Russian Language Blog

Talking on the Phone – In Russian! Posted by on Aug 3, 2012 in Culture, language, Russian for beginners, Russian life, when in Russia


If you are learning Russian, it is a great idea to cultivate friendships with русскоговорящие [Russian speakers]. Your Russian friends will be thrilled that you are learning Russian and can help you learn new words and phrases. When I was за границей [abroad], I made friends with a few Russians who were also studying at the university I was at, and they helped me so much. Once you have Russian friends, you will probably talk on the phone with them (assuming you are in the habit of talking to friends on the phone!), and that is what I aim to do in this post: help you learn some phone-related vocab. In the photo: сотовый телефон или мобильный телефон [cell phone or mobile phone – I believe those two words are used interchangeably in Russian, but correct me here if I’m wrong].

Of course, if you are living in a Russian-speaking country, you will probably be calling people who are not your friends – for example, if you have problems with your internet connection or computer. In that case, you may hear this: Пожалуйста, не вешаете трубку. Ваш звонок очень важен для нас. [Please don’t hang up. Your call is very important to us.]

If you know the name of the person you want to speak to, you can say: Можно Владимира Владимировича? [May I speak to Vladimir Vladimirovich?] or Можно Вику? [May I speak to Vika?] – use the accusative case of the person’s name after можно. If you are unlucky, the person who answered might say Перезвоните попоже, пожалуйста [Please call back later] or Извините, он сейчас занят [Sorry, he’s busy now]. If you are the person answering the phone, you will probably say Алло [Hello] or Слушаю вас [I am listening to you].

If you cannot reach the person you’re calling, you could say Когда мне перезвонить? [When should I call back?]. And hopefully, after you hang up, the person you spoke to will eventually say about the person you wanted to speak to Передайте ей, что звонил Коля [Tell her that Kolya called].

Sometimes, when you really, really want to talk to someone, you try and try but cannot get through (this always seems to happen to me – whenever I really need to talk to someone, my phone chooses to misbehave right then and there). Once you do make contact with the person, you can say: Я не могла до тебя дозвониться [I called you but couldn’t get through]. The word дозвониться demonstrates the wonderful verbal prefixes of the Russian language. The word is formed from до- [action carried through to intended outcome] + звонить [to call] + -ся [the reflexive gives the до- this meaning of intended outcome]. (Just a note: the grammar book that I read to find this lovely explanation says that this meaning of до- only occurs with a few verbs.)

And I would be remiss if I did not tell you what someone would say in the awkward situation that you dialed the wrong number and said: Можно Наташу? [May I speak to Natasha?] – except there is no Natasha where you called. In that case, you’d probably be told: Здесь таких нет [There’s no on here called that].

Is there any important vocab I’ve forgotten about? Do you have a funny phone story? Let me know in the comments!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Natalie

I'm Natalie and I love the Russian language and sharing my knowledge with others. I graduated from university with a dual degree in Russian language & literature and history.


  1. George:

    “Пожалуйста, не вешаете трубку” – the word “вешаете” should be spelled as “вешаЙте”, because in “вешаете” it’s not imperative.

  2. Lewis:

    Thanks for the nice posting.

  3. Iain:

    Hey Natalie! Great post! Phone calls in a language that isn’t my own terrify me because there are no extra clues as to what the person is talking about (e.g. body language, pointing etc.).

    I was just wondering: Which grammar book is it that you use? It’s seems very thorough!

  4. Jeannie:

    Thank you, Natalie! You wrote a fun, helpful blog!

  5. Giulia:

    Hi Natalie, your blog is great! I study Foreign Languages at the University, but I’m working in a firm this month: I’m sure these informations about talking on the phone in Russian will be very helpful to me. Thank you!!

  6. Al:

    Hello Natalie;

    I am having a problem figuring out the ” italicized ” font that you and your fellow blog writers sometimes use.

    for example:
    сотовый телефон или мобильный телефон

    Your current blog has the above description of a cell phone written in the font I am curious about. I don’t know how to reproduce this font in my USA based computer, all I get is the block style cyrillic font. Any explanation of what the font is and what it’s used for and why and when i should use it would be most helpful.

    Thank you,


  7. Hello:


  8. Stas:

         …сотовый телефон или мобильный телефон [cell phone      or mobile phone – I believe those two words are used      interchangeably in Russian, but correct me here if I’m wrong].
    You are absolutely correct, Natalie. However, a lot of people use jargon, сотик and мобильник, like, for example, the picture in this post called mobilnik.jpg. It looks like there is subconscious tendency to use nouns for the подлежащее in Russian language.

  9. Rob McGee:

    I am having a problem figuring out the ”italicized” font that you and your fellow blog writers sometimes use.

    for example:
    сотовый телефон или мобильный телефон

    Al — You can italicize the font in your comments by using “HTML tags”, which basically work like this:

    <i>text you want to italicize, such as сотовый телефон</i>

    This will produce the italicized phrase:

    text you want to italicize, such as сотовый телефон

    You can also make text bold:

    <b>мобильный телефон</b>

    Which will display as:

    мобильный телефон

    There are tons of other “HTML tags” (I use them to create the yellow-on-yellow “hidden text” in some of my posts here, for example), but most of these cannot be used in the comments section. But italics and bold are among the few HTML-tag effects that are allowed by the comment system.

  10. Rob McGee:

    One more HTML tag that is allowed in the comments section is the “blockquote” tag, which you use when quoting someone else to automatically indent and italicize the quoted words. For instance, typing this:

    <blockquote>There are tons of other “HTML tags” (I use them to create the yellow-on-yellow “hidden text” in some of my posts here, for example)</blockquote>

    Will cause the text to display like this:

    There are tons of other “HTML tags” (I use them to create the yellow-on-yellow “hidden text” in some of my posts here, for example)