Russian Language Blog

10 Particularly Useful Russian Words and Phrases Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Culture, language, Russian life


These particular words seem to come up in conversations time and time again. Some of them you may already know. Nevertheless, let’s see why the following selection became particularly useful for people trying to learn Russian.

Где (where) appears to be a very convenient word because, unlike in English, you do not need to use any other verb with it. For instance, when asking for directions, you can simply add the name of the place you are looking for ( restaurant, station, etc.) after “где and people will understand what you are looking for.

Example: Где станция «Кутузовская»? (Where is Kutuzovskaya station?)

Бухать (to consume alcohol) is definitely one of those slang words that that you will hear a lot. It certainly isn’t the proper word for “drinking” but it is undoubtedly authentic and character filled.

Example: Хватит бухать! (Enough drinking!)

Да-да-да (yes, yes, yes) – Russians use “yes” in multiples a lot – my husband was among the first people who brought it to my attention 🙂 . By repeating “yes” several times in Russian, we simply emphasize the degree of our involvement into the conversation or our respect to the speaker. Some people say that it is the easiest way to look and sound like a Russian; simply nod as much as you can and repeat “да” in sets of three 🙂 .

Да нет, наверноеI can see where this phrase can be tricky for a foreigner 🙂 . What the heck is it: yes, no or maybe? The phrase basically means that the person does not have the exact answer to your question but is leaning towards a “no”; it’s like saying “probably not.

Example: -Ты идешь на концерт? (Are you going to the concert?)

Да нет, наверное. (Probably not.)

Ладно has the potential to make a Russian person feel warm and fuzzy, it is the equivalent for “OK” in English, as in “OK, I agree,” but not “everything is OK.”

Example: Мам, можно твое синее платье надеть? (Mom, can I wear your blue dress?)

Ладно, только очень аккуратно: там замок плохо работает. (OK, just be very careful: the zipper does not work well.)

Блин may ring a bell as one the popular Russian dishes but in reality the word is much more popular as an exclamation, the closest way to express your feelings without actually swearing.

Example: Блин, я опять опоздала.(Crap, I am late again.)

Хорошо is one of those words that is truly multifunctional. Depending on the context, it can mean “OK”, “yes,” “good/well,” “I agree,” besides, it can be a statement or a question. In other words, it will certainly help you sound authentic, even if you are faking it 🙂 .

Example: Ну что, вечером созвонимся, хорошо? (Well, I’ll call you in the evening, OK?)

Можно (can I?/you can, depending on the context) – this word, much like “где,” is useful because you can express your though by simply adding what it is you are asking for, you don’t have to use verbs.

Example: Можно счет, пожалуйста. (Check, please)

Можно потише? (Can you be quieter?)

Можно Вам позвонить? (Can I call you?)

Зажигалка (a lighter) this word is very useful for those who smoke. While in English, French, and possibly other languages, you would simply ask for a light, in Russian you would ask for зажигалка or use the verb прикурить, instead.

Example: У Вас есть зажигалка? (Do you have a lighter?)

Извините, можно прикурить? (Means: Excuse me, can I borrow a light/lighter.)

Чё, colloquial form ofчто (what) – I would avoid using this one at all costs 🙂 , it is not proper Russian; avoiding hearing it will be near impossible though, so just go ahead and try to remember this one.

Example: Чё ты ко мне привязался? (What do you want from me?)

Please feel free to share any Russian words that YOU found particularly useful!



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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


  1. Keith Smith:

    Давай is surely worth a mention. Let’s……. Plus so many other meanings.

    • Jenya:

      @Keith Smith Thank you Keith. Great addition to the list!

  2. Julian Baker:

    Can you send me the Russian alphabet with sound of the letters in English please. I would be obliged to you, thank you.
    I will be going to Moscow in July for a ten day holiday.

  3. Jennifer Gleason:

    Could you explain why you advise not to use Чё? What is it’s equivalent sort of thing in English? For example is it like saying “Whatcha doin'” instead of “What are you doing”?

    • Jenya:

      @Jennifer Gleason Jennifer, excellent question! Yes, it is sort of like saying “whatcha doin?” or “I am gonna spend some time on this”, etc. Basically, if you are using it to amuse people, it is ok 🙂 . I would not make a habit of it, though. Just keep in mind that it is a colloquialism, not a proper word 🙂 .

  4. Sarah:

    Спасибо за list! Very cool.

  5. Zullfarak:

    Довольно много зарубежных людей учат русский. Приятно это видеть.