Russian/Introduction

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Alphabet[edit]

The Russian alphabet has 33 letters, out of which 10 are vowels and 23 are consonants. Two of the letters (Ь and Ъ) are used for changing sound of the preceding consonant.

А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё
[a] like in car [be] like in back [ve] like in van [ge] like in game [de] like in den [ie] like in yell [io] like in york
Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Л л М м
[zhe] like in meas'ure [ze] like in roze [i] like in eel [ji], [short i] like in bonsai [ka] like in cat [el'] like in lemon, but as soft as in Spanish el [em] like in mammal
Н н О о П п Р р С с Т т У у
[en] like in note [o] like in bore [pe] like in pet [er] like in break [es] like in some [te] like in tail [u] like in tune
Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ ъ
[ef] like in fall [ha] like in home, but harder or like the Scottish pronunciation of loch. [ce] like in tsetse [che] like in cherry [sha] like in shell [s'ha] like in shield, it should sound softer than Ш/sh [tvyor-diy znakj ]
[hard mark] [1].
ы ь Э э Ю ю Я я
[y, back i] i like in sick, [2] [myàkh-keey znak][soft mark] [3] [e] like in fell [ju] like in you [ja] like in yard

Russian Pronunciation 1, The Basic 33 Character Alphabet

You have reached the end of the Cyrillic alphabet. Now go and practice in Lesson 1!

Phonetics[edit]

The greatest problem in Russian phonetics for English speakers is Palatalization. Almost all the consonants in the Russian language come in two flavors: non-palatalized (called "hard") and palatalized (called "soft"). The quality of a consonant mostly depends on the following vowel and is reflected in writing. If the following letter is И, Е, Ю, Я or Ё thеn the consonant is soft, palatalized, that means that while pronouncing it you have to raise the middle part of your tongue. If the following consonant letter is А, О, У, Ы, Э then the consonant is hard, non-palatalized. Palatalization of the final consonant as well as sometimes that of the consonant before another consonant is marked with the letter Ь. Some consonants are always hard ( Ж, Ш, Ц ) and some are always soft ( Щ, Ч ) whatever letter follows. E.g. the last sound in мышь (mouse) is the same as the first one in шàпка (warm hat) and is hard.

Nouns[edit]

As with many other languages, Russian is devised of several "cases" for their nouns. These cases reflect the context of how the noun is used and aids in understanding. The cases are: Nominative, Genitive, Prepositional, Accusative, Dative, and Instrumental. Furthermore, nouns also have an inherent Gender and Palatalization (or hard vs soft).

Nominative Case[edit]

The Nominative case is used for the subject of a sentence. For example, "The cat is here!" = "Кошка тут!" Note: Russian lacks the present tense of the verb "to be." If you wish to declare something, you would say "Это кошка!" or "This is a cat!"

Masculine Feminine Neuter
Кот Книга Окно
Телефон Вода Сольнце
Океан Япония Озеро

As you can see in the chart to the right, Masculine Nominative nouns tend to end in consonants, while Feminine Nominative nouns end in "a" or "я," and Neuter Nominative nouns end in "е" or "о."

Another use for the Nominative case is labeling. For example, if you wished to say that you are a student, you would simply say "Я студент/студентка" (male or female, respectively). Again, there is no Russian for the present tense of "to be" so "is" is dropped. This works the same for adjectives, which you will learn about, as you can label something with the Nominative case: "Студент -- умный," or "the student is smart."

Articles, as we are well acquainted with in English, are dropped in Russian. Articles consist of the words "a," "an," or "the." There is no equivalent for these words.

Accusative Case[edit]

The Accusative case is used with direct objects and certain prepositions. For example, "I love you" = "Я люблю тебя," where "тебя" is the accusative form of "you." Furthermore there exists a distinction between "animate" and "inanimate" nouns. Animate nouns include people and animals. Inanimate nouns include mostly everything else. Masculine inanimate nouns do not change from the Nominative case. Masculine animate nouns take on the GENITIVE case when used as a direct object or with a preposition. Feminine and neuter nouns do not make this distinction (for now). To illustrate this:


Accusative Endings
Masculine (animate) Masculine (inanimate) Feminine Neuter
а/я -- у/ю --

The prepositions that use the Accusative case are в, на. Using these prepositions with the accusative case of the noun mean "direction towards a place." This is opposed to using в, на with the prepositional case, which means location. That is for later, however.

Genitive Case[edit]

Prepositional Case[edit]

Dative Case[edit]

Instrumental Case[edit]

Numbers[edit]

In Russian, using numbers above twenty is similar to English: you take the base 20 ("двадцать") and then add the single number ("один"). For example: 21 = двадцать один, 55 = пятьдесят пять, 126 = сто двадцать шесть.

Number Russian Phonetic Number Russian Phonetic Number Russian Phonetic
0 ноль [nol'] 10 десять [d'esyit'] 20 двадцать [dvatsat']
1 один [odin] 11 одиннадцать [odinnatsat'] 30 тридцать [tritsat']
2 два [dva] 12 двенадцать [dv'enatsat'] 40 сорок [sorok]
3 три [tri] 13 тринадцать [trinatsat'] 50 пятьдесят [pyat'desyat]
4 четыре [chetyre] 14 четырнадцать [chetirnatsat'] 60 шестьдесят [shest'desyat]
5 пять [pyat'] 15 пятнадцать [pyatnatsat'] 70 семьдесят [sem'desyat]
6 шесть [shest'] 16 шестнадцать [shestnatsat'] 80 восемьдесят [vosem'desyat]
7 семь [sem'] 17 семнадцать [semnatsat'] 90 девяносто [devyanosto]
8 восемь [vosem'] 18 восемнадцать [vosemnatsat'] 100 сто [sto]
9 девять [d'evyit'] 19 девятнадцать [devyatnatsat'] 1,000 тысяча [tis'acha]

Note that these numbers are cardinal numbers, which are not the same as ordinal numbers, i.e. "first" or "second." Cardinal numbers are treated as adjectives in Russian and follow a slightly different pattern.

How to Count from 1 to 10 in Russian

Grammar of Numbers[edit]

When using Russian numbers to quantify an amount, i.e. four dogs, the case of the noun is dependent on the preceding number. If you have one object, you retain the Nominative singular case. If you have two to four of an object, you use the Genitive singular case. If you have five or more, then you use the Genitive plural case. For zero, you use the Genitive plural case. This is not to be confused with the phrase "Нет," which translates to "There is no" or "No such * exists," in which the case is usually the genitive singular.

1 2-4 5-0
Nom Sing Gen Sing Gen Pl

Further practice and how to say and ask time in Lesson 2.

Pronouns[edit]

There are several groups of pronouns in Russian language. The first is Personal Pronoun. A pronoun functions in the same way as the noun that it replaces.

Nominative Pronouns[edit]

Russian Phonetic English
я [ya] I
ты [ti] you
он [on] he
она [ona] she
оно [ono] it
мы [mi] we
вы [vi] you
они [oni] they

Accusative Pronouns[edit]

Russian Phonetic English
меня [menya] me
тебя [tebya] you
его [yevo] him
её [yeyo] her
его [yevo] it
нас [nas] us
вас [vas] you
их [ich] them

Adjective[edit]

Adjectives in Russian are declined based on the case, gender and plurality of the noun that they modify. In Russian, genders are broken down into: Masculine, Feminine and Neuter. There are six cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Instrumental, and Prepositional. For plurality, there is singular and plural. This can get very complicated, however.


Adjectival Endings (Inanimate, Hard)
Masculine Feminine Neuter Plural
Nominative ый/ой ая ое ые
Accusative ый/ой ую ое ые
Genitive ого ой ого ых
Prepositional ом ой ом ых
Dative ому ой ому ым
Instrumental ым ой ым ыми

Verbs[edit]

The Russian language has 3 basic tenses: present, past and future. Later we will also learn Aspects.


The Present Tense

First Conjunction

Let's take the Russian verb "работать" as an example. Put "ть" aside and add the additions which are shown below.

  • работать - To work.
  • Я работаю - I work
  • Ты работаешь - You work (singular)
  • Он, Она, Оно работает - He, She, It works.
  • Мы работаем - We work
  • Вы работаете - You work (plural)
  • Они работают - They work.

Second Conjunction

Some verbs which end in "ить" have got some differences. For example;

д becomes ж, з becomes ж, c becomes ш, ct becomes щ, т becomes ч, and for б, в, м, п, ф add the letter л. Remember, this only applies to the first-person singular (Я).

• говорить - To speak.

• Я говорю - I speak.

• Ты говоришь - You speak (singular).

• Он, Она, Оно говорит - He, She, It Speaks.

• Мы говорим - We speak.

• Вы говорите - You speak (plural).

• Они говорят - They speak.

Saying "What" in Russian[edit]

Что is used as an interrogative pronoun. Likewise, if you see an object you have never seen before, and have no idea what it is, then you ask the question of "что это?" which means "What's this?" or "What's that?"

  • Что ты делаешь? (What are you doing?)
  • Что мы хотим есть? (What do we want to eat?)
  • Что я должен купить в магазине? (What should I buy at the store?)

Что такое is used when the object has been named or introduced, but you want more information on it. For instance: Что это? Это машина! Что такое машина? translates to: What's this? It's a machine! What's a machine?

  • Что такое компьютер? (What is a computer?)
  • Что такое водка? (What is vodka? [although this phrase is rarely spoken in Russian])
  • Что такое Южная Осетия? (What is South Ossetia?)

If you wish to ask what type or variant something is, like in the sentence: "What type of computer is this?" then you use the adjective какой which declines depending upon its case. Note, it is an irregular adjective.

  • Какая эта водка? What kind of vodka is this?
  • Какой компьютер? What kind of computer?
  • Какое это слово? What kind of word is that?

If you ask what a living creature, like a pet or a family member, is, you use the word кто (who), and apply it to the question: Кто это?

Saying "For" in Russian[edit]

Russian has many words that translate to the English "for". Here are some examples.

For recipient use of the word "for" such as "I have a present for you.", one uses the Dative cases.

  • Это всё мне? (Is this for me?)
  • Я принёс новые игры Ивану (I brought new games for Ivan.)
  • Когда я куплю новую шапку папе? (When will I buy a new cap for father?)

For expressing "for the benefit of", such as "Anna reads better than Ivan, therefore Anna reads for him.", one uses для + Genitive.

  • Мне нужна помощь для школы. (I need help for school.)
  • Я сделала это для него. (I did it for him.)
  • Ты можешь прочитать газету для твоей бабушки? (Can you read the newspaper for your grandmother?)

For expressing "exchange" or "replacement", one uses за + Accusative.

  • Они говорят за меня. (They spoke [instead of/for] me.)
  • Спасибо за билеты. (Thanks for the tickets.) Listen source
  • Дай мне совет за деньги! (Give me help for money!)

Duration of time (During the action) uses the Accusative case.

  • Он пил три часа (He has been drinking for three hours.)
Она читала всего пять минут. Listen (RU) source
(She has been reading for only five minutes.)

Duration of time (After the action) uses на + Accusative.

To express "to get" as in "He went for some food." one uses за + Instrumental.

  • Она пошла в магазин за продуктами. (She went to the store for products/items/groceries.)
  • Он пошёл на кухню за чипсами. (He went to the kitchen for chips.)

To express "I am for taxes." as in "I support taxes", one uses за + Accusative. (против + Genitive is the opposite.)

  • Я за социализм. (I am for socialism./I support socialism.)
  • Я против социализма. (I am not for socialism./I do not support socialism.)

Last, to express "for" in the sense of a deadline or scheduled time, one uses на + Accusative.

  • Я еду в Россию на зиму. (I am going to Russia for winter.)
  • Задание на завтра. (Homework for tomorrow.)

Essential phrases[edit]

  • Привет! [pri-VYET] = Hello! (Informal)
  • Здравствуйте! [ZDRAST-vooy-tye] = Hello! (Formal)
  • Пока! [pa-KA] = Bye! (Informal)
  • До свидания! [da-svee-DAN-ee-ya] = Bye! (Formal)
  • Очень приятно! [O-chin Pri-YAT-na] Nice to meet you! (Formal)
  • Извините, [iz-vee-NEAT-ye] = Sorry,
  • Простите, [pras-TEET-ye] = Excuse me,
  • Пожалуйста. [Pah-ZHA-lu-sta] = Please. (ALSO: You're Welcome.)
  • Спасибо! [spa-SEE-ba] = Thank you!
  • Как дела? [kak dee-LA] = How are you?
  • Хорошо [hara-SHO] = Fine
  • Плохо [PLO-ha] = Bad
  • Мне нужна помощь! [mnyeh noozh-NAH PO-mash'] = I need help. Help!
  • Как тебя зовут? [kak tee-BYA za-VOOT] = What is your name?
  • Меня зовут... [mee-NYA za-VOOT] = My name is…
  • Откуда ты родом? [at-KU-da ty RO-dam] = Where are you from?
  • Я из... [ya iz] = I'm from…
  • России [Ras-SII] = from Russia
  • Канады [cah-NAH-dy] = from Canada
  • Англии [AN-glii] = from England
  • Финляндии [fin-LYAN-dii] = from Finland
  • Франции [FRAN-tsii] = from France
  • Германии [ger-MA-nii] = from Germany
  • Италии [i-TA-lii] = from Italy
  • Испании [is-PA-nii] = from Spain
  • США [se-she-AH] = from USA
  • налево [nah-LYE-va] = To the left
  • направо [nah-PRA-va] = To the right

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. to prevent preceding consonant from being palatalized by the following vowel
  2. that is being pronounced in behind of your mouth, close to the throat
  3. makes preceding consonant sound soft, palatalized. English language generally lacks palatalization, but it is very important in Russian. e.g. compare l's of life and live

External links[edit]

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