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Russian is anything but boring

Learn some fascinating facts about the Russian language - facts that make it worth the effort.


1. There is NO middle name is Russian

Instead, we use a patronymic name, which is a slightly modified version of your father’s name. For example, my father’s name is Alexander. So my name is Marina Alexandrovna. Let’s say my brother was called Danila. His name would be Danila Alexandrovich. It is always the name plus the suffix “-ovna” (or a couple of its variations) for women, and the name plus the suffix “-ovich” or a couple of its variations again) for men. Yes, everyone in Russia knows each other’s fathers’ names. There is no other way to address someone politely since we do not have words like Ms. or Mr.

One of my teachers at school was called Olga Ivanovna. What was her father’s name? Yes, it was Ivan. One colleague of mine was called Andrei Borisovich. What was his father’s name? Yes, Boris. Now you can solve the mystery behind the name Vladimir I. Lenin. We don’t have middle names in Russian, so what does this “I.” stand for? It actually stands for “Ilyich”, because the name of the father of this notorious Russian figure was Ilya. And another fact. The name of the Russian president is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Yes, Vladimir Putin’s father’s name is Vladimir, too. Now you can play around with your name. What would Native Russian Speakers address you if you were to live and work in Russia? You can leave the combinations in the comments and I will correct them if something sounds off.

2. There surnames and different for men and women even within the same nuclear family

Most of Russian surnames change according to the gender of a person. Ladies will always have an extra “a” letter at the end. The husband and wife can be “Pavlov” and “Pavlova”, “Mishin” and “Mishina”, “Putin” and “Putina”, “Gorbachov” and “Gorbachova”.

3. There is NO verb “to be” in the present tense

When you point at an object and name it or describe it, you don’t need any connecter in between. “Car red.” “I teacher.” “You handsome.” - are all normal Russian sentences.

4. There is NO word order in Russian

You can put word one after another as you please. There are no rules. It all is bound to which word you’d like to emphasize. For example, the 4-word sentence “Victoria read a blog yesterday.” can be said in many different ways, not limited to the examples below:

  • Виктория прочитала блог вчера

  • Виктория вчера прочитала блог.

  • Прочитала Виктория вчера блог.

  • Вчера Виктория прочитала блог.

5. There is NO change in questions

When asking a question in Russian, you will keep your sentence the same, but your intonation will change. “Your car red?” “You teacher?” are examples of how questions are asked in the Russian language.

6. Numbers “1” and “2” have quarks

Let’s start with the number “2”. Firstly, it adapts its shape according to the gender of the objects we are counting. The phrases

Two men” - “Two women”

will be

Два мужчины” - “Две женщины”, respectively.

Now, the number “1” goes one step further and changes according to three genders - feminine, masculine and neuter.

One man” - “One woman” - “One sun” (where “the Sun” is a neuter word)

will be

Один мужчина”- “Одна женщина” - “Одно солнце”.

But that is not all. The word “1” can also be plural, however ridiculous it sounds! But to be fair, its meaning changes tremendously in that case and it becomes “only”.

“It is only us.”

will be

“Мы одни.”

7. All the words have genders in Russian

All the words that denote objects, places or ideas have genders. They are easily recognized, there is no need to memorize genders of nouns, but impossible to predict. For instance,

  • Masculine words: “flower” - “city” - person”

  • Feminine words: “love” - “country” - “bird”

  • Neuter words: “tree” - “feeling” - “sea”

8. There are lots of borrowed words in Russian

Russian didn’t use to be keen on borrowing words from other languages, and the number of such words was limited to a few. Also, as a rule, those words would never change unlike authentic Russian words that change their endings depending on their function in a sentence. However, with the spread of modern technologies Russian starting adapting words mostly from English, and those words act as if they were original Russian words - taking diminutive suffixes, plural endings, etc. And since Cyrillic is the only alphabet in use in Russia, they are all spelled with Cyrillic letters. Challenge yourself to understanding the words below before you read their translations.

Words from English

Words from French

Words from German

Words from Arabic

Words from Italian

Words from Greek

9. There are loanwords used in English that came originally from Russian

  • taiga

  • vodka

  • tsar

  • balaklava

  • mammoth

  • parka

  • Samoyed

10. Russian is one of the languages of the United Nations

There are 6 official languages in the United Nations, and Russian is one of them. The list looks like this:

  • Arabic

  • Chinese

  • English

  • French

  • Russian

  • Spanish

That is just the tip of the iceberg that the Russian language is. Start learning and you will fall in love with this mysterious language full of wonders.

Still don't know how to read in Russian? Watch this short video or this long detailed version.

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