Russian Phrases For Dummies
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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?)

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Andrew Kaufman, PhD, is currently a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia. He holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Stanford University, and he has recognized success as both a published scholar and an innovative, award-winning teacher of Russian language, literature, and culture at some of the country’s top universities. To learn more about Dr. Kaufman, please visit his website at

Serafima Gettys, PhD, earned her doctorate degree in Foreign Language Education from Gertzen State Pedagogical University, Leningrad, USSR. She is currently a Coordinator of the Foreign Language Program at Lewis University, where she also teaches Russian. Prior to coming to Lewis University, she taught Russian at Stanford University. Gettys is also a member of a number of professional language associations.

Nina Wieda is a doctoral student in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Northwestern University in Chicago. A trained linguist with an MA in Social Sciences, Nina also has a book of poetry published in Russian, and a number of scholarly articles on Chekhov and contemporary drama published in English.

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