Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Different words and phrases to attract someone's attention in Russian
Imagine. You have finally arrived to Russia for your first time. You decided to have a walk and got a little bit lost. You want to ask someone for help but you don't know how to politely get their attention. Of course, you can try to say it in English but not so many people speak English in Russia. In any case, it's always good to know how to address people in Russian. And I am sure you will be surprised to see how many different ways exist for that purpose in Russian.
Good news - I have compiled all these various words and expressions in one video - How to get someone's attention in Russian. Just watch it, take notes and check yourself in the end. The quiz is given below the video summary. Enjoy!
Before watching this video, I also recommend you to watch a video on how to introduce yourself in Russian.
Free Russian Video Lesson "How to get someone's attention in Russian"
Here are different ways to address someone in Russian:
Impersonal ways to address people in Russian
1) Извините (izvinite) - Excuse me
ИЗВИНИТЕ is a polite and formal way to get someone's attention.
It is impersonal and can be used to get attention of any person or people whose names you don't know. It is usually followed by a request or a question.
Извините меня, пожалуйста (izvinite minyá pazhálsta) - Excuse me, please (formal)
Извини меня, пожалуйста (izvini minyá pazhálsta) - Excuse me, please (informal)
2) Простите (Prastite) - I beg your pardon
ПРОСТИТЕ is another polite and formal way to get someone's attention.
It has a stronger meaning and shows that one is really sorry to bother another person.
Notice that a word ПРОСТИТЕ is also used when one feels sorry about something already done and he/she wants to apologize for that.
Простите меня, пожалуйста (prastite minyá pazhálsta) - I beg your pardon, please (formal)
Прости меня, пожалуйста (prasti minyá pazhálsta) - I beg your pardon, please (informal)
3) Можно вас? (mózhna vas) - May I have a word with you?
МОЖНО ВАС? - a polite and formal way to get someone's attention
It can be used either separately or be followed after another expression like ИЗВИНИТЕ, ПРОСТИТЕ and some gender/job specific words
Можно тебя? (mózhna tibyá) - May I have a word with you?
МОЖНО ТЕБЯ? - a polite and informal way to get attention of smb you know
It can be used either separately or be followed after another expression like ИЗВИНИ, ПРОСТИ or a name
These expressions can be used with any strangers, service workers. They are impersonal and polite.
Gender-specific ways to address a female stranger in Russian
1) Девушка (dévushka) - Young lady
ДЕВУШКА (young lady) is the most common way to address a woman whose name you don't know: shop assistant, waitress, female bypasser and so on.
It is a tricky word because there is no general rule to say until what age you can call a woman
ДЕВУШКА (young lady)
While some middle-aged women would take this word as a compliment, others might consider it as sarcasm.
2) Женщина (zhénchshina) -Woman
Nobody knows when it is ok to call a woman ЖЕНЩИНА.
This word has rather a negative nature as it refers to the age and implies that a woman does not look young anymore.
Many women can take a word ЖЕНЩИНА addressed to them as the worst offence.
Though there is nothing wrong with this word itself as it signifies a gender.
Just avoid using a word ЖЕНЩИНА to address to women of any age as it sounds somewhat rude and you can never know what a Russian woman can do or tell you in revenge.
3) Бабушка (bábushka) - Old lady / grandmother
БАБУШКА (old lady) can be used to address an old lady (approximately starting from the age of 70). There are other different forms of this word to address to old ladies.
There are many cute / affectionate ways to address old ladies in Russian:
- Бабуля, бабуль
4) Девочка (Dévachka) - Girl (child)
Some old Russian ladies can address young ladies as ДОЧКА (daughter) in a friendly way.
5) As for kids, they can address middle-aged and old ladies as ТЁТЯ (literally - aunt) or ТЁТЕНЬКА (Mrs) in a friendly way.
Gender-specific ways to address male stranger in Russian
1) Молодой человек (maladói chelavék) - Young man
МОЛОДОЙ ЧЕЛОВЕК (young man) is the most common way to address a man whose name you don't know: shop assistant, waiter, male bypasser and so on.
Just as a word ДЕВУШКА (young lady), МОЛОДОЙ ЧЕЛОВЕК is a gender-based form to address a young man.
2) Other variations of МОЛОДОЙ ЧЕЛОВЕК (better not to use to address, slang):
3) Мужчина (muchshina) - Man
МУЖЧИНА (man) - can be addressed to a middle-aged man
However, any middle-aged man would take as a compliment to be addressed as МОЛОДОЙ ЧЕЛОВЕК instead of МУЖЧИНА
4) Дедушка (Dédushka) - Old man / grandfather
ДЕДУШКА (old man) can be used to address an old man (approximately starting from the age of 70).
To address young male kids you shouldn't use МОЛОДОЙ ЧЕЛОВЕК (young man)
5) Мальчик (mal'chik) - Boy
As for kids, they can address middle-aged and old men as ДЯДЯ (literally - uncle) or ДЯДЕНЬКА (Mr) in a friendly way.
Official forms to get someone's attention in Russian
1) ГОСПОДИН (Mister) is mainly used in official correspondence
Can also be used in speech to address:
- high officials (Господин президент);
- some people in authority;
- business communication.
Female form of ГОСПОДИН is ГОСПОЖА (Missus) mainly used in official correspondence.
2) ДАМЫ И ГОСПОДА (dámy i gaspadá) - Ladies and Gentlemen is used to address an audience of people.
ДАМЫ И ГОСПОДА is usually used at concerts, official meetings, conferences, public events.
3) ГРАЖДАНИН (m) (grazhdanin)
ГРАЖДАНка (f) (grazhdánka)
Very formal, was used in Soviet times to address to people.
Brings to mind pictures of Soviet police.
Nowadays it is used to specify citizenship of a person.
Ex.: Он гражданин России (He is a citizen of Russia)
4) ТОВАРИЩ (comrade). This word was used in Soviet times as unisex and democratic way
of addressing people in order to eliminate all social and gender differences.
No longer used in everyday speech.
Used by military men to address individuals by ranks.
5) Ребята (ribyáta) - Guys
- A group of your friends or acquaintances;
- A group of children (whether you know them or not);
- Several young people you don't know
It is commonly used to address children at school or students at university
6) МОЛОДЫЕ ЛЮДИ (young people) is a less common and more formal way to address to:
- A group of young people you don't know (both women and men)
7) If you come to Russia, you might notice that some people address others as БРАТ (brother) or СЕСТРА (sister) even though they are not relatives and may not even know each other.
When you are in Russia don't walk at night and beware people shouting "Эй", "Слышь" and other informal ways to get your attention. It might be dangerous.
8) ЧУВАК (chuvák)
is a popular Russian slang word that means DUDE. Don't use it with strangers and people you don't know well.
And now I believe that you are ready to take a quiz to check how well you know how to get someone's attention in Russian.
Test "How to get someone's attention in Russian?"
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