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Don’t Worry About Gender or Number with These Russian Phrases Posted by on Mar 5, 2020 in vocabulary

Russian is notorious for its complex system of inflection. Oftentimes, it’s not enough to remember the dictionary form of the word—you need to take into account its gender, number, case, person, or tense, as the case may be. However, some very basic Russian words are not like that at all! We will look at some common expressions that stay the same no matter who says them and to who.

welcome signă

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

Добро ́пожа́ловать! — Welcome

This phrase means “Welcome” as said to someone arriving somewhere. It does not matter if there is one person arriving or multiple people and what gender they are. That’s pretty convenient for inclusive signs, isn’t it?

― Добро́ пожа́ловать в Кана́ду! ― сказа́л она́, поста́вила мне штамп в па́спорт с ви́зой на полго́да и протяну́ла докуме́нт. ― Прости́те за недоразуме́ние.
“Welcome to Canada!” she said, stamped the 6-month visa in my passport, and gave the document back. “Sorry for the misunderstanding.”
[Артем Тарасов. Миллионер (2004)]

Спаси́бо — Thank you

Спаси́бо, thank you, evolved from “спаси́ Бог,” “God save you.” Once again, we do not need to worry about the gender of the person saying this (like in Portuguese) or how many people are speaking (like in Romanian). It also doesn’t matter how many and what gender people are being thanked. Note that the formal equivalent of спасибо, which literally means “I/we thank you,” does have a singular form (“благодарю́” — “I am thanking”) and a plural form (“благодари́м” — “we are thanking”).

― …Ну, пре́жде всего́, как вы себя́ чу́вствуете-то?
― Спаси́бо, норма́льно, ― отве́тил Зыбин, уса́живаясь за кро́хотный сто́лик в углу́ кабине́та.

“First of all, how are you feeling”
“Fine, thank you,” Zybin answered, sitting down at the tiny desk in the corner of the room.

[Ю. О. Домбровский. Факультет ненужных вещей, часть 2 (1978)]

― Как чу́вствуем себя́? ― поинтересова́лся он.
― Отли́чно, благодарю́ вас.

“How are we feeling?” he inquired.
“Great, thank you.”

[Сергей Довлатов. Иная жизнь (1984)]

thank you noteă

Photo by Giftpundits.com from Pexels

Пожа́луйста — Please/You’re welcome

Пожа́луйста means both “please” and “you are welcome” in response to “thank you.” Hard as it may be to pronounce, this word has no separate forms for a single speaker or multiple speakers. It doesn’t depend on who is being talked to, either.

― Мо́жно?
― Пожа́луйста, ― отозвала́сь Ири́на и подви́нулась.

“May I?”
“Go ahead,” Irina responded and moved over.

[Токарева Виктория. Своя правда // «Новый Мир», 2002]

Пожа́луйста, когда́ прочтёте ― позвони́те мне.
Please call me once you’ve read them.
[Аркадий Мильчин. В лаборатории редактора Лидии Чуковской // «Октябрь», 2001]

Even though most Russian words do change depending on who they refer to and sometimes on who is speaking, these four are a welcome exception from that overall rule.

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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 in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.


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