I have been learning Russian for over a year now – initially via a course and now on DuoLingo. Here are some observations.

Sometimes Russian is easier than English

Ты ответил на мой вопрос
You answered my question

Ты не ответил на мой вопрос
You did not answer my question

What’s this “did” nonsense in English?


DuoLingo really wants us to know how to talk about apples:

У меня есть яблоко
I have an apple

Ты хочешь яблоко?
Would you like an apple?

Я ем яблоко
I am eating an apple

Кошка ест яблоко
The cat is eating an apple


I like the Russian word for “dogs” (plural), «собаки», because it is pronounced “so-backy” which is almost “so barky”

Обуться – to put on one’s shoes
Sounds like “a-boot-sa”

The name of the “soft sign” in Russian, «ь», is pronounced like “murky snack”.

The plural of bank (банк) in Russian sounds like “banky”: банки. (Don’t know why this helps me remember it’s not, e.g., банкы)

Курт в куртке
Kurt in a jacket


You (informal)

You (formal)

Potato (informal 😉 like “spud”)

Potato (formal 😉 )


The Russian quotation marks – «» – are called “little Christmas trees” (ёлочки).

The @ symbol is called «собака», “dog”.

Another great Russian word is «класс» which sounds like “class”. Conveniently it also seems to mean “class” in Norn Irish, in the sense of “That’s class.”

For an easy Russian song to sing, try this techno track by Russian artist (and fully qualified dentist) Nina Kraviz: “Ivan, Come On! Unlock The Box!” (Иван, давай! Открой коробку!)

Two infinitives you don’t want to confuse:

Писать (sounds like “piss-at”) is “to write”.

Писать (sounds like “peace-it”) is “to piss”.

Same spelling, different stress. I suppose the context helps distinguish, but it depends on the writer.

Ты любишь писать на ветру
You like to write in the wind

A more beautiful source of confusion:

Мой душ.
(My shower, душ is masculine)

Моя душа.
(My soul, душа is feminine)

The prepositional case of both душ and душа is the same: душе.

В душе музыка
(There is music in the shower/soul)

How to say, “I’m a novice” or “newcomer”: Я новичок. Same as a well-known nerve agent.


Sometimes Russian words are shorter than their English equivalent: “about” in Russian is «о».

Sometimes they’re tricky:

“tourist attraction” is «Достопримечательность».

“Pet” is «домашнее животное» (literally, domestic animal).


Sometimes Russian is logical:

Завтра – tomorrow
Завтрак – breakfast

Would you [informal] like breakfast tomorrow?
Хочешь завтрак завтра?


(How many?)


Glue them together:
Несколько (Several)


четыре – four
четвертый – fourth
четверг – Thursday

пять – five
пятый – fifth
пятница – Friday

среди – in the middle of
среда – Wednesday

Or nearly…

два/две – two
второй – second
вторник – Tuesday


Цвет (tsvet) – colour
Свет (svet) – light

Also… Chromatography was invented by Mikhail Tsvet (Михаил Цвет)


Past tense singular (except polite 2nd person) conjugations in Russian depend on gender, even 1st person:

Я танцевал
I [masc] danced

Я танцевала
I [fem] danced

Present tense fine:

Я танцую
I dance


Apparently it is very common to exclaim «блин!» in Russian, e.g., if you drop something or stub your toe. It means “pancake”.

Why would anyone say «немного» when the word «чуть-чуть» exists, sounds like “choot choot” and means the same (“a little”)?

Я только чуть-чуть говорю по-русски
I only speak a little Russian

More grammar

The verb “to be” is usually implicit in Russian present tense:

I am Andi
Я Энди (I Andi)

There’s no explicit verb “to have” in any tense. Instead you use an explicit… wait for it… “to be” with the preposition “by”:

I have a book
У меня есть книга
(By me is book)


Sometimes Russian is less ambiguous than English:

Он любит свою жену
He loves his wife
x loves x’s wife

Он любит его жену
He loves his wife
x loves y’s wife

x=y possible but xy implied


Football (game)


Football (ball for playing football)
футбольный мяч (Footbally ball?)


BBC is written «Би-би-си», like spelling it out as “bee-bee-sea”.

The Russian for USA, США, is pronounced like “se sha”. Which makes me wonder why the English isn’t “You-sa”, analagously to “Nato”.


Она идёт на работу
She is going to work [on foot]

Она едет на работу
She is going to work [by some mode of transport like a bus]

Снег идёт
It’s snowing

Words I confuse

деревня – village
дерево – wood/tree
дверь – door

лошадь – horse
площадь – (town) square

Говорить – to speak
Готовить – to cook/prepare

Красивый – pretty
Красный – red

Я устал – I am tried (present tense), but with the «л» it looks like “I was tired” and is literally something like “I became tired (and stayed that way)”

The grammar of the void

В магазине не было чая
In the shop there was no tea

(Genitive – «не было» is always same, irrespective of gender of object because it’s referring to the gender of the void, is how I understand it; other explanations are available)

В магазине был чай
In the shop there was tea

(Nominative – «был» agrees with masc. «чай» and whatever else there actually is)


Here’s a glimpse of the mess:

Student (nominative singular)

Students (nominative plural)

Много студентов
Many students (genitive plural)


длинный – long (space)
долгий – long (time)

это длинная колбаса
This is a long sausage

Это долго объяснять
This will take a long time to explain


I ran out of steam copy and pasting these; here are a few of them:

1st person 2nd person 3rd person (masc.) 3rd person (fem.) 3rd person (neut.).
English I, Me You He, Him She, Her It
Nominative Case Я Ты Он Она Оно
Accusative Case Меня Тебя Его Её Его
Genitive Case Меня Тебя Его Её Его
Dative Case Мне Тебе Ему Ей Ему
Instrumental Case Мной Тобой Им Ей Им
Prepositional Case Мне Тебе Нём Ней Нём
1st person 2nd person 3rd person
English We, Us You They, Them
Nominative Case Мы Вы Они
Accusative Case Нас Вас Их
Genitive Case Нас Вас Их
Dative Case Нам Вам Им
Instrumental Case Нами Вами Ими
Prepositional Case Нас Вас Них
1st Person 2nd Person
Masc. Fem. Neut. Plural Masc. Fem. Neut. Plural
English My, Mine Your, Yours
Nominative Case Мой Моя Моё Мои Твой Твоя Твоё Твои
Accusative Case
Мою Моё Мои
Твою Твоё Твои
Genitive Case Моего Моей Моего Моих Твоего Твоей Твоего Твоих
Dative Case Моему Моей Моему Моим Твоему Твоей Твоему Твоим
Instrumental Case Моим Моей Моим Моими Твоим Твоей Твоим Твоими
Prepositional Case Моём Моей Моём Моих Твоём Твоей Твоём Твоих
1st Person 2nd Person
Masc. Fem. Neut. Plural Masc. Fem. Neut. Plural
English Our Your, Yours
Nominative Case Наш Наша Наше Наши Ваш Ваша Ваше Ваши
Accusative Case
Нашу Наше Наши
Вашу Ваше Ваши
Genitive Case Нашего Нашей Нашего Наших Вашего Вашей Вашего Ваших
Dative Case Нашему Нашей Нашему Нашим Вашему Вашей Вашему Вашим
Instrumental Case Нашим Нашей Нашим Нашими Вашим Вашей Вашим Вашими
Prepositional Case Нашем Нашей Нашем Наших Вашем Вашей Вашем Ваших
English Myself, himself, herself.
Nominative Case
Accusative Case Себя
Genitive Case Себя
Dative Case Себе
Instrumental Case Себой
Prepositional Case Себе
Masc. Fem. Neut. Plural
English My own, his own, her own
Nominative Case Свой Своя Своё Свои
Accusative Case
Свою Своё Свои
Genitive Case Своего Своей Своего Своих
Dative Case Своему Своей Своему Своим
Instrumental Case Своим Своей Своим Своими
Prepositional Case Своём Своей Своём Своих

That’s half-way down the page over here.