Russian For Beginners

russian for beginnersSo you have finally decided to take Russian for beginners. The first step to learning a new language is to begin with the alphabet, and the same holds true for Russian. The Cyrillic alphabet is the name of their version of the ABC’s except theirs has more characters, containing thirty-three rather than twenty-six letters the way ours does. Their alphabet has 2 signs, 21 consonants and 10 vowels. Here is a course on learning the Russian alphabet called, “Russian Alphabet Mastery” that focuses entirely on the Cyrillic alphabet of Russia. This course could make a big difference in how rapidly you ‘get’ learning the alphabet due to the fact that you will actually be ‘hearing’ the letters in the correct pronunciation throughout the course. Once you learn the alphabet, you will then need to know about the way they stress words, which you can do through memorization.


In the Russian language, there are nouns that are singular at all times. These are the ones that designate berries, vegetables, medicine, fabric, feelings, actions, some objects, food products and elements such as in these examples:

  • Морковь: Carrots
  • Картофель: Potato
  • Аспирин: Aspirin
  • Бархат: Velvet
  • Здоровье: Health
  • Любовь: Love
  • Мебель: Furniture
  • Мука: Flour
  • Сахар: Sugar
  • Copper: Copper
  • Кислород: Oxygen


To substitute nouns, pronouns are used. These don’t refer to characteristics, objects or quantity but actually only make a referral. There are 9 types of Russian pronouns:

  • Они: They
  • Онó: It
  • Онá: She
  • Он: He
  • Вы: (Plural) You
  • ты: (Singular) You
  • Мы: We
  • я: I

Third Person

The thing or person being talked about is then the 3rd person and the pronouns used are:

  • Они
  • Оно
  • Она
  • and
  • он

The stood up and greeted? Они встáли и поздорóвались.

Second Person:

Someone referred to by the person speaking is called the 2nd person. Thus, second person pronouns are:

  • Вы
  • and
  • ты

Such as in the sentence: When will you go to the beach? Когдá вы пойдёте на пляж?

First Person:

In learning basic grammar, the 1st person refers to the person who happens to be speaking. For this reason the 1st person pronouns are:

  • Мы
  • я

Here is a course called “Fast Track to Russian Fluency” that will get you speaking Russian like a native before you can say “Cyrillic.” This course has five hours of video time divided into short chunks that you will be sure to enjoy.

Russian Vowels

Compared to English, Russian rules for vowels are somewhat simple. For instance, there no 2 Russian words sound the exactly the same like “byte” and “bite.” In the Russian language, there are often two vowel forms, the soft version and the hard version. As a beginner, there is no need to worry about understanding what ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ mean. Instead, try learning how to pronounce the vowels and memorizing which group each belongs in (whether hard or soft).

  • Я (“ya”)
  •  А (“a”)
  • Е (“ye”)
  • Э (“e”)
  • Ю (“yoo”)
  • У (“oo”)
  • Ё (“yo”)
  • О (“o”)

И and Ы are also vowels but they do not follow that particular pattern.  Keep in mind that you must always pronounce the sound “Y.”  This may take a little getting used to when it comes to pronouncing this with a consonant, but here are some practice words you can work on:

  • Метрo : Metro (Pronounced “mye-tro”)
  • Пять: Five (Pronounced “pyat”)
  • Семь : Seven (Pronounced “syem”)
  • Нет: No (Pronounced “nyet”)

Vocabulary Words for Beginners

  • Ты: You (Pronounced: “ty”)
  • Я: I (Pronounced: “ya”)
  • Нет: No (Pronounced: “nyet”)
  • Да : Yes (Pronounced: “Da”)
  • Русская: Russian (feminine) (Pronounced “rus-kaya”)
  • Русский: Russian (masculine) (Pronounced “rus-kij”)
  • Привет: Hi (Pronounced “pri-vyet”)
  • Сто: 100 (Pronounced “sto”)
  • Да: Yes (Pronounced “da”)
  • Спасибо: Thank You (Pronounced “spa-see-ba”)
  • До свидания: Good-bye (Pronounced “da-svee-danee-ye,”)

Russian Numbers

  • Десять: 10(“dyes-yat”)
  • Девять: 9(“dyev-yat”)
  • Восемь: 8(“vo-syem”)
  • Семь: 7(“syem”)
  • Шесть: 6(“shest”)
  • Пять: 5(“pyat”)
  • Четыре: 4(“chye-tir-ye”)
  • Три: 3(“tree”)
  • Два: 2(“dva”)
  • Один: 1 (“a-deen”)

Once you are comfortable with the basic numbers, try learning this next set and to help you practice reading, pronunciation is not included:

  • Девятнадцать: 19
  • Восемнадцать: 18
  • Семнадцать: 17
  • Шестнадцать: 16
  • Пятнадцать: 15
  • Четырнадцать: 14
  • Тринадцать: 13
  • Двенадцать: 12
  • Одиннадцать: 11

Schedule Words

  • Год: Year
  • Месяц: Month
  • Неделя: Week
  • День: Day
  • на прошлой неделе: Last week
  • на следующей неделе: Next week
  • на этой неделе: This week
  • вчера: Yesterday
  • Сегодня: Today
  • Завтра: Tomorrow
  • рабочий день: Working day
  • выходной день: Day off
  • уик-энд: Weekend

Days of the Week

It is always a good idea to include learning the days of the week if you are just beginning to learn Russian, as it could come in handy when you are explaining things related to time such as the day you arrived and explaining that you love sleeping late on Saturdays. If you want to actually hear some Russian words, you might like this course called, “Learn Russian Language-Russian for Beginners” that not only teaches you beginner’s Russian, but lets you hear the words as well.

  • Воскресенье: Sunday
  • Суббота: Saturday
  • Пятница: Friday
  • Четверг: Thursday
  • Среда: Wednesday
  • Вторник: Tuesday
  • понедельник: Monday

The 3 Genders

There are three genders for Russian pronouns, adjectives and nouns. These are:

  • Neuter
  • Feminine
  • Masculine

There is no gender in the nouns of the English language so for those beginning to study Russian, this concept can be confusing. TI is hard to say why a ‘bed’ in Russian is a feminine word while a table is a masculine word. You simply need to learn it as there seems to be no logic in the way they elected genders. You can identify the genders of words by the way it ends. Look for the examples of the endings of the words:

  • (feminine) “русская”
  • (masculine) “русский”

The “Russian” term is an adjective. You have seen in the previous dialogues that “ая” is a feminine adjective ending while “ий” is a masculine adjective ending.

The Verb “To Be”

In Russian, the verb “быть” is pronounced “byt’ and expresses the verb “To Be.” This only appears after the translated English words for:

  • Is
  • He
  • Are
  • You
  • I am

The reason for this is that in the Russian language, this verb быть is written in the future and past tense rather than the present tense, such as in the following examples:

  • Я Елена: I am Helen
  • Ты Пётр: You are Peter
  • Иван – актёр: Ivan is an actor.

You can see in that last phrase, “Иван – актёр” that the “-“ punctuation mark is utilized instead of the “to be” verb. Often, you will see this mark in books and knowing how to use it sure does come in handy. Just keep in mind that the sentence meaning is the same whether this mark is used or not.

Russian Phrases for Beginners

Here are a few informal greetings and phrases you can use when meeting friends. The first phrase is the Russian equivalent of “Hi.” Literally translated, it is, “Hi, how are things?”

  • Привет, Как дела? Hi, how are you? (Pronounced: Pri-vyet, kak dye-La?)
  • я американец: I am American  (Pronounced: Nyet, ya a-mye-ri-ka-nyets).
  • я русская: I am Russian (Pronounced: Da, ya ruskaya)
  • Ты русский? Are you Russian? (Pronounced: Ty rus-kij?)
  • А ты?:And you? (Pronounced: A ty?)

At the Café

When in Russia, one thing you will need to learn is to ask for what you want using basic Russian phrases for beginners. Here are some words you will need to buy the things you want in cafes or bars.

  • У вас есть водка? Do you serve vodka?
  • У вас есть чай? Do you serve tea?
  • Сколько стоит? How much is it?
  • Дайте, пожалуйста …Give me please..
  • Я хочу … I want..
  • Что? What?

On the Menu:

  • Вода: Water
  • Вино: Wine
  • Пиво: Beer
  • Водка: Vodka
  • Торт: Cake
  • Суп: Soup
  • Борщ: Russian beetroot soup
  • Сок: Juice
  • Лимонад: Lemonade
  • Кока-Кола: Coca-Cola
  • Молоко: Milk
  • Чай: Tea
  • Кофе: Coffee
  • Меню: Menu


Here are names for places that might come in useful:

  • Университет: University
  • Дом: House
  • Квартира: Apartment
  • Больница: Hospital
  • Музей: Museum
  • Гостиница: Hotel
  • Банк: Bank
  • Ресторан: Restaurant
  • Площадь: Square
  • Кафе: Café
  • Библиотека: Library
  • Работа: Work
  • Школа: School
  • Стадион: Stadium
  • Парк: Park
  • Аптека: Pharmacy
  • Театр: Theater
  • Кино: Cinema

Question Words

  • Кто он? Who is he?
  • Где кафе? Where is the café?
  • Где он? Where is he?
  • Что ты думаешь? What do you think?
  • Что ты знаешь? What do you know?
  • Где купить дешевые авиабилеты?  Where to buy cheap air tickets
  • Почему? Why?
  • Когда?When?
  • Как? How?
  • Что? What?
  • Кто? Who?
  • Где? Where?

Meeting People

When in Russian, you will inevitably begin to meet people. When this happens, having a few phrases up your sleeve is going to be really impressive. The locals will truly warm up to you once they realize how much effort you put into learning their lingo. As a matter of fact, you may even be mistaken for a local! Here are a few phrases that you could use once you seriously begin to mingle with the Russian crowd.

  • Очень приятно Glad to meet you
  • Как вас зовут?What’s your name?
  • Меня зовут… My name is…

House Hunting

There may come a point where you decide to actually extend your trip and move out of your hotel, opting get a flat or an apartment in Russia instead. When this happens, you will find it very convenient to know what words to use:

  • Сад: Garden
  • Мебель: Furniture
  • Здание: Building
  • Дача: Country house
  • Дом: Home
  • Квартира: Apartment or flat
  • Комната для гостей: Guest Room
  • Детская комната: Children’s Room
  • Ванная: Bathroom
  • Туалет: Toilet
  • Спальня: Bedroom
  • Кабинет: Study
  • Гостинная: Living room
  • Кухня: Kitchen
  • Коридор: Corridor
  • Холл: Hall

Colloquial Language

There happens to be high efficiency in the colloquial speech of Russia. For this reason, a lot of information that speakers of English consider to be somewhat important are left out.  Here are some colloquial expressions that may just lead the locals to believe you are one of them:

  • What are you talking about? “что ты?” (literally translated:  “what you”)

As you can see the Russian sentence for “What are you talking about” is made up of just 2 words.  This may be strange to get used to in the beginning but when you start becoming more and more familiar with the Russian colloquial lingo, you will sound like a natural.

If you have always been thinking about learning foreign languages such as Russian and want to find out more about how to learn a language in ten days (yes, ten), here is a great article about how this can actually be accomplished!

Now that you are more familiar with basic Russian words, you may want to move on to more advanced lessons. Being familiar with other languages of Europe may help your studies in a big way. As a beginner there is no doubt that you will find some of the lessons a challenge. Remember that no matter how challenging it may feel in the beginning; this language is worth learning as it opens doors to the world of business, literature and culture in the world’s biggest country, geographically speaking.

Did this help? If you really are a complete beginner, there is a course called “Prepare for TORFL with Russian for Complete Beginners”  that will get you on the road to speaking, reading, listening and writing Russian and equip you with enough basic knowledge to get you ready for the TORFL exam.