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How to better understand fast spoken Russian | Russian reductions

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Why is it difficult to understand a fast spoken speech in Russian?

Let me guess... You have been learning Russian for some time and you can perfectly understand slow Russian speech from audio courses or specialized dialogues. But when you try to watch a Russian movie or a vlog by a Russian native, you realize that you cannot understand all words. Don't worry! It does not necessarily mean that your Russian is bad. And the problem lies not only in the speed of Russian natives' speech, but also in the fact that we often reduce some words in Russian. Believe me, if you learn these Russian reductions, it will help you better understand fast spoken Russian.

How to better understand real spoke Russian

The most common Russian reductions

1) Что [shto] VS Чё [cho]

The question word 'Что' (what) is very often shorten to just 'Чё' in a fast spoken Russian speech. One can perfectly use this reduction in conversations with family members, friends, some colleagues. This word reduction is often used not only by young people but also by elderly people. However, it's better not to use this reduction in formal situations: public events, at work with your boss, etc.

Example: Что ты делаешь? (What are you doing?) can be pronounced with Чё - Чё ты делаешь?

This Russian word reduction 'Чё' can be used either as a part of the question or separately - when you ask a person what he/she said in Russian or when you are surprised to hear some news.

Ex.: - Маша выходит замуж (Masha is getting married)

- Чё? (What?! - surprise)

2) Сейчас [seechas] VS Щас [shchas]

Another word that we like to shorten in Russian language is a word 'сейчас' (now / one moment). The reduction of this word is quite strange but we do really use it a lot in spoken speech. Sometimes we can even shorten it to just 'ща'. Note that this word has 2 possible meanings in Russian: now and one moment. The latter is mostly used in a spoken speech. Again, it's better to only use it in informal conversations with your friends, family members and good acquaintances.

Ex.: - Ты готова? (Are you ready?)

- Щас, подожди ещё 5 минут! (One moment, wait 5 more minutes).

3) Сегодня [seevodn'a] VS Сёдня [s'odn'a]

Next is a word 'сегодня' (today) that we often reduce to just 'сёдня'. This word can be shorten both in a sentence and separately. As all the other reductions, one should use it only in informal situations.

Ex.: - Чё ты будешь делать сёдня? = Что ты будешь делать сегодня? (What are you going to do today?)

- Сёдня? (сегодня) Да, ничего особенного (Well, nothing special)

4) Ничего [neecheevo] VS Ничё [neecho]

The word 'ничего' (nothing) is very often reduced to 'ничё' in a fast spoken Russian. Make sure that you don't use this reductions in a formal speech.

Ex.: - Как дела? (How are you?)

- Да ничё, пойдёт (Well it's going fine)

- Что нового? (What's new?)

- Ничего (Nothing)

5) Тебя / тебе / себя / себе VS тя / те / ся / се

In a fast spoken Russian we also shorten some Russian pronouns: тебя (you), тебе (to you), себя (oneself), себе (to oneself) as follows:

Тебя = тя

Тебе = те

Себя = ся

Себе = се

In can only be done in a sentence but not separately.

Ex.: Я те (=тебе) не верю - I don't believe you

Ничёсе! (= ничего себе) - No way!

6) Вообще [vabshcheh] VS Ваще [vashcheh]

The word 'вообще' (in general / completely) is often reduced in a fast spoken Russian to 'ваще'. Make sure that you use it only in informal conversations.

Ex.: Я ваще (= вообще) ничё (ничего) не поняла - I completely didn't understan anything.

7) Слышишь [slyshysh] VS Слышь [slysh]

The verb 'слышишь' (you hear / hey) exactly in this form with a pronoun 'ты' is often reduced to just 'слышь'. This form can sound a bit rude but it's fine to use it with friends and family members in cases when you want to attract their attention.

- Слышь (= слышишь), давай сходим в кино! - Hey, let's go to the cinema!

8) Нормально [narmal'na] VS Норм [norm]

The word 'нормально' (normal / fine) is sometimes reduced to 'норм'.

Ex.: - Как дела? (How are you?)

- Норм (fine)

9) Может [mozhet] VS Мож [mozh]

The Russian word 'может' (may) is sometimes reduced to 'мож', especially in questions. As all previous reductions, it only can be used in an informal spoken speech.

Ex.: Мож (= может) сходим в кино? - May be we can go to the cinema? (What about going to the cinema?)

10) нибудь [neebut'] VS нить [neet']

In a fast spoken Russian we also like to pronounce a particle 'нибудь' just as 'нить' in words like:

Что-нибудь (something) - как-нить

Кто-нибудь (someone) - кто-нить

Где-нибудь (somewhere) - где-нить

Когда-нибудь (somewhen) - когда-нить

Как-нибудь (somehow) - как-нить

Ex.: Нужно как-нить (= как-нибудь) сходить в кино - We should go to the cinema somewhen.

And these are not all Russian reductions, there are much more of them. You can find more of these Russian reductions in my bonus video.

If you want to improve your overall comprehension of a fast spoken speech and improve your pronunciation, you can try my new Russian Pronunciation Course (14 days trial for free on Skillshare)


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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