October 22, 2021

How difficult can it be to say a simple phrase such as “hello” in russian?

Turns out, it’s a lot more difficult than you’d imagine.

The most common word for “hello” in the Russian language is:

Здравствуйте – Zdravstvuyte.

Don’t worry though. There are plenty of other simpler Russian greetings that you can easily understand and pronounce.

Curious what those are? Let’s find out what the basic types of Russian greetings are!

Russian greetings

There are many ways to say hello in Russian, but most forms can be divided into formal or informal:

  • Formal – say these forms in most day to day situations. For example when you meet a store clerk, bus driver, or just say hello in Russian to someone you don’t know. It’s also good to say these forms to  people that obviously have a higher ‘status’ than you, such as when meeting a police officer, or a student to his professor.
  • Informal – these greetings can be said once you know someone better. Russian is a polite language, so it’s better to err on the side of being too polite. A good way to know when you can switch to informal, is when someone says an informal greeting to you. Or with friends and family.
  • Fun – some greetings are a bit wacky, or said more of a joke. These can be seen as informal, but with some added connotation. As a foreigner, it’s better not to use these at all. But it’s good to know them, in the case someone says them to you.

Now that you know the general differences, let’s start with the most difficult hell in Russian. If you can understand this one, the rest will be a walk in the park.

Formal “Hello” in Russian – Здравствуйте (Zdravstvuyte)

If you don’t want to risk saying something out of place, it’s a good idea to always use this greeting:

Здравствуйте (Zdravstvuyte)

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It’s funny how such a simple thing as “hello” can be such a difficult word in Russian.

But like most things in life, you can make Russian easier if you split it up into smaller parts.

  • здравст – zdravstv
  • вуйте – vuyte

Try saying each part on its own. Makes it a lot easier, right? Now you just need to add them together and you’re good to go.

If you’re just starting to learn Russian, I absolutely recommend you use this as the only way to greet people.

Like we spoke about above, Russian is a polite language, and you don’t want to accidentally address the customs guy with an informal greeting. So even though it’s a difficult word to pronounce, it’s worth spending 10 minutes practicing its pronounciation.

Oh, and last thing: if someone greets you with здравствуйте, it’s completely fine to repeat it back. Repeating the same word sounded a bit weird to me the first time I was in Russia, but after a while I understood that it’s completely fine to do so. After this, you can ask someone how they are in Russian.

Verdict: this is a necessary word if you want to say hello in Russian as a foreigner.

“Hi” in Russian – Привет (Privyet)

This is the easiest of all the Russian greetings. It’s also the most common after Здравствуйте.

You can say привет in almost every informal situation. So say it to your friends, family (except your grandparents), close colleagues, or people obviously younger than you.

As we spoke about before, if you’re unsure whether привет is the right word, it’s better to wait.

Only when someone has addressed you with it, can you switch to using these informal Russian greetings.

Verdict: another must-have if you’re learning to speak Russian.

A more affectionate hi in Russian – Приветик (Privetik)

Привет is a good way to say “hi”, but what can you say if you want to go even more informal? Or maybe even a bit affectionate. In that case you can use a ‘smaller’ version, and say приветик.

I always find this a very cute thing in the Russian language. You can take almost any noun, and turn it into a smaller, more affectionate version by adding some form of чик/ик.

Verdict: you don’t need to know this word to say hello in Russian.

Informal hello in Russian – Здрасте (Zdraste)

A curious thing that you notice if you spend time in Russia, is that Russians also find Здравствуйте a complicated way to say hello in Russian.

Want to do a little experiment?

Try saying Здравствуйте quickly 20 times in a row.

What do you get?

You likely ended up with a shortened form that sounded like: Здрасте

Здрасте is one of the Russian greetings that you can hear in formal and informal situations.

Though it has a bit of an informal connotation. If you’re learning Russian, I would leave this word alone, till you’re at least intermediate.

Verdict it’s okay as a foreigner to say this. And since Здравствуйте naturally evolves into this, it’s likely unavoidable that you’ll start saying at some point.

Informal “hi everyone” in Russian – Привет всем – (privyet vsem)

In English if you want to say hi in Russian to a group of people, you can simply keep it at “hi”.

But if it’s a lot of people and you want to emphasize that you’re greeting everyone at the same time, you usually say “hi everyone”.

Russian is the same. You can say “привет”, or you can say “привет всем”.

Всем literally means: to all. It’s the dative case of the Russian word все.

This is also something you’ll hear Russian vloggers say a lot on YouTube.

Verdict: you can say this.

Welcome in Russian – Добро пожаловать

Another Russian greeting is “добро пожаловать”. It has the exact same meaning as welcome in English. So you can hear it if you go for the first time to Russia, and someone picks you up from the airport.

Добро пожаловать в Россию – welcome to Russia.

It’s also something that you can read when you enter a city: добро пожаловать в Санкт-Петербург – welcome to Saint Petersburg.

Since it has the same meaning as in English, you can also say this word if you have Russian guests coming over to your country.

Verdict: as a foreigner, you can say this Russian greeting. Use it whenever you would use the English welcome.

Russified hello – аллё / алло / хэлло

Russian is ‘Russifying’ more foreign words every year. This one has already been in common use for a long time. And I’m not completely sure if алло came from English and they changed it a lot, or if they just took it from the German “hallo”.

Anyway, the end result is interesting to hear as a foreigner. The funny thing is that this greeting is almost unanimously used as a greeting on the phone.

So you won’t hear this when you enter a cafe or meet someone in real life.

Verdict: again it’s one of those Russian greetings that sounds weird if a foreigner would say this. So keep this one for the native speakers.

Russified hi – хай – (chai)

Хай is similar to алло, in how it came to the Russian language. But the difference in usage is that хай is more commonly used by young people. It’s also not a word that’s exclusively used for picking up the phone.

Verdict: avoid for foreigners.

Slang way to say hi in Russian – Здорово

Depending on where you place the stress in this word, it has 2 meanings:

  • ЗдОрово – cool
  • ЗдорОво – hi

It’s a very informal slang way to say hi. An example would be:

Здорово братан – hi brother.

Verdict: please don’t say this as a foreigner. Unless you’re aware of the fact that it’s slang, and you’re in a group where everyone says it. And only then can you have to say it with a big portion of self awareness and make it obvious you’re saying it as a joke.

Good morning in Russian – Доброе утро (dobroye utro)

If you want to say good morning in Russian, you say it similar like in other languages:

  • доброе – good
  • утро – morning

So you string them together and you say good morning in Russian – доброе утро.

Its usage is similar to other languages. People use it when they greet each other in the morning.

Verdict: you can easily say this as a foreigner. You’re almost expected to know these words/

Good day in Russian – Добрый день

Depending on the time of the day, if it’s no longer at a time you’d call ‘morning’, then you can say добрый день.

  • добрый – good
  • день – day

You may have noticed that the word for good has changed its ending. That’s because the Russian language uses a case system. Depending on the noun gender and the function in the sentence, adjectives change their ending. It’s a more upper beginner Russian grammar concept, so I wouldn’t worry about it if you’re just starting.

Verdict: you can say добрый день when it looks like daytime. Most commonly you say it between lunch and dinner. You can also say it when you would usually say “good afternoon”.

Good evening in Russian – Добрый вечер

You already know the drill. Добрый вечер means good evening. It works the same as добрый день. And you can say it after dinner. Interestingly, if you’d meet someone at 1AM, you’d still say this. There is a word for good night, but it’s exclusively used to wish someone a good night’s sleep. Just like in English.

Verdict: this way of saying good evening in Russian is well suited for foreigners.

Salut in Russian – салют (salyut)

Russian hasn’t taken that many words from other languages, but this is a Russian greeting that comes from French.

You pronounce it almost the same, except that you add a little “y” sound after the “l”.

As a foreigner, I wouldn’t recommend saying this. It’s not a bad word, or a form of slang. It’s just not expected from a foreigner. And it may look as if you’re trying too hard to be cool.

And by the way, don’t be surprised if you hear this word a lot during New Years Eve. That’s not because everyone is greeting each other with it, but because it’s written in the same way as the Russian word for fireworks: салют.

Welcome (after a journey) – С приездом

If you arrive after a long journey, and people have been waiting for you, you might hear с приездом. It can be translated as: congratulations with your arrival.

But in Russian you can skip the “congratulations” part, and just say “with arrival”.

Verdict: this is a formal and informal way to greet someone. You can say this as a foreigner. Though you likely won’t have too many opportunities for this.

Welcome (after a flight) – с прилётом

This is similar to the previous с приездом, only specifically used for when someone arrives by plane. Literally it means “with your arrival by plane”.

Verdict: you can say this as a foreigner.

Old way of saying hello in Russian – приветствую Вас

An old fashioned way of saying hi. If you look carefully, you can see that the word for “hi”, is hidden inside the big word приветствую. That’s because this is a verb, and the sentence literally means:

I am greeting you.

Verdict: don’t say this. It’s too much of an old formal greeting. You would get weird looks.

My admiration (in old movies) – моё почтение

Another old way people used to greet each other, would be моё почтение. It would be said when people would meet someone obviously of higher societal status than themselves. While you likely won’t even hear this in real life, it’s still sometimes said in movies.

Verdict: don’t say this as a foreigner.

Military hello in Russian – Здравия желаю

You can also hear this greeting in war movies. Soldiers would use it to greet their commander. Or sometimes in a joking manner still these days. The literal translation is: I wish you health.

Verdict: don’t say this hello in Russian to anyone, unless it’s obviously in a joking manner and you’re saying it to a close friend who said something ‘bossy’ to you.

Fun affectionate hello in Russian (if you haven’t seen each other for a long time) – Сколько лет, сколько зим!

This literally means: so many summers, so many winters! It’s how you greet someone whom you haven’t seen for years.

Verdict: if you’ve been learning Russian for a couple of years, and you literally haven’t seen someone for several years, you can say this greeting. It’s a good way to get a smile on their face. Alternatively, you can say this as a joke, if you just saw someone 2 minutes ago. For example, someone left your place and then came back 2 minutes later because they forgot something.

What to do next?

Reading a list like this is good to get an overview of how you can say hello in Russian.

But you won’t learn each greeting, just by reading it.

And to be honest, you don’t need to say most of these greetings.

It would be like if a Russian person would come to you in your country, and say something like “yo, what’s up!”.

So if you make sure to know the 2 most common ways to say hello in Russian, you’re good:

  • здравствуйте
  • привет

All the others are ‘nice to know’. It’s good to be able to understand what they mean if someone says them to you. Or if you hear it in a movie, you know what it means.

But unless you’re already an intermediate learner, it’s better to keep it simple.

P.S. Want to learn to speak Russian so well that you get mistaken for a native speaker? My course teaches you to speak Russian in just 30 days with 1 hour per day of practice. Check out the course here: https://learntherussianlanguage.com/conversational-russian/

About the Author Ari Helderman

My name is Ari Helderman and I help people learn Russian through videos and blog posts where I share my experience. I have been learning Russian since 2016. I often get mistaken for a native speaker these days, so I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't if you want to speak Russian well.

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