Saying Hello and Goodbye in Russian
- Saying Hello and Goodbye in Russian
To greet one person with whom you’re on informal ty (tih) terms, use the word Zdravstvuj (zdrah-stvooy; hello). To greet a person with whom you’re on formal vy (vih) terms, use the longer word, Zdravstvujtye (zdrah-stvooy-tee; hello). Note that the first letter “v” in Zdravstvujtye is silent. Otherwise it would be hard even for Russians to pronounce!
Zdravstvujtye is also used to address more than one person. Use it when addressing two or more people even if they’re children, members of your family, or close friends.
The informal way of saying “hello” in Russian is privyet! (pree-vyet) It’s similar to the English “hi,” and you should be on pretty familiar terms with a person before you use this greeting.
Greeting folks at any time of day
You have ways to greet people in Russian, other than the bulky Zdravstvuj or Zdravstvujtye, but how you use these greetings depends on what time of day it is. The most commonly used greetings are as follows
- dobroye utro! (dohb-ruh-ee oo-truh): Good morning! (This is the greeting you use in the morning — until noon.)
- dobryj dyen’! (dohb-rihy dyen’): Good afternoon! (This is the greeting you can use most of the day, except for early in the morning or late at night.)
- dobryj vyechyer! dohb–rihy vye-cheer: Good evening! (This is the greeting you would most likely use in the evening.)
Note that Russians use these expressions only as greetings but not at leave-taking. You can also use these expressions without giving any thought to whether the person you greet should be addressed with ty or vy. No matter whom you greet, you can safely use any of these phrases.
Handling “How are you?”
The easiest and most popular way to ask “How are you?” is Kak dyela? (kahk dee-lah) You use this phrase in rather informal settings, like at parties, meeting a friend on the street, or talking on the phone.
A more formal way to ask “How are you?” is Kak vy pozhivayetye? (kahk vih puh-zhih-vah-ee-tee) You use this phrase when speaking with your boss, your professor, or somebody you’ve just met.
You won’t offend anyone in a formal setting if you say Kak dyela?, but you’re better off sticking to Kak vy pozhivayete? Russians tend to err on the side of more formality rather than less.
A word of caution: In the English-speaking world, “How are you?” is just a standard phrase often used in place of a greeting. The person asking this formulaic question doesn’t expect to get the full account of how you’re actually doing. But in Russia it’s different. They want to know everything! When they ask you how you’re doing, they are in fact genuinely interested in how you’re doing and expect you to give them a more or less accurate account of the most recent events in your life.
How should you reply to Kak dyela? Although optimistic Americans don’t hesitate to say “terrific” or “wonderful,” Russians usually respond with a more reserved Khorosho (khuh-rah-shoh; good) or Normal’no (nahr-mahl’-nuh; normal or okay), or even a very neutral Nichyego (nee-chee-voh; so-so, Literally: nothing) or Nyeplokho (nee-ploh-khuh; not bad).
If you’re truly feeling great, go ahead and answer pryekrasno! (pree-krahs-nuh; wonderful), or vyelikolyepno! (vee-lee-kah-lyep-nuh; terrific). But beware that by saying “terrific” or “wonderful,” you’re putting your Russian friend on guard: Russians know all too well that life is not a picnic. To a Russian, wonderful and terrific events are the exception, not the rule. To be on the safe side, just say either Nichyego or Nyeplokho.
And don’t stop there! Be sure to ask the person how she’s doing. You simply say A u vas? (ah oo vahs; and you?; formal) If you want to be less formal, you say A u tyebya? (ah oo tee-bya; and you?)
Taking your leave
The usual way to say goodbye in almost any situation is Do svidaniya! (duh svee-dah-nee-ye), which literally means “Till (the next) meeting.” If you’re on informal terms with somebody, you may also say Poka (pah-kah; ‘bye or see you later).
The phrase you use while leave-taking in the evening or just before bed is Spokojnoj Nochi (spah-kohy-nuhy noh-chee; Good night). The phrase works both for formal and informal situations.
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Hello in Russian
So let’s see: after saying “hello” and introducing yourself, what should you do? Well, one option, as I mentioned before, is to run away as quickly as possible to save yourself from the embarrassment of having a conversation in a language that you’ve only started to learn 🙂
But there is another way!
First of all, you can tell your Russian friend that you came from a place called “Seh-Sheh-Ah”. This, as you might have already guessed, is a special Russian way of saying “United States of America”. So, remember this little “ya” thing from our previous lesson? Now’s the time to use it!
All you need to say is these three words “ya iz seh-sheh-ah”. At first glance, it seems ok. But if look closely, you might notice something strange. It’s only three words! And we had much more — “I”, “am”, “from”, “the” and “USA”. Well, first of all, they don’t have all those articles in the Russian language. Poor guys. They don’t know what they are missing 🙂
All right, we are still one word short. And now I’m going to reveal a secret. A secret so horrible and fearful that I will actually give you a moment to make sure that your children are not reading this 🙂
Are you ready? Brace yourself.
Here we go: Russian language doesn’t have a verb “to be”!!
Yeah, I know it’s scary. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and think about it. How can this be possible? But it’s true.
Well, actually, it’s only half-true. They have “to be”, but they are too lazy to use it 🙂
So you’re really saying “I from USA!”. Yeah, it sounds like some kind of Indian-talk: “Me heap want see play!”, “Me want play start heap soon”, “Me heap big fan Cicely Courtneidge” 🙂
And remember: this phrase will be useful only if you are in Russia. Don’t say it to your Russian friends in the USA, or you will sound silly (Imagine saying this to your close friend whom you’ve known for 10 years: “You know, John, I’m actually from the USA!” :).
That’s all for today! And in the next lesson I will teach you how to fake a conversation in Russian.
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