Russian Phrases For Dummies
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To get the most out of your vryemya (VR'EH-m'uh) (time) in a Russian-speaking country, know how to state and ask for time and specify times of the day. In Russian, there are many different ways to talk about time depending on how it is used.

The time of day can be described in general terms or specific times. You can use the following words to describe the general time of day.

utro (oo-truh) (morning)
dyen' (d'ehn') (afternoon)
vyechyer (v'eh-chehr) (evening)
Noch' (nohch) (night)
utrom (oo-truhm) (in the morning)
dnyom (dn'ohm) (in the afternoon)
vyechyerom (v'eh-cheh-ruhm) (in the evening)
noch'yu (nohch-yu) (late at night or early in the morning)
syegodnya utrom (see-VOHD-n'uh OO-truhm) (this morning)
syegodnya vyechyerom (see-VOHD-n'uh V'EH-ch'eh-ruhm) (this evening)

To say noon in Russian, you just say poldyen' (POHL-d'ehn') (literally: half-day). When you want to say midnight, you say polnoch' (POHL-nuhch) (literally: half night).

To find out what time it is specifically, say Izvinitye pozhalujsta. Skol'ko syejchas vryemyeni? (eez-vee-nee-t'eh pah-zhah-luh-stuh. skohl'-kuh see-chahs vr'eh-m'eh-nee?) (Excuse me, please. What time is it?) Like most of Europe, Russia uses the 24-hour system for all kinds of official messages: train schedules, TV programs, working hours, and so on. So, instead of 3 p.m., you'll hear pyatnadtsdat' chasov (peet-naht-tsuht' chuh-sohf) (15 o'clock [literally: 15 hours]).

In casual conversation, most people just use the 12-hour clock. To indicate a.m. say utra (oot-RAH) (literally: in the morning) and p.m. would be dnya (dn'ah) (literally: in the day).

Use the following terms to express the time between the hours — the minuta (mee-NOO-tuh) (minutes; time increments) — in Russian:

  • chasov (hour)

  • pyatnadtsat' minut (peet-NAHT-tsuht' mee-NOOT) (15 minutes)

  • polovina (puh-lah-VEE-nuh) (half of [the next hour])

  • byez (b'ehs) (without)

  • Use the word byez (b'ehs) (without) to indicate the minutes before an hour, as in Syejchas byez pyatnadtsati pyat' (see-CHAHS bees peet-NAHT-tsuh-tee p'aht') (It's 4:45 [literally: It's 5 without 15 minutes]). However, when doing this you must but the number of minutes into the genitive case. Here are the genitive-case forms of the most commonly used numerals with this expression:

    • odnoj (ahd-NOHY) (1)

    • pyati (pee-TEE) (5)

    • dyesyati (dee-see-TEE) (10)

    • pyat'nadtsati (peet-NAHT-tsuh-tee) (15)

    • dvadtsati (dvaht-tsuh-TEE) (20)

    • dvadtsati pyati (dvuht-tsuh-TEE pee-TEE) (25)

To state more irregular times, you can just say Syejchas . . . Hour + minutes, as in Syejchas chyetyrye dyesyat' (see-CHAHS chee-TIH-r'eh D'EH-s'uht') (It's 4:10).

Russians say "o'clock" when expressing time, just as in the United States. However, saying "o'clock" in Russian is kind of tricky depending on what time it is. For most numerals, you'd use the word chasov, as in Syejchas pyat chasov (see-CHAHS p'aht' chuh-SOHF) (It's five o'clock).However, if the word for the time ends in the numerals 1, 2, 3, or 4, follow these simple rules:

  • If the time is one o'clock, just use the word chas, as in Syejchas chas (see-CHAHS chahs) (It's one o'clock).

  • If the time is 9:00 o'clock in the evening, use the word chas, as in Syejchas dvadtsat' odin chas (see-chahs DVAHT-tsuht' ah-DEEN chahs) (It's 21 o'clock).

  • If the time ends in dva (dvah) (2), tri (tree) (3), chyetyrye (chee-TIH-ree) (4), use the word chasa, as in Syejchas tri chasa (see-CHAHS tree chuh-SAH) (It's 3 o'clock).

To ask what time something will happen or has happened, use the phrase V kakoye vryemya . . . (f kuh-KOH-ee VR'EH-m'uh . . .) (At what time . . .).

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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