Russian Language Blog

Yes or No Questions: Have We Agreed? Posted by on Jul 24, 2007 in Uncategorized

When I lived in Russia for the first time for a while, people kept asking me, “Договорились?”

The first few times I didn’t know what the word meant. So I said, “I don’t know,” or “No?” And then we would go over everything that we has just said. “We’re meeting at the Orbit Movie Theater, outside the metro station, at 4pm, you think this is ok?” “Sure that’s ok.” “Хорошо, договорились?” Um. Did we? Did someone else? You tell me.

Well, to end the repetition, I started saying “да.”

But they’d just look at me, seemingly not sure of something. So I’d say “да, встретимся около кинотеатра Орбита, около метро, в четыре.” That worked, but it’s a mouthful.

The best way to go about it is to answer with Договорились. They’re asking, “Have we agreed?” So you say, “We have agreed.” The idea is to close the negotiation, and they like it if you affirm the agreement instead of just agreeing openly to whatever is going on around you. Are these things really different? It’s hard to say as an English speaker, but this is one of those instances where replying with a verb instead of the words yes or no is much more convincing in Russian. It’s like shaking hands with words.

But there are other circumstances that yes and no will be dropped, mostly based on context and how direct the answer can be. A common one is with the verb звонить. If they ask, for example, “Ты твоему другу звонил?” you might be better off saying, “Звонил. У него все хорошо” instead of just a plain old “Да, у него все хорошо.” If done right, the verb in the question will have high question intonation and be placed the end of their sentence, and your answer will have low confident intonation on that very same verb. It’s like skiing down a steep hill of intonation. It’s beautiful to listen for.

Да is still well used, so feel free to use it, but think of this as a chance to highlight your actions and accomplishments, and to have fun repeating what other people say to you.

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  1. CT:

    This is funny to me (even though i don’t understand the Russian) because there exists what I think is a similar thing in Portuguese. People will ask you ‘Combinado?’ after you propose plans, and you are supposed to say ‘combinado’ which sort of officializes the transaction. If you don’t go through with this sort of seal of agreement, then if someone flakes out and doesn’t show up, they just say ‘nao foi combinado!’