Properly greeting people and making introductions in Russian can help you get off to the right start. After all, first impressions are important — they can start a friendship or set the tone for your interaction with someone.

The Russian language is more formal than American English. Likewise, introductions in Russian follow more of a pattern than they sometimes do in the United States. There is a right way to greet people and a wrong way. In fact, if you botch your greeting, you may get a funny look or even offend the person you're addressing.

Start with a greeting

To greet a person you know well, say zdravstvuj (ZDRAH-stvooy) (hello) or privyet! (pree-V'EHT) (Hi!). To greet people you don't know well (or a group of people), say zdravstvujtye (ZDRAH-stvooy-t'eh) (hello).

Note that the first letter v in zdravstvujtye is silent. Otherwise, it would be hard even for Russians to pronounce!

Here are some other ways to greet people, depending on what time of day it is:

  • Dobroye utro! (DOHB-ruh-eh OO-truh!) (Good morning!)

  • Dobryj dyen'! (DOHB-rihy d'ehn'!) (Good afternoon!)

  • Dobryj vyechyer! (DOHB–rihy V'EH-ch'ehr!) (Good evening!)

Making introductions

Making a good first impression is important for the beginning of any relationship. In English, introducing yourself is the best way to start a conversation with somebody you don't know. Not so in Russian. Russians like to begin with first suggesting to get acquainted. They have two ways to say this:

  • Davajtye poznakomimsya! (duh-vahy-t'eh puhz-nuh- koh-meem-suh!) (Let's get acquainted! [formal/plural])

  • Davaj poznakomimsya! (duh-vahy puhz-nuh koh-meem-suh!) (Let's get acquainted! [informal])

If somebody says one of these phrases to you, you should politely accept the suggestion by saying:

  • Davajtye! (duh-vahy-t'eh!) (Okay! [literally: Let's!] [formal/plural])

  • Davaj! (duh-vahy!) (Okay! [literally: Let's!] [informal])

Once you've agreed to become acquainted, it's time to exchange names. The following phrases will help keep the introductions rolling.

  • Myenya zovut . . . (Mee-N'AH zah-VOOT . . .) (My name is . . .).

  • Kak vas zovut? (kahk vahz zah-VOOT?) (“What is your name?”) (literally: What do they call you? [formal])

  • Kak tyebya zovut? (kahk tee-B'AH zah-VOOT?) (“What is your name?”) (literally: What do they call you? [informal]).

  • Eto moj znakomyj (EH-tuh mohy znuh-KOH-mihy) (This is my acquaintance [m])

  • Eto moya znakomaya (EH-tuh mah-YA znuh-KOH-muh-yuh) (This is my acquaintance [f])

After you're introduced to someone, you may want to say, “Nice to meet you” which is ochyen' priyatno (OH-cheen' pree-YAT-nuh) (literally: very pleasant) in Russian. The person you've been introduced to may then reply mnye tozhye (mnye TOH-zheh) (same here).

How are you?

Greetings and introductions are usually accompanied by a "How are you?" The most common ways to ask how someone is doing are:

  • Kak dyela? (kahk dee-LAH?) (How are you? [informal])

  • Kak vy pozhivayetye? (kahk vih puh-zhih-VAH-eh-t'eh?) (How are you? [formal])

As you'd expect, when someone asks you how you're doing, there are many possible responses.

  • Khorosho (khuh-rah-shoh) (good)

  • Normal'no (nahr-mahl'-nuh) (normal or okay)

  • Nichyego (nee-chee-voh) (so-so [literally: nothing])

  • Nyeplokho (nee-ploh-khuh) (not bad)

    The common response for this is to ask the person how he or she's doing. Simply say A u vas? (ah oo vahs?) (And you? [formal]) or A u tyebya? (ah oo tee-B'AH?) (And you?)