Why Russian is easy: flexible word order

Ari Helderman // Strategy
December 27, 2021

Summary: the flexible Russian word order allows you to speak Russian more easily, because you can already start speaking, while you’re still thinking of the entire phrase to say.

Russian shouldn’t scare you. Sure, it’s not ‘easy’, but there are many reasons why Russian – and especially getting good at SPOKEN RUSSIAN – is a lot easier than in many other popular foreign languages.

Last week we spoke about Russian articles. Or better said, the absence of them…

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today we’re going to talk about the Russian flexible word order.

Russian has a flexible word order

Because Russian has cases, you can say any word in almost any position, and still make a coherent sentence.

The cases change the ending of word, to indicate the function of the word related to other words.

While cases are one of the most difficult things in the Russian grammar, the flexible word order it gives you, is great for you.

Little example with the phrase “I’m going to the cinema”

  • я иду в кино
  • иду я в кино
  • в кино я иду
  • в кино иду я
  • я в кино иду
  • иду в кино я

While the first sentence is the most common, every sentence here is grammatically correct. You do see that the word order isn’t completely flexible, though. The word for ‘to’ – ‘в’ always needs to be before the noun ‘кино’. But the rest is flexible.

Compare that to English:

  • I’m going to the cinema
  • Am going I to the cinema
  • To the cinema I’m going
  • To the cinema am going I
  • I to the cinema am going
  • am going to the cinema I

Only the 1st (and maybe in a weird way the 3rd) sentence is okay. The rest just sounds weird, and will get you a weird look.

And this is only for a simple sentence. Imagine sentences where multiple actions are happening. 

So what does this mean for you, when you’re speaking Russian?

You can speak more fluently

If the word order doesn’t matter mostly, then you can just start saying a sentence when you sort of know in your head what you want to say. because you can think about what you’re going to say next, WHILE SPEAKING.

In most other languages with a strict word order, you need to stop and pause before speaking. Think about how you’re going to start the sentence, and how it will flow. If you’re advanced, then this doesn’t matter that much.

But if you’re in the beginner and intermediate stages…

An intermediate Russian speaker will sound much more fluent than an intermediate French speaker. Because the French speaker needs to pause all the time and think what and how he’s going to say it.

So be happy that you’re learning Russian 😉

P.S. Do you want to speak Russian so well that you get mistaken for a native speaker? My program teaches you to speak Russian in just 30 days with 1 hour per day of practice. Get more information about the program here.

About the Author

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.

Ari Helderman