Lesson 2: Basic phrases and pronunciation

Welcome to the second lesson in our beginner's course. By now, you should have more or less memorized the Russian alphabet.

In this lesson you'll learn the core basic phrases in Russian that allow you to introduce yourself, have a short conversation, and describe the world around you. You'll also practice pronouncing a bunch of different words to familiarize yourself with how the Russian alphabet sounds in real life.

Basic phrases

Saying hello and goodbye

These are the main ways to say hello in Russian:

  • Здравствуйте = Hello (formal)
  • Здравствуй = Hello (informal)
  • Привет = Hi (informal)

Depending on the time of day, you might also want to use:

  • Доброе утро = Good morning
  • Добрый день = Good afternoon
  • Добрый вечер = Good evening

There are three main ways to say goodbye in Russian:

  • До свидания! = Goodbye!
  • До встречи! = See you! (lit. until [our next] meeting)
  • Пока! = Bye! (informal)

Introducing yourself

In Russian, instead of saying “my name is…,” you use the impersonal construction “they call me…”

  • Как тебя зовут? = What is your name? (informal)
  • Как вас зовут? = What is your name? (formal)
  • Меня зовут...  = My name is...
  • Его зовут...  = His name is...
  • Её зовут...  = Her name is...

Other useful phrases you should know for introducing yourself and others include:

  • Очень приятно! = Nice to meet you! (lit. very pleasant)
  • Хорошо познакомиться! = Nice to meet you!
  • Я рад(а) познакомиться! = I am glad to meet you!

How are you?

Asking how someone is in Russian is typically something you only do in an informal setting.

  • Как дела? = How are you? (lit. how are things?)
  • Как у Вас дела? = How are you? (formal)
  • Как жизнь? = How are you? (lit. how is life?)
  • Что нового? = What's new? (informal)
  • Как поживаете? = How are you? (formal and rare)

The typically Russian responses to the question “How are you?” are:

  • Нормально. = Everything is ok. (literally: Everything is normal.)
  • Хорошо. = Everything is good.
  • Так себе! = So-so.
  • Как обычно. = Same as always.
  • Отлично! = Great!
  • Неплохо. = Not bad.
  • Плохо. = Bad.

Pronunciation practice

The purpose of this pronunciation practice section is to get you more familiar with reading aloud in Russian. Along the way you'll also pick up a number of helpful words.

Essential words for forming basic Russian sentences

The Russian language does not have articles (like the, a, an in English). Also, the verb "to be" is generally not used in the present tense in Russian. As such, you can form basic sentences with just a noun and these short words:

  • это = This is, these are
  • тут = here is
  • вот = here is
  • и = and
  • а = but

For example:

  • Это стол, а это стул. = This is a table, but this is a chair.
  • Это ваза и это роза. = This is a vase and this is a rose.
  • Вот груша. = Here is a pear.
  • Тут банан. = Here is a banana.
  • Это мама и папа. = Here are mom and dad.
  • Тут ручка, а вот карандаш. = Here is a pen, and here is a pencil.
  • Это цент и это копейка. = This is a cent and this is a kopeck.
  • Это мой журнал. = This is my magazine.
  • Вот дядя и тётя. = Here is my uncle and aunt.
  • Вот сыр, рыба, и рис. = Here is cheese, fish, and rice.
  • Что это? Это щи. = What is this? This is cabbage soup.
  • Это угол, а это уголь. = This is a corner, but this is coal.
  • Тут объект. = Here is an object.
  • Это костюм. = This is a suit.
  • Я Михаил, и он Фёдор. = I am Mikhail and he is Fyodor.
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