Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Different meanings and ways to use a tricky Russian word ДАВАЙ
Let's learn the trickiest Russian word - давай. We use this word in many different situations in a spoken speech while we almost never use it in its literal meaning. This is very important to learn how to use this word because Russian people use it a lot in everyday life. But the problem is that it is often confusing for Russian language learners to understand in which situations they should use this word and how to respond to it. It seems like that давай is a universal Russian word that one can use in any situations. Watch this video lesson and learn 10 different ways to use this word in Russian.
Free Russian video lesson to learn different ways to use a word ДАВАЙ
Ways to use a word ДАВАЙ in Russian:
1) Literal meaning
Давай (singular / informal) and Давайте (plural / formal) are imperative forms of the verb 'давать' (to give - general meaning). These imperative forms are mostly used in a negative form.
Why? This verb давать has a meaning of a continuous or repetitive action that is done in general (without any particular result). So, if it is used in a positive sentence, it will mean that the process of giving is continuous that is not the case if one is asking for something at a particular moment. However, it is fine to use it in negative sentences as we are talking in general.
Ex.: Не давай ему денег (Don't give him money) - meaning that you don't have to give him any money ever.
And if you are wondering which forms you should use in positive requests, here they are:
Дай (singular / informal) and Дайте (plural / formal). These are imperative forms of the verb 'дать' (to give - exact meaning, result). Used mostly in a positive form.
Ex.: Дай ему денег (Give him money).
However, you can use 'Давай' and 'Давайте' in positive requests without specifying what exactly you want (in cases when it's obvious what you are asking for). For example, a person brings you something and holds in his/her hands. So, you can say "Давай" (Give it). Watch the video lesson to see more examples.
2) Call to action | Encourage
The most common way to use these imperative forms Давай / Давайте is to motivate or encourage someone to do something (in sport, competitions, battles, work. studies and variouslife situations). The equivalent of this in English would be "Come on!" In this case, these forms Давай / Давайте can be used separately or together with some verbs (watch the video to find more examples).
3) Call to action | Hurry up
Давай can also be used in order to hurry up a person.
Come on, hurry up! = Давай, торопись!
- Давай быстрее! (Come on, quickly!)
- Давай уже! (Come on now!)
- Давай, давай, давай! (Come on, come on, come on!)
4) Call to action | Let's do something together
And the last example of call to action is the way to encourage someone to do something together with you = Let's do something together. Find below the constructions to form sentences with Давай / Давайте.
In the first construction, you need to use one of the forms of Давай and then a verb in a future tense that corresponds to a pronoun Мы (We).
Давай посмотрим фильм (Let's watch a movie).
Давай сходим в кино (Let's go to a cinema).
Давайте устроим пикник (Let's have a picnic).
In the second construction, you need to use an infinitive form of a verb with a general meaning (imperfective).
Давай танцевать (let's dance).
Давай жить вместе (let's live together).
Давайте веселиться! (let's have fun).
Watch more examples in a video lesson.
5) Call to action | Colloquial
There are some colloquial ways to use these words Давай / Давайте with a particle КА. This was mostly used in the past, but you can still hear it in some movies. It gives a playful meaning to an offer.
Ex.: Давай-ка устроим вечеринку (Let's organize a party)
6) Call to action | Please, keep your...
Another way to use Давай as a call to action is to ask someone not to use something.
Давай без ... (Please, keep your...) and then you need to add a noun in a Genitive case.
Давай без шуток (Please, keep your jokes) - meaning that it's not the right moment)
Давайте без сарказма (Please, keep your sarcasm)
7) Asking a permission / Offering help
A very common way to use Давай / Давайте in Russian is to ask for a permission or offer some help. In this case, it is equivalent to English versions of 'Let me/us' and 'What if I / What if we'. Find below two constructions to follow.
Please, note that you can omit the pronoun in these constructions as it will be obvious from the verb one is using.
Давай я помогу (Let me help).
Давай мы поможем (Let us help).
Давайте я посмотрю (Let me have a look).
Давайте мы посмотрим (Let us have a look).
8) Agreement / Giving permission
One can use Давай not only to offer help and ask for a permission, but also to agree and to give a permission. Equivalent in English: agree, OK, it works for me.
- Давай (я) помогу (Let me help you)
- Давай (Ok, go ahead)
- Давайте (мы) заплатим (Let us pay)
- Давайте (Ok, we agree)
9) Proposing a toast / Предлагать тост
Russian people use a word Давай to propose a toast.
Давай за ... = Let's drink for...
- Давай (выпьем) за твоё здоровье! (Let's drink for your health)
- Давай (Sure)
Please, notice that the verb (выпьем) can be omitted in toasts because it's obvious that one is going to drink. The word Давай / Давайте can also be omitted.
10) Conversational goodbye
The last common way to use Давай in Russian is to say goodbye. This is a conversational goodbye that can only be used with people you know very well (family, friends, close acquaintances). In this case, the word Давай is equivalent to a Russian Пока (bye). However, these two words can actually be used together
Ex.: Всё, давай, пока! (Ok then bye)
Fixed expressions with Давай:
1) Давай(те) сменим тему (разговора)
Let's change the topic (of conversation)
2) Давай(те) по делу (по существу)
Let's discuss the matter at hand
3) Давай(те) по порядку
Let's start with the beginning!
4) Давайте по чесноку* (idiomatic expression) = Let's be honest
This is a word play as чеснок is a garlic and честно means honestly.
*чеснок - garlic
честно - honestly
As you could see, this Russian word Давай is very tricky and can be used in various situations.
But it's very important to learn how to use it in speech as it's a very handy and useful word.
If you have recently started to learn Russian language, you should absolutely have my free guide 'Essential Russian Words and Expressions to Understand Spoken Russian'.
It's also very important to know how to pronounce Russian words correctly as not every Russian letter is pronounced the same way as it's written. There are certain Russian pronunciation rules that are really easy to learn.
Hello! My name is Mila and I am a founder of Hack Your Russian language platform. You can find me here:
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