similar, and even the grammar can be familiar in some aspects. I believe this is why, in some remote parts of Serbia, Bosnia, and Macedonia, locals prefer foreigners to speak Russian rather than English.

Woman Holding Out Hand to Say Stop

Стой. Торт купил? (Stoy. Tort kupil?)
“Stop. Did you buy the cake?”

B- The (Not So) Bad News

Even taking into account the easier aspects mentioned earlier, the Russian language is hard to learn for many people, particularly English-speakers. Here are some things you can prepare for in advance:

1. Pronunciation. If learning the alphabet takes one evening, mastering the sounds themselves is a bit trickier. Many sounds are similar to those in English, but some are unusual, like [щ], [ы], [р] (and the last one is not an English “p”!).

    ➢ If you want to work on your pronunciation, check out our Ultimate Pronunciation Guide. You’ll learn about the Russian sounds and how to pronounce them without twisting your tongue.

2. Verb conjugations. In Russian, we only have three tenses, but the verb conjugation is also affected by grammatical mood, person, aspect, etc.

Here are some examples:

  • Я пою. (Ya poyu) — “I sing.” (present, 1st person singular)
  • Мы поём. (My poyom) — “We sing.” (present, 1st person plural)
  • Вы бы спели? (Vy by speli?) — “Would you sing?” (conditional, 2nd person plural)

3. Verbal aspects. In Russian, we use verbal aspects to indicate the difference between an action that is complete (perfective aspect) and an action that is habitual or ongoing (imperfective aspect). It’s similar to the English perfect and simple / continuous aspect.

  • Я ужинал. (Ya uzhinal) — “I was dining.” (ongoing > imperfective)
  • Я поужинал. (Ya pouzhinal) — “I’ve had dinner.” (complete > perfective)

Have you spotted the difference?

4. Declensions and cases. Russian has six cases—technically five, if you don’t count the dictionary form (the nominative case). Cases help you see the relationship between words (it’s not just to make you memorize extra endings!):

  • кот (kot) — “a cat” (Nominative singular)
  • У меня нет кота. (U menya net kota) — “I don’t have a cat.” (Genitive singular)
  • Но я люблю котов. (No ya lyublyu kotov) — “But I love cats.” (Accusative plural animate)

The good thing about cases is that each of them has a function and some markers (typical prepositions and verbs they go with). When you learn to distinguish cases by their function, your life becomes easier. Anyway, if you use the wrong case, it won’t be the end of the world. Patience is the key—and practice.

The prospect of learning endings for six cases and three genders might seem intimidating, but you can definitely manage it if you don’t try to swallow the whole cake at once. Instead, slowly savor it piece by piece. 

5. Verbs of motion. You can find countless ways of translating the verb “to go” into Russian. The choice depends on what means of transport you’re talking about:

  • идти (idti) — “to go on foot”
  • ехать (yekhat’) — “to go by car / by bus / by bike / etc.”
  • лететь (letet’) — “to go by plane”
  • плыть (plyt’) — “to go by boat”

Motion verbs with prefixes can seem even more confusing:

  • лететь (letet’) — “to go by plane”
  • прилететь (priletet’) — “to arrive by plane”
  • улететь (uletet’) — “to leave by plane”

“How do I deal with that and not get crazy?”

  • Learn the four basic translations for the verb “to go” listed above. This way, you’ll be able to distinguish between the means of transport.
  • Analyze the prefixes and try to find the logic behind them. For example, the prefix у- usually means “departure” and при- indicates “arrival.”
    ➢ Wikipedia has a nice table of prefixes with their meanings for your verbs of motion.
    ➢ If you don’t know how to say “train” or “bus” in Russian, check out our Vehicles vocabulary list.
Plane Flying Past Clouds

Ехать или лететь?

3. I Want to Learn Russian. Where Should I Start?

The alphabet. A no-brainer. At RussianPod101, we want to support you from the earliest stages, so we provide the English transliteration for almost every word and phrase you see. However, you’ll find no romanization in authentic Russian sources like books or articles. You’ll also need to learn writing (or at least typing) to be able to send messages in Russian, or even to look up words in your dictionary.

    ➢ Start exploring the Russian letters with our series of lessons titled The Russian Alphabet Made Easy. You can even try your hand at writing cursive!

Survival phrases. If you travel to a Russian-speaking place soon, learning some basic phrases would help you immensely. Based on my observations, many young people in the big cities would know enough English to help you find the Red Square or accept your order in a restaurant, but not enough to discuss climate change or politics. However, I wouldn’t have much hope for English while interacting with people of the older generations.

The following series of lessons will be a good start:

Your own sentences. When you master your introductory speech about yourself and your dog, it’s time to combine new chunks of words into meaningful phrases. Analyze how words cooperate with each other, and try to make similar sentences yourself. Start simple. Don’t dive into grammar right away: learning the rules without having the vocabulary to apply them is pointless. 

Send the sentences you make to your RussianPod101 tutor for proofreading (subscribed users only) and receive feedback from a native speaker. Your tutor would also help you find the right path for your further studies if you can’t figure out what to do next.

Russian Calligraphy Handwriting

Russian calligraphy handwriting (created by VectorSR and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

4. What’s Next?

As a language-learner myself, I have established three important rules that always help me stay on track:

  • Quality over quantity. Make sure you’re comfortable with the topic before moving on to something else. It’s also important to review the material from time to time.

  • Consistency. It’s better to practice ten minutes every day than two hours once a week. Consistency is necessary to create strong neural connections in your brain, and this means repetition. If you skip several days of learning, especially if you’re a beginner, chances are that the connections will already be lost when you’re back, and you’ll have to learn everything again.

  • Patience. Don’t compare yourself to other learners. Don’t judge yourself by the number of words that you’ve learned or the grade you’ve received on your recent language test. Take your time and remember the first two rules.

Like learning any other language, learning Russian isn’t that difficult if you have some discipline and patience. There are plenty of resources for you to get started, and many enthusiastic people ready to help. In our premium service, MyTeacher, you can get personal one-on-one coaching with a tutor. You’ll receive assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and also voice recording tasks to improve your pronunciation. And if you have any questions about Russian, feel free to ask your tutor; they’re there to help you!

Useful links for those who want to learn more:

Before you go, let us know if you have any questions or concerns about learning (or continuing to learn) Russian. We’d be glad 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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The 10 Most Common Questions in Russian & How to Answer Them

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Being able to ask questions is a very important communication skill that makes conversation sound lively and interesting. If you’re going to chat with a native Russian speaker, or if you want to travel to Russia one day, you should definitely know some basic questions in this language. 

In this guide, we’ll help you learn ten of the most common questions in Russian. We’ll also give you some information about how to use these Russian questions and answers depending on the age of the person you’re speaking to, and teach you some Russian question words. 

Let’s begin!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. Как тебя зовут?
  2. Откуда ты?
  3. Сколько тебе лет?
  4. Ты говоришь на ___?
  5. Сколько ты учишь ____?
  6. Ты был в ___?
  7. Как дела?
  8. Что делаешь?
  9. Что случилось?
  10. Сколько стоит?
  11. Conclusion

1. Как тебя зовут?

First Encounter

Как тебя зовут? (Kak tebya zovut?), meaning “What’s your name?” is usually the first question in Russian you’ll ask when getting to know someone. 

The first word here, как (kak), meaning “how,” is an adverb; it’s also one of the most commonly used Russian question words. The next word, тебя (tebya), is the pronoun “you” in the accusative case. The last word, зовут (zovut), is the present tense form of the verb звать (zvat’), meaning “to call.” So, Как тебя зовут? is literally translated as “How are you called?”

Remember that this question is appropriate only in informal conversations with people who are your age or younger. If the situation is formal, or if you’re talking to an older person, use the following form:

  • Как вас зовут? (Kak vas zovut?) – “What’s your name?”

Вас (vas) is the formal version of тебя (“you” in the accusative case).

Possible Answers

The reply to this question in Russian would be:

  • Меня зовут Джон. (Menya zovut Dzhon.) – “My name is John.”

Or

  • Моё имя – Джон. (Moyo imya – Dzhon.) – “My name is John.”

Simply replace “John” with your own name.

A Man Shaking Hand with a Client

The question Как вас зовут? is the simplest way to establish contact, no matter who you’re trying to get to know.

2. Откуда ты?

Откуда ты? (Otkuda ty?) is the easiest way to say “Where are you from?” in Russian. 

Like many other questions in Russian, this one begins with the adverb откуда (otkuda). The next word, ты (ty), is a pronoun in the nominative case. Like in the example above, this pronoun is applicable only to conversations with people who are your age or younger.

If you’re talking to somebody older, always say вы (vy). For example:

  • Откуда вы? (Otkuda vy?) – “Where are you from?”

Possible Answer

The best way to answer is with:

  • Я из Нью-Йорка. (Ya iz N’yu-Yorka.) – “I’m from New York.”

Keep in mind that you need to use your country, state, or city in the genitive case, like in the example given above.

Introducing Yourself

3. Сколько тебе лет?

Сколько тебе лет? (Skol’ko tebe let?), meaning “How old are you?” is a good question in Russian to keep a conversation going.

 Сколько (skol’ko) is a pronoun here. Тебе (tebe) is also a pronoun, in the dative case. Лет (let) is the plural form of the noun “year.”

If you’re speaking to an older person, you’ll need to say this instead:

  • Сколько вам лет? (Skol’ko vam let?) – “How old are you?”

Possible Answer

The answer is short and simple:

  • Мне 40 лет. (Mne 40 let.) – “I’m 40 years old.”
Woman Disgusted by Her Date

Keep in mind that asking a woman about her age is impolite, even if she looks young!

4. Ты говоришь на ___?

Of all the Russian questions and answers for beginners, this may be the most important: Ты говоришь на ___? (Ty govorish’ na ___?), meaning “Do you speak ___?” It will help you find out if the person you’re talking to speaks your language. 

The first word here is ты (ty), which is the Russian pronoun “you” in the nominative case. The second word is говоришь (govorish’), which is the present tense form of the verb говорить (govorit), meaning “to speak.” After these two words, you’ll need to use the preposition на (na), which means “on” in English. Then comes the name of the language you’re asking about.

Make sure you use the prepositional case, like in this example:

  • Ты говоришь на английском? (Ty govorish’ na angliyskom?) – “Do you speak English?”

The formal variant of this Russian question is:

  • Вы говорите на ___? (Vy govorite na ___?) – “Do you speak ___?”

Possible Answers

You can give an affirmative answer like this:

  • Да, я говорю на ___. (Da, ya govoryu na ___.) – “Yes, I speak ___.”

Or a negative answer:

  • Нет, я не говорю на ___. (Net, ya ne govoryu na ___.) – “No, I don’t speak ___.”
A Couple Frustrated due to Lack of Understanding

One of the most unfair things in life is to meet a wonderful person and not to be able to communicate with him or her because of the language barrier.

5. Сколько ты учишь ____?

The Russian question Сколько ты учишь ___? (Skol’ko ty uchish’ ___?), meaning “How long have you been studying ___?” turns out to be really helpful in conversations with other students. 

The first word, сколько (skol’ko), is a typical adverb used in questions. Ты (ty) is a pronoun, as mentioned previously. The last word is the present tense form of the verb учишь (uchish’), which means “to study.”

The polite form of this question is:

  • Сколько вы учите ___? (Skol’ko vy uchite ___?) – “How long have you been studying ___?”

This Russian question requires the name of the field of study you’re asking about in the accusative case:

  • Сколько ты учишь информатику? (Skol’ko ty uchish’ informatiku?) – “How long have you been studying programming?”

Possible Answer

  • Я учу информатику два года. (Ya uchu informatiku dva goda.) – “I’ve been studying programming for two years.”

 6. Ты был в ___?

There are two variants for asking “Have you been to ___?” in Russian. The first one is appropriate if you’re asking a man:

  • Ты был в ___? (Ty byl v ___?)

The second one is applicable when asking a woman:

  • Ты была в ___? (Ty byla v ___?)

Of course, if you’re going to ask someone older than you, you must say:

  • Вы были в ___? (Vy byli v ___?)

Following the pronoun ты (ty) is был (byl) or была (byla), which is the verb “to be” in the past tense. В is a preposition which requires the prepositional case for the name of the place used after it. For example:

  • Ты был в Париже? (Ty byl v Parizhe?) – “Have you been to Paris?”

Possible Answers

  • Да, я был в Париже. (Da, ya byl v Parizhe.) – “Yes, I’ve been to Paris.”

Or

  • Нет, я не был в Париже. (Net, ya ne byl v Parizhe.) – “No, I haven’t been to Paris.”
A Woman Taking a Photo of Something

Travel is a perfect topic for a conversation.

7. Как дела?

Как дела? (Kak dela?), meaning “How are you?” is one of the most important questions to ask a Russian. 

Как (kak) is an adverb, and дела (dela) is the plural form of the noun дело (delo), meaning “matter.”

Here are a couple of alternative ways to ask this question in Russian:

  • Как ты/вы? (Kak ty/vy?) – “How are you?”

Or

  • Как жизнь? (Kak zhizn?) – “How’s life?”

Possible Answers

The most typical answers are:

  • Всё хорошо. (Vsyo khorosho.) – “Everything is good.”
  •  Отлично. (Otlichno.) – “Excellent.”

8. Что делаешь?

Что делаешь? (Chto delayesh’?), meaning “What are you doing?” is one of those basic Russian questions that you can use both in your real life and while communicating online

Что (chto) is a pronoun that’s very often used for asking questions in Russian. Делаешь (delayesh’) is the present tense form of the verb делать (delat’), meaning “to do.” 

The formal variant of this question is:

  • Что делаете? (Chto delayete?) – “What are you doing?”

Possible Answers

The answer fully depends on what you’re busy with. For example:

  • Я работаю. (Ya rabotayu.) – “I’m working.”
  • Я на учёбе. (Ya na uchyobe.) – “I’m studying.”

9. Что случилось?

Что случилось? (Chto sluchilos’?), meaning “What happened?” is one of those good questions to ask a Russian to find out if something has gone wrong. 

Что (chto) is a common pronoun in Russian questions. Cлучилось (sluchilos’) is the past tense form of the verb случиться (sluchit’sya), which means “to happen.”

Possible Answers

There’s no definite response to this question. It may be something like:

  • Ничего особенного. (Nichego osobennogo.) – “Nothing special.”
  • Всё плохо. (Vsyo plokho.) – “Everything is bad.”
One Girl Comforting Another

The question Что случилось? shows that you care for what’s going on in another person’s life!

10. Сколько стоит?

Сколько стоит? (Skol’ko stoit?), meaning “How much is it?” is an absolutely essential question for you if you’re going to visit Russia. 

Сколько (skol’ko), as mentioned, is a pronoun and one of the most widely used Russian question words. Стоит (stoit) is the present tense form of the verb стоить (stoit’), meaning “to cost.”

You may add the name of the thing that you want to know the price of. Also remember that you should use it in the subjective case. For example:

  • Сколько стоит авиабилет? (Skol’ko stoit aviabilet?) – “How much is the air ticket?”

Possible Answer

The answer depends on the situation. For example:

  • Это стоит два доллара. (Eto stoit dva dollara.) – “It costs two dollars.”

11. Conclusion

We sincerely hope that you’ve learned the basics of asking questions in Russian. Of course, this topic is enormous, and one article isn’t enough to cover it fully. Moreover, there are so many situations in day-to-day life which require their own sets of questions. That’s why memorizing questions in Russian isn’t as effective as understanding how to make them. This is especially true if you’ve been learning the language for a while.

We really recommend that you learn how to ask questions in Russian by reading articles on our website, RussianPod101.com, or with the help of our premium service MyTeacher. The second option is perfect for those who want to start using questions and answers in Russian as soon as possible. Your native Russian-speaking teacher will guide you through all the ins and outs of this topic during private lessons, so it will be really effective. You can try out our service right now, and be 100% satisfied with its quality!

What other questions in Russian would you like to learn? Feel free to leave your answers in the comment section below!

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Essential Russian Sentence Patterns to Know

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Making sentences in Russian isn’t easy for foreigners. To do it, you have to know not only vocabulary, but also the grammar of this complex language. If you want to start speaking as soon as possible, you’d better learn some Russian sentence patterns. By remembering them, you’ll be able to build your own sentences really quickly, without thinking too much about rules.

In this article, you’ll find ten really useful Russian sentences for beginners. These sentences will help you have basic conversations with native speakers and feel more confident in your knowledge of the language. Don’t be lazy; we recommend that you spend a few hours remembering them. We’re sure that in the future, you’ll appreciate yourself for doing so!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Russian Table of Contents
  1. Linking Nouns: A is B
  2. Using Adjectives to Describe Something: A is/was [Adjective]
  3. Expressing “Want”: I Want (to)…
  4. Expressing “Need”: I Need (to)… / I Have (to)…
  5. Expressing “Like”: I Like (to)…
  6. Politely Asking Someone to Do Something: Please…
  7. Asking for Permission: May I / Can I?
  8. Asking for Information About Something: What is/was…?
  9. Asking About Time: When is…?
  10. Asking About Location or Position: Where is…?
  11. Conclusion

1. Linking Nouns: A is B

This is one of the most common Russian sentence patterns, and you use it to give a basic explanation or make a statement. For example:

  • Джон – мой брат
    Dzhon – moy brat
    “John is my brother.”

In Russian, we put “–” between the subject and predicate if they’re both nouns. Keep it in mind!

  • Мой брат – таксист
    Moy brat – taksist
    “My brother is a taxi driver.”
  • Эти часы – подарок моей жены
    Eti chasy – podarok moyey zheny
    “This watch is a present from my wife.”

In Russian, the word часы (chasy) is only plural, while in English, it can be either singular or plural. But intermediate and advanced learners should know this already!

  • Россия – самая большая страна в мире
    Rossiya – samaya bol`shaya strana v mire
    “Russia is the biggest country in the world.”
  • Мопсы – хорошие собаки, мне они нравятся
    Mopsy – khoroshiye sobaki, mne oni nravyatsya
    “Pugs are nice dogs; I like them.”
Sentence Patterns

2. Using Adjectives to Describe Something: A is/was [Adjective]

This type of Russian sentence construction is widely used to describe something or somebody. For example:

  • Эта пицца вкусная
    Eta pitstsa vkusnaya
    “This pizza is delicious.”
  • Моя последняя работа была ужасной 
    Moya poslednyaya rabota byla uzhasnoy
    “My last job was terrible.”

This Russian sentence pattern refers to the past. You should remember it!

  • Фильм, который мы смотрели вчера, был страшным 
    Fil’m, kotoryy my smotreli vchera, byl strashnym
    “The film we watched yesterday was scary.”
  • Я думаю, мой брат умнее, чем моя сестра 
    Ya dumayu, moy brat umneye, chem moya sestra
    “I think my brother is smarter than my sister.”
  • Ты красивая 
    Ty krasivaya
    “You are beautiful.”

The last sentence above is correct if you say it to a girl. If you want to compliment a guy, say Ты красивый (Ty krasivyy). If you’re going to praise somebody who’s older than you, use Вы красивые (Vy krasivyye).

A Man Whispering Something in a Woman’s Ear

Don’t skimp on compliments!

3. Expressing “Want”: I Want (to)…

Basic Russian phrases like these are useful in everyday conversations, since they help to express desires and plans. The Russian sentence patterns given below will definitely enrich your speech:

  • Я хочу вот это 
    Ya khochu vot eto
    “I want this.”
  • Я хочу задать вопрос 
    Ya khochu zadat’ vopros
    “I want to ask a question.”
  • Я хочу быть для тебя хорошим мужчиной 
    Ya khochu byt dlya tebya khoroshim muzhchinoy
    “I want to be a good man for you.”

If you’re a girl, change this last Russian sentence pattern a bit by saying: Я хочу быть для тебя хорошей девушкой (Ya khochu byt dlya tebya khoroshey devushkoy).

  • Я хочу жить в Японии через несколько лет 
    Ya khochu zhit’ v Yaponii cherez neskolko let
    “I want to live in Japan in a few years.”
  • Я хочу, чтобы вы перестали так громко разговаривать 
    Ya khochu, chtoby vy perestali tak gromko razgovarivat’
    “I want you to stop talking so loud.”

4. Expressing “Need”: I Need (to)… / I Have (to)…

These basic Russian sentence patterns are really easy and helpful at the same time. Check out some examples:

  • Мне нужна ручка 
    Mne nuzhna ruchka
    “I need a pen.”

If the thing you need refers to the masculine gender, use нужен (nuzhen); if to the neutral, use нужно (nuzhno).

  • Мне нужно попрактиковаться
    Mne nuzhno popraktikovat’sya
    “I need to practice.”
  • Мне нужно попрактиковаться
    Seychas mne nuzhno idti
    “Now I have to go.”

In Russian, “need” and “have to” are normally expressed with the same word: нужно (nuzhno).

  • Мне нужно воспользоваться ванной/Мне нужна ванная 
    Mne nuzhno vospol’zovat’sya vannoy/Mne nuzhna vannaya
    “I need to use the bathroom.”
  • Мне нужно готовиться к экзамену
    Mne nuzhno gotovit’sya k ekzamenu
    “I have to prepare for my exam.”
Sentence Components

5. Expressing “Like”: I Like (to)…

You need to know how to structure a Russian sentence using the verb “to like” in order to sound positive in your speech. We’ve prepared some basic Russian sentence patterns to get you started: 

  • Ты мне нравишься 
    Ty mne nravish’sya
    “I like you.”

If you’re talking to an older person or somebody you don’t know very well, use Вы мне нравитесь (Vy mne nravites’) instead.

  • Мне нравится готовить 
    Mne nravitsya gotovit’
    “I like to cook.”
  • Мне нравится смотреть закаты на пляже 
    Mne nravitsya smotret’ zakaty na plyazhe
    “I like to watch sunsets at the beach.”
  • Мне нравится его чувство юмора 
    Mne nravitsya ego chuvstvo yumora
    “I like his sense of humor.”

If you’re talking about a girl or a woman, simply replace его (ego) with её (yeyo).

  • Мне нравится то, как моя мама ко мне относится 
    Mne nravitsya to, kak moya mama ko mne otnositsya
    “I like the way my mother treats me.”

6. Politely Asking Someone to Do Something: Please…

It’s important to know this easy Russian sentence structure if you want to make polite requests. Pay attention to these common Russian sentence patterns:

  • Пожалуйста, сядь(те) 
    Pozhaluysta, syad’(te)
    “Please, sit.”

The form сядь (syad’) is applicable if you’re talking to your friend or a close relative. If you’re speaking to a group of people, to a person who’s older than you, or someone who’s not in a close relationship with you, use the form сядьте (syad’te). Remember this rule while reading and using the Russian sentence patterns below.

  • Пожалуйста, послушай(те) меня 
    Pozhaluysta, poslushay(te) menya
    “Please, listen to me.”
  • Пожалуйста, встаньте в очередь
    Pozhaluysta, vstan’te v ochered’
    “Please, stand in line.”
  • Пожалуйста, прекрати(те) так нагло врать 
    Pozhaluysta, prekrati(te) tak naglo vrat’
    “Please, stop lying so brazenly.”
  • Пожалуйста, познакомь(те) нас друг с другом
    Pozhaluysta, poznakom’(te) nas drug s drugom
    “Please, introduce us to each other.”
A Man and Woman Shaking Hands at a Car Dealership

Being polite in Russian is as easy as in English.

7. Asking for Permission: May I / Can I?

If you visit Russia, it’s crucial that you know how to ask for permission. Moreover, these Russian phrases will help you sound polite. 

  • Я могу войти? 
    Ya mogu voyti?
    “May I come in?”
  • Можно мне воды? 
    Mozhno mne vody?
    “Can I get some water?”
  • Я могу опоздать на 15 минут?
    Ya mogu opozdat’ na 15 minut?
    “Can I be 15 minutes late?”
  • Могу я попросить твоего совета? 
    Mogu ya poprosit’ tvoyego soveta?
    “May I ask you for a piece of advice?”

To use the polite form, change твоего (tvoyego) to вашего (vashego).

  • Могу ли я позвать своего друга? 
    Mogu li ya pozvat svoyego druga?
    “Can I invite my friend?”

8. Asking for Information About Something: What is/was…?

With these Russian sentence patterns, you’ll be able to ask about many core things. For instance:

  • Что это? 
    Chto eto?
    “What is it?”
  • Как его зовут? 
    Kak ego zovut?
    “What is his name?”

If you’re interested in a girl’s name, use её (yeyo) instead of его (ego) in this Russian sentence.

  • Какое блюдо мы ели в последний раз? 
    Kakoye blyudo my yeli v posledniy raz?
    “What was the dish we had the last time?”
  • Какой сегодня день? 
    Kakoy segodnya den’?
    “What is the day today?”
  • Какой твой любимый цвет? 
    Kakoy tvoy lyubimyy tsvet?
    “What is your favorite color?”

In a formal situation or when talking to an older person, say ваш (vash), not твой (tvoy).

A Man and Woman Talking on a Date

Asking questions helps you sound interested in another person while talking to him or her.

9. Asking About Time: When is…?

To ask a question in Russian about the time, use the following sentence patterns:

  • Когда встреча? 
    Kogda vstrecha?
    “When is the meeting?”
  • Когда наш рейс? 
    Kogda nash reys?
    “When is our flight?”
  • Когда мы пойдём на море?
    Kogda my poydyom na more?
    “When will we go to the sea?”
  • Когда они наконец поженятся и заведут детей?
    Kogda oni nakonets pozhenyatsya i zavedut detey?
    “When will they marry and have children?”
  • Когда я уснул? 
    Kogda ya usnul?
    “When did I fall asleep?”

If you’re a woman, say уснула (usnula) instead of уснул (usnul).

10. Asking About Location or Position: Where is…?

Knowing the following Russian sentence structure and patterns, you’ll never get lost. They’ll also help you keep conversations going. Remember these examples:

  • Где лифт? 
    Gde lift?
    “Where is the elevator?”
  • Где ближайший ресторан?
    Gde blizhayshiy restoran?
    “Where is the nearest restaurant?”
  • Где родился Джек Лондон?
    Gde rodilsya Dzhek London?
    “Where was Jack London born?”
  • Где у вас тут туалет? 
    Gde u vas tut tualet?
    Gde u vas tut tualet?
  • Где лучше подстричься?
    Gde luchshe podstrich’sya?
    “Where should I cut my hair?”
The Red Square in Moscow

You should definitely know these questions if you go to Russia! 

11. Conclusion

In this article, you learned the top Russian language sentence structures every beginner should know. Each pattern in this article is correct and useful. 

Of course, there are many more speech constructions, and one article isn’t enough to name all of them. What we covered today should give you a good headstart and increase your speaking and writing level. If you want to learn more basic Russian sentence patterns to practice, visit RussianPod101.com. Here you’ll find a great deal of expressions for both beginners and advanced learners.

We also suggest that you use our premium service MyTeacher. If you choose to do so, a native Russian speaker will teach you, correct your mistakes, and test your knowledge. We’re sure that this method of studying will be the most efficient for you!

Feel free to let us know in the comments if you have any questions or need to know another sentence pattern!

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100 Must-Know Russian Adverbs List

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Why learn about Russian adverbs and Russian adverb rules?

Imagine you’re in a city you’ve never been to and you’re asking for directions. The person knows exactly where you should go, but they just keep repeating “Go, then turn, then go.” You’re stunned. What’s going on? 

This is what life without adverbs would look like. As soon as you include “straight,” “left,” and “right” in the conversation with that passer-by, the interaction suddenly makes much more sense. This is what adverbs do: they add minor and major nuances to our everyday life.

So, you actually have a solid reason to be interested in adverbs, and you’re in the right place to learn more about adverbs in Russian! In this article, we’ll cover Russian adverbs placement, their formation, and—more importantly—we’ll provide you with an extensive list of the 100 most useful Russian adverbs you should know. 

This article is aimed at intermediate Russian learners. However, beginners will also benefit from learning the basics about Russian adverbs, and advanced students will improve their vocabulary and understand more complex Russian structures by reading through our examples.

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  1. Tell Me More About Russian Adverbs
  2. The 100 Most Useful Russian Adverbs
  3. A Bonus from RussianPod101

1. Tell Me More About Russian Adverbs

Top Verbs

1 – What is an Adverb?

Adverbs are words that specify the meaning of verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They can completely change the meaning, or simply make it more precise. Unlike the majority of words in Russian, adverbs do not have gender, case, or number. They never change, but they can have comparative and superlative forms. We’ll talk about them in a minute.

Let’s have a look at some examples of Russian adverbs:

  • Медленно (medlenno) — “Slowly”
  • Быстро (bystro) — “Fast”
  • Прямо (pryamo) — “Straight”

And this is how these adverbs can be used with the verb идти (idti), meaning “to walk”:

  • Я иду медленно. (Ya idu medlenno.) — “I walk slowly.”
  • Я иду быстро. (Ya idu bystro.) — “I walk fast.”
  • Я иду прямо. (Ya idu pryamo.) — “I walk straight.”

As you can see, the first two adverbs change the way I walk, the speed. As for the third one, it’s specifying the direction: I’m walking straight, not left or right. By the way, some Russian adverbs are not adverbs in English; sometimes they don’t even have a direct equivalent, so be ready for surprises!

2 – How Do I Spot an Adverb?

Woman with Magnifying Glass

Russian adverbs are formed from various parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, and so on. However, deriving adverbs from adjectives is the most common way, just like in English. So how does it work in Russian?

Here’s how to form Russian adverbs this way:

хорош ИЙ  (khorishiy) >> хорош +O = хорошО (khorosho)

“Good” >> “Well”

Did you understand what happened? We removed the ending of the adjective and added “o” instead. Basically, an adverb derived from an adjective coincides with the neuter short form of this adjective. You can learn more about short adjectives with RussianPod101.com (available to signed-up users only).

Let’s consider an example:

  • Adjective: Это хороший фильм. (Eto khoroshiy fil’m.) — “This is a good movie.”
  • Adverb: Она хорошо поёт. (Ona khorosho poyot.) — “She sings well.”

As the word order is pretty flexible in Russian, adverbs can go either before or after the word they modify, preferably before.

Look at the different adverb positions:

  • Саша весело смеётся. (Sasha veselo smeyotsya.) — “Sasha is joyfully laughing.”
  • Саша смеётся весело. (Sasha smeyotsya veselo.) — “Sasha is laughing joyfully.”

You might be wondering, “So if you say that an adverb derived from an adjective looks exactly like its short neuter form, how do I know the difference between adverbs and adjectives?” 

Easily. First, adjectives usually answer questions like “What kind?” or “Which?”, and adverbs answer questions such as “How?”, “Where?”, “When?”, “How much?”, “Why?”, and “What for?” Second, the neuter adjective agrees with the noun in gender and number; the adverb, as mentioned above, does not. 

Compare: 

  • Он красиво играет на гитаре. (On krasivo igrayet na gitare.) — “He plays the guitar beautifully.”
  • Кольцо красиво. (Koltso krasivo.) — “The ring is beautiful.”

I’m pretty sure you can tell which one is the adverb and which one is the adjective even without the translation. Look at these two sentences and explain your choice using the rule above. Give it a go!

Just like in English, there are also some adverbs that look like prepositions. And there is a way to distinguish between them as well! A preposition can’t be separated from the noun, while an adverb is an independent word and it’s not going to hide behind anyone’s back when you ask “How?”, “Where?”, “When?”, “How much?”, “Why?”, and “What for?”

Compare:

  • Вокруг дома растут деревья. (Vokrug doma rastut derev’ya.) — “There are trees growing around the house.”
  • Вокруг было тихо. (Vokrug bylo tikho.) — “It was quiet around.”

So in the first sentence, вокруг дома (vokrug doma), meaning “around the house,” is an inseparable union,  and if you want to ask the question “Where?”, the answer is going to feature both words: вокруг дома (vokrug doma). However, in the second sentence, вокруг (vokrug) can answer the question “Where?” alone.

3 – Any Interesting Features of Russian Language Adverbs?

Remember how I mentioned that adverbs can have comparative and superlative forms? Indeed, most adverbs derived from adjectives keep their ability to form degrees of comparison. 

The comparative degree, or Russian comparative adverbs, can be formed in two ways:

  1. By adding -ее (-eye) to the end of the adverb (with some exceptions)
  • Весело (veselo) >> веселее (veseleye) — “Fun” >> “funner”
  • Быстро (bystro) >> быстрее (bystreye) — “Fast” >> “faster”
  1. By adding the words более (boleye) meaning “more” and менее (meneye) meaning “less”
  • Глубоко (gluboko) >> более глубоко (boleye gluboko) — “Deep” >> “deeper”
  • Глубоко (gluboko) >> менее глубоко (meneye gluboko) — “Deep” >> “less deep”

As a rule of thumb, you can choose whichever scheme you like; they’re pretty much equal. 

It’s a bit more complicated with the superlative form. The scheme is as follows:

Simple comparative form (ending with -ее) + words всех (vsekh) or всего (vsego) meaning “of all”

  • Интересно (interesno) >> интереснее всех (interesneye vsekh) —
    “Interesting” >> “the most interesting of all”
  • Далеко (daleko) >> дальше всех (dal’she vsekh) — “Far” >> “the farthest of all”

So now you have some solid background knowledge about what Russian adverbs are, what purpose they serve, and how they can change their form. You’re now ready for our comprehensive list of the 100 most common Russian adverbs! Let’s dive in!

2. The 100 Most Useful Russian Adverbs

There are many ways to classify adverbs, each one with its own purpose and reason. For this article, we’ve chosen the classification based on what question each adverb answers. It will be easier to remember the Russian adverbs divided by their functions.

1 – Russian Adverbs of Place (Where?)

East and West

Have you been to Russia? What’s the main attraction every tourist knows about? Let’s see if your guess was correct. Read the dialogue between a tour guide and a tourist.

1

Далеко (daleko)
“Far”
А далеко Красная площадь
A daleko Krasnaya ploshchad’?
“Is the Red Square far?”

2

Близко (blizko)
“Close”
Нет, совсем близко.
Net, sovsem blizko.
“No, it’s really close.”

3

Здесь (zdes’)
“Here”
Мы на месте. Посмотрите, здесь у нас храм.
My na meste. Posmotrite, zdes’ u nas khram.
“That’s the place. Look, here we have the church.”

4

Там (tam)
“(Over) there”
А там — Мавзолей.
A tam — Mavzoley.
“And the mausoleum is over there.”

5

Справа (sprava)
“To the right”
Справа от храма Кремль.
Sprava ot khrama Kreml’.
“The Kremlin is to the right of the church.”

6

Слева (sleva)
“To the left”
Слева от Кремля ГУМ. Это торговый центр.
Sleva ot Kremlya GUM. Eto torgovyy tsentr.
“GUM is to the left of the Kremlin. GUM is a shopping mall.”

7

Наверху (naverkhu)
“On the top”
Кремль легко узнать. У него наверху звезда.
Kreml’ legko uznat’. U nego naverkhu zvezda.
“It’s easy to recognize the Kremlin. It has a star on the top.”

8

Внизу (vnizu)
“At the bottom”
Внизу у Кремля стоит охрана.
Vnizu u Kremlya stoit okhrana.
“There are guards at the bottom of the Kremlin.”

9

Где-нибудь (gde-nibud’)
“Somewhere”
А здесь где-нибудь можно купить матрёшку?
A zdes’ gde-nibud’ mozhno kupit’ matryoshku?
“Can I buy a Russian doll somewhere here?”

10

Нигде (nigde)
“Nowhere”
“No… anywhere”
Тут только красивые здания, а сувениров нигде нет.
Tut tol’ko krasivyye zdaniya, a suvenirov nigde net.
“There are only beautiful buildings around, but I don’t see souvenirs anywhere.”

11

Везде (vezde)
“Everywhere”
И везде люди с фотоаппаратами.
I vezde lyudi s fotoapparatami.
“And people with cameras are everywhere.”

12

Дома (doma)
“At home”
Хочу матрёшку. Дома похвастаюсь, что был в России.
Khochu matryoshku. Doma pokhvastayus’, chto byl v Rossii.
“I want a Russian doll. I want to boast at home that I’ve been to Russia.”
Note: Just like in English, дома (doma), meaning “at home,” doesn’t necessarily imply “in your house.” It can also refer to your neighborhood, city, or country.

Even if you haven’t been to Russia yet, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about the Red Square. Do you know what it looks like? Have a look at this 360° panorama of the Red Square in Moscow. Can you find the church? Where is the Kremlin? Is it справа (sprava) or слева (sleva)?

By the way, we have a similar dialogue example with audio on RussianPod101.com. If you want more practice, check it out (available to signed-up users only)!

2 – Russian Adverbs of Direction (Where to?)

Have you read Russian fairy-tales? If yes, you should remember a very prominent inanimate character—a stone that gives you a hard choice of where to go at the junction. Which direction should I go? There is no good choice. Well, actually, there is. You can get familiar with the well-known Russian fairy-tale about the Firebird, read about the stone, and see what choice the main character makes. 

And then proceed through our list of adverbs!

13

Куда-то (kuda-to)
“Somewhere”
Снится мне сон, что я куда-то иду.
Snitsya mne son, chto ya kuda-to idu.
“I had a dream that I was going somewhere.”

14

Вперёд (vperyod)
“Forward”
Смотрю вперёд и вижу камень, как в русских сказках.
Smotryu vperyod i vizhu kamen’, kak v russkikh skazkakh.
 “I look forward and see a stone like the one in Russian fairy-tales.”

15

Налево (nalevo)
“(To the) left”
На камне написано: «Налево пойдёшь — счастье найдёшь».
Na kamne napisano: «Nalevo poydyosh’ — shchast’ye naydyosh’».
“The stone says, ‘If you go left, you will find your happiness.’”

16

Направо (napravo)
“(To the) right”
«Направо пойдёшь — богатство найдёшь».
«Napravo poydyosh’ — bogatstvo naydyosh’».
“‘If you go right, you will find wealth.’”

17

Назад (nazad)
“Back(wards)”
«Назад пойдёшь — беду встретишь».
«Nazad poydyosh’ — bedu vstretish’».
“’If you go back, you will only find misfortune.’”

18

Обратно (obratno)
“Back”
Я понял, что обратно идти нельзя.
Ya ponyal, chto obratno idti nel’zya.
“I realized that I can’t go back.”

19

Туда (tuda)
“There”
Счастье — это хорошо, но справа деньги обещают. Пошёл туда.
Shchast’ye — eto khorosho, no sprava den’gi obeshchayut. Poshyol tuda.
“Happiness is good, but I was promised money on the right. So I went there.”

20

Вверх (vverkh)
“Up”
Долго я шёл вверх по горам.
Dolgo ya shyol vverkh po goram.
“I was going up the mountains for a long time.”

21

Сюда (syuda)
“Here”
Думал: «Зачем я сюда пошёл?»
Dumal: «Zachem ya syuda poshyol?»
“I was thinking, ‘Why did I ever go here?’”

22

Вниз (vniz)
“Down”
С вершины холма заметил дом и пошёл вниз.
S vershiny kholma zametil dom i poshyol vniz.
“I spotted a house from the top of the hill, so I went down.”

23

Домой (domoy)
“Back home”
Зашёл в него: оказалось, вернулся домой к жене. 
Zashyol v nego: okazalos’, vernulsya domoy k zhene.
“I entered the place. It turned out I returned back home to my wife.”

24

Никуда (nikuda)
“Nowhere” = “Anywhere”
Понял, что семья — моё богатство, никуда за ним ходить не надо.
Ponyal, chto sem’ya — moyo bogatstvo, nikuda za nim khodit’ ne nado.
“I realized that my family is my wealth, and that I don’t need to go anywhere to find it.”

Note: Some adverbs of place and adverbs of direction might sound similar in English. However, there is a distinction in Russian. The difference is that the adverbs of direction indicate the process of moving somewhere, while adverbs of place actually imply that the subject is already at the place. 

3 – Russian Adverbs of Time (When? and How?)

Now, Tomorrow, Yesterday Signs

What is your reason for learning Russian? Do you feel like you need a push sometimes? Get a burst of motivation while reading through these Russian time adverbs! 

25

Недавно (nedavno)
“Recently”
Недавно ты решил начать изучать русский язык.
Nedavno ty reshil izuchat’ russkiy yazyk.
“Recently, you have decided to learn Russian.”

26

Ещё (yeshchyo)
“Yet” = “Still”
Ты ещё не знаешь всех слов.
Ty yeshchyo ne znayesh’ vsekh slov.
“You don’t know all the words yet.”

27

Уже (uzhe)
“Already”
Но уже что-то понимаешь.
No uzhe chto-to ponimayesh’.
“But you already understand something.”

28

Когда-нибудь (kogda-nibud’)
“One day”
Когда-нибудь ты точно заговоришь по-русски.
Kogda-nibud’ ty tochno zagovorish’ po-russki.
“One day, you will definitely speak Russian.”

29

Пока (poka)
“For now”
Пока давай вспомним правила эффективного изучения языка.
Poka davay vspomnim pravila effektivnogo izucheniya yazyka.
“For now, let’s review the rules of effective language learning.”

30

Заранее (zaraneye)
“In advance”
Заранее реши, чего ты хочешь достичь в изучении языка.
Zaraneye reshi, chego ty khochesh’ dostich’ v izuchenii yazyka.
“Decide in advance what you want to reach in language learning.”

31

Сразу (srazu)
“At once”
Не учи сразу по 100 слов.
Ne uchi srazu po 100 slov.
“Don’t learn 100 words at once.”

32

Быстро (bystro)
“Quickly”
Ты их быстро забудешь.
Ty ikh bystro zabudesh’.
“You will quickly forget them.”

33

Сначала (snachala)
“First”
Сначала выучи простые и нужные слова.
Snachala vyuchi prostyye i nuzhnyye slova.
“First learn simple and necessary words.”

34

Потом (potom)
“Later”
Уже потом можно выучить «отвёртка» и «материнская плата».
Uzhe potom mozhno vyuchit’ «otvyortka» i «materinskaya plata».
“And later, you can learn the words ‘screwdriver’ and ‘motherboard.’”

35

Скоро (skoro)
“Soon”
А то скоро сможешь обсуждать мировые проблемы, а еду в ресторане заказать не сможешь.
A to skoro smozhesh’ obsuzhdat’ mirovyye problemy, a edu v restorane zakazat’ ne smozhesh’.
“Otherwise, you will soon be able to discuss global problems but not order food in a restaurant.”

36

Долго (dolgo)
“For a long time”
Учить язык долго, но интересно.
Uchit’ yazyk dolgo, no interesno.
“You can learn a language for a long time, but it’s fun.”

37

Всегда (vsegda)
“Always”
Всегда узнаёшь что-то новое.
Vsegda uznayosh’ chto-to novoye.
“You always learn new stuff.”

38

Обычно (obychno)
“Usually”
Обычно хватает шести месяцев, чтобы начать понимать и говорить.
Obychno khvatayet shesti mesyatsev, chtoby nachat’ ponimat’ i govorit’.
“Usually, six months is enough to start understanding and speaking.”

39

Впервые (vpervyye)
“For the first time”
Главное — не опускать руки, когда впервые столкнёшься с трудностями.
Glavnoye — ne opuskat’ ruki, kogda vpervyye stolknyosh’sya s trudnostyami.
“It’s important to not give up when you face difficulties for the first time.”

40

Постоянно (postoyanno)
“Regularly”
Чтобы выучить язык, нужно постоянно практиковаться.
Chtoby vyuchit’ yazyk, nuzhno postoyanno praktikovat’sya.
“To learn a language, you need to practice regularly.”

41

Часто (chasto)
“Often”
Часто нам не хватает времени.
Chasto nam ne khvatayet vremeni.
“Often, we don’t have time.”

42

Некогда (nekogda)
“To have no time”
Ты можешь найти 15 минут, даже если тебе постоянно некогда.
Ty mozhesh’ nayti 15 minut, dazhe yesli tebe postoyanno nekogda.
“You can spare 15 minutes, even if you seem to have no time at all.”

43

Никогда (nikogda)
“Never”
Никогда не ленись.
Nikogda ne lenis’.
“Never allow yourself to be lazy.”

44

Редко (redko)
“Rarely”
Редко кому удаётся достичь желаемого без усилий.
Redko komu udayotsya dostich’ zhelayemogo bez usiliy.
“One can rarely achieve their goal effortlessly.”

45

Иногда (inogda)
“Sometimes”
Иногда хочется всё бросить. Вспомни, зачем ты начал.
Inogda khochetsya vsyo brosit’. Vspomni, zachem ty nachal.
“Sometimes you feel like giving it all up. Remember why you started.”

46

Снова (snova)
“Once again”
Давай снова повторим известные принципы продуктивности.
Davay snova povtorim izvestnyye printsipy produktivnosti.
“Let’s repeat the well-known rules of productivity once again.”

47

Рано (rano)
“Early”
Говорят, что лучше вставать рано, ведь утро — самое продуктивное время суток.
Govoryat, chto luchshe vstavat’ rano, ved’ utro — samoye produktivnoye vremya sutok.
“People say it’s better to get up early: the morning is considered to be the most productive time of the day.”

48

Поздно (pozdno)
“Late”
И лучше не ложиться поздно.
I luchshe ne lozhit’sya pozdno.
“And it’s better not to go to bed too late.”

49

Давно (davno)
“Long (time ago)”
Хотя давно известно, что у каждого свой ритм.
Khotya davno izvestno, chto u kazhdogo svoy ritm.
“Even though it has long been recognized that everybody’s got their own rhythm.”

50

Завтра (zavtra)
“Tomorrow”
Перестань откладывать дела на завтра.
Perestan’ otkladyvat’ dela na zavtra.
“Stop putting it off till tomorrow.”

51

Сегодня (segodnya)
“Today”
Через год ты пожалеешь, что не начал сегодня.
Cherez god ty pozhaleyesh’, chto ne nachal segodnya.
“In a year from now, you will regret not starting today.”

52

Вчера (vchera)
“Yesterday”
Каждый день старайся быть лучше, чем вчера.
Kazhdyy den’ staraysya byt’ luchshe, chem vchera.
“Every day, try to be better than yesterday.”

53

Однажды (odnazhdy)
“One day”
Однажды ты будешь благодарен себе за терпение.
Odnazhdy ty budesh’ blagodaren sebe za terpeniye.
“One day, you will be grateful for your patience.”

54

Сейчас (seychas)
“Now”
Начни действовать прямо сейчас! Выучи 10 новых наречий.
Nachni deystvovat’ pryamo seychas! Vyuchi 10 novykh narechiy.
“Start acting right now! Learn 10 new adverbs.”

By the way, here’s a helpful guide about how to learn foreign words effectively. It could be useful for you!

4 – Russian Adverbs of Degree (How much?)

More Essential Verbs

It would be useful to know these adverbs if you go to the market to buy some food. Otherwise, how would you stop that nice lady from putting more and more green peppers into your bag? Or prevent your friend from drinking too much? Look at how our two friends are dealing with this issue.

55

Много (mnogo)
“Much”
Ты зачем столько много пил вчера?
Ty zachem stol’ko mnogo pil vchera?
“Why did you drink so much yesterday?”

56

Мало (malo)
“Little,” “not enough”
Мало тебе проблем с женой?
Malo tebe problem s zhenoy?
“Don’t you have enough problems with your wife?”

57

Чуть-чуть (chut’-chut’)
“Tiny bit”
Да я выпил-то совсем чуть-чуть.
Da ya vypil-to sovsem chut’-chut’.
“But I drank just a tiny bit.”

58

Примерно (primerno)
“Approximately”
Примерно пять бутылок пива.
Primerno pyat’ butylok piva.
“Five bottles of beer, approximately.”

59

Достаточно (dostatochno)
“Enough”
Достаточно, чтобы сегодня болела голова.
Dostatochno, chtoby segodnya bolela golova.
“Enough to have a headache today.”

60

Немного (nemnogo)
“A bit”
Ну, немного перебрал.
Nu, nemnogo perebral.
“Well yeah, I drank a bit too much.”

61

Только (tol’ko)
“Just”
Я ж только расслабиться хотел!
Ya zh tol’ko rasslabit’sya khotel!
“I just wanted to relax!”

62

Больше (bol’she)
“More”
Больше пить не буду!
Bol’she pit’ ne budu!
“I’m not going to drink anymore!”

63

Меньше (men’she)
“Less,” “fewer”
Правильно, меньше будет проблем.
Pravil’no, men’she budet problem.
“That’s right, you’ll have fewer problems.”

64

Слишком (slishkom)
“Too much,” “too many”
Если в жизни слишком много стресса, давай лучше на природу съездим!
Yesli v zhizni slishkom mnogo stressa, davay luchshe na prirodu s’yezdim!
“If you have too much stress in your life, let’s just have a nature trip!”

65

Тоже (tozhe)
“As well”
Прогулки в лесу тоже отлично расслабляют.
Progulki v lesu tozhe otlichno rasslablyayut.
“Walking in the forest can relax you as well.”

66

Очень (ochen’)
“Very”
Свежий воздух и тишина очень полезны.
Svezhiy vozdukh i tishina ochen’ polezny.
“Fresh air and silence are very healthy.”

67

Почти (pochti)
“Almost”
Я почти каждую неделю езжу туда отдыхать от шумного города.
Ya pochti kazhduyu nedelyu ezzhu tuda otdykhat’ ot shumnogo goroda.
“I go there almost every week to take a break from the buzzing city.”

5 – Russian Adverbs of Manner (How?)

This is the biggest category of all, by far. The variety of sentences here includes all possible adjectives converted into adverbs. Can you identify which adverbs used to be adjectives?

68

Хорошо (khorosho)
“Nicely,” “well”
Она хорошо справилась с тестом.
Ona khorosho spravilas’ s testom.
“She did well on the test.”

69

Плохо (plokho)
“Bad”
Он плохо воспринял новости. 
On plokho vosprinyal novosti.
“He reacted badly to the news.”

70

Вместе (vmeste)
“Together”
Давай сходим на концерт вместе?
Davay skhodim na kontsert vmeste?
“Let’s go to the concert together?”

71

Наоборот (naoborot)
“Vice versa”
Пиццу — в духовку, пиво — в холодильник, а не наоборот!
Pitstsu — v dukhovku, pivo — v kholodil’nik, a ne naoborot!
“Pizza goes in the oven, beer goes in the fridge, not vice versa!”

72

Легко (legko)
“Easily”
Да я легко 100 метров за 14 секунд пробегу!
Da ya legko 100 metrov za 14 sekund probegu!
“I will easily run a hundred meters in 14 seconds!”

73

Сложно (slozhno)
“Difficult”
Сложно быть умнее всех. 
Slozhno byt’ umneye vsekh.
“It’s difficult to be the smartest one.”

74

Специально (spetsial’no)
“On purpose”
Я специально несколько банок купил, чтоб на дольше хватило!
Ya spetsial’no neskol’ko banok kupil, chtob na dol’she khvatilo!
“I bought several jars on purpose so that they last longer!”

75

Зря (zrya)
“For nothing”
Магазин закрыт, зря ходил.
Magazin zakryt, zrya khodil.
“The shop is closed, I’ve been there for nothing.”

76

По-русски (po-russki)
“In Russian”
Как сказать это по-русски?
Kak skazat’ eto po-russki?
“How do you say it in Russian?”

77

По-английски (po-angliyski)
“In English”
Я свободно говорю по-английски.
Ya svobodno govoryu po-angliyski.
“I’m fluent in English.”

78

Наизусть (naizust’)
“By heart”
Я выучил стихотворение наизусть.
Ya vyuchil stikhotvoreniye naizust’.
“I’ve learned the poem by heart.”

79

Правильно (pravil’no)
“Rightly” = “Correctly”
Мы правильно решили пример.
My pravil’no reshili primer.
“We have solved the equation correctly.”

80

Случайно (sluchayno)
“Accidentally”
Он случайно наступил мне на ногу.
On sluchayno nastupil mne na nogu.
“He accidentally stepped on my foot.”

81

Пешком (peshkom)
“On foot”
Я решил идти на работу пешком.
Ya reshil idti na rabotu peshkom.
“I’ve decided to go to work on foot.”

82

Медленно (medlenno)
“Slowly”
Старушка медленно спускалась по лестнице.
Starushka medlenno spuskalas’ po lestnitse.
“The old lady was slowly walking down the stairs.”

83

Обязательно (obyazatel’no)
“Definitely,” “necessarily”
В Москве обязательно посетите Красную площадь.
V Moskve obyazatel’no posetite Krasnuyu ploshchad’.
“You should definitely visit the Red Square in Moscow.”

84

Бесплатно (besplatno)
“For free”
На YouTube можно смотреть видео бесплатно.
Na YouTube mozhno smotret’ video besplatno.
“You can watch videos on YouTube for free.”

85

Вкусно (vkusno)
“Deliciously”
Мой папа вкусно готовит.
Moy papa vkusno gotovit.
“My father cooks deliciously.”

86

Особенно (osobenno)
“Especially”
Мне часто хочется спать, особенно после обеда.
Mne chasto khochetsya spat’, osobenno posle obeda.
“I’m often sleepy, especially after lunch.”

87

Осторожно (ostorozhno)
“Carefully,” “with caution”
Он осторожно открыл дверь.
On ostorozhno otkryl dver’.
“He opened the door with caution.”

6 – Russian Adverbs of State

The following list doesn’t include adverbs, technically. However, these words—adverbs of state—behave (and look!) like adverbs of manner, so they deserve a separate section in our article. The adverbs of state indicate feelings and states of people and animals. 

Compare:

  • Adverb of state: Ему холодно. (Yemu kholodno.) — “He’s cold.”
  • Adverb of manner: На улице холодно. (Na ulitse kholodno.) — “It’s cold outside.”
Snowy Scene

We use pronouns and nouns in the dative case with adverbs of state. To review the forms of personal pronouns in dative, you can check this link (available to signed-up users only).

88

Холодно (kholodno)
“Cold”
Мне холодно.
Mne kholodno.
“I’m cold.”

89

Жарко (zharko)
“Hot”
Тебе жарко?
Tebe zharko?
“Are you hot?”

90

Скучно (skuchno)
“Boring,” “bored”
Нам скучно.
Nam skuchno.
“We are bored.”

91

Интересно (interesno)
“Interesting,” “interested”
Ей очень интересно.
Yey ochen’ interestno.
“She’s really interested.”

92

Грустно (grustno)
“Sad,” “sadly”
Вам грустно?
Vam grustno?
“Are you sad?”

93

Весело (veselo)
“To have fun”
Им весело.
Im veselo.
“They are having fun.”
Весело (veselo)
“To have fun”

7 – Russian Adverbs as Questions

Remember we discussed the questions that Russian adverbs answer? The truth is, the questions themselves are actually adverbs! Surprised? Have a look at the example sentences. 

94

Где (gde)
“Where”
Где ты живешь? 
Gde ty zhivesh?
“Where do you live?”

95

Когда (kogda)
“When”
Когда ты начал изучать русский язык? 
Kogda ty nachal izuchat’ russkiy yazyk?
“When did you start learning Russian?”

96

Куда (kuda)
“Where to”
Куда бы ты хотел поехать в отпуск? 
Kuda by ty khotel poyekhat’ v otpusk?
“Where would you like to go on vacation?”

97

Откуда (otkuda)
“Where from”
У тебя есть друзья из других стран? Откуда они? 
U tybya yest’ druz’ya iz drugikh stran? Otkuda oni?
“Do you have international friends? Where are they from?”

98

Зачем (zachem)
“What for”
Зачем ты учишь русский язык? 
Zachem ty uchish’ russkiy yazyk?
“What do you learn Russian for?”

99

Почему (pochemu)
“Why”
Почему ты ещё не достиг желаемого уровня?
Pochemu ty eshchyo ne dostig zhelayemogo urovnya?
“Why haven’t you reached the desired level yet?”

100

Как (kak)
“How”
Как ты будешь достигать своей цели? 
Kak ty budesh dostigat’ svoyey tseli?
“How are you going to reach your goal?”

How many questions can you answer? We would love to hear from you!

3. A Bonus from RussianPod101

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about Russian adverbs, their formation, their placement in a sentence, and you’ve been through our list of the 100 most useful Russian adverbs. How many new adverbs did you learn? Are you ready to add the new adverbs to your speech and sound more advanced?

Good job! RussianPod101 is offering you a bonus: a free list of Must-know Adverbs to Connect Your Thoughts. Make sure to check it out! 

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching to practice adverbs and more with a private teacher. This teacher will use assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and voice recordings to improve your pronunciation and overall language skills! Happy learning with RussianPod101!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Russian

Everything You Need to Know About Russian Verb Conjugation

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Russian verb conjugation… If you’re a beginner, you must be looking for your first conjugation tables to finally see what those proficient Russian learners have been intimidating you with. Or maybe you’re an intermediate learner who’s already mastered basic Russian conjugation rules and are now looking for more of a challenge. Maybe you’re an advanced learner who wouldn’t mind going over the basics again or learning new verb conjugation nuances you’ve never heard of? In any case, I’m happy to reveal some secrets to you that will help you tame the Russian verbs.

It’s not a secret that Russian grammar (and verb conjugation, in particular) are demanding. It’s a long and complicated adventure, but I’m happy to guide you through the dark forests of Russian verb conjugation tables and hold your hand while hiking up the peak of language mastery. 

What are we going to see on our way? I’ll tell you what conjugation is, what factors affect verb conjugation in Russian (tense, mood, aspect, etc.), show you some conjugation tables, and give you a handful of useful tools so that you can continue the journey alone. 

Ready for a big adventure?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Russian Table of Contents
  1. What is Conjugation?
  2. Conjugation Examples
  3. Irregular Verbs
  4. Test Your Knowledge!
  5. A Bonus from RussianPod101

1. What is Conjugation?

Top Verbs

So what is conjugation? It sounds like a complicated linguistic term, but we face this phenomenon daily.  

Conjugation means changing the basic form of a verb. The basic form of the verb—the infinitive—is what you see in the dictionary. In many conjugation tables, you can find so-called “verb derivatives”: participles, verbal adverbs, etc. They are, indeed, derived from verbs, but behave differently. They either decline like adjectives or don’t change their form at all. So in this article, we will mainly focus on verbs.

To conjugate a verb in Russian, you need to keep several features in mind:

  • Person
  • Number
  • Tense
  • Conjugation group
  • Aspect
  • Mood
  • Gender

As you can see, Russian verb conjugation differs significantly from the verb conjugation in English. I’m pretty sure you’re already familiar with some of these features, but we will brush up on all of them!

1- Person and Number

1st person singularя (ya)“I”
2nd person singularты (ty)“you” (casual)
3rd person singularон, она, оно (on, ona, ono)“he” / “she” / “it”
1st person pluralмы (my)“we”
2nd person pluralвы (vy)“you” (plural), “you” (formal)
“you” (plural), “you” (formal)они (oni)“they”

Russian verbs conjugate differently with each person.

For example: 

  • Я рисую (Ya risuyu) — “I draw.”
  • Мы рисуем (My risuyem) — “We draw.”

You can find the Russian conjugation table with the endings for each person a bit later in this article. Also, don’t hesitate to revisit the most common Russian pronouns!

2- Tense

As complicated as Russian conjugation and grammar seem overall, here’s a big relief. There are only three tenses in Russian: present, past, and future. Not difficult to guess what each of them represents!

The Present Tense

Have a look at this example:

  • покупать (pokupat’) — “to buy”
  • я покупаю (ya pokupayu) — “I buy”
  • мы покупаем (my pokupayem) — “we buy”

Did you notice what happened? We’ve changed the ending of the verb. And I’d be happy to tell you that this is just what you need to do—remove the last letters of the infinitive, and you’re golden. But, unfortunately, it’s not that easy. So grab a cup of tea and some cookies, and get comfy.

There are two sets of endings for Russian verbs, and therefore, two conjugation groups. We didn’t come up with insanely complicated names for them; we just called them “Group 1” and “Group 2.” Quite often, you can predict which group a verb belongs to by looking at the ending of the infinitive.

Russian verbs: first and second conjugation groups

Group 1Group 2
Endings -еть, -ать, -ять, -уть, -ти
(-yet’, -at’, -yat’, -ut’, -ti)

For example:

Богатеть (bogatet’) — “to get richer”
Играть (igrat’) — “to play”
Гулять (gulyat’) — “to stroll”
Гнуть (gnut’) — “to bend”
Ползти (polzti) — “to crawl”
Most verbs ending with -ить (-it’)

For example: 

Говорить (govorit’) — “to speak”
Учить (uchit’) — “to learn” / “to teach”

+ 11 exceptions, verbs that seemingly belong to Group 1:
  • Дышать (dyshat’) — “to breathe”
  • Держать (derzhat’) — “to hold”
  • Гнать (gnat’) — “to drive fast”
  • Ненавидеть (nenavidet’) — “to hate”
  • Слышать (slyshat’) — “to hear”
  • Вертеть (vertet’) — “to spin something”
  • Смотреть (smotret’) — “to look”
    Видеть (videt’) — “to see”
  • Обидеть (obidet’) — “to offend”
  • Терпеть (terpet’) — “to tolerate”
  • Зависеть (zaviset’) — “to depend”
  • PRO TIPS: 

1. You can easily identify the group by keeping in mind that eleven exceptions, and most verbs ending with -ить, belong to Group 2. The rest belong to Group 1.

2. Many infinitives end with -ть, but sometimes -ться can pop up. It’s a typical ending for reflexive verbs like одеваться (odevat’sya), meaning “to dress.”

“So, now I know about the conjugation groups. Can I finally see the endings?” 

I hope you still have some cookies left! Even though you can try to guess the Russian verb conjugation type by the infinitive endings (with a pretty high success rate!), the endings for the present tense are added onto the present tense verb stem. You can find the stem by cutting off the ending of its third person plural form (“they”). 

Confusing? Read it once again, your eyes are not deceiving you: to find the stem, you need a verb that is already conjugated. This is the only sure way to get the rest of your conjugations right. Does it seem like a lot of unnecessary steps? Spoiler: This stem will be used for other conjugations, such as the future and imperative forms. 

  • Here’s a tool that will help you tackle verb conjugations and support you until you feel confident conjugating them yourself: Context Conjugator.
  • What part of the verb do I add the endings to? 
  • The present tense stem: Remove the last two letters in third person plural + add new endings


“To play”: играть (infinitive) > играют (third plural) > игра (stem)
 

  • The infinitive: Remove the last two letters from the infinitive (usually -ть or -ти)

“To learn”: учить (infinitive, Group 2) > учи (stem)

Again, finding the stem from the third plural form is more reliable. 

Now, let’s have a look at the endings that we use for each conjugation group.

Group 1

играть (igrat’) — “to play”

я играю* (ya igrayu) — “I play”
ты играешь (ty igrayesh’) — “you play” (inf.)
он играет (on igrayet) — “he plays”
мы играем (my igrayem) — “we play”
вы играете (vy igrayete) — “you play” (f./pl.)
они играют* (oni igrayut) — “they play”
Group 2

учить (uchit’) — “to learn”, “to teach”

я учу* (ya uchu) — “I learn”
ты учишь (ty uchish’) — “you learn”
она учит (ona uchit) — “she learns”
мы учим (my uchim) — “we learn”
вы учите (vy uchite) — “you learn”
они учат* (oni uchat) — “they learn”
* Use the endings -ю, -ют after vowels or the soft sign (e.g.: я думаю, они читают).


Use -у, -ут after consonants (e.g. я расту).
* Use the endings and -ат after the letters 
Ж, Ш, Ч, Щ, and all hard consonants.


Use and -ят after soft consonants
and vowels.

As you can see, the Russian verb conjugation endings are pretty similar. The biggest difference is that changes into , and -у/ю is replaced with -а/я

  • Impatient to see all possible conjugations without getting into the details or the logic behind it? You can jump right to the Russian verb conjugation chart!

Also feel free to check this grammar section on RussianPod101.com about the conjugation of verb groups (logged-in users only).

Woman Doing Something on a Tablet

Она учится или играет? (Ona uchitsya ili igrayet?)
“Is she learning or playing?”

The Past Tense

To form Russian verbs in past tense, you need to drop the infinitive endings -ть, -ти, -чь, and add the following endings:

  • masculine: (-l)
  • feminine: -ла (-la)
  • neuter: -ло (-lo)
  • plural: -ли (-li)

Examples:

  • думать (dumat’) — “to think”
  • он думал (on dumal) — “he thought”
  • она думала (ona dumala) — “she thought”
  • мы думали (my dumali) — “we thought”
  • This is the only tense where gender plays a role.

The Future Tense

So far so good. The past tense was super-easy, wasn’t it? Back to the real business! There are two ways to create the future form in Russian:

Way 1: Appropriate form of the verb быть (byt’), meaning “to be,” + the infinitive 

писать (pisat’), meaning “to write.”

  • я буду писать (ya budu pisat’) — “I will write”
  • ты будешь писать (ty budesh’ pisat’) — “you will write” (inf.)
  • он будет писать (on budet pisat’) — “he will write”
  • мы будем писать (my budem pisat’) — “we will write”
  • вы будете писать (vy budete pisat’) — “you will write” (f./pl.)
  • они будут писать (oni budut pisat’) — “they will write”

Way 2: The perfective form of the verb + the present tense endings.

  • писать (pisat’) — “to write”
  • я напишу (ya napishu) — “I will write”

“Wait, what? What perfective form are you talking about? How do I know if I should choose Way 1 or Way 2?” 

These are really smart questions! Without further ado…the verb aspects!

3- Aspect

Due to the simplicity of the tense system in Russian, we had to come up with the idea of aspects. There are two verb aspects in Russian: imperfective and perfective. Aspects are only used when talking about the past and the future; we don’t differentiate the verbs by their aspect in the present tense!

Aspects are used to indicate the difference between an ongoing / repeating action (the imperfective aspect) and an action that was completed successfully (the perfective aspect). Doesn’t it remind you of anything? That’s right, the continuous / simple tenses in English versus the perfect tenses. The only difference is that the English present perfect is going to be considered past in Russian.

Compare:

  • я ел (ya yel) — “I was eating”
  • я поел (ya poyel) — “I’ve eaten”

What is the difference in English? What form of the verb is perfective? Which one is imperfective? I’m pretty sure you can answer these questions yourself!

Please look at those two phrases again. Have you noticed what happened to the Russian verb? We added a prefix to the verb! A prefix is a set combination of letters added before the stem of the verb. So, outfitting Russian verbs with prefixes is the most frequent way of making perfective forms. In some cases, we can make them with a suffix instead, but it’s not as common. 

The good news is that you can easily spot a perfective form by its prefix (with some minor exceptions). The bad news is that there are many prefixes to remember, and sometimes they change the meaning of the verb completely. I suggest that you memorize the prefix of the verb together with the meaning it brings.

Compare:

  • он шёл (on shel) — “he was going”
  • он пришёл (on prishel) — “he has arrived”
  • он ушёл (on ushel) — “he has gone”
  • он отошёл (on otoshel) — “he has left, but will come back soon”
  • Again, we don’t use the perfective form in the present, only in the past or in the future. So, depending on what idea you want to convey, you choose the appropriate form. 

Look at these two verbs in the past tense:

  • я видел (ya videl) — “I saw”
  • я увидел (ya uvidel) — “I have seen” / “I had seen”

And now check out these two verbs in the future:

  • я буду петь (ya budu pet’) — “I will sing” (regularly)
  • я спою (ya spoyu) — “I will sing” (once, like a promise)

Can you see the difference? The perfective form usually carries the idea of a one-time action. The imperfective form indicates that the process is ongoing or that the action repeats.

4- Mood

Just in case, this section is going to be about the grammatical mood (and not about how your mood affects the verb conjugation). Well, people tend to use more imperatives when they’re angry!

We define the mood by the intention of what we say. Do we want to talk about something that’s happening in reality? Are we imagining a hypothetical situation? Do we want to give an order to another person?

MoodExampleIntention
IndicativeЯ говорю (Ya govoryu) — “I speak”Expressing facts and reality
ImperativeГовори! (Govori!) — “Speak!” (informal)
Говорите! (Govorite!) — “Speak!” (formal)
Giving orders or instructions
ConditionalЯ бы сказал (Ya by skazal) — “I would say”Talking about a condition or a possibility

The Indicative Mood 

This is what beginners start learning first. This is by far the most common mood in Russian. The indicative mood is usually combined with three tenses, and that creates a specific set of endings for each verb group.

The Imperative Mood

In an informal situation, the imperative form usually ends in -и, -ай, or .

  • The verbs ending in -ать in the infinitive mainly take -ай. For example: играть (igrat’) >> играй (igray) — “Play!” 
  • The verbs ending in -ить mainly take . For example: говорить (govorit’) >> говори (govori) — “Speak!” 

In a formal situation, or when we speak to more than one person, we take the informal imperative form and add -те. For example: играть (igrat’) >> играйте (igrayte) — “Play!” (formal / plural).

You can learn more about the imperative mood from our relevant article (logged-in users only). 

Conditional Mood 

We use бы (by) + the past tense of the verb.

Example: 

  • я бы подумал (ya by podumal) — “I would think”
  • он бы написал (on by napisal) — “he would write”

Бы doesn’t have a fixed place in the sentence. I would say it’s pretty common to place it closer to the subject (noun or pronoun) rather than the verb.

  • The imperative and conditional moods do not have tenses.
Someone Erasing Something on Notebook Paper

Сначала написал, потом подумал. (Snachala napisal, potom podumal.)
“First wrote, then thought.”

2. Conjugation Examples

Now let’s try to summarize everything we’ve learned and put it into practice. Again, four main features to keep in mind:





Let’s finally dive into the Russian conjugation charts! You’ll notice that some cells have the abbreviations (m) and (f). They stand for “male” and “female” respectively.

GROUP 1: Part 1
думать
(dumat’)
“to think”

Indicative
PresentPast
(imperfective / perfective)
Future
(imperfective / perfective)
я
“I”
думаю*(m) думал 

(f) думала
(m) подумал 

(f) подумала
буду думатьподумаю*
ты
“you” informal
думаешь(m) думал 

(f) думала
(m) подумал 

(f) подумала
будешь думатьподумаешь
он “he”

она “she”

оно “it”
думаетдумал 

думала

думало
подумал 

подумала

подумало
будет думатьподумает
мы 
“we”
думаемдумалидумалибудем думатьподумаем
вы 
“you” formal /
plural
думаетедумалиподумалиподумалиподумаете
они 
“they”
думают*думалиподумалnmjhбудут думатьподумают*
GROUP 1: Part 2
думать
(dumat’)
“to think”
Imperative
(imperfective / perfective)
Conditional
(imperfective / perfective)
я
“I”
(m) бы думал 

(f) бы думала
(m) бы подумал 

(f) бы подумала
ты
“you” informal
думайподумай(m) бы думал 

(f) бы думала
(m) бы подумал 

(f) бы подумала
он “he”

она “she”

оно “it”
бы думал 

бы думала

бы думало
бы подумал 

бы подумала

бы подумало
мы 
“we”
бы думалибы подумали
вы 
“you” formal /
plural
думайтеподумайтебы думалибы подумали
они 
“they”
бы думалибы подумали
* Use the endings , -ют after vowels or the soft sign (e.g.: я думаю, они читают
   Use -у, -ут after consonants (e.g. я расту).
  • Still confused about these perfective and imperfective forms? Not sure which one to choose? Please refer to the “Aspect” section once again.

Carefully analyze the table. Do you see the similarities between some forms? Try to remember the Russian conjugation patterns.

Woman Thinking Hard about a Homework Question

What verb would you use to describe her:
подумала? думает? будет думать?
(podumala? dumayet? budet dumat’?)

Let’s have a look at how other verbs behave.

GROUP 2: Part 1
говорить
(govorit’)
“to talk”
Indicative
PresentPast
(imperfective / perfective)
Future
(imperfective / perfective)
я
“I”
говорю*(m) говорил 

(f) говорила
(m) поговорил 

(f) поговорила
буду говоритьпоговорю*
ты
“you” informal
говоришь(m) говорил 

(f) говорила
(m) поговорил 

(f) поговорила
будешь говоритьпоговоришь
он “he”

она “she”

оно “it”
говоритговорил 

говорила

говорило
поговорил 

поговорила 

поговорило
будет говоритьпоговорит
мы 
“we”
говоримговорилипоговорилибудем говоритьпоговорим
вы 
“you” formal /
plural
говоритеговорилипоговорилибудете говоритьпоговорите
они 
“they”
говорят*говорилипоговорилибудут говоритьпоговорят*
GROUP 2: Part 2
говорить
(govorit’)
“to talk”
Imperative
(imperfective / perfective)
Conditional
(imperfective / perfective)
я
“I”
(m) бы говорил 

(f) бы говорила
(m) бы поговорил 

(f) бы поговорила
ты
“you” informal
говорипоговори(m) бы говорил 

(f) бы говорила
(m) бы поговорил 

(f) бы поговорила
он “he”

она “she”

оно “it”
бы говорил 

бы говорила

бы говорило
бы поговорил 

бы поговорила 

бы поговорило
мы 
“we”
бы говорилибы поговорили
вы 
“you” formal /
plural
говоритепоговоритебы говорилибы поговорили
они 
“they”
бы говорилибы поговорили
* The endings and -ат are used after the letters Ж, Ш, Ч, Щ, and all hard consonants 
and -ят are used after soft consonants and vowels.

Now let’s have a look at how reflexive verbs conjugate (pay special attention to their form in the past tense).

I have chosen a verb that takes a suffix to create a perfective form, not a prefix. Can you spot it?
REFLEXIVE VERB GROUP 1: Part 1
улыбаться
(ulybat’sya)
“to smile”
Indicative
PresentPast
(imperfective / perfective)
Future
(imperfective / perfective)
я
“I”
улыбаюсь(m) улыбался 

(f) улыбалась
(m) улыбнулся 

(f) улыбнулась
буду улыбатьсяулыбнусь
ты
“you” informal
улыбаешься(m) улыбался 

(f) улыбалась
(m) улыбнулся 

(f) улыбнулась
будешь улыбатьсяулыбнёшься
он “he”

она “she”

оно “it”
улыбаетсяулыбался 

улыбалась

улыбалось
улыбнулся 

улыбнулась

улыбнулось
будет улыбатьсяулыбнётся
мы 
“we”
улыбаемсяулыбалисьулыбнулисьбудем улыбатьсяулыбнёмся
вы 
“you” formal /
plural
улыбаетесьулыбалисьулыбнулисьбудете улыбатьсяулыбнётесь
они 
“they”
улыбаютсяулыбалисьулыбнулисьбудут улыбатьсяулыбнутся
REFLEXIVE VERB GROUP 1: Part 2
улыбаться
(ulybat’sya)
“to smile”
Imperative
(imperfective / perfective)
Conditional
(imperfective / perfective)
я
“I”
(m) бы улыбался 

(f) бы улыбалась
(m) бы улыбнулся 

(f) бы улыбнулась
ты
“you” informal
улыбайсяулыбнись(m) бы улыбался 

(f) бы улыбалась
(m) бы улыбнулся 

(f) бы улыбнулась
он “he”

она “she”

оно “it”
бы улыбался 

бы улыбалась

бы улыбалось
бы улыбнулся 

бы улыбнулась

бы улыбнулось
мы 
“we”
бы улыбалисьбы улыбнулись
вы 
“you” formal /
plural
улыбайтесьулыбнитесьбы улыбалисьбы улыбнулись
они 
“they”
бы улыбалисьбы улыбнулись
Man Giving an Exaggerated Smile

My face when I’ve finally understood how to conjugate verbs!

3. Irregular Verbs

I believe you were hoping not to see this section in the article. Nobody likes exceptions. But irregular verbs are featured in many languages, including English, and Russian is not an exception. The curse of irregular verbs is that the most common verbs usually fall into this category. But if you just pay close attention to how they conjugate, you might see the pattern to follow as well. 

So, how are they irregular? It really depends on the verb. Sometimes they might insert an extra vowel in the stem:

  • брать (brat’) — “to take”
  • The present tense: я беру, ты берёшь, мы берём (ya beru, ty beryosh’, my beryom) — “I take, you take, we take”


However, the same verb behaves normally in the past tense:

  • я брал, мы брали, она брала (ya bral, my brali, ona brala) — “I was taking, we were taking, she was taking”

As long as it keeps its imperfective form! The verb in its perfective form changes beyond recognition! 

  • я взял, он взял, ты взяла (ya vzyal, on vzyal, ty vzyala) — “I’ve taken, he’s taken, you’ve taken (f)”

You can find similar examples in English: “go — went — gone.” The middle word is totally different!

Sometimes, irregular verbs can “misbehave” only in first person singular (“I”). 

Compare: я люблю, ты любишь, мы любим (ya lyublyu, ty lyubish’, my lyubim) — “I love, you love, we love.”

This happens when the infinitive of a verb has features of a Group 2 verb and its stem ends in Б, В, Д, З, П, С, Т, or СТ. In this case, it undergoes a spelling change for the first person singular (“I”) in the present.

Similar verbs:

  • готовить (gotovit’) — “to cook” >> я готовлю (ya gotovlyu) — “I cook”
  • летать (letat’) — “to fly” >> я лечу (ya lechu) — “I fly”
  • терпеть (terpet’) — “to tolerate” >> я терплю (ya terplyu) — “I tolerate” etc.

This is not an exhaustive list of tricks that irregular verbs use to stand out. And while learning how to spot them, or remembering all the exceptions, can indeed be exhausting, seeing irregular verbs as a challenging adventure can be motivating! Every language is a secret code that you’re about to decipher, and this is just an extra layer of security. But a true detective should know how to solve this mystery!

  • Again, here’s a tool that will help you tackle complicated verb conjugations and support you until you feel confident conjugating them yourself: Context Conjugator.

Now let’s try to unscramble the behavior of an irregular verb.

IRREGULAR VERB
давать
(davat’)
“to give”
IndicativeImperative
(imperf / perf)
Conditional
(imperf / perf)
PresentPast
(imperf / perf)
Future
(imperf / perf)
я
“I”
даю(m) давал 

(f) давала
дал

дала
буду даватьдам(m) бы давал 

(f) бы давала
дал

дала
ты
“you” informal
даёшь (m) давал 

 (f) давала
дал 

дала
будешь даватьдашьдавайдай(m) бы давал 

(f) бы давала
дал

дала
он “he”

она “she”

оно “it”
даётдавал 

давала

давало
дал

 дала 

 дало
будет даватьдастбы давал 

бы давала 

бы давало
 дал

дала 

дало
мы 
“we”
даёмдавалидалибудем даватьдадимбы давалидали
вы 
“you” formal /
plural
даётедавалидалибудете даватьдадитебы давалидали
они 
“they”
даютдавалидалибудут даватьдадутбы давалидали

Have a look at this table and try to analyze it: Does the conjugation of this irregular verb have anything in common with how regular verbs conjugate? What is it? And what exactly is different? 

  • You can find a pretty detailed list of Russian irregular verbs here. Conjugation tables will keep you good company at first, but learn not to rely on them too much. Practice makes perfect!

4. Test Your Knowledge!

More Essential Verbs

Now I feel like you’re ready to impress me with your newly acquired skills! Prepare your conjugation tables, your irregular verbs table, your attentiveness, and your desire to succeed!

For this Russian conjugation quiz, please conjugate the verbs in parentheses. Don’t worry if you can’t find all the answers. I will help you!

  1. Я (жить) _______ в Екатеринбурге. Где вы (жить) _______?
    I live in Ekaterinburg. Where do you live?”
  1. (Рассказывать)______ мне о своих увлечениях.
    “Tell me about your hobbies.”
  1. Мы с друзьями (любить)______ (путешествовать)_______ и (изучать) _____ иностранные языки.
    “My friends and I, we love to travel and learn new languages.”
  1. Если бы я больше времени (проводить)______ дома, я бы с радостью (взять) ______ кошку или собаку.
    “If I spent more time at home, I would gladly take a cat or a dog.”
  1.  В следующем году мои друзья (ехать) _____ в Японию. 
    Конечно же, я тоже (хотеть) _____ !
    “Next year, my friends are going to Japan. Of course, I want to go too!”

Alright, let’s analyze each of them.

  1. Я живу в Екатеринбурге. Где вы живёте?
    “I live in Ekaterinburg. Where do you live?”

First, it’s an irregular verb in the indicative mood (it’s just a fact), the present tense, the first person. And even though this is an irregular verb, and it’s hard to guess that another letter is going to appear in the stem, the endings are standard.

  1. Расскажи / расскажите мне о своих увлечениях.
    “Tell me about your hobbies.”

Both options are possible depending on who you’re addressing (informal or formal interaction), and it’s the imperative mood because we ask somebody to give us some information.

  1. Мы с друзьями любим путешествовать и изучать иностранные языки.
    “My friends and I, we love to travel and learn new languages.”

Here, we can see the indicative mood, the present tense, and the third person plural for the first verb (also irregular, by the way). Unlike in English, where you should decide if a gerund or an infinitive should go after the verb, in Russian, it’s always the infinitive. This is why the next two verbs are in their initial form. 

  1. Если бы я больше времени проводил / проводила дома, я бы с радостью взял / взяла кошку или собаку.
    “If I spent more time at home, I would gladly take a cat or a dog.”

Finally, some conditional! It’s pretty common to use the word если (yesli), meaning “if,” in conditional sentences. So, the verb проводить (provodit’), meaning “to spend (time),” is also irregular, but behaves normally in the past tense (Group 2, imperfective form). Why the past tense? Because conditional is just бы + past tense. It also means that we can choose between the masculine (проводил) and the feminine form (проводила). The same goes for the verb брать (brat’), meaning “to take.” It’s irregular, and I’ve mentioned it before, in Irregular Verbs. 

Do you know why the verb “to take” is in its perfective form? (Think before reading next!) Because perfective forms usually convey a one-time action. It means I would take a cat or a dog once. If I were to keep taking a new dog every week, it would be imperfective: брала бы.

  1.  В следующем году мои друзья поедут в Японию. Конечно же, я тоже хочу !
    “Next year, my friends are going to Japan. Of course, I want to go too!”

So, the verb “to go” (for travel in general) is in the future tense, indicative mood, perfective form. I’m sure now you can explain why! The verb хотеть (khotet’), meaning “to want,” is irregular (oh, not again!), so it has changed one consonant in the middle. By the way, you may wonder why the conjugation table says the ending for “I” is, and here it’s . If you forgot, please get back to the comment right under the table. ;)

Man Tired After a Long Hike

After the journey to the land of verb conjugation

5. A Bonus from RussianPod101

In this guide, you’ve learned everything about Russian verb conjugation, endings, aspect, mood, tenses… Ah, so many new linguistic terms! Maybe you’ve learned something new about the English language as well? Bookmark this guide to refer to it from time to time—learning everything at once is hard, which is why you should get back to it sometimes to review and learn something new. Are you sure you haven’t skipped any piece of information? ;)


Good job! RussianPod101 is offering you a bonus: a free list of Must-Know Verbs! Make sure to check it out! Remember that you can also use our premium service, MyTeacher. You’ll  get personal one-on-one coaching to practice verb conjugation and more with a private teacher, using assignments, grammar and vocabulary exercises, and voice recordings to improve your pronunciation! Happy learning with RussianPod101!

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