How to Ask for and Understand Directions in Russian

By Andrew Kaufman, Serafima Gettys, Nina Wieda

Exploring Russian-speaking countries can be quite an adventure, but if you want to be sure to see everything on your list, you need to know how to ask for directions and how to understand the directions you are given. After all, if you don’t understand what you’re told, you might miss the very things you hoped to see.

Use the verb popast (pahPAHST) (to get to) to ask someone how to get somewhere. For example, Kak ya otsyuda mogu popast v muzyej? (kahk ya aht-SYU-duh mah-GOO pah-PAHST v moo-ZYEY?) (How do I get to the museum from here?)

Curiously enough, Russians don’t like to indicate directions with the words vostok (vahsTOHK) (east), zapad (ZAHpuht) (west), syever (SYEveer) (north), and yug (yuk) (south). They seem to avoid them when explaining how you can reach your place of destination.

The following words can be used when asking for or receiving directions in Russian-speaking countries.

  • Povyernitye napravo! (puh-veer-NEE-tee nuh-PRAH-vuh) (Turn right)

  • Povyernitye nalyevo! (puh-veer-NEE-tee nuh-LYE-vuh) (Turn left)

    When you’re talking to somebody with whom you’re on vy (vih) (you [formal]) terms with, add –tye to the end of the words as shown in the previous list. If you’re talking to friends or family, you can remove the –tye. For example, to say “Turn left” to a friend, you say Povyerni nalyevo. (puh-veer-NEE nuh-LYE-vuh) (Turn left.)

  • sprava ot (SPRAH-vuh uht) (to the right of) + a noun in the genitive case

  • napravo (nuh-PRAH-vuh) (to the right)

  • slyeva ot (SLYE-vuh uht) (to the left of) + a noun in the genitive case

  • nalyevo (nuh-LYE-vuh) (to the left)

  • na lyevoj storonye (nuh LYE-vuhy stuh-rah-NYE) (on the left side)

  • na pravoj storonye (nuh PRAH-vahy stuh-rahNYE) (on the right side)

  • Iditye praymo. (ee-DEE-tee PRYA-muh) (Go straight.)

  • Iditye praymo. (ee-DEE-tee PRYA-muh) (Go straight.)

  • Iditye nazad. (ee-DEE-tee nuh-ZAHT) (Go back.)

  • Iditye pryamo do . . . (ee-DEE-tee PRYA-muh duh) (Go as far as . . .) + the noun in the genitive case

  • Podojditye k . . . (puh-duhy-DEE-tee k) (Go up to . . .) + the noun in the dative case

  • Iditye po . . . (ee-DEE-tee puh) (Go down along . . .) + the noun in the dative case

  • Iditye mimo . . . (ee-DEE-tee MEE-muh) (Pass by . . .) + the noun in the genitive case

  • Zavyernitye za ugol! (zuh-veer-NEE-tee ZAH-oo-guhl) (Turn around the corner.)

  • Pyeryejditye ulitsu! (pee-reey-DEE-tee oo-leet-soo) (Cross the street.)

  • Pyeryejditye plosh’ad’! (pee-reey-DEE-tee PLOH-shuht) (Cross the square.)

  • Pyeryejditye chyerez dorogu! (pee-reey-DEE-tee CHEH-reez dah-ROH-goo) (Cross the street/road.)

The following phrases are typical of getting and receiving directions in Russian-speaking countries.

  • Izvinitye, gdye magazin? (eez-vee-NEE-tee gdye muh-guhZEEN?) (Excuse me, where is the store?)

  • Magazin sprava ot aptyeki. (muh-guh-ZEEN SPRAH-vuh uht uhp-TYE-kee) (The store is to the right of the pharmacy.)

  • Gdye blizhayshaya ostanovka avtobusa? (gdye blee-ZHAHY-shuh-ye uhs-tuh-NOHF-kuh uhf-toh-boo-suh?) (Where is the nearest bus stop?)

  • Gdye bibliotyeka? (gdye beeb-lee-ah-TYE-kuh?) (Where is the library?)

  • Kuda idyot etot avtobus? (koo-DAH ee-DYOT EH-tuht uhf-TOH-boos?) (Where is this bus going?)

Russians uses two words to translate the English wheregdye (gdye: when speaking of a specific location]) or kuda (kooDAH: when referring to a direction of movement]). The two words are not interchangeable.