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Alphabet 1 updated 2020-08-28 ^

Russian uses a version of the Cyrillic Alphabet. Many letters look similar to their Latin counterparts. As Cyrillic typography was remodeled around 300 years ago, both alphabets have a similar style.

For information on how to install a Russian keyboard layout, please click here.

We'll start with some simple sentences right away. Russian does not have articles, nor does it normally use the verb “to be” in the Present tense.

(sentences like "Bob is an actor" are usually punctuated with a dash: «Боб — актёр»)

Letters and Sounds

К, О, М, Т, А sound similar to their Latin counterparts (to be more precise, "о" is the sound in "more"). However, in handwriting and typed italics, the letter Т can look rather like a lower case 'm' in the Latin alphabet (это→это).

Е actually sounds more like "ye", as in "yell", not as in "Hear ye, hear ye!" (this will work for now; it's more complicated after a consonant).

В sounds like 'v', Б sounds like 'b'. Н is "n" and И is "i" ('eeh'). The remaining letters are included in the table below:

Ёё⁰ (your) Вв (vase) Бб (bed)
Ээ (red) Нн¹ (nap) Дд¹ (dab)
Уу (soon) Хх² (Bach) Гг (gap)
Ии (meet) Йй (yes) Лл¹ (nil)
Юю (you) Рр (trilled R) Пп (poor)
Ыы³ (hit) Сс (Sam) Зз (zebra)
Яя (yard) Фф (photon) Цц (cats)
Жж⁴ (seizure) Шш⁴ (shun) Щщ⁴
Чч (cheer) Ъ and Ь⁵

Л can have a flat top, like П, or a pointy top like А (it comes from the Greek Λ). Д and Л have a similar top in many fonts, though it's up to the designer. Handwritten Д looks like D, and д like a g or a д (the last two affect the italic shapes).

An Italic Г in lower case usually looks this: г.

(a picture with a table of Russian letters)

That's it with the introduction! We will discuss reading words in more detail in later skills.

P.S. In our notes, we use an accute accent to show you the stress (e.g., ра́дио). It is a standard practice in Russian textbooks for little children or foreign learners—and, generally, the most common way of marking the position of the stress.

Basics 1 updated 2021-04-04 ^

Welcome to our course!

Now you are ready to proceed to the main part of the tree!

We are happy that you have chosen our Russian course. Just to make it clear, we are using American English in this course—but don't worry, we will accept most versions of English where appropriate. Just be careful around expressions like "bathroom" or "1st floor", because these may mean different things than what you are used to.

As for Russian, we teach the standard language, which is based on the variation spoken around Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and we stick to the usage typical of these cities. Do not worry, though: for more than one reason Russian is rather uniform over the territory of Russia (still, there is some variation in pronunciation and a few items of everyday vocabulary). We try to stay neutral in style, with occasional trips into formal and informal language.

Cases and word order

Russian is an inflected language, so the (declensions) of nouns and modifying adjectives correspond to their role in the sentence.

These forms are called cases. Russian has 6 cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Prepositional, Dative and Instrumental. The Nominative is the dictionary form; as for the others, we are going to cover them gradually, one by one.

This allows for a more loose word order. But not random! A typical word order is subject—verb—object. “Old” information (the things you tell about) is normally closer to the beginning of the sentence which is probably why pronouns are often found closer to the beginning of a sentence than a noun would be :

That includes words like “here”, “in this way”, “then” and so on.

Unlike English, adverbs are NOT universally grouped at the end. So pay attention to the typical positions for the expressions of time, place and manner. Eg. “very much” is typically in the end-position in English, but in Russian it is just before the thing that is "very" or “very much”:

Good luck!

Vowel reduction

Like in English, vowel letters aren't all pronounced just like in the alphabet. In Russian, unstressed syllables have vowels reduced:

So, when a vowel is not stressed, it becomes weaker, somewhat shorter, and also some vowels become indistinguishable.

More on the case system

For now, we will only be studying simple sentences that either use the dictionary form, the Nominative case, or use the Accusative (direct object of an action), which has the same form for many classes of nouns.

The case is defined by its use. Nevertheless, these forms have names, usually calques from Latin that reflect some typical use (but not the only one):

As you can see, these names are of little use until you know what sentence, verb or preposition requires that you use that particular form.

Some nouns of foreign origin are indeclinable, i.e. all their forms are the same. This includes words like метро, Дженни or кафе.

Phrases 1 updated 2021-04-02 ^

Hello

Russian has a more informal greeting «Приве́т» and a more formal «Здра́вствуй(те)». Here, we focus on the first, since it is the shorter one.

«Пожа́луйста» (please) has another popular position in the sentence—namely, after the verb (more on that later).

you can also use «пожа́луйста» as a reply to "thanks", meaning "You are welcome!"

How are you?

The phrase for "How are you?" (Как дела́?) literally means "How are your affairs (the stuff you do)?"

No one uses it as a greeting, i.e. you are not expected to use it with people you barely know (or those you know, for that matter). And be prepared for a person to actually tell you how they've been doing. ;)

Good morning!

Morning typically starts at 4 or 5 a.m., afternoon at noon, evening at 5 p.m. (at 6 for some) and night at 11 or at midnight.

You only use "Good night" (Споко́йной но́чи) when parting before sleep (or saying your goodbyes really late, so it is implied you or the listener are going to bed soon after).

If you are advanced enough to have noticed oblique forms used in some phrases—you are right! Greetings and other similar expressions are often shortened versions of longer phrases, where words still retain their forms. For example, «Споко́йной но́чи» probably replaces the longer «Я жела́ю вам споко́йной но́чи!» (I wish you a peaceful night). Needless to say, the full version is never used.

Basics 2 updated 2021-04-04 ^

I have a cat

English prefers to express ownership and “possession” with the verb “have”. In Russian “existence” is almost universally used instead (in the official/academic style «иметь» to have is OK to use).

Use it like this:

The owner is in the Genitive case (more on that later) while X is formally the subject. For now we will only study the Genitive form for some pronouns.

You have wonderful eyes!

Omit ”есть” if the existence of the object is obvious or not the point — very typical for describing traits or a number of objects (“Tom has a beautiful smile/large eyes”, “She has a very fat cat”). This also applies to expressing temporary states and illnesses (“She has a migraine”).

I eat/ She eats

In English, the only way a verb changes in the present tense is that you add -s for the 3rd person singular. In Russian, all 6 forms are different and fit two regular patterns.

However, eat «есть» and want «хоте́ть» are two of the four verbs that are irregular (that is, do not strictly follow either of the 2 patterns).

Note that the "present" tense is formed from one stem and the "past" and infinitive from the second one. In general, these two are slightly different. For now, don't worry about the infinitive stem.

Hard and soft

Russian consonants are split into two groups of 15, which are pronounced in two different ways, palatalized (aka "soft") and non-palatalized (aka "hard"). We'll stick to the shorter "soft" and "hard" (sorry).

When a consonant is "soft" it means that you pronounce it with your tongue raised high; for "non-palatalized" consonants it stays low. Russian orthography has its history but, long story short, you can tell the "softness" of a consonant from a vowel letter spelled afterwards:

If there is nothing after a consonant, the soft sign Ь is used to show the softness. In consonant clusters palatalization is predictable from the softness of the last consonant. We aren't teaching it here. These days the trend is to only "soften" the last consonant in most clusters, while a hundred years ago some clusters were palatalized even without any obvious reason.

To show you how it works, here is an example, using an ad-hoc transcription:

There are dictionaries («орфоэпический словарь») that show the recommended pronunciation of words and contain general pronunciation rules, too.

Voicing

Some consonants let your voice come out immediately (voiced) while others wait for the release of the consonant and only then let your voice escape (unvoiced). In Russian there are 6 pairs of such consonants: Б/П, В/Ф, Г/К, Д/Т, Ж/Ш, З/С.

Name and polite "You" updated 2021-04-02 ^

Thou art

Russian makes a distinction between ты, singular "you", and вы, plural "you" (y'all). The latter also doubles for "polite" you, with verbs also in plural. And don't forget that the "excuse" in "Excuse me" is a verb!

Grandson, son of Grand

As you might know if you ever read any Russian literature, Russians have three names; their first name and their surname—just like you have—and a patronymic (отчество), which is based on their father's name (отец = father). A very common 'polite' pattern is to use a person's first name and a patronymic:

In this course, name+patronymic are always used with the polite вы-form.

What is your name?

«Как вас зову́т?» is literally "How (do) they call you?"

Russian has a casual diminutive form for many common names: Ива̓н→Ва́ня, Мари́я→Ма́ша, Алекса́ндр(Алекса́ндра)→Са́ша, Евге́ний(Евге́ния)→Же́ня, Еле́на→Ле́на, Алексе́й→Лёша, Пётр→Пе́тя. Needless to say, there's no "politeness" with these, but they are often used with some degree of affection.

Excuse me...

Russian has two very common polite patterns for questions that English does not:

Thank you

«Спаси́бо» is the word to use. A fancier option would be «Благодарю́!» (a form of the verb «благодари́ть», "to thank"), though quite a number of people use it, if only for variety.

Plurals updated 2018-10-25 ^

Here is how the Nominative Plural is formed.

TYPE ending Example
-а/-я -nouns ы/и ма́мы, зе́мли
-nouns, feminine и крова́ти
most consonant-ending masculines ы/и столы́, ма́льчики
-о/-е -nouns а/я о́кна, моря́
some consonant-ending masculines а/я доктора́, глаза́

(so, the plural «я́блоки» is actually an uncommon way of doing it)

There are some irregular plurals too.

Spelling Rules

Or maybe not. Sometimes Russian forces your choice of vowel to spell or pronounce after a certain letter.

The 7-letter rule: Whenever you make any form of a word, and you need to write И or Ы, check this:

These are velars ("back" consonants) and hushes. For hushes, it is merely a spelling convention, owing to their former "soft" status. For velars, it is true to their pronunciation — i.e., these consonants always use the palatalized И where another consonant would use Ы:

Of these seven consonants, «К» should be your main concern for now. A lot of nouns have it as a suffix or a part of their suffix, forcing you to remember this rule.

The 8-letter rule: Whenever you make any form of a word, and you need to write А, У or Я, Ю after a consonant, follow the rule:

Where is it? updated 2021-09-21 ^

Russian words take different forms depending on their role in the sentence. These forms are called cases. A few forms may look the same (cf. "frequent rains" vs. "It rains often").

These forms have names (mostly calques from Latin) that describe some "prototypal" use of such case: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Prepositional, Dative and Instrumental. For you, these are just tags: the use is what defines a case.

As of now, you know the NOMINATIVE case: the dictionary form of a word. This form acts as the grammatical subject of the sentence, the "doer". It is also used for both nouns in "A is B" structure:

You also know a few Genitive forms (у меня) but that's it. For now, we will tackle something easier.

Prepositional case

When we talk about things being somewhere, we typically use в (in) or на (on) with the Prepositional form of the noun. It doesn't work when you mean motion to that place!

The Prepositional case (a.k.a. Locative) is the only case that is never used on its own without a preposition, even though only four or five prepositions ever use it:

Unlike English (“at/in school”), in Russian each "place" is associated with just one preposition. The rough overall rule is: use “в” (in, at) when talking about buildings and places with certain boundaries and use “на” (on, at) when talking about open spaces or events:

When you mean physically being inside/on top of some object, there is little ambiguity. "Places", unfortunately, require memorization.

Prepositional endings

Here is the rule that covers most nouns:

What about me and my friends?

Use “у + Genitive” when talking about being at some person’s place: Да, я у дру́га = Yeah, I am at my friend’s place.

▲▼WC

The room with a toilet is туале́т. In this course, we stick to the North American "bathroom", even though a room with a bath is, technically ва́нная (it has ва́нна, "a bath"). Still, in Russian you would not ask for a "bath-room" unless you really mean it.

And what if I gotta go away?

We’ll deal with that later. But the pattern is consistent. When you are somewhere, going to that place and going away from that place, use the following triplets:

AT TO FROM
в + Prep в + Acc из + Gen
на + Prep на + Acc с + Gen
у + Gen к + Dat от + Gen

For example, if the place is used with на, the correct prepositions for the three uses are на–на–с.

Animals 1 updated 2021-04-04 ^

"Spelling rules"

Note how plurals of «соба́ка» and «ко́шка» end in И: соба́ки, ко́шки, even though you might expect А to turn into Ы.

There are some restrictions on which consonants are used with which vowels when making word forms. Here are the rules for и, а, у vs. ы, я, ю:

К, Г, Х are called velar consonants (i.e. made in the back) and Ш, Щ, Ж, Ч are often called hushes. The latter do not show palatalized/non-palatalized pairs in modern Russian, so the spelling rule does not affect pronunciation anyhow. It's just a convention.

Fleeting vowels

It is not too important for you at the moment, but you may notice how О and Е sometimes appear in consonant clusters or disappear from them. For example:


Later you will encounter the Genitive plural (often used with numbers and words like "many" or "few"), which shows a simple pattern for -suffixed feminine nouns that do not have a vowel before "-ка":

As you can see, the vowel (О or Е) depends on whether the previous consonant is palatalized or not. Hushes behave as if they were palatalized, despite Ж and Ш having lost this quality in the modern language.

Genitive Case - 1 updated 2021-04-02 ^

In Russian “I have” is expressed by «У меня (есть)» structure. The owner is in the Genitive case.

Genitive

"The of-case". It is one of the most universal cases. How do you make the forms? Here is the regular pattern:

ENDING Genitive sg. soft stem
-a/-я мама мамы земля земли
zero-ending masc, -о/-е neut сок / молоко сока / молока конь коня
fem мышь мыши

A zero ending means that the word ends in a consonant or a soft sign (which is just a way to show the final consonant is "soft"). In the Nominative singular, a Russian word can only have the following endings: а, я, о, е, ё or nothing ("zero ending").

Genitive of Negation

If you use «нет» to say that there is "no" something or you do not have it, the object is always in Genitive:

У меня́ есть я́блоко → У меня́ нет я́блока

Здесь есть рюкза́к → Здесь нет рюкзака́.

Major uses

A huge number of prepositions require this case. Yes, «у меня есть», «У неё есть» only use «меня» and «неё» because «у» wants Genitive.

For он, она and оно Genitive doubles as a non-changing possessive "his", "her", "their": его, её, их.

Indeclinable nouns

A little side note: some nouns of foreign origin are indeclinable. It means that all their forms are the same. Foreign nouns that end in о/е become like that (кофе, метро, радио, резюме), as well as all nouns that do not fit into Russian declension patterns (see above).

This includes female names that end in anything other than А or Я. A few -ending names are an exception (Любовь and Biblical names like Юдифь).

So, all of the following names are automatically indeclinable: Маргарет, Мэри, Элли, Дженни, Рэйчел, Натали, Энн, Ким, Тесс, Жасмин.

I am away

Russian also uses the Genitive to state that someone is "away", "not there": Мамы сейчас нет. In English such use would correspond to "There is no mom at the moment", or even "There is no me now". We are not hard on that particular construction in the course, but it is important to know it all the same.

Added bonus: when a verb directly acts on a noun, the noun is called a direct object and is in Accusative. In Russian, only -а/-я nouns have a unique form for it. Others just reuse the Genitive or don't change anything (Nominative)

Nothing

Russian uses.... let's call it "consistent" negation. It means that in negative sentences you are required to use "nothing" instead of "anything", "nowhere" instead of "somewhere" and so on. Let's meet the first of these pronouns:

You'll also notice that, unlike standard English, Russian has no rule against using double negatives.

Possessives and Gender updated 2020-08-12 ^

Russian possessives

There isn't much to say about words like "my" or "your" in Russian.

Unlike English, no distinction is made between my and mine, her and hers etc.

Pronunciation: in «его», as well as in adjective endings and "сегодня" the letter Г is pronounced В. It is a historical spelling.

Grammatical gender

Nouns in Russian belong to one of three genders: feminine, masculine or neuter. If a noun means a person of a certain gender, use that one. For all other nouns look at the end of the word:

ending in Nom.sg. gender examples
-а/-я feminine ма́ма, земля́, Росси́я, маши́на
consonant masculine сок, ма́льчик, чай, интерне́т, апельси́н
-о/-е neuter окно́, яйцо́, мо́ре
feminine or masculine; consult a dictionary ло́шадь, ночь, мать, любо́вь / день, конь, медве́дь, учи́тель

If there is a soft sign, it is not possible to easily predict the gender. However, among the most common -ending nouns 65–70% are feminine. Some suffixes end in a soft sign; they always produce the same gender:


All nouns with -чь, щь, -шь, -жь at the end are feminine. The convention is to spell masculine ones without the soft sign: нож, луч, муж, душ. It does not affect pronunciation, anyway.

Partitive updated 2021-02-13 ^

The Genitive case has many uses in Russian.

One of them is expressing an amount:

With mass nouns it is also used to express "some" unspecified amount when used instead of the Accusative:

The usage is only typical when you ask or hypothesize about using "some amount" of stuff. You cannot actually say you are drinking "воды" right now—but you can say you want some (or sipped some in the past—with a perfective¹, of course).

чашка чаю

«Чай» has an alternative Partitive form «чаю»:

It is optional. Some short masculine nouns that denote substances have such form. «Чай» is among the few that are immensely popular in speech and do not sound old-fashioned.

стакан

Russian differentiates between a number of drinking vessels. Стака́н is what you call a "glass" in English: typically, a cylindrical glass vessel with no handle. As a measurement unit (used in cooking) it is the same as English "cup".


¹ Perfective is an aspect. Russian has verbs of two flavors: those that denote "processes" and those that mean "events" (events are never used in the present).

The Accusative: the Direct Object updated 2021-04-04 ^

Accusative

Until now, you've been using the base form of the word in sentences like «Он ест яблоко».

Actually, whenever a verb, like "read", "cut" or "want" acts directly on some noun, the latter is a direct object. Such nouns take the Accusative case.

Formation

Only nouns ending in / have a separate, unique form. «Мама» is a good example of this class :

Neuter nouns and feminine nouns with a final (e.g., «мы́шь») just reuse the Nominative form.

Now we are left with masculine nouns ending in a consonant (сок, медве́дь, брат). They use the same form as their Nominative or Genitive:

-а/-я (masc.) neuter (fem.)
-у/-ю Nom. / Gen. Nominative Nominative

With "substances"(mass nouns), the Genitive form may be used instead. It conveys the meaning of "some" quantity.

Verbs that take a direct object are called transitive. Too bad that some verbs transitive in Russian are intransitive in English ("wait") and vice versa ("like")!

I want it

Russian verbs have two main ending patterns. We are going to introduce them very soon.

Unfortunately, the verb «хоте́ть»(to want) is irregular and mixes both. On a brighter note, it is very common, so you'll memorize it eventually.

Unlike the English verb '"want", it does not have a strong connotation of 'need', Similarly, the Russian verb for "give"(да́ть) is totally OK for polite requests. Just use it with «пожа́луйста».

Verbs in the Present 1 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Е- and И- conjugation

The verbs in Russian change according to person and number. Each form has a different ending. There are only two patterns (apart from some phonetic changes).

endings Е- / И- examples
я -ю (у) чита́ю, пишу́ / говорю́, ви́жу
ты -ешь / -ишь чита́ешь, пи́шешь / говори́шь, ви́дишь
он/она́ -ет / -ит чита́ет, пи́шет / говори́т, ви́дит
мы -ем / -им чита́ем, пи́шем / говори́м, ви́дим
вы -ете / -ите чита́ете, пи́шете / говори́те, ви́дите
они́ -ют(ут) / -ят (ат) чита́ют, пи́шут / говоря́т, ви́дят

We will learn these one by one. There are only four stems with completely irregular conjugation. The verbs хоте́ть, дать, есть, бежа́ть and all their derivatives follow neither the Е- nor the И-conjugation exactly.

Note that if the endings are stressed, Ё replaces Е. Fortunately, a non-past form has only 2 options:

A verb uses one stem to form Infinitive and Past tense forms. It uses the 2nd one, similar, for the non-past forms and the imperative. So you cannot predict all forms from the infinitive. You can make a good guess, though.

Meals

In this course we use the American English definitions:

The Infinitive, Likes and Dislikes updated 2021-04-05 ^

I like/I love ?

In Russian, you can express liking things and activities pretty much the same way as in English, with similar verbs. The usage differs a bit, though.

A a rule of thumb, «Я люблю́» means "I love" only when directed at a single person (or animal). Otherwise, it's just "I like".

The two forms «нра́виться» (infinitive) and «нра́вится» (3rd person singular) are pronounced exactly the same. They are spelled differently for the sake of consistency (most infinitives end in «-ть», so -ть + ся = -ться)

When you refer to generic things and activities, both verbs can be used but «люби́ть» is mildly more useful.

May I?

Possibility and/or permission are often expressed with words мо́жно and нельзя́.

The English translation may vary. You can specify the person for whom the permission or recommendation applies, in the Dative (but you do not have to):

P.S. the -ся at the end of "нра́вится" is a reflexive particle and comes after the ending (in verbs, use -сь after a vowel, -ся after a consonant) . Technically, a reflexive verb is one where the subject of the verb acts on itself. As you can see, the meaning does not always reflect this. «Нра́виться» is among the verbs that are reflexive "just because".

Don't worry about it too much for now. We'll be tackling reflexives in more detail further down the tree.

Food updated 2021-04-05 ^

Yummy

Some nouns, like "water" or "bread", are not normally used in the plural. They are called uncountable or mass nouns. Both English and Russian have them. Food offers a delicious intake of mass nouns!

The preposition «для»(for) always takes Genitive nouns, just like «у» or «возле».

'Taters

The formal word for potato is карто́фель (German speakers, rejoice), but it's hardly ever used in speech. Use «карто́шка» instead.

The word for tomato is помидо́р. There is also the word тома́т, but it is

Verbal wisdom

In this skill, we used perfective verbs for "cook", "cut", "wash". The reason is simple: that's the verb you'd use when you want a single specific action, often with a result—rather than referring to "activity" (activity may be fun but, in some cases, pointless).

More on that later. For now, just go with the flow.

Adjectives Basics and Spelling updated 2018-10-25 ^

In Russian adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in gender/number and case. Out of 24 combinations only 12 forms are different. This system is completely regular, with no change of stress. The endings have “hard” and “soft” variants depending on the stem (for example, ый/ий or “ая/яя”).

Here is the Nominative and Genitive for “classic” hard- and soft-stem adjectives ("new"/"blue"):

NOM GEN
fem но́вая/си́няя чашка но́вой/си́ней ча̒шки
masc но́вый/си́ний дом но́вого/си́него до́ма
neut но́вое/си́нее окно́ но́вого/си́него окна
pl. но́вые/си́ние ча́шки но́вых/си́них ча́шек

note that masculine and neuter merge in all their forms different from the Nominative one (their Accusative will be the same as the Gen. or the Nom. depending on animacy). In the Nominative there is also -ОЙ masculine ending: большо́й (“big”). Only for ending-stressed adjectives.

The following universal rules of Russian spelling will give you the rest of the endings for any adjective you ever meet (there exist 4 patterns at most):

Conjunctions updated 2018-10-25 ^

а vs. и

In Russian, и is used to show similarity. Otherwise you should use а, which shows contrast. To be more specific, here are the typical patterns:

зато (negative, зато positive)

A conjunction used for "compensating" for something unpleasant with something that, you imply, is good:

Not exactly the best thing to translate into English ("on the other hand"? "but at least"? "thankfully?"), so it is not often used in this course.

хотя ('though')

Much like the English though/even though/although. It is often combined with "и" before the predicate (which is sometimes directly after «хотя»):

как

This conjunction has a rather interesting use, to show when someone perceives someone else's action:


For а, there is also "narrative" contrast pattern, largely absent from this course (but not from real-life Russian):

There is updated 2018-10-25 ^

Word order

To say "there is/are" in Russian, do the following:

«есть» is not used, unless the sentence really has to emphasize the existence of the object. Some examples:

In the Present tense no verb is necessary; in the past, you would at least need a form of "to be". Note that even in the present Russian still uses verbs like "is situated", "stands", "lies" way more often than would be considered normal in English.

The most natural translation into English is a structure like "There is an apple on the table" or "An apple is on the table". The emphasis is on the object, not on the place.

Actually, such a sentence answers the question of WHAT is in the said place. For out-of-the-blue sentences about objects that have nothing unique about them it matches what English THERE-IS sentences are for. So this is what we have in this course.

Actions

The initial position of a "place" inside the sentence holds for many other structures, too. Whenever the place is not a part of the "message" of your sentence, it is usually somewhere at the beginning (that is, if the place frames your description of an action rather than providing crucial information).

If the whole point of uttering a sentence is telling someone about the place then, naturally, it takes the sentence-final position:

lies/stands

You don't have to translate verbs like "to stand" and "to lie" literally when they refer to objects. Such use is not, by a wide margin, nearly as standard in English as it is in Russian:

In English "to be" is perfectly fine, so we accept that.

Questions updated 2018-10-25 ^

Where

Russian makes a distinction between being somewhere (тут/здесь, там) , going there (сюда, туда) and coming from there (отсюда, оттуда)—so naturally question words follow suit:

Who or what are you?

Russian uses «Кто»(who) when asking about identity and occupation and «Что» is used for objects rather than people. Since Russian nouns have cases, кто and что also change depending on their role in the implied sentence. As you will discover a little bit further down the tree, «Кто» behaves rather like a masculine adjective.

CASE What Who Whose
Nom. что кто чей, чьё, чья ,чьи
Gen. чего́ кого́ чьего́, чьего́, чье́й, чьих
Acc. что кого Gen/Nom; «чью» for Fem.
Prep чём ком чьём, чьём, чьей, чьих

Почему? and Зачем?

In a few regions of Russia (Tatarstan, for example) people may use зачем for both questions if their usage of Russian is influenced by a major local language that makes no distinction between the two. In Standard Russian these are two clearly separate entities.

People 1 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Vocabulary

Around you updated 2021-04-05 ^

Do that the English way

To express the idea of speaking some language, or something being written in that language, Russian has adverbs literally meaning "Russian-ly", "English-ly" etc.. :

They are formed from -ский adjectives by attaching по- and changing the tail to bare -ски: по-ру́сски, по-италья́нски, по-япо́нски, по-вьетна́мски, по-америка́нски, по-францу́зски and so on.

And remember, these words actually mean something done "in a certain way", so «суши по-американски» (American-style sushi) should not surprise you!

Locative 2

A relatively small group of short masculine nouns have an accented ending with в/на in the meaning of place (and only then):

Our course has about a dozen of them (there are about 100 in the language). Also, there exists a very small group of feminine nouns, all "-ь"-ending, that have a stressed Locative-2 ending:

All these nouns use their normal Prepositional form with "о" and "при".

совсе́м

Совсем is used to show that a quality is "totally" present/not present— usually with negatives:

междунаро́дный

It comes from «ме́жду» + «наро́ды», i.e. "between"+"peoples", which is quite literally "international".

The loanword «интернациональный» means the same but has quite limited use in certain combinations like "international team" or "international debt" (mostly these are from political contexts). This course largely avoids this word.

Most likely, "international team/orchestra" etc. is the context where you must use «интернациональный»).

живо́тное

The word for an "animal" is a nominalised neuter adjective, and its case forms follow an adjectival pattern. Of course, its gender is fixed:

Prepositions and Places updated 2018-10-25 ^

Verbs of motion

Russian distinguishes between "going" on foot and by some sort of vehicle. If you aren't moving within the city, use a 'vehicle verb' ехать (one-way movement) or ездить (repeated, round trip or in general). More on that later, in "Motion verbs".

Into/onto... at-to?

Once again, with в and на you use Prepositional for location, and Accusative for direction:

Here is a 'cheat sheet' of forms you'll need for places (no living beings, so—the easy Accusative for masculine):

Nominative Acc. Prep. example
-а/-я -у/-ю Америка → в Америку/в Америке
∅/-о/-е ∅/-о/-е стол → на стол / на столе
feminine дверь → на дверь/на двери
-ия -ию -ии Англия → в Англию/в Англии
-ие -ие -ии здание → в здание / в здании

Word choice

For "outdoors" Russians use «на улице» (literally, "on the street").

The preposition о (об) means "about" only as in the sense of "thinking/writing about". Don't use it for "approximately". With «мне» a special form is used, обо.

The contraction "USA" or "the U.S." is США (сэ-шэ-А, with the stress on the last vowel).

There is no difference drawn between "city" and "town".

In Russian it is typical to describe objects as "standing", "lying", "being situated", "hanging". This is rare in English, and often sounds unnatural, therefore in this course it is perfectly OK to translate a "whereabouts"-verb with a simple "is", "was" etc.

Here and there, and here

For "here", the words здесь and тут are almost completely interchangeable in any imaginable context. Тут is considered a bit more informal, and is used in set expressions ( тут же~right away, тут и там). «Здесь» is somewhat less suitable for figurative meanings (when by "here" you mean the current situation rather than a place). In this course, they are completely interchangeable when not being used in a set expression.

находиться is a verb to denote the whereabouts of things, and, sometimes of people (when the emphasis is on exactly where they are). It could be translated as "to be situated" or "to be located", but as these verbs usually sound rather formal in English, so you can just use "to be".

около is almost the same as «возле». It can also be used in the sense of "about"(=approximately).

Verbs Present 2 updated 2021-04-04 ^

→ and ⇆

There are two options for verbs of going: a specific 1-directional verb and also a repeated motion, multi-directional verb. For now, stick to this rule for идти́ / ходи́ть:

ENG RUS
right now I am going. Я иду́.→
habitual I often go there. Я ча́сто туда́ хожу́.
generic ↝↶↺ The baby already walks. I am walking (around). Ребёнок уже́ хо́дит. Я хожу́.

Asking

In other words, when using про́сит, one wants to be given something (or for something to be done). He who спра́шивает wants an answer.

By the way, "to ask a question" is, actually, «зада́ть/задава́ть вопро́с». Those who speak German may recall eine Frage stellen, which works in a similar way (apparently, "to ask an asking" is no good in German, either).

Negative sentences

Remember that Russian sort of uses double and triple negatives. To be more precise, it is coordinated negation: when the sentence is negative, you should automatically negate every pronoun referring to someone, anywhere, some time, anything, in some way and so on:

All such words should change to nobody, nowhere, never, nothing, by no means and so on. No one and nothing will have the correct case.

Adverbs

The typical position for (-е)-ending adverbs is before the verb. For example:

Consonant mutation.

You might have noticed that the consonant before the ending is sometimes different in the infinitive than in the personal forms. It is called mutation and is quite similar to the process that makes "tense" into "tension" (where an "s" turns into a "sh"). Here are the patterns you might encounter:

If there is alteration, there is a rule:

рисовать → рисую, on the other hand, is a regular transformation of -овать/-евать verbs

Playing

The verb «играть» is used as follows:

For example, Я игра́ю в футбо́л / Я игра́ю на гита́ре.

Time and Numbers updated 2021-04-02 ^

Using numbers with nouns

Let's focus on the Nominative for now (this also works when Acc.=Nom). Russian numbers may seem a bit weird. The case of the noun depends on the last word of the number:

last word means Case example
оди́н (одна́, одно́, одни́ ) 1 Nom. sg. оди́н дом, одна́ ма́ма, два́дцать одно́ окно́, оди́н сто́л
два (две), три, четы́ре 2, 3, 4 Gen. sg. две ко́шки, два стола́, три ма́льчика, три́дцать четы́ре стола́
Larger than that 5, 6, 12, 100 etc. Gen. pl. пять ко́шек, пять ма́льчиков, два́дцать пять ко́шек, миллио́н ко́шек

Just like English, Russian has words for eleven through nineteen, so they fall into the "larger" category.

Genitive plural has a rather bizarre set of patterns, so a separate skill later on will teach you how to make it for most nouns.

Expressions

The Dative forms of он, она and они are ему, ей, им respectively.


Why are Russian numbers so strange? Well, for 2-3-4 these are the remnants of the Dual number (which is between the singular and the plural). As for the larger numbers, they are essentially "nouns": a heap of cats, a lot of cats, a thousand... of cats.

Сейчас

Russian uses two words for "now". One is «сейчас», which means "now, at the moment", and describes the current moment in a neutral manner, often implying that things change and the state described is attributed to this particular moment. It can change soon:

Теперь is the "now" you use when things are different from "before". You imply that the situation has changed. It is also associated with a more prolonged period of time, i.e. the state of affairs is different from before, and will stay so for now:

время

The noun «время» ("time") belongs to a really small class of neuter nouns. Its Genitive form is времени, and all other oblique forms also retain the -ен part.

Family updated 2018-10-25 ^

Not much to say here, except that Russian does not have a special word for siblings or grandparents.

Unlike English, Russians rarely say "my mother", "my grandfather"; usually they omit "my".

свой ~ one's own

...And when they don't, it is more natural to use reflexive "свой" (one's own). English does not have anything quite like that. Essentially, it is a substitute for my, your, his, her etc. that you use when it refers to the person (or thing) that is the subject of the sentence or, at least, the clause you are in. A few typical examples:

Forms of «свой» follow the same mostly-adjectival pattern that «мой»,«твой», «ваш», «наш» and «этот» use: свой, своя, своё, свои → своего, свою, своих...

Since «свой» describes something belonging to the subject of the sentence, it cannot be used with the subject of the sentence itself. The exception is made when you are making generalisations, e.g. "One's (own) reputation is always more important"~«Своя репутация всегда важнее».

Pay attention to what the grammatical subject is. Sentences like «Мне нравится у своей сестры» are sort-of-OK sometimes, but you are really treading on thin ice here. This one sounds almost normal, while some others would immediately look unnatural.

Mister!

In spoken Russian «дядя»(uncle) and «тётя»(aunt) are often used to refer to some adult "guy" or "woman". A special case is children's use, since they often use it even as a form of address ("тётя Маша!").

This course doesn't cover this. But it's still useful to know.

People 2 updated 2021-04-05 ^

A student

Russian has different words for a school student (aka a pupil, BrE) and a college-level student, which both have masculine and feminine versions:

Молоде́ц is a word you use when someone "did a good job". It comes with a patronizing shade, so ideally you use it towards your friends or actual students/ subordinates (but not towards people whose work you are in no position to judge).

5 men

When you are counting people, use "челове́к" for numbers that end in «пять» (5) or more. Anywhere else use the normal Genitive plural "люде́й" (with много and мало both are possible, but I'd stick to люде́й).

Learning and studying

Russian has a number of ways to express learning, but in this course we have учи́ться, учи́ть, and занима́ться. The 1st verb, учи́ться, is introduced in this skill. Here is a little more information:

meaning examples
учи́ться to study (e.g. to attend classes or to do self-study) Днём я учу́сь.
учи́ться в(на) + Prep. to study somewhere; to be in nth grade/nth year Де́вочка у́чится в шко́ле, в 3-м кла́ссе.
учи́ть + Acc.subject to learn, to memorize something («наизу́сть» ="by heart") Я учу́ слова́. Я учу́ ру́сский язы́к.
учи́ть + Acc + Dat to teach somebody something Я учу́ студе́нтов ру́сскому.

Doctor

The usual word for a (medical) doctor is «врач». We also have «до́ктор», which is fine but informal. However, a "doctor" as a person with a corresponding degree is «до́ктор» (no alternatives).

Weather and Nature updated 2021-04-05 ^

It's raining

"To go" is the verb used for precipitation in Russian:

in summer/winter

Russian has adverbs for "in spring", "in summer" etc. They are formed as the Instrumental case of a corresponding noun.

We'll cover the Instrumental in detail later. Right now just get used to the words themselves:

Russians usually assign each season 3 months, i.e. winter is December through February and spring is March through May (even if you have snow well into April).

Category of State

It is easier than it sounds. When expressing a "state", some modality, or one's opinion on the situation, Russian often uses these impersonal words, saying that such and such state is observed:

Many are homonymous with adverbs and short-form adjectives. So we'll study them later with adjectives. For now, we only have a handful of such words useful when discussing the weather.

Needless to say, these do not use any grammatical subject and are quite useful with verbs like "to be" and "to become" ("It's getting warmer").

Sport updated 2021-04-03 ^

win/lose

Here you encounter two perfective verbs; these two very obviously refer to a specific result:

Note the formation of the past. If you remember был, была́—all Russian past forms are essentially formed the same way. The endings correspond to gender and number:

masc fem neut pl

We'll be practising many more past forms in the skill in the next row.

Reflexive

As a reminder, if a verb has -ся at the end, you add it after the usual ending («-сь» is used after a vowel):

«бежа́ть», to run

In this skill, we introduce the one-way verb "to run". You may not remember but it has one of the four irregular stems:

SING. PLUR.
Я бегу́ Мы бежи́м
Ты бежи́шь Вы бежи́те
Он бежи́т Они бегу́т

Adjectives 1 updated 2021-04-05 ^

In Russian the adjective agrees with the noun it modifies in gender(number) and case. Fortunately, the system is completely regular and the stress stays the same. The forms for the cases you know are:

ENDINGS masculine neuter feminine
Nom. -ый(о́й)/-ий -ое/-ее -ая/-яя
Acc. Nom. or Gen. -ое/-ее -ую/-юю
Gen. -ого/-его see masc. -ой/-ей
Prep. -ом/-ем see masc. -ой/-ей

The plural ending in the Nominative is -ые (ие). We will address the oblique forms later in the course.

A few examples:

velars and hushes

Adjectives with the stem on -к, -г, -х, -ш, -щ, -ж, -ч will use "и", "а", "у" instead of "ы", "я", "ю" so watch carefully ("русский", for instance).

We will tackle the endings one at a time.

целый vs. весь

In Russian the idea of "the whole" of something can be expressed by either «целый» or «весь». The former is used when implying the unexpectedly "large" amount; it is the one we're teaching in this skill:

Past & Infinitive updated 2021-04-03 ^

The infinitive stem

In Russian the Past tense and the Infinitive are formed from the same stem.

The forms are actually much easier than in the Present because there are only four forms in total for masculine/feminine/neuter + plural, similar to adjectives (the forms were participles once).

VERB masc fem neut pl
ending
быть был была́ бы́ло бы́ли
есть ел е́ла е́ло е́ли

«идти» and all its derivatives (пойти́, прийти́, найти́..) has a strange, irregular past stem:

walked, went: он пошёл, она пошла́, оно пошло́, они пошли́

For the masculine form, there is a phonetic simplification for verbs with infinitives in -чь,-сти/-зти, -зть/-сть. For example “мочь”(“can”), “ползти́”(crawl) and “лезть”(climb): он мог, полз, лез — no final Л here.

This skill mostly covers the past form of imperfective verbs (only «уста́ть» and «подожда́ть» are perfective). What it means for you is that when 2 or more such actions are mentioned, they all happened at the same time or in no particular order. Why? Imperfective verbs like «идти́», «жить», «говори́ть» are by nature unspecific about their exact time frame.

What about the present form?

For some verb types the two stems are nearly identical (понима́ть, говори́ть). Which is a good thing for you!

Shopping updated 2021-04-04 ^

Give me that!

By now, you have probably noticed a surprising lack of "that one" in Russian. Russian mostly uses "этот" both for "this" and "that", unless you need to make a contrast between "this one here" and "that one there".

However, when you are really pointing at things, use whatever you like!

("вот" is acceptable with both)

Clothing

a bigger/smaller shirt

From the Adjectives skill you might remember «бо́льше» and «меньше» as words for "more/bigger" and "less/fewer/smaller". Since these work as adverbs, it is problematic to use them with nouns.

Instead, the words «побо́льше» / «поме́ньше» are used AFTER a noun:

This works with some other popular adjectives: подлинне́е, покоро́че, полу́чше. When not used with nouns directly, these have a colloquial quality.

Actually, with adjectives other than большо́й/мале́нький you may resort to «бо́лее дли́нное пальто́». However, «бо́лее большо́е» is not used.

Dative and Plurals updated 2020-08-15 ^

The Dative Case in Russian

You have already seen that many expressions of feelings and experience use the Dative: ”Мне нра́вится...”, “Ма́ме хорошо́”, “Ему́ 5 лет”, “Мне ка́жется ...” etc.

The Dative introduces an indirect object of an action: usually the person whom the action is directed towards. An example would be a sentence like “I handed a package to my mom”: “my mom” here is a recipient.

Actually, this depends on the verb, just like in English. Some popular verbs of speech, writing or “giving” will use the bare Dative for the recipient: говори́ть, сказа́ть, писа́ть, чита́ть, дать, принести́ and so on.

Dative prepositions

По has an additional meaning, “apiece” or "each" : «Они́ взя́ли по три я́блока»=”They took 3 apples each”.

There is a bookish use of «по» meaning "upon". It goes with Prepositional, and is mostly used in set prepositional phrases like «по оконча́нии» (upon completion).

Cases in plural

Plurals generally have only one pattern shared by all nouns. The ending only depends on the case, not the class of a noun:, «я говорю́ о дома́х, стра́нах, города́х, я́блоках, дочеря́х».

Only the Nominative and (especially) the Genitive have a number of different plural endings that depend on the class of a noun.

Speaking 1 updated 2021-12-27 ^

Sequence of tenses in Russian

There is no sequence of tenses in Russian whatsoever.

The information in a subordinate sentence is understood to be relative to the main clause:

So if the piece of information is simply about where things are or what someone does, use present tense in the subordinate clause.

ли

Use the particle "ли" in reported questions or situations when you don't know which option is true:

The particle is attached to the word that is in doubt. It needn't be a verb, for instance, «Я не зна́ю, в Москве́ ли он» (i.e. whether he is in Moscow or in some other city). «Ли» generally attaches to the first stressed word of the clause.

Talk or say?

The verb говори́ть is used both as "to say, to tell" and as "to talk, to speak". When you report someone's words, it is the 1st meaning:

Russian has a whole set of perfective verbs. Usually you arrange verbs neatly into closely matching pairs of imperfective + perfective. And these are different for the two meanings of «говори́ть»:

Remember «Скажи́те, пожа́луйста ... » ?

Rather than referring to ongoing actions or past(future) actions in general, perfective verbs refer to actions in a point-wise manner, ignoring the action's inner structure. That is, such "singular" actions happen at some particular "moment" and can be conveniently arranged in a sequence when telling a story. This distinction is about to come into focus in one of the following skills.

Perfective Verbs -1 updated 2021-04-04 ^

Aspect in Russian

Verbs in Russian come in two 'flavors' : perfective (eg. “пригото́вить”) and imperfective (eg. “гото́вить”).

Let's get this straight right away: most perfectives are made by attaching a prefix—and the endings of the resulting verb change in the same way they changed for the source verb.

Perfective verbs express an action, an "event" linked to a point in time. Sometimes they assert the presence of a result. You use them for sequences of actions, too.

Imperfective verbs are used for everything else: processes, states, repeated actions and for generic reference to an action (when the time of occurrence is irrelevant).

In this introductory lesson we deal with the most basic pattern of use:

Morphology

Being too lazy to make up many different verbs, we usually make new ones based on the old ones. The vast majority of unprefixed verbs are imperfective.

The last phenomenon is known as suppletion and only happens for a limited number of verbs and their derivatives. The English verb "to go" is another example of such behavior (its past form is "went").

Note that suffixation is very popular for secondary imperfectives. Usually only one prefixed verb is considered an "ideal match" for an imperfective verb. Others are somewhat different in meaning (or a lot different). But you need imperfective partners for these, too, so Russian uses suffixes for that:

can

The verb «мочь» is used to talk about the general possibility of something, and also, very often—about your ability to perform something and reach some result. Perfectives are used in this second meaning:

We do not use мочь for skills. Russian has уметь for this.

опять / снова

Both mean "again" and are largely interchangeable when they mean that an action from the past has occurred again.

«Опять» is more popular but it's focused on staying "the same as before". «Снова» (cf. «новый») can also mean action performed "anew, from the beginning".

Only «опять» is used in «опять же» (~"besides").

When asking someone to repeat, use «ещё раз».

What else is there to it?

imperfective verbs

Perfective verbs describe events: singular, definite actions that are viewed as localized in time. They “happened” at some moment (“I made a video”, “I slept for some time and then went outside”). Or they describe a certain change of state at some "turning point" (not yet eaten→eaten, not slept enough→slept enough and ready to get up).

It is argued in a few works that "a natural" perfective is just a prefixed verb where a prefix's metaphorical meaning so conveniently overlaps the verb's own meaning, that you cannot feel any change. So don't be surprised if some vague actions have several perfective matches for a single imperfective verb.

That also means that sometimes you'd better memorize a pair even if it is technically a "poor" match. After all, in some contexts it will come in handy:

Instrumental Case updated 2021-04-04 ^

Fortunately, this is the very last case!

It is used for some very specific meanings, that’s why we've put off covering it for so long.

It is also used with prepositions:

Мы с тобой

When you tell someone about "you and I" or "my friend and I" etc., it is most idiomatic to use мы с + your companion in Instrumental.

Of course, when translating sentences out of the blue, you cannot (strictly speaking) tell if a speaker means "I" or "we". This is rarely a source of confusion in real situations (where it is unlikely a speaker goes on randomly switching between "I" and "we").

Sometimes you can interpret a joint action using "and" or "with", whatever sounds more natural:

But wait, there's more!

Actually, Russian also has a handful of inconsistent cases that only exist for some words. They are (mostly) beyond the scope of this course:

Body, Life and Death updated 2021-03-19 ^

You have big eyes

Be careful NOT to use «есть» when describing properties of body parts, if their existence is normal and unlikely to surprise anyone:

A Handy thing to know

The Russian words for limbs and what they have on the end of them can be a little confusing initially. Depending on the situation, рука can mean hand or it can mean arm. The same is true for нога; it can be foot or leg. Most of the time the meaning is clear from the context.

The difference works as follows:

The same goes for the lower limb.

Genitive Plural updated 2018-10-25 ^

The formation of Genitive Plural

All other forms (except the Nominative) are the same for all plural nouns, regardless of gender. The Genitive is the other exception. Here is how it is formed:

Not so easy

Adjectives 2 updated 2018-10-25 ^

In this skill, we focus a bit more on adjectives and their case forms

задача vs. задание

As a "problem" in a Math class, «задача» is more frequent. Other than that, «задача» may be a problem, a task, an objective—while «задание» is a task assigned by someone else (again, unless it's an exercise you randomly encountered in your textbook).

Superlative

When you want to express "the most" strong degree of some quality, Russian will almost always use an analytical form. Just add the adjective «самый» in front:

There are one-word forms for many adjectives, though few of them are popular. Here are the synthetic forms, to give you an idea:

наи-prefixed versions should be used with extreme care since they will almost always sound too fancy for spoken language and too emotional for academic writing. Still, a few of most popular may be just the right thing in written style (eg. наилучший, наихудший, наисложнейший).

Predicates and States(+Adverbs) updated 2021-04-04 ^

Practical Short Adjectives

Adjectives in Russian have a long form and a short one. A long one is used before nouns and as a part of a predicate. A short "predicative" form can ONLY be used as a predicate (with a "to be" verb). Usually it looks the same as an adverb.

To be more exact, that typically refers to adjectives that mean qualities that exist on a sliding scale (good, short, soft etc.) rather than yes/no characteristics (wooden, American).

Their usage depends on the meaning and style and isn't all that easy. It is especially frustrating for a learner when a short and a long form are interchangeable but modify the overall tone.

Now, from a practical point of view, a number of adjectives are used in a short form very often (or always) and/or have a distinct meaning when used in this form. It is safe to say that most adjectives in Russian aren't much used in the short form, so better learn those that are.

That's what we are going to do. And you get adverbs for free.

Other predicative adjectives/adverbs uses

Education updated 2021-04-04 ^

Ordinal numbers

Russian ordinal numbers behave like adjectives. Also, thankfully, if you have a long number only the last word is affected when the gender and/or case change:

High-rise

The floor numbering uses the system common in the U.S., i.e. the floor on the ground level is "the 1st floor". This is what you are going to see on the elevator buttons—so we try to stick to this "literal" translation.

University departments

A typical structure of a university::

университе́т

факульте́т ("department/faculty"), отделе́ние ("subdivision")

.   ​‍‍‎‏↳ ка́федра ("branch")

If a "факульте́т" is really large, it may have several "отделе́ния" inside, which are then subdivided further into "ка́федры".

A university can also have an "институ́т" ("institute") inside. Or a number of them. An institute may have departments of its own.

Grades

The grading system in Russia uses numbers 2 to 5:

In speech we usually call them «дво́йка», «тро́йка», «четвёрка» and «пятёрка». «Едини́ца»(1) is virtually never assigned (maybe only in the case of particularly mighty failure, combining poor performance with behavior).

Universities—officially—only use the words («неуд.», «уд.»/«удовл.», «хор.», «отл.» when abbreviated). And yet, the numbers are also widely used in conversation.

Classes

A school lesson is 45 minutes long, followed by a short break («переме́на»).

A class at a university consists of two 45-minute-long periods, often with a 5-minute break in between. This is why people usually call it «па́ра» ("a pair, a couple"). In the Russian Far East «ле́нта»("a ribbon") is a more popular term—but do not try your luck using this term anywhere else!

Summer break and shorter breaks during the academic year are «кани́кулы». This is a plural-only noun.

Grades (the other kind)

Finally, a word (or two) about grades/school years. For the sake of convenience, this course assumes that первый класс is the exact equivalent of first grade, grade one or year one, etc, which may or may not be the case depending on where you're from. For the record, Russian schools run from первый класс when you are six or seven years old to одиннадцатый класс when you are seventeen, although the last two years are not compulsory.

Countries and Places updated 2021-04-05 ^

Sweden, a Swede, Swedish

In Russian, the name of the country, the name of a person from there and their language are all different words. They are related, however, and few patterns exist:

country male female adjective
А́нглия англича́нин англича́нка англи́йский
Кита́й (China) кита́ец китая́нка кита́йский
Ита́лия италья́нец италья́нка италья́нский
Кана́да кана́дец кана́дка кана́дский
Аме́рика америка́нец америка́нка америка́нский
Казахста́н каза́х каза́шка каза́хский
Фра́нция францу́з францу́женка францу́зский

It's worth pointing out here (in case you hadn't spotted it already) that while English capitalizes country/language adjectives, Russian does not.

Simple Future

Describing a "simple" future action (not a process) is rather straightforward—take a perfective verb and make its "present" form the same as you did with imperfective. The difference is, perfective verbs have no present:

English, of course, has a number of ways of expressing the future; use "will" or "is going to" as you deem appropriate.

Программи́ст-кана́дец

Since in Russian, ethnicity is described with a noun, they can produce hyphenated compounds (just like other nouns). We have very few of them in this course.

Междунаро́дный

It comes from «ме́жду» + «наро́ды», i.e. "between"+"peoples", which is quite literally "international".

The loanword «интернациональный» means the same but has quite limited use in certain combinations like "international team" or "international debt" (mostly these are from political contexts). This course largely avoids this word.

Most likely, "international team/orchestra" etc. is the context where you must use «интернациональный»).

Speak English!

You can use both «говорить по-английски» (adverb) and «говорить на английском» (на + Prep.)

«На английском» is specifically about content in the language or about linguistic ability. «По-английски» is about the way an action is done/ an object is made (for objects, it does not mean the language).

So a book can only be written «на английском». However, if you mean "English-style pizza", it can only be «пицца по-английски»!

House updated 2021-04-05 ^

Points of compass

Example translation
на + Acc. на север north (about motion)
на + Prep. на севере (+Gen) in the north (of)
к + Dat. к северу (+от Gen) to the north (of), north of
с + Gen. с севера from the north

Now you can say where you live:

«Двор» and "courtyard"

The word «двор» requires some attention. Technically it can be either yard or courtyard in English because it means either a piece of land near the house or an area inside a group of buildings.

In this course it is "courtyard". After all, you'll mostly encounter «двор» when people refer to the area enclosed by a group of buildings as opposed to the area by the street. Don't expect it to look idyllic, though.

Locative

Just a reminder that there are certain short masculine nouns for places which have a stressed ending in the Prepositional, instead of the which you'd expect. Ex.: на полу́, на мосту́, в шкафу́, в лесу́, на берегу́, в порту́, на льду́, на углу́ в саду́, в снегу́.

It is not a variant form, i.e. its use is obligatory, which makes it the strongest "extra" case in Russian.

the Pseudo-passive

It is very common in Russian to use the 3rd person plural of a verb without any "they" to express that the action is performed by unspecified "persons":

bare 3rd pers.pl. English: passive (mostly)
Меня́ зову́т Том. My name's Tom.
Тут де́лают маши́ны. Cars are made here.
Так не говоря́т. People don't talk like that.
В нача́ле гото́вят лук. First, the onions are cooked.

This particular wording won't work if you describe something that happens "by itself".

хвата́ть

Using the impersonal verb «хвата́ть» is one of the ways to express the idea of having enough of something. The person is used in the Dative while the thing you have or do not have enough of is stated in the Genitive:

The perfective counterpart is «хвати́ть».

Reflexive updated 2021-04-04 ^

In theory

The reflexive is used when a subject performs an action "on itself". In English it is generally not stated explicitly. When you say that someone shaves or stops, it is understood that the action relates to themselves, unless a different "object" is provided.

These verbs end in -ся /-сь in Russian («ся» after a consonant, «сь» after a vowel)

As a rule, these verbs never take a direct object in the Accusative. «Бояться» (to be afraid of) is one of the few exceptions, in that it can use Accusative for people.

In practice

Russian reflexive verbs may mean a number of things. Here are the most popular meanings:

We do not have several non-reflexive base verbs in the course (some are rare or just a little beyond what we could include). However, some just don't exist.

себя

«Себя» is a reflexive object pronoun: it means the same thing as the subject of the verb (or the implied subject, if the sentence doesn't contain a subject):

Note that, as usual for pronouns, it is often found before the verb. Its declension pattern is the same as for «меня» or «тебя». Since it can't be the subject of the sentence, it doesn't have a Nominative form.

It is also used with some verbs:

(«с собой» is generally used to express having something with you or "on one's person", not only with "брать")

Remember the «Мы у друга»-structures? They work here, too:

Other

It often works for animals and people (to scratch, to butt, to swear). However, in a sense, it is also the meaning in "Книга легко читается", which corresponds to "The book is easy to read", i.e. usually it "is read" without difficulty (by whoever reads it).

Time expressions 2 updated 2021-04-04 ^

More popular time expressions

рисова́ть, плани́ровать...

Verbs with suffixes -ова/-ева replace it with уй sound in their present tense stem. The actual endings will be -ую, -уешь, -ует and so on:

There is also a non-productive class of verbs with -дава́ть, -става́ть, -знава́ть that exhibits similar behavior (вай):

It's small, but it has some popular imperfective verbs like «встава́ть» (get up), «дава́ть» (give), «устава́ть» (get tired) and «узнава́ть» (to learn some piece of information).

Imperative and Adverbs updated 2021-04-04 ^

Two types of imperative

Not hard at all.

First, look at the 3rd person plural: читают, пишут, любят and so on. Remove the ending.

Done! Читай, пиши, люби. To make it plural or polite, just add -те: читайте.

This lesson deals with the И-pattern plus some irregular forms. However, the pattern described above works for the vast majority of verbs. The irregular stems give you ешь, дай, беги.

Aspect is imperative

Which aspect to use? Well, if you focus on the process ("Please, slice evenly") or encourage engaging in some activity, use imperfective. Otherwise, especially If you want to get a result or a single specific action, use perfective.

When forbidding something, use the imperfective.

You may notice that sometimes when Russians want a specific action (let's call that "simple request"), they still use imperfective. Why? Here is the prototypal meaning of such usage:

By the way, that "obvious" point is why imperfectives are not, as a rule, used for detailed "simple requests", especially with "please". It is OK for some typical guest-receiving situations ("please, come in", "please sit down"). But IMP. is out of question with clearly non-obvious detailed requests like "Take my cat from the sofa, please"—if it were obvious why would you ask in such detail? These two contradict each other: appealing to the listener's common sense ('You should obviously do that') while at the same time using 'please' and giving the details.

Verbs of Motion updated 2021-04-04 ^

Run: there and back again

Russian verbs of motion come in two varieties:

Multi-directional verbs ⇆↝

They can express three different things:

From a practical point of view, a one-way verb is mostly a Continuous tense in English, while a multidirectional verb corresponds with a Simple tense or the Present Perfect (a trip happened→"I've been there - and come back"). Or to a Continuous tense when it is a random movement.

Pairs (→ / ⇆)

Up to 14 or 18 verbs of motion are found in Russian, though we only teach 3 to 5 common ones.

Waaait, what about perfectives?

To make a perfective (specific!) verb, add a prefix «по-» to a one-way verb (идти́→пойти́). It gives a perfective with an implied focus on the initial point ("setting out").

City and People updated 2021-04-04 ^

Stop right there!

What you call a place where some transport stops, depends on the transport. The trains stop at «ста́нция» while bus and tram stops are «остано́вка» («авто́бусная», «тролле́йбусная», «трамва́йная»).

Note the Locative 2 in мост and угол(corner): на мосту́, на углу́, в углу́.

«Маршру́тка» is a minibus that travels at semi-regular intervals, often filling its capacity of passengers at the starting point. Most will follow the same route as the regular bus of the same number. Due to translation difficulties, it is not covered in this course.

«Вокза́л» is a large railway station with a station building, often a terminus but not necessarily (that's where you would look for an inter-city train).

Englishman and Englishwoman

Most popular names for people from different countries or ethnic groups will have a version for males and another for females. Look for a suffix, since the formation of these nouns is extremely typical: англича́нин/англича́нка, испа́нец/испа́нка, шве́д/шведка, коре́ец/корея́нка, кита́ец/китая́нка, францу́з/францу́женка, гре́к/греча́нка...

Other point of interest

Railroad is «желе́зная доро́га» in Russian (lit. 'iron road'). «Суперма́ркет», while sometimes similar to supermarkets you know, is usually a medium-size self-service shop selling primarily groceries and some other essentials, so grocery store is closer to the definition.

Imperative 2 updated 2021-04-05 ^

Perfective vs. Imperfective

Certainly use imperfective when specifying the manner in which the action should be performed.

Use perfective when asking for a simple action that is not a really obvious next action.

(for example, with "please" and following details; it is rare you would politely ask for an obvious thing to do)

There is also the important permission/denial pattern: use imperfective when NOT letting something.

MAY YOU DO IT? Example
yes + imperf. «Можно открыть окно?» — «Да, открывай». (I don't mind)
yes + perf. «Можно открыть окно?» — «Да, открой». (support)
neg. + imperf. Не открывай ничего. (do not allow)

Feel yourself at home

Curiously enough, imperfectives are absolutely polite for a few common motion and action verbs used when inviting people:

I guess they can be formally classified as obvious but you can also just memorize the verbs.

положить ↔ поставить

There is a distinction in Russian between putting things in a random or "lying flat" position and "setting" them into a vertical or upright position. The last one is important for things that by design are supposed to have a "working" orientation even if they are flat (a plate, a cup, a box, a bed, a laptop etc.)

Words

Something updated 2021-04-05 ^

который

«Который» ("that/which") is like an adjective, only it takes the gender of whichever object it "represents", and the case that corresponds to its role in the part of the sentence you use it in:

Real or not: -то vs. -нибудь

кто-нибудь and что-нибудь mean a "hypothetical" object. A placeholder for what you have in mind, not actually filled by anything in particular (and maybe you are wrong). Mostly useless in statements about the past: if you are sure it happened, then the object did exist.

(remember, «кто» is masculine,_ «что» is neuter)

кто-то and что-то refer to a specific but "unknown" object. You see/know that something exists (or you are sure of it) but you don't know its identity.

They are somewhat interchangeable when you mean there's free choice from a limited number of options ("OK, have someone call me if Alex comes").

NB: "any-" pronouns have wider use in English. When "anyone" means "whichever person you want", consider "кто угодно" or, if you mean everyone, "все". The above only applies to cases of an "unknown" object.

I've got something special for you!

Кое-что and Кое-кто are "secret" pronouns. They mean a certain object that you know but are deliberately not mentioning by name. Either you want to keep people guessing or do not consider the identity important to your point ("Yeah, I have worked with some people here").

Special cases

Когда-нибудь is used mainly for "ever" in the past or "one day" in the future. Когда-то is mostly for "once" in the past; almost never used in future.

Как-нибудь is also sometime used to refer to some future moment rather than manner of action.

Где-то is also used colloquially to mean "approximately*.

Кое-как is only an adverb. It means either a job done sloppily or an action performed "barely", with difficulty.

Technics and Home updated 2021-04-04 ^

пойду́

Here we introduce the prefixed perfective for "to go(walk)" — пойти́. It is a perfective verb with a focus on "setting out" somewhere, just like other verbs of motion with «по-» («пое́хать», «побежа́ть», «полете́ть», «пове́сти»).

Поезд идёт до станции «Блок»

It is completely normal to use «идти» when talking about public transportation, i.e. passenger vehicles that repeatedly follow a prescribed route. These are preferred when talking about routes. Typically, it is идти because we treat it more like an objective fact of a certain trip taking you somewhere, than a particular vehicle going to a certain place (almost as if «идти» is not used as a verb of motion but as a way of stating the destination). «Ходить» is also used: for example, when saying that a bus exists that takes you from one place to another.

When arriving at a terminal station on a subway, you can hear the following:

A personal vehicle will always use ехать/ездить.

A reminder: you use ONE-WAY verbs when describing motion in one direction, even if repeated. The verbs cease being interchangeable when the context of repeated motion implies the "trip back" cannot be included (like "After school I go to the station and take a train home."— here you have a sequence that makes the return trip absurd). We rarely have such sentences in the course. In real life, just remember to occasionally take a step back and refresh the basic idea behind the opposition: one-way motion vs. multi-directional trip.

Future & Past with Perfectives updated 2021-04-04 ^

Formation

Take a perfective verb and do the same thing you do to imperfectives in the Present. Seriously. The reason is that perfective verbs have no Present form in Russian.

IMPERFECTIVE PERFECTIVE
Я чита́ю. = I am reading. Я прочита́ю = I will read.
Я гото́влю суп. = I am making soup. Я пригото́влю суп. = I will make soup.
Она у́чит слова́. = She is learning words. Она́ вы́учит слова́. = She'll learn the words.
Ма́льчик идёт домо́й. = The boy is going home. Ма́льчик пойдёт домо́й. = The boy will go home.
Мы слу́шаем сона́ту. = We're listening to the sonata. Мы послу́шаем сона́ту. = We'll listen to the sonata.
Я де́лаю столы́. = I make desks. Я сде́лаю три стола́. = I'll make three desks.

Whenever you mean a "simple", single action and/or a specific result, this is THE form you'll want to use. There is also another way of talking about the future, "буду"+imperfective infinitive but we're leaving that for later.

Conditionals

We're introducing the basics of «если»("if") in this skill. In Russian you use it with the Future when talking about future events (which is different from English). Compare: If you see (present tense with future meaning) Jenny, call me = Если ты увидишь (future perfective of 'to see') Дженни, скажи мне, lit. 'If you will see Jenny, call me.'

Пусть (let/have) is used with the non-past forms.

Basically, most learners tend to use too many perfective verbs in the Past and too many imperfectives in the Future. A common mistake is "future projection" of present tense forms. E.g. "I'm doing that tomorrow morning". In Russian, it does not generally work that way, though sometimes it is OK.

Mutation

That stuff with «Она готовит»/«Я готовлю». In И-conjugation it only happens in the 1st person singular, and in semi-regular verbs of Е-conjugation, it happens everywhere.

Being Instrumental updated 2021-01-12 ^

Working and being

Instrumental, while being a relatively niche case, is used for a number of verbs that mean "being" something (or someone) and "being interested" in something. For example, with быть when in the Past or the Future.

«Явля́ться» is a formal verb for "to be" which you must know but you won't necessarily use all that much. One important use would be somewhat formal sentences of the model ''A' is a 'B' that is a 'C'.' Imagine something like this:

A somewhat stilted example, but still quite good because it would sound strange here to omit "являться" (to be) in the 2nd half of this sentence. Fortunately, these sorts of definitions are often "A is a B who does C", so you don't have to worry too much.

«Занима́ться» is a verb that has no direct equivalent in English and therefore can be tricky to translate. It has a general meaning of "being occupied with something", which means pursuing some activity (cf. заня́тие "occupation, class", за́нят "busy").

Depending on the nature of the activity it can be any of the following:

There is also «увлека́ться» which is more directly connected to hobbies (увлече́ния) which you are "keen on" or "into" e.g. я увлекаюсь иностранными языками.

Instrumental for adjectives

Here is a reference table, as well as some examples (words for white, blue, narrow, big, the best)

masc/neut fem pl
ENDINGS -ым/-им -ой/-ей -ыми/-ими
eg. бе́лый бе́лым бе́лой бе́лыми
eg. си́ний си́ним си́ней си́ними
eg. у́зкий у́зким у́зкой у́зкими
eg. большо́й больши́м большо́й больши́ми
eg. лу́чший лу́чшим лу́чшей лу́чшими

Два́, три́, четы́ре become двумя́, тремя́, четырьмя́

Note how after hushes (ж, ш, щ, ч), ой is used for end-stressed adjectives and ей for stem-stressed ones. That reflects the pronunciation: after a hush, unstressed о/а sound the same as an unstressed и/е would.

Placing Objects updated 2021-04-05 ^

Object placement in Russian

This concept is hard to translate but easy to grasp. Frankly, Russians (on average) tend to be more precise about the manner in which an object "is" somewhere or is "put" somewhere.

"Being" verbs do not have natural perfective counterparts because they are about a certain state.

Stand

Стоя́ть is used with "vertical" positions:

Lie

Лежа́ть is used with "horizontal" orientations:

Hanging about

Висе́ть is used with hanging/clinging objects:

That's all. When you place an object into one of these three positions you use «ста́вить»(поста́вить), «класть»(положи́ть) and «ве́шать»(пове́сить) respectively. This also applies if you change an object's state (eg., it is lying flat, and you want it hung on a wall).

Use a "present-style" set of endings of a perfective verb to make its future form: «Я повешу картину тут/сюда» = I'll hang the picture here.

Be situated

Better late than never, I guess. There are a few verbs that only ever denote position, of which only «находи́ться» is within the scope of this course. The verb is often used with large objects like buildings, rooms, cities. However, it is not limited to these kinds of objects (it's just less not quite as common).

«Находи́ться» can sound overly formal in some situations. Basically, it is a verb that specifies the whereabouts of the subject, so it is appropriate when location truly IS in focus. Do not use it with people much, except in questions regarding the exact whereabouts (e.g., over the phone when you are trying to find your friends: «Где вы сейча́с нахо́дитесь?») With small objects "lie"/"stand", discussed above, are probably a better choice.

Kitchen and Food updated 2020-07-15 ^

есть

The verb «есть» (to eat) doesn't have a true perfective partner according to some sources. Its perfective counterpart would depend on the meaning:

When you mean consuming an "object", you use «съесть» to express that it is fully eaten (within reason, it obviously doesn't have to be the seeds, core and all to 'count'!) However, when you are talking about the activity of eating as replenishing your energy, having a lunch break etc., use «пое́сть».

In this skill, we teach «съесть».

«Я пое́л су́па/суп» can actually be used. It means you had "some" soup, focusing on what your meal was rather than full consumption. This will sound odd with small foodstuffs (sandwiches, apples etc.). They are usually eaten completely; if you did not it is better to say you ate a piece, took a bite and so on.

килограмм

When counting, the Genitive plural form for «грамм» and «килограмм» may be either of the following:

The zero-ending option is definitely the most popular these days, at least in speech (it was considered colloquial about 40 years ago).

пакет

«Су́мка» is a bag made of a durable material. An expendable plastic or paper bag typical of supermarkets is «паке́т». A plastic bag is in fact «полиэтиле́новый» (polyethylene), not «пла́стиковый» (which is usually used for hard plastics).

«Пакет» is also used for packs of sugar, salt, rice, milk etc.

Speaking2 updated 2020-07-15 ^

счита́ть vs. ду́мать

When expressing your opinion, you may use either of the two. «Счита́ть» implies you think so because of your views, or because that would be your decision, or because you gave it some thought. «Ду́мать» can mean a lot of things, including a random, fleeting thought.

Basically, you just have to know that «счита́ть» does not only mean "to count". As for using it yourself... well, it depends on your exposure to Russian.

име́ть

«име́ть» is a formal verb for "to have" used in business and official language (у кого-то есть что-то is neutral). However, there are a few set expressions where the verb can be used even in normal speech.

Subjunctive and Conditional updated 2020-07-15 ^

Want me to do it?

The Subjunctive is, basically, when you speak of actions that are not real but rather desired, asked to be performed or just actions that might have happened.

One of the important uses of conditional (a.k.a. subjunctive) in Russian is with «чтобы» ("in order to") to express the idea of some action being required or asked for from someone.

1 entityinfinitive. The sentence is pretty straightforward when you only have one person:

2 entitiespast. When A does something for B to do something, use the PAST tense:

So, use the past form in any structures like "A told B to do something", "A did X so that B does Y", "We need that A do X" etc. The analogy with the English "that" (which may come off as overly formal) is probably a good way to grasp this structure. Unfortunately, in more idiomatic English the sentence structures are quite different from Russian.

Pay attention to the use of aspect. When asking someone NOT to do something, imperfective is normally used.

With verbs of asking, you only use the past form if you do use the conditional. If you've opted to use a Dative "recipient" instead, the verb is in the infinitive: Мы попросили его подождать.

If only you were here...

The conditional, unsurprisingly, is also used in conditional sentences. When you describe hypothetical (unreal) situations, you always use Past + the particle бы. This particle normally comes right after если or after the subject / the verb:

Russian does not distinguish (grammatically) between "would be" and "would have been"; both use the past form and are distinguished based on what makes sense in a given situation.

Compound Future updated 2018-10-25 ^

Imperfective future

There is another way of expressing the future in Russian besides the perfective covered earlier, namely (you guessed it) the imperfective. Its primary use is to show some prolonged or repeated activity in the future rather than to focus on a single action done at some particular point in time. (It tends to be overused by foreign learners).

To form the imperfective future, use the appropriate variation of будет and an infinitive of an imperfective verb:

It is quite useful for describing what you will generally be occupied with at a certain moment or day ("at 3 p.m. I'll still be working") in the future.

I will not do this!

There is one more important verb to discuss here. «Стать» (to become) is used with an infinitive in negative sentences to express a decision not to do something, both in past and in future.:

We mostly skip the past use because English does not actually distinguish between the past action that just did not happen and the past actions that were not taken because a person decided not to. Стать is also used (to a degree) in positive past sentences to mean "started doing the prolonged activity". Quite a rare thing in future.

Prefixed Verbs of Motion updated 2018-10-25 ^

Back in Motion

Having covered the basic verbs of motion earlier, it's time to go a bit deeper.

While English often uses additional words and/or a completely different verb to convey different nuances of movement somewhere, Russian typically takes one of the basic verbs of motion and modifies it with a prefix.

They often come in pairs, so we have:

при- expresses approaching in a general way. Иван приехал в Россию = Ivan arrived in/came to Russia. у- conveys going away or leaving. Дженни уехала из Москвы = Jenny left Moscow.

в-/во- for movement into an enclosed space. Он вошёл в комнату. = He entered the room. вы- for movement out of an enclosed space. Я выйду из дома = I will leave the house.

под-/подо- movement towards. Он подошёл ко мне = He walked up to me. от-/ото- movement away from. Она отошла от него = She walked away from him.

Also:

про- through or past. Мы проехали туннель = we drove through the tunnel. Они прошли мимо церкви = They walked past a church.

пере- across Я перешла/перешёл мост = I crossed the bridge.

A tricky aspect

You may have spotted so far that the examples have all been the one-directional versions of 'go' and that they are all past or future. Well, here's where it may get confusing. When they have a prefix attached, the one- and two- directional versions of 'go' convey aspect rather than 'directionality'. This probably makes more sense with an example:

Я перехожу мост - I am crossing the bridge/I cross the bridge

Я перейду мост - I will cross the bridge.

Arts & Entertainment updated 2021-04-04 ^

Tell us about it

There is another verb in Russian for "to tell", «рассказывать». It covers the situations when what you say is quite a bit longer than a single sentence. You may link it to рассказ ("a story"). With «рассказать» it is understood you're passing on a rather finished piece of information about some topic. «Говорить/ сказать» is primarily for shorter answers where coverage of some topic is not the point (also, when reporting someone's words).

When expressing what you are talking "about", you may use о + Prepositional or про + Accusative. The meaning is roughly the same, especially in the sentences covered in this course, and they are largely interchangeable. In most situations only the shade of meaning changes:

«О» is more common than «про».

Together updated 2020-07-04 ^

Let's speak Russian

To express the idea of "let's" (a suggestion or proposal to carry out an action or participate in some activity together) Russian uses the imperative Давай (plural давайте).

Use it with the infinitive for imperfective verbs:

Use it with non-past "we"-form for perfective verbs:

Each other

The set expression «друг друга» is used to express the action done to "each other". The first "friend" is always in Nominative, and the second takes the case required by the sentence—and any prepositions you need:

Just the two of us

To express doing an action together, Russian may opt to use words that specify the number of people as 2, 3 etc: вдвоём, втроём, вчетверо́м, впятеро́м, вшестеро́м, всемеро́м, also вдесятеро́м. Two to four are used the most. 8, 9 or larger than 10 are virtually never used.

English just uses "together", so, understandably, these are useful to know but boring to translate:

Bonus to those who speak languages that have similar adverbs.

Numbers 2 updated 2021-04-05 ^

Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers decline exactly like adjectives. Fortunately, only the last word is declined, others are like in cardinal numbers. And no and's:

Actually, «третий» declines a bit differently, similar to "animal-possessives" (eg. кошачий): третий, третья, третье, третьи / третьего, третьей . . . Note the Ь.

Declension of numbers

In Russian, tens and hundreds are compound words with both parts declining («сто» has an unusual pattern):

(you may recall that numbers 5-20 and also 30, 50, 60, 70, 80 decline just like a feminine noun, eg. «кровать»)

Oblique cases of numbers are difficult even for native speakers, so they usually either make mistakes, or think their way around such forms. After all, no one makes you use convoluted sentence structure IRL.

Consequently, we are not spending much time on these forms.

Use of adjectives with numbers

With два, три, четыре, in combinations like "3 big cats" the agreement of the adjective may not match the noun—to be more exact, it happens in the Nominative.

Masculine and neuter nouns will use the adjective in the Genitive plural («два длинных ножа»). For feminine nouns, there is variation. Typically, the Nominative plural is preferred:

The Genitive plural is also occasionally used, especially in speech (but the Nominative is still more common):

If the adjective modifies the whole number phrase, only the Nominative is used: каждые три дня, долгие две недели, мои любимые четыре года.

With inanimate nouns, the same applies in the Accusative case.

Adjectives 3 updated 2020-07-21 ^

Russian has a number of adjectives formed from other types of words, for example, nouns. Where English might use a noun chain or a few nouns stitched together ("summer shirt", "homework"), we often use an adjective—of course, if we have one («летняя рубашка», «домашняя работа»).

Adjectival declension

Here is the full table:

ENDINGS masc. neut. fem. plural
Nom. -ый(о́й)/ ‑ий -ое/ ‑ее ‑ая/ ‑яя -ые/-ие
Acc. Nom. or Gen. -ое/ ‑ее -ую/ ‑юю Nom. or Gen.
Gen. -ого/‑его see m. -ой/-ей -ых/-их
Prep. -ом/-ем see m. -ой/-ей -ых/-их
Dat. ‑ому/‑ему see m. -ой/-ей -ым/-им
Instr. -ым/-им see m. -ой/-ей ‑ыми/ ‑ими

знакомый

«Знакомый» means "familiar". It also widely used as a noun for "pal, acquaintance" (знакомый for males, знакомая for females)

Plans updated 2021-04-04 ^

собира́ться

The focus of this skill is just one Russian verb, «собира́ться». It means something between "to be going to" and "to plan/to intend to". The verb means that it is your intention to perform some action, and you are, most likely, taking some steps (physical or cognitive) to let it eventually happen:

It also has its plain literal meaning of "to gather" or "to pack your stuff, preparing to leave". Interestingly, when talking about going to some place where some "event" is taking place, its literal and metaphorical meaning work together, so the verb can be used directly with a place: «Я собира́юсь на ле́кцию».

The primary use of «собира́ться» is to show pre-planned future actions of persons. Things and beings that do not have consciousness can only use this verb in its literal meaning.

Prepositions 2 updated 2021-09-21 ^

The Same updated 2021-04-05 ^

одинаковый / такой же

Consider these two structures:

English uses "the same" for both. Russian expresses these two relations differently:

Other similar things

A number of these «же»-words exist:

NB: «же» has other uses, namely to emphasize information the listener must be aware of but fails to use (Ты же сам меня́ спроси́л).

When comparing to something else, a paired pronoun is used in a relative clause:

Note the "и", which makes it a lot more natural.

The usage of these pronouns is not as obvious. Тако́й же is typically paired with как and тот же with что or кото́рый(for persons).

I don't care

To say that you "don't care", "don't give a (smth)" about something, you use «всё равно́» with Dative subject.

You also use it to say that doing something is "essentially the same thing" as something else.

Set expressions

«Тут же» actually means "right away".

You can say something is "one and the same" object by using «оди́н и тот же» or «оди́н» (the latter is OK when it's a modifier):

(одно́ и то же as a "noun" is always neuter and cannot be replaced by одно́)

You can say something is the same object as already mentioned before by using «тот же са́мый»:

Fleeting Vowels updated 2020-08-20 ^

Sometimes a word gains or loses a vowel when declined:

This only happens to О and Е, and mostly in words having certain suffixes. Such sounds are called fleeting vowels and appear/disappear quite regularly in some stems.

► Gained vowels appear only in Genitive plural

► Lost vowels appear only in Nominative singular.

Here, we mainly focus on the following words:

The existence of these vowels can be traced back to the time when Ь and Ъ used to be short vowels ("yers"). Back then, all syllables in Russian had to end in a vowel. Later, these sounds were lost in weak positions (word-final position or the position before a stressed vowel/a strong position).

But that's history. Anyway, it is nice to know that in «сто»/«сотня» (a hundred), «со мной» there is a good reason for "о" to be where it is. The disappearing vowel in «весь»/«все» has the same origin.

Some of the fleeting vowels in Modern Russian have appeared from an analogy with other words and have no historical basis in Old East Slavic.

Measure updated 2021-04-04 ^

Russia uses the metric system. Here are the main units you'll learn in this course:

Square («квадратный») meters and kilometers are used for areas (м², км²).

For areas of land, «гекта́р» (Га, 10000 м²) is often used. In spoken speech people also use «со́тка» (100 м²) for their garden plots in the country (the name comes from the fact that it is 1/100 of a hectare)

Instrumental

To speak about an object of a certain length/weight etc., the Instrumental form of a quantity is used:

про-verbs

To express the idea of a certain activity "covering" a certain space or time interval, verbs with the prefix «про-» are often employed. Of course, you should consult the dictionary to know if a certain verb of this structure exists or has that particular meaning.

It is different from verbs of motion like "пройти" because many other verbs can have this prefix:

NOTE about VERBS OF MOTION: some of these derivatives will not be verbs of motion and actually can differ in stress or form (проезжа́л/прое́здил). We are only covering distances here. When talking about motion, the derivative of the one-way verb is used for distance. For time, you use the multidirectional verb, or, if you want to put an emphasis on how extremely long it took, its про-prefixed derivative:

The проходи́л, пробе́гал, прое́здил options are not neutral in style but are encountered in spoken speech anyway.

Business updated 2018-10-25 ^

организовать

One of the verbs introduced here deserves special attention. «Организовать» belongs to a small group of so-called biaspectual verbs. These verbs work both as a perfective and an imperfective verb—the interpretation depends on context and common sense:

работать над чем-то

"Working on something" is a set expression in Russian too. Use «над» with the Instrumental:

успешный

The adjective "successful" is mostly used with nouns meaning some endeavors or attempts to do something; also with nouns like "company", "businessman".

Their use with random words for people is also creeping in slowly (as a calque from English) but it is going to sound weird and awkward for quite a while. Unlike English, this usage in Russian is mainly associated with fame and financial success, so it limits the professions that feel "right" and unambiguous when described as «успешный».

Prefixes updated 2021-04-04 ^

Though English has words like undergo, ongoing or rearrange, the core vocabulary is usually not built this way. Russian, however, has quite a number of prefixes and suffixes routinely used in words, including those in your essential vocabulary.

Such verbs have natural polysemy (in layman's terms: a handful of somewhat related meanings). For example, собрать means both "to gather, to pick up" (eg. flowers) and "to assemble" (eg. furniture from a kit of parts). Both meanings grow from the parts that comprise the word: брать is "to take, to pick", and со- adds a meaning of "togetherness".

Some prefixes

It is important to understand that only a few prefixes are like «пере», i.e. have a very focused meaning. Most Russian prefixes behave similarly to English prepositions when you add them to English verbs as particles. One's knowledge of English helps one guess what "turn up", "take off" or "run out" may mean. However, you can never be sure without a dictionary or a context that makes the meaning obvious.

History & Fantasy updated 2021-04-04 ^

Да здра́вствует коро́ль!

The Russian "Long live the X" structure is an example of the high-style 3rd-person imperative. It sounds solemn and is typical of old texts. One more example:

за́мок / замо́к

"A castle" and "a lock" are spelt the same in Russian; only the stress is different. Such use is a calque from German. Or rather WAS—in Polish. The Russian word for "castle" is borrowed from Polish, hence its penultimate stress:

Борьба́ добра́ со злом.

Good and evil as concepts are «добро́» and «зло». If you want to describe a person or a deed as good or evil, use adjectives «до́брый» and «злой».

The former previously meant "good" as in "not bad"; this is why you have «доброе утро». In modern Russian this meaning is largely gone.

Храм

A larger (in layman's terms) Christian church building is called a «храм», which is also a word for places of worship belonging to other religions/belief systems.

World War II

The Russian expressions for the two world wars of the 20th century are «Пе́рвая мирова́я война́» and «Втора́я мирова́я война́». In less official texts and speech they work just fine without «война»:

An Introduction to Participles updated 2021-04-04 ^

A participle is a form of a verb used as an adjective:

Participles behave like adjectives, so they have the same set of endings and grammatical cases. The difference is, you don't use a full participle as a predicate. Also, the usual position of participle phrases is after the noun, though they can precede it, too:

They are generally considered characteristic of a bookish or formal style. That is why we are only covering them briefly, to get you familiar enough with the concept that you'll recognise them when you bump into one when reading a text. This is really just a glimpse of what's there — the course would be incomplete without the participles but you don't have to use them (and, in fact, you're better off not using them, at least when speaking).

Some participles have crystallized into adjectives, too:

How To

Russian verbs have present and past participles, which can be either active or passive (only transitive verbs can have passive participles, of course). These participles are formed from the verb's present stem and the verb's past stem.

In the present tense, the suffix used depends on the conjugation. Here is the list of suffixes:

ACTIVE PASSIVE
PRESENT ущ(ющ) , ащ (ящ) ом(ем) , им
PAST ш, вш нн(н), енн(ен), т

Here are some examples. Try to determine which kind of participle you see: иду́щий, едя́щий, даю́щий, говоря́щий, чита́ющий, чита́емый, чита́вший, продаю́щий, прося́щий, спра́шивающий, купи́вший, ку́пленный, прода́вший, про́данный.

There are actual rules that cover which verbs get which past suffix. However, teaching the formation of an arbitrary participle would be an overkill for this particular course. It is enough that you are able to identify them.

Note that past passive participles ("a book that has been read") are only formed from perfective verbs in modern Russian.

Short participles

Passive participles can be short, like adjectives, which is most useful for past participles. The agent, if needed, is in the Instrumental (such a use sounds quite formal):

Adverbial Participles updated 2019-02-20 ^

An adverbial participle is a special form of the verb used to turn a verb into an adverb, you describe another action with it:

There are two types of adverbial participles in Russian:

English generally doesn't have these expressions as a one-word form. In Russian participles and adverbial participles are mostly used in books and when using a more formal style. However, there are a few popular adverbial participles that get used in speech sometimes.

Formation

Not every verb has a participle. Still, here are the rules.

Imperfective adverbial participles are formed by adding the suffix (or а) to the present stem:

Perfective adverbial participles are formed by adding one of the suffixes , or -вши(obligatory for reflective verbs), -ши (for stems ending in a consonant) to the infinitive stem:

If the stem ends in т or д, is used instead:

Adverbial participles behave like adverbs, i.e. they only have one form.

Set expressions

Some of these words have crystallized into popular expressions:

Science updated 2021-04-04 ^

Ready to shoot for the stars? Get in! Of course, we cannot teach you all of the science in a handful of lessons. This skill focuses on popular scientific concepts like electricity, analysis or the atom. It also gives you a taste of some words typical of scientific and educational style, so that you will not feel lost if you find them in a publication.

Како́в?

This bookish word is often used to ask about the identity of some property:

«Како́й» can be used in some of these sentences with careful rewording but generally it will sound clumsy unless used for a numeric property:

да́нные

"Data" is a plural-only word in Russian. Moreover, it is a nominalised adjective, so its endings are just like the ones adjectives have.

при

This is, actually, one of the four prepositions normally used with the Prepositional case. It roughly means "in the presence of", which does not have a good match in English. In a scientific context we often use it to describe conditions or circumstances:

Short adjectives

Some predicate adjectives are used quite often in scientific writing and speech:

Politics and Government updated 2021-04-04 ^

полиция / милиция

For a long time, «мили́ция» had been the word for Russian police. Then, during the 2009-2011 reform the name was changed to «поли́ция». The «милиционе́р» then becomes «полице́йский»

Still, expect native speakers to use мили́ция and милиционе́р in speech for quite a while.

выборы

"Election(s)" is always plural in Russian.

являться

Russian has a formal verb «являться» which means "to be". The verb is reflexive. Its use is characteristic of some formal writing.

However, there are some contexts where it is hard to do without it. For example, if you have a subordinate clause or a verb phrase where "to be" is the main verb (omitting it does not work well in this case):

Here, you can also use the Dative impersonal construction, which means about the same (eg. «Ты никогда не смо́жешь поня́ть»→«Тебе́ никогда не поня́ть»):

премьер-министр

You can use either «премье́р-мини́стр» or a more colloquial word «премье́р» (which behaves as a typical masculine noun)

Officially, Russia has no position under the name of "prime minister", however, the Chairman of the Government is commonly called a prime minister in speech and in the media. Which is why we teach it.

Spiritual and Supernatural updated 2021-04-04 ^

A few cultural notes

Russian has two words for church, «це́рковь» and «храм».

«Храм» is a more generic term and is used in contexts where "temple" or "house of worship" would usually be used in English.

«Це́рковь»(church) is a Christian place of worship, and also means the organization itself. A smaller church building is more likely to be called «церковь», although the size is not the defining factor (this is determined by the number of altars and what the building has been called traditionally).

The Orthodox Church in Russia (and a few other countries) still uses the historic Julian calendar for some of its celebrations. As of 2021, there is a 13-day difference between the Julian and the Gregorian (modern) calendar, so Christmas in Russia falls on January 7.

«Бог» is pronounced /бох/, which reflects the older pronunciation of the letter 'Г'. Its oblique forms are pronounced normally.

Salat, a Muslim religious practice conducted 5 times a day, is typically «нама́з» in Russian. It is not a prayer, by the way, which would be «дуа́».

Ghosts

The word for a ghost, «привидение», can act as an animate or inanimate noun. Ghosts are usually animate when you treat them as characters. When you are talking about ghosts as a phenomenon or in general, they are just as easily inanimate. The exact choice depends on the speaker.

If you want to say "a ghost of something", use призрак (it is otherwise a more serious word). In this use the word is usually treated as inanimate (the word is also inanimate if the ghost is female):

Some Spoken Patterns updated 2021-04-04 ^

This skill gives you a glimpse of a few constructions common in speech and writing that are outside formal style.

не́ту

This word is the same as a predicative «нет», used in constructions of non-existence and not having:

Ага́/Угу́

These are informal versions of affirmative "yes" (yep, yup, uh-huh). «Ага́» uses a fricative sound, similar to uh-huh. «Угу́» is actually pronounced the same way, just with your mouth closed, so its spelling is just an attempt to imitate that "mm-hmm" sound.

)

While texting, Russian users often use smileys without the "eyes". If they are even more friendly than that or something is very funny, the number of brackets might skyrocket ))))))

блин

There are many ways to say "Crap!" or "Jeez!" in Russian. Блин is, probably, the most common in speech while being rather mild (it is a substitute for a much stronger word). «Чёрт» is also very common and acceptable in a wide range of contexts (and it is not associated with more obscene words). It is what you will find in many movies and games, even those aimed at kids.

Nothing Left updated 2021-04-04 ^

This skill is about saying something like "I have nothing to fear" or "There is nothing to think about". Russian has special impersonal constructions to do just that; it makes use of negative predicate pronouns.

They are all formed by adding a stressed «не» to a corresponding question word, which should be either "who"/"what" or an adverbial question word (e.g., "where").

Use Dative to specify a person for whom this applies:

Note how the prepositions split pronouns formed from «кто» and «что». Only a few "simple" prepositions can do this, however:

It is also useful to stress that such pronouns are only formed from oblique forms of «кто» and «что», since they never act as a sentence subject. Words «не́кто» and «не́что» are not in this list; they actually behave as analogues of "кто-то" and "что-то" in their base forms, just of a higher style.

P.S. «как» does not produce such a pronoun. Neither do «почему́» and «како́й».

Crime and Justice updated 2020-07-04 ^

proof and evidence

Usually when we are talking about a body of evidence proving something, it is plural «доказательства» (mathematical proof is still «доказательство»)

A piece of (material) evidence, a clue is also «улика». We do not teach it here but a useful word to know nonetheless.

совершить

The verb «совершить» is the one you use to say someone "committed" a crime. In general language, it is also used in certain combinations like "to make a breakthrough" or "to make a discovery".

тюрьма

After a criminal has been found guilty, he or she is often sent to or put in jail as a punishment. Russian uses the verb «посадить». Incidentally, this is the same verb that is used to say that you've planted a tree. Where English uses the verb 'to be', in Russian, a person «сидит в тюрьме», literally 'sits in jail'.


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