Russian Phrases For Dummies
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How do you ask basic questions in Russian? Well, Russian interrogative words mean the same as they do for English: who, what, when, where, why, and how. By knowing basic Russian interrogatives, you'll be able to express your questions, even without an extensive vocabulary.

  • Kogo? (kah-VOH) (Whom?)

  • chto (shtoh) (What?)

  • kogda (kahg-DAH) (When?)

  • gdye (gdeh) (Where?)

Like English, the word who has no gender in Russian, but it can change depending on how it is used. It will usually appear as kto (ktoh) (the nominative case), but it can also become kogo (kah-VOH) (genitive case); kogo (kah-VOH) (accusative case); komu (koh-MOO) (dative case); kyem (kyem) (instrumental case), and kom (kohm) (prepositional case).

In Russian, the word for whose is chyej (chehy) and which is kakoj (kuh-kohy). Both of these words change their endings depending on the gender, number, and case of the noun they modify. However, they are most frequently used in the nominative case.

Interrogative Pronoun Genitive Case Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
whose chyej (chehy) chyej (chehy) ch’ya (ch’ya) ch’yo (ch’yo) ch’i (ch’yee)
which kakoj (kuh-KOHY) kakoj (kuh-KOHY) kakaya (kuh-KAH yuh) kakoye (kuh-KOH-eh) kakiye (kuh-KEE-eh)

Here's a look at some different ways to put these interrogatives into some useful phrases.

  • Kto eto? (ktoh EH-tuh?) (Who is that?)

  • Kakoj ryad? (kah-KOHY ryat?) (Which row?)

  • Kakoj kurs obmyena? (kuh-KOHY koors ahb-M’EH-nuh?) (What is the exchange rate?)

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

  • Chto vy budyetye zakazyvat’? (shtoh vih BOO-d’eh-t’eh zuh-KAH-zih-vuht’?) (What would you like to order?)

  • Kogda magazin zakryvayetsya? (kahg-DAH muh-guh-ZEEN zuh-krih-VAH-eht-s’uh) (When does the store close?)

  • Gdye ostanavlivayutsya marshrutki? (gdye uhs-tuh-NAHV-lee-vuh-yut-sye muhr-SHROOT-kee?) (Where do the minivans stop?)

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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