Russian Language Blog

What Do You Call A Foreign Car in Russian? Posted by on Mar 26, 2008 in Culture, language, News

Today my plan was to comment on one of two news, either «Психолог для грешников» [] or «Православная общественность намерена переименовать Свердловскую область» [] but during the day my mood changed, from being religiously aware (obviously, if judging by the headlines I chose in the morning) and thus aware of the ‘other’ world, to becoming more aware of the real world around me. All day I couldn’t get the word «иномарка» out of my head. I remembered how I once read in the paper about a car crash, and that it said: «две иномарки столкнулись на Малышева». The word was new to me then, but I didn’t have to look it up in the dictionary to understand what it meant. The sentence means that two foreign cars got into a car crash on Malyshev Street, and not a Волга or a Жигули or a Нива because those are called «наши машины». And when they crash into each other they’re not crashing as ‘Russian cars’ like foreign cars always tend to do, but just as plain cars. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how wonderful it is to study a foreign language, because you’re not just learning new words and new phrases and a different kind of grammar, but simultaneously getting to know a new and different way of looking at the world. Since I began working as a teacher of Swedish at a Russian university I’ve learned so much about my own language, and about Russian too, that I can’t complain about anything – not even the lack of a paycheck or the fact that I get no assistance whatsoever. I have learned how deep and entwined cultural differences really are and also that these differences are what makes us so much alike at the same time. For example, in Russian (as it seems to me) it is important to make clear what’s not yours, what is unfamiliar, as in Swedish the important thing to stress is the opposite – what’s yours, what is familiar. In Swedish you put the word ‘my, mine’ in front of everything that belongs to you. In Russian that’s not the norm, in fact such a use is foreign alltogether in this language. Instead it points out what’s not yours by putting the little adjective «иной» [other, another; else; some, certain], sometimes in a shortened form, in front of words.


Does «Звезда Сибири» [The Star of Siberia] only sell иномарки? Who knows? But this car is surely not Russian? (Feel free to correct me, I know nothing about cars…)

«Иной» isn’t only used in the word «иномарка» when speaking of a foreign car. There are plenty of other words about ‘foreign objects’ in which this little word plays an important part. Here’s a couple of them: When you speak of a foreigner in Russian you say «иностранец» if the foreigner in question is a man and «иностранка» if you’re talking about a woman. If the subject of conversation is from a foreign country, the adjective you should use is «иностранный». When speaking of someone with another religious conviction than yourself, you could call the person in question «иноверец» though that’s an old word which is not used very often these days. If you want to say something about a thing or a person from another town you use the adjective «иногородный». If someone calls you «иноземец», which comes from the adjective «иноземный», meaning “foreign, strange, from another ‘land’” usually they’re being ironic and using it for its comical effect, since it’s also an old word nowadays. But be aware if anyone was to call you «инородец», since that’s a negative and even insulting word to call people who do not belong to the Russian ethnic group. Probably you won’t be called «инопланетянин» [a person from outer space, spaceman] just because you happen to hold a foreign passport, but it is a fun word to know. A foreign company can sometimes be called «инофирма», and someone with a different mother tongue than your, or simply from a country where they speak another language than you do, can be determined in speech by putting the adjective «иноязычный» close to them when speaking of them.

It can also be interesting to note that the word ‘allegory’ translates into Russian as «иносказание», literally meaning “other tale; another story”.

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  1. Shiloh:

    Thank you for your blogs.

    I am new to the Russian language, and when I see new words, It helps me. That way if I am able to go to Russia one of these days, I will knowwhat I am looking at. Ihave trouble pronouncing some words and phrases, but I am trying to remember anything I can that will help me.

    I really do appriciate your blogs and want to thank you.

  2. Anonymous:

    Fun reading. Thanks.

  3. mary simmonds:

    I love reading your Russian Blog and find it very interesting. Unfortunately, I cannot read the Russian parts, as it seems to be in some kind of a code. I can read the Russian language, but on the Blog the Russian is illegible. What can I do?
    Thanks…..Mary Simmonds

  4. Josefina:

    I just got an e-mail from a certain Tony with information about the car in the picture. He informs that it is indeed not a Russian car, but a Cadillac Escalade. For more information about the dealer – The Star of Siberia – he also gave me this link: It might be fun to check out 🙂

    Mary – I’m really upset that you can’t read the Russian on this blog (which is pretty much the point of it all!) and I’m not sure what you can do to fix this situation. Have you tried changing the script on your browser? Go to ‘show’ and then down to ‘coding’ and there you’ll find different kinds of Cyrillic, try them all and see which one allows you to read the Russian on this blog. If you’ve already tried that and it still doesn’t work, then (I hate to say this, but it’s true, even though it makes me sound like a helpless female) try to talk to a man who knows computers about it.

    And Shiloh – I’m planning to talk about how to pronounce the word in just a little while. I know I should have a long time ago, but phonetics is my weak side…

  5. Stas:

    I believe that иномарка and инофирма are just short forms of иностранная марка and иностранная фирма.