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5 Words You Hear in Informal Russian Conversations Posted by on Jun 14, 2018 in Culture, language

If you’ve listened to a speaker of Russian in an informal conversation, you know that there are a few words they say over and over again. Some are fillers, meant to give the speaker some time to come up with what to say. Others mark logical connections in a conversation or express the speaker’s attitudes. Here is a list of 5 popular colloquial expressions, illustrated by examples from the Russian National Corpus.

two women at a table talking

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1. Ла́дно

This is one of the most versatile words in Russian. Ладно is similar to “all right,” “fine,” or “OK” and can express a range of emotions, including agreement, wrapping-up a conversation, or making a decision.

  • Ла́дно, я побежа́ла, а то дел ещё мно́го. (Alright, I’d better get going—I’ve still got a lot to do.)
  • Ла́дно, договори́лись. Я вас поняла́. (OK, good. I understand.)

2. Ну

Ну is another common word in informal speech. It often appears at the beginning of a phrase to convey hesitation (like the English “well…”) or for emphasis. A longer list of the senses of ну is available in Russian on Gramota. “Ну да” is used as an emphatic “yes” in informal speech.

  • — То есть че́рез пять лет вы не пойдёте на вы́боры? — Ну коне́чно, нет. (“So, you’re not going to run for office in five years?” “I certainly won’t.”)
  • Ну ско́лько люде́й мо́жет быть в зри́тельном за́ле? (So how many people can be in the theater/re?)
kitchen sink and dishes in strainer

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3. Дава́й

Дава́й is related to the verb “дава́ть,” to give. This word is used to encourage someone, to suggest some activity, or sometimes as part of saying goodbye. The formal or plural form is дава́йте. It may be followed by a subject and a future verb when used as an offer or suggestion.

  • Дава́й я помо́ю посу́ду. (Let me wash the dishes.)
  • Ага́, дава́й, споко́йной но́чи. (OK, take care. Sleep well.)

4. Ничего́

Ничего́ literally means “nothing,” but it is also widely used in everyday speech to say “that’s OK” or “fine.” It can serve as a response to an apology, where you can also find the longer form “Ничего́ стра́шного” (literally, “nothing scary”) or as a predicate saying something/someone is OK.

  • Добавля́ем соль и пе́рец по вку́су и всё э́то под ма́слице, в идеа́ле, коне́чно же, оли́вковое, но за неиме́нием и подсо́лнечное ничего́ так. (Add salt and pepper to taste and a bit of oil. Of course, ideally, you’d have olive oil, but if you don’t have any, sunflower oil will do fine.)
  • Ну, говорю́, ничего́ ― договори́мся. (So I said, it’s fine—we’ll work this out.)
olive oil

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5. Вот

Finally, вот is normally used to point to some object—”Вот маши́на!” (“Here’s the car!”). However, it can also be used for emphasis or to sum something up in colloquial speech. The many uses of вот can be found on Gramota.

  • Вот и всё, что мне изве́стно. (That’s all I know.)
  • Устана́вливается оригина́льная запчасть. Вот. Сро́ки ремо́нта у нас от двух часо́в до су́ток. (We install the original part. [filler to make the end of a thought] Repairs take anywhere from two to 24 hours.)

Have you heard any of these? Were they easy to understand?

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About the Author:Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


Comments:

  1. David Rex-Taylor:

    Большое спасибо. Мариа.