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February 1, 2019

Lesson 1: Meet Vlad, Your Russian Language Guide

Introduction, personal pronouns, informal vs formal and your first adjectives.

What you'll learn in this lesson:

  • How to introduce yourself
  • The verb 'to be' in Russian
  • Russian pronouns
  • How to not offend people


Meet Vlad. He'll be your language teacher for the coming 2 weeks in which you'll follow a beginner Russian language course. He'll teach you the basics of the Russian grammar and vocabulary. You'll also learn the Russian alphabet and how to have your first Russian conversations.

 Привет!

(Pri-vyet!)

Hello! 

 Меня зовут Влад 

(Me-nya za-vut Vlad)

My name is Vlad

 Добро пожаловать в Россию

(Do-bro po-zha-lo-vat' v Ra-si-yu)

Welcome to Russia

 Я говорю по-Русски

(Ya ga-va-ryu po Ru-sski)

I speak Russian

Why don't you introduce yourself to Vlad?

 Меня зовут _____

(Me-nya za-vut)

My name is _____

You just spoke your first sentence in Russian. Molodets! (good job)

 Молодец!

(Ma-la-dets!)

Good job!

Which countries does Vlad like to visit?

Vlad is a patriot. He loves to travel to countries where he can speak his own language.

Did you know that 3 other countries have Russian as their official language? And that there are 11 other countries where knowing Russian will help you be understood?

Here's a list of all the countries where Russian is (still) very widely spoken:

(Countries with Russian as official language in bold)

  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Belarus
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia 
  • Lithuania 
  • Moldova
  • Russia
  • Tajikistan 
  • Turkmenistan 
  • Ukraine 
  • Uzbekistan

So what's a good holiday destination? Vlad loves to be out in nature, but he also likes to relax and chill. 

So he sets his sight on Sochi. Why? Because in Sochi you can both tan at the Black Sea, but the mountains for skiing are also close at Krasnaya Polyana!

Looking forward to his trip? Me too! Vlad has already packed his bags and jumps in his car.

But when he's on his way to Sheremetyevo airport, he gets stuck in a 3 hour traffic jam and misses his flight.

Блин!

(Blin!)

Blin! (pancake)

No problem, Vlad will stay in Moscow then and help us learn Russian. He'll show you all the great things to do in the capital and - he's planning his birthday party the 7th of October for all his friends. It will be a lot of fun and we'll follow him while he's making all the necessary preparations.

Of course, he's not going to organize everything himself. Let him introduce you to all his friends and helpers for the party...

Let's meet Vlad's friends

Vlad is meeting with his friends in a cafe on Tverskaya. They're having some drinks and they start discussing politics (a favorite pastime of Vlad and his friends).

Now, before we can eaves drop in on the conversation, we need to learn the Russian words for I, you, he, she, it, and they. If this were another language than Russian, we'd also have to learn the word for 'to be', but we can skip this when talking in the present.

Pronouns in Russian

Я

(Ya)

I

Ты

(Ti)

You (singular)

Вы

(Vuy)

You (plural)

Он

(On)

He

Она

(A-na)

She

Оно

(A-no)

It

Они

(A-ni)

They

For the record: the literal translation of 'to be' is 'быть'. It's still being used a lot in Russian, but mainly for describing the future. We'll cover that in a later lesson.

Быть

(Buyt')

To be

So here's the funny thing in Russian - when you want to say that you are smart, you'd say "I smart"

Я умный

(Ya um-niy)

I (am) smart

That's because in Russian when you want to say someone or something is [insert word], you do not need to use the verb. Easy, right?

Vlad describes his friends

His best friend Dmitri?

Дмитрий честный

(Dmi-tri chest-niy)

Dmitri is honest

His girlfriend?

Алина красивая

(A-li-na kra-si-va-ya)

Alina is beautiful

His colleagues?

Они смешные

(A-ni sme-shni-ye)

They are funny

And what does he say about himself?

Я спортивный

(Ya spor-tiv-niy)

I am sportive

So, now that you've learned some of these adjectives: how would you describe yourself?

Я ______

(Ya)

I am _____

Russian formal vs informal

Whenever Vlad goes to an English speaking country, he always finds it a little weird when people say 'you' to him. It seems a bit impolite. Do you know why that is?

Because Russian actually has 3 forms of you:

  • You singular (meaning ONLY you)
  • You plural (when Vlad is talking to all his friends and colleagues he uses this form)
  • You polite (when you'd talk to your boss or person who's older than you - used often in Russian)

ты

(Ti)

You (singular informal)

Вы

(Vuy)

You (singular formal)

вы

(Vuy)

You (plural)

The only difference between you formal and you plural is that you formal should be written with a capital 'В'.

When you're in Russia, it's best to use 'Вы' most of the time. Especially when:

  • you meet someone for the first time
  • someone is older than you
  • the person is working (e.g. customs officer, police agent, cashier etc.)

In fact, especially if you're a foreigner, it's best to wait until someone explicitly tells you:

Давайте обращаться на ты

(Da-vay-te ab-ra-shat'-sya na ti)

Let's switch to you

 Давайте на ты

(Da-vay-te na ti)

Let's switch to you (short)

Don't worry about speaking these phrases yet. Just know that when you hear one of them (or anything with a friendly tone of voice and 'ты') that you've made a friend!

Enjoyed the lesson? Take the quiz to test what you've learned today before we go to the next lesson. There you'll find hundreds of Russian words - that you already know!

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All the Russian Possessive Pronouns in 1 Clear ‘Cheatsheet’

Author: Ari Helderman


I started learning Russian seriously in January 2016, and haven't stopped since. I created this site to help other foreigners speak Russian. You can follow my progress in Russian on my YouTube channel Ари Говорит по-русски.

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