How to express emotions, desires, and needs in Russian

Some of the most common phrases you'll use and hear in Russian revolve around expressing emotions, desires, and needs. Some expressive words in Russian, like I love (я люблю) and I want (я хочу), function just like in English. However, others, such as I like (мне нравится) and I need (мне нужно), operate under impersonal constructions with grammar that's a little different from what we use in English. Here's a rundown of how that works:

How to say “I love” and “I want” in Russian

Phrases where you say "I love" (я люблю) and "I want" (я хочу) in Russian function just like those in English. The sentence structure operates either with an infinitive, like "I want to do something," or a direct object, like "I want something."


Using an infinitive with these verbs is fairly simple. Just add the infinitive after your main verb.

  • Я люблю смотреть телевизор. = I love to watch TV.
  • Я хочу танцевать. = I want to dance.

Verb + object

When constructing a sentence with a noun as a direct object of the verb's action, you have to put that noun in the accusative case

  • Я люблю молоко. = I love milk
  • Я люблю маму. = I love my mom.
  • Я люблю брата. = I love my brother.
  • Я хочу чай. = I want tea.

You have to conjugate the accusative case. For masculine and neuter nouns which are inanimate objects, like молоко (milk) and чай (tea), there is no change. For masculine nouns which are animate, like брат (brother), add the ending -а → брата. For feminine nouns, both inanimate and animate, add the ending -у: мама (mom) → маму.

For more information please see our section on the accusative case in Russian.

Verb + pronoun object

Here's how you use personal pronouns in the accusative case as direct objects with the sentences involving любить and хотеть.

  • Я люблю себя. = I love myself.
  • Я люблю тебя. = I love you.
  • Я люблю его. = I love him.
  • Я люблю её. = I love her.
  • Я люблю нас. = I love us.
  • Я люблю вас. = I love you.
  • Я люблю их. = I love them.

How to say “I like” and “I need” in Russian

Phrases were you say “I like” (мне нравится ) and “I need” (мне нужно) in Russian function with an impersonal construction that is different to how these phrases are constructed in English or phrases involving любить and хотеть work.

For these impersonal sentence structures, you can still add infinitives as per normal. However, instead of the subject of the verb affecting a direct object in line with the meaning in English, impersonal sentences in Russian have what we would consider the direct object of the sentence using a verb to affect the indirect object in the dative case.


Using an infinitive with impersonal constructions is simple. Just add the infinitive after the impersonal verb.

  • Мне нравится пить чай. = I like to drink tea.
  • Мне нравится играть в футбол с друзьями. = I like to play football with my friends.
  • Мне нужно купить молоко. = I need to buy milk.
  • Мне нужно пить достаточно воды. = I need to drink enough water.

Verb + object (not people)

As brought up above, what we in English consider the object of the sentence in Russian is really the subject of the sentence.

In these sentences, notice how нравится is affected by the number (singular vs. plural), but not gender of the object / subject: нравится (sing), нравятся (plur). However нужно is affected by both the number and gender of the object / subject: нужен (masc), нужна (fem), нужно (neut), нужны (plur).


  • Мне нравится хлеб. = I like bread.
  • Мне нужен хлеб. = I need bread.


  • Мне нравится машина. = I like the car.
  • Мне нужна машина. = I need a car.


  • Мне нравится окно. = I like the window.
  • Мне нужно окно. = I need a window.


  • Мне нравятся цветы. = I like the flowers.
  • Мне нужны цветы. = I need flowers.

Verb + object (people)

Here's how you decline мне нравится and мне нужно when you're talking about people.

Мне нравится is actually just one - though the most common - conjugated form of the verb, нравиться. Here's how it declines:

  • Мне нравится я. = I like myself.
  • Мне нравится ты. = I like you.
  • Мне нравится он/она/оно. = I like he/she/it.
  • Мне нравится мы. = I like us.
  • Мне нравится вы. = I like you.
  • Мне нравится они. = I like them.

For мне нужно, you match the gender of the subject with the related нужно form.

  • Мне нужен брат. = I need my brother.
  • Мне нужна сестра. = I need my sister.
  • Мне нужны друзья. = I need friends.

Expressing other emotions

Here are a number of common personal and impersonal constructions to express other emotions in Russian.

Expressing emotions with "я" decline according to your gender

  • Я счастлив(а) = I’m happy
  • Я устал(а) = I’m tired
  • Я голоден(на) = I’m hungry
  • Я сонный(ая) = I’m sleepy

Expressing emotions with "мне" do not decline

  • Мне хорошо = I feel good
  • Мне плохо = I feel bad (physically)
  • Мне грустно = I’m sad
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