Updated: Oct 12, 2021
So, you have decided to learn Russian language. But you don't know where to start. Well, you are at the right place. But if you haven't learned Russian alphabet yet, I recommend you to read my post on Russian alphabet with a free video lesson.
Here is a list of basic Russian phrases for beginners:
1. Как тебя зовут? (What is your name?)
This is the first question in Russian that you will hear at the moment of meeting a new person. This phrase is "What is your name?" in Russian. Listen to the audio to learn how to pronounce it in Russian. Please, note that this is an informal way to ask a name of a person in Russian. Yes, there are 2 ways to address a pronoun "You" in Russian: an informal (ты, тебя, тебе, тобой) and formal / polite / plural form (вы, вас, вам, вами). So, if you want to turn this question into a formal one, you would say "Как вас зовут?" [kak vas zavut].
2. Меня зовут... (My name is...)
To reply to a previous question and to present yourself you will need to use this simple construction. Меня зовут ___ and your name. This is the most common way to introduce your name. If you want to learn more on how to introduce yourself and other people in Russian, you can watch a free Russian video lesson "How to introduce yourself and others in Russian".
You will also learn different meanings of the word "зовут".
3. Я учу русский язык (I am learning Russian language)
This is a way to let someone know that you are a beginner and a native Russian speaker needs to speak slowly. Don't hesitate to speak in Russian. Russian people respect a lot those who wish to learn Russian language as they believe that this the most difficult language in the world . However, you can also meet some stupid people who might laught at you. Just ask them how many languages they can speak and you will see that they don't speak any foreign languages at all because a person who has learned foreign languages will never make fun of someone trying to learn a new language.
4. Я не понимаю (I don't understand)
Don't be afraid to say that you don't understand something. Take an advantage from speaking with native Russian speakers. If you don't understand something - say it! The majority of Russian language speakers will be happy to give you explanations. During a conversation, you can also say "Я не понял" (I didn't understand) which is a past form of this phrase. Infinitive form of this verb is "понимать" [paw-nee-MAHT'] - to understand and "понять"[paw-NYAHT'] - short action with a result.
5. Как дела? (How are you?)
Asking "How are you?" in Russian is not just a mere act of politeness. If you ask a Russian person "Как дела?" you should expect an honest and often detailed answer. Russian people believe that if you ask this question, it means that you genuinely care about them and they will tell you everything that is going in their life. So, be ready to spend some time on that. If you want to learn other interesting ways to ask this question and respond to it, watch a free Russian language lesson "Different ways to ask How are you in Russian"
6. Хорошо (good)
"Хорошо" is one of the most common ways to respond to a question "Как дела?" in Russian. Please, note that we don't pronounce two first vowels "о" as they are writter. Insted, they are pronounced as "A" because they are not stressed. The rule is that if a vowel "о" is unstressed in a word, it should be pronounced as "А". The word "Хорошо" can also be used as a way to agree to something, meaning OK. If you want to learn more ways to respond to How are you? in Russian, I recommend you to watch this free Russian video lesson.
7. Плохо (Bad)
Плохо (bad) is an opposite of Хорошо (good, well). I hope that you won't need to use this word when someone asks you how are you doing. However, you might hear it a lot from Russian people. And not only because it can be true. Russian people are quite depressive at times, it is in our nature to like suffering. Have you ever read any books by Dostoyevsky? Well, read and you will understand what I mean.
8. Спасибо (Thank you)
Спасибо is a beautiful word to thank someone in Russian. There are of course other more advanced ways to do it, but "спасибо" is the most common one. Did you know that this word actually derives from a phrase "Спаси тебя Бог" (God save you). If not, I recommend you to watch my free Russian video lesson "How to be polite in Russian" where I not only teach you polite Russian words but also explain some interesting cultural insights and origin of Russian words.
9. Пожалуйста (Please / You are welcome)
The Russian word "Пожалуйста" actually has several meanings: please, thank you, here you are and go ahead (you can watch examples of using this word in this free Russian video lesson). Don't worry, you will be able to understand its meaning from the context. But you should start using this word as soon as possible. While it seems like Russian people are rude and impolite, we do actually use a lot of polite words in our speech and we appreciate people using them towards us.
10. Да / Нет (Yes / No)
Last but not least, you need to know how to say Yes and No in Russian. These are the key words to respond to questions and even to ask questions by using correct intonation. By the way, if you are invited to a Russian house, you should not say "Нет", you will offend Russian people. The same is for drinking vodka. Don't say "Нет" if you still want to be friends with these people because refusing is seen as a sign of disrespect in Russia. So, you should rather say "Да".
Great, you have learned some basic Russian words and phrases that will give you "a taste" of Russian language. Try to already start using these words in your everyday life. Even if you don't have Russian friends and you don't live in a Russian speaking country, there are always some ways to practice your Russian: social groups on Internet, language exchange websites and apps. Practice makes perfect! And what about watching my free Russian video lessons for beginners?
If you have just started to learn Russian language, then you should absolutely have my free guide 'Essential Russian Words and Expressions to Understand Spoken Russian'.
This guide also contains audio files so that you can listen to these phrases on the go: while driving, walking, doing sport or brushing your teeth. Make sure that you repeat these phrases yourself and try to imitate my accent.
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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