10 Must-Know Russian Phrases for Dating a Russian Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in General reference article, Russian for beginners, Russian life

Years ago, when I was single, my first dates tended to be fairly predictable. A guy would ask me where I was from always remarking that he was curious because of my “lovely accent”. When I would reply that I was from Russia, he would say: “Wow, this is cool! I’m trying to learn Russian. But it’s such a tough language. Would you consider helping me with pronunciation?” And we’d usually agree to meet at a local bookstore or coffee shop for a language lesson.

Back then I was always surprised at this popularity of Russian language. I was also surprised when, by the second or third study session, they would stop bringing up Tolstoy, Chekhov and “Clockwork Orange” and instead insist on going to whatever blockbuster was playing in the nearby movie theater. Какая наивность! (What a naivette!)

This is a long way of saying that in today’s post, I want to share with you 10 Russian words and phrases that are, in my opinion, a must-learn for all those dating Russian girls and guys. Just don’t take this list too seriously and expect that once you memorize it, you will be automatically invited for a nightcap.

1. Diminutive of his/her name

The first thing you memorize is, hopefully, your date’s name. Now take it a step further and figure out its diminutive form. Russians are big, no, HUGE, on using all sorts of diminutives for people, animals, and inanimate objects.

Some time ago we had a post about most popular Russian names. So here’s a table of diminutive forms of these names. If you are not so lucky to be dating someone whose name is in this table, you’ll have to look it up on your own. That, or start dating someone with a more common name.


Russian Name

Diminutive Form

Approximate Pronunciation



















Светлана or Лана

Светочка or Ланочка

SVEtachka or LAnachka


Russian Name

Diminutive Form

Approximate Pronunciation



















2. A pet name (or two)

At some point, hopefully, soon enough, the two of you will be ready to start calling each other by pet names. You better have a couple of good ones in store or you might end up having to learn something with an unfavorable vowels-to-consonants ratio, a dreaded “р’ ” sound or a combination of both.

So in the next table are a few ideas with both feminine and masculine forms:


Addressing a woman

Addressing a man










little fish



bunny (of the honey-bunny variety)




3. Please (and Thank you)

No need to explain the importance of спасибо (thank you) and пожалуйста (please).

4. Beer, tea, coffee

Some might argue that knowing the words пиво (beer), чай (tea), and кофе (coffee) is not at all essential to having a great relationship. Ok, perhaps you’re right. Then again, I know of at least one marriage in which the wife was more than happy to get her husband a cold one from the fridge because he sounded so adorable saying “Дорогая, пиво, пожалуйста”. This was one of the only two Russian phrases he knew, the other one being #5 on this list.

5. I love you

Я тебя люблю is a must-know. Of course, it’s too early to be deployed on the first, second or even the third date, so learn a lighter version: Ты мне нравишься (I like you). Both these phrases are gender-neutral. In the mean time, keep using the word любить (to love) to find out more about your date as in “tell me, что ты любишь делать on weekends?” (what do you like to do)

6. Let’s

Давай in its meaning “let’s” is a good word to know. So perhaps you can’t yet say the entire phrase “Let’s go to the movies tomorrow” in Russian. But at least you will be able to say “Да, давай!” next time your date suggests “давай завтра сходим в кино.

If давай sounds too pushy for you, opt for может (literally “can we”, but really more of a “how about”) as in может завтра сходим в кино? (how about going to the movies tomorrow?) Using может instead of давай makes you sound like you really care for what another person might suggest as in

– Может, зайдём в кафе, попьём кофе?

– А может, прямо ко мне домой?

(- How about stopping by a cafe for a cup of coffee?

– Or how about we go straight to my place?)

7. How’s it going

This is the phrase I use to start pretty much all my phone calls with friends: Привет, как дела? (Hi, how’s it going). Russian “е” seems to be a difficult vowel to master for many English speakers. Don’t give up! It’s not how perfectly you say it, but how cute it sounds.

8. Good/Well

It’s a хорошее (good) word to approve a choice of a movie – это хороший фильм (this is a good movie) or of a restaurant – это хороший ресторан (it’s a good restaurant). But it’s even better as an adverb хорошо because you can use it in so many situations:

Я зайду к тебе сегодня, хорошо? (I will stop by your place today, ok?)

Хорошо, договорились (Ok, fine)

Хорошо, что ты не забыла мобильный (It’s good you remembered your mobile phone)

Хорошо бы пойти на это шоу! (It’d be great to see this show)

If you are struggling with rolling the “р”, then you can replace хорошо with ладно in most cases. And when you can’t use ладно, try вот бы (if only) as in Вот бы пойти на это шоу!

9. I am sorry

Not to sound cheesy, but a first fight is just as much of a hallmark of a relationship as a first kiss. Except it’s a whole lot less pleasant. So it’s always good to know the word извини or прости (forgive me).

10. Well, I’m leaving now…

I’m including this phrase for the following cases:

– when you have to end a casual conversation, including a phone call

– when you have to get out of that awkward silence at the end of a date

– when you are about to get out of the door, but hope for a goodbye kiss

So it’s a very useful phrase! A man should say ну, я пошёл. A woman – ну, я пошла. If you want to emphasize that you are in a hurry, you can replace пошёл/пошла with побежал/побежала.

These 10 Russian phrases will not amount to a meaningful conversation. But they will help you score some “I’m trying hard for you, baby” points. Please add any other (PG-rated) words and phrases that you think are helpful.

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  1. Bob:

    Allow me to add these names:

    Анастасия (Anastasia)- Настя – Nastya

    Евгений (Eugene) – Женя – Zhenya (‘Zh’ is like the ‘s’ in ‘treasure’)


  2. Corentin:


    I’ve been reading this blog for two years now and want to thank all of you for the job done up to now.

    I also started learning Russian after meeting a Russian girl in the south of France. We dated only for some month but I never quit learning Russian (maybe I was more in love with the language than with the girl … )

    Anyway, learning basic stuff like this brought us many moments of laugh with me struggling to pronounce anything correctly.

    Here name was :

    Ксения – Ксюша – ksyusha

    I could also add some simple words about how the other is feeling. Like after one night were we went out to the movie theater and I asked “Ты холодна ?” and lend her my jacket because the weather was bad.
    There are so many simple things you can say that will bring joy to your partner.


  3. Sally:

    It would be a pity if I were single – those of my sexual persuasion are not welcome in the Russia of Putin and Patriarch Kiril.

  4. Pedro:

    Dear Sally, can you explain your comment please?

  5. Robin:

    Pedro, Sally is a lesbian.


    It’s hard to get accustomed to давай, having heard this word in many war movies from the West, where Russian/soviet soldiers yell it to prisoners they drive like cattle.

    • Хаша: I feel the same way about давай. Most of the time I use поехали (poyakhalei) instead. Although its used on its own instead of in a sentence.

    • Klara: interesting association

  7. Yuri:

    My boyfriend’s name is Кирилл and I’d usually call him Кира 🙂
    I heard calling him Кирюша is too much so I’ve never tried, lol

  8. Marc:

    What is the diminutive for Yana?

  9. Tikno:

    I have a desire to learn Russian language but I find it difficult especially its characters.