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27 Basic Russian Words and Phrases Vital to Learn For Beginners

About to begin your Russian learning journey? Whether your goal is to travel to Russia or for business, start with the basic Russian words and phrases.

Здравствуй! (hello in Russian)Learning how to speak Russian can feel intimdating to many people, especially if they don't know a similar language like Ukrainian. The alphabet is far different, culture is different, and so are the accents.

But don't let that prevent you from starting your journey. All it takes is one foot ahead of the other, and it won't be long until you can speak it with confidence.

What's the first step? Learn the most basic Russian words and phrases.

The reason we suggest this is because learning the vocabulary is the pieces required to eventually form a puzzle (i.e. sentences). Studies have also proven that like anything, your time is best spent on learning the most common words in Russian. There's not a lot of value on learning how to say 'aardvark' or any other words that you'll never use in daily conversations.

That's why in today's article, we'll reveal to you words in Russian that we believe are most useful.

Why is it important to learn Russian?

Before we start, you may want to know why Russian in particular is important to learn if you're traveling to Russia. Feel free to skip this part by scrolling below to the basic Russian words.

Reason 1: English is not their default language

Unlike other popular languages like French, German, and Spanish, you'll run into more Russians that don't speak English. Or even if they do, they may not be so inclined to speak it with you in their local country. If you're trying to seek out help in a Russian speaking country, you can't rely on English like other places in the world.

Reason 2: It's the dominant language in Eastern Europe (and the Internet)

Russian is the home langauge of countries like Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. It's also the 'unofficial' language in Ukraine, so if you plan to travel or live anywhere in Eastern Europe, Russian is a good bet.With over 160M+ native Russian speakers around the world, it's the top 10 most spoken language globally. That's also why you'll find a ton of Russians located in China, USA, Finland, Poland, Israel, and more.

Lastly, you may know that Russians are quite savvy when it comes to technology and the Internet. In fact, as of 2013, Russian became the second most popular language used online, accounting for 5.9% of the web.

Reason 3: Make more money learning Russian

With the economy in Russian speaking countries accelerating, it's no surprise that companies around the world want to do business there. Moscow alone has a GDP of 50K (2014), which is the equivalent of Ireland!

If you want to open up new job opportunities and career advancements to work in Russia or for a company that has Russian speaking clients, learning the language is a great investment.

Hopefully we've given you some motivation by revealing why you should learn Russian. Now let's get to the basics.

Basic Russian Words and Phrases That Are Vital to Learn

Let's start with...

Russian greetings

From hello to goodbye, here are the different ways to greet someone.

1. Hello - Здравствуй [Zdra stvooytye]

This is how we started our article, and it's how you'll start most conversations politely.

2. Hi (informal) - Привет

If you're looking to go more casual, this is a better way to greet someone.

3. Bye - Пока [Pa-ka]

Again, another informal way to say bye versus the traditional: 'good-bye'

4. How are you? - Как поживаешь? [Kak pazhivayesh?]

Notice letters like 'K' and 'A' share resemblance to the English alphabet. Keep this in mind for future reference.

5. Good morning - Доброе утро [Dobraye ootro]

Another way to say hello in the mornings.

6. Good afternoon - Добрый день [Dobriy-den]

7. Good evening - Добрый вечер [Dobriy-vyecher]

8. What's your name? - Как Вас зовут? [Kak-vas-zavoot?]

Useful for meeting new people at an event or at a party.

9. My name is - Меня зовут [Meenya-zavoot]

Response when asked what your name is.

How to say thank you (and be polite) in Russian

Show your politeness by learning these common thank-you's.

10. Thank you - Спасибо [Spaseeba]

11. Thank you very much - Большое спасибо [Bal'shoye spaseeba]

Notice here that the 'very much' is attached in the beginning, rather than the end in English. If you're looking to be extra polite at a family event or someone senior, this is how to say it.

12. You're welcome - Пожалуйста [Pazhalooysta]

When someone thanks you, you can accept it by saying: Пожалуйста!

13. Sorry - Извините [Eezveeneete]

As a foreigner visiting Russia, you may run into a lot of cultural differences. Better to be apologetic rather than being mistaken for being rude. Even if it was unintentional!

14. Excuse me - Простите [Prasteete]

Same note here. If you're bumping into someone on the streets or in the subway, saying 'Excuse me' or 'Sorry' may not be enough, because they may not know English. Very useful to know as well if you are trying to get someone's attention to ask a question versus just tapping them on the shoulder.

15. That's OK - Ничего [Neechevo]

Forgive someone or accept their apology, even if it's something small or they may hold a grudge.


Important questions to know in Rusisan

Being polite and knowing how to say hello isn't going to help you get anywhere. You need to know how to ask the right questions to survive your trip or conversation.

16. Do you speak English? - Вы говорите по-английски? [Vi gavareetye pa angleeskee?]

This is the easier way out if you have no real experience with Russian. Hopefully they know how to speak English, and you can ask them anything. However, we recommend you delay asking this question as much as possible!

17. Could you speak more slowly? - Говорите, пожалуйста, медленнее [Gavareetye pazhalooysta myedleeney]

Avoid that awkward long conversation when someone assumes you can speak Russian fluently. If they don't already sense this by your confused facial expression, let them know.

18. How much does this cost? - Сколько это стоит? (pronunciation)

Attention all shoppers. You'll thank us when you find that perfect outfit when shopping in a Russian-only speaking store.

19. Do you have thie menu in English? - У вас есть меню на английском?

When you're at a restaurant, and you don't feel as adventurous by picking something random, you can go with the English menu.

20. Could you tell me what time it is? - Скажите, пожалуйста, который час? [ska-ZHI-tye pa-ZHA-looy-sta]

In case you don't have phone data while traveling, and you need to know the time.

Other basic Russian words and phrases

To round up this post, we'll share the rest of words and phrases that we believe will be valuable to you.

21. Have a nice trip! - Счастливого пути [Schasleevava pootee]

Say goodbye to a Russian speaking friend or any friend you met as you part ways.

22. Where are you? - Где ты сейчас?

23. I don't understand - Я не понимаю [a nee paneemayoo]

If someone is trying to say that sounds completely foreign to you, communciate that to them.

24. Where is the toilet? - Где уборная?

Say no more.

25. What do you recommend? - Что вы рекомендуете?

This is a fairly versatile question that you can use to get recommendations for restaurant menu items, places to visit, things to buy, and more. It may be your most used question!

26. Where is...? - Где…?

When you need to ask where is the... restaurant, airport, ATM, hotel, specific address, and more.

27. I'd like a beer - Я хотел(а) бы пива

We had to end our post with the most imoprtant question of all for travelers. Where's the beer!

Take the next step

We hope you found these most basic words and phrases in Russian useful. But it's only step 1.

If you're committed to speaking the language fluently with confidence, we recommend taking advantage of our 7-day free trial at Rype.

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