How to give urgent orders

I already explained here what Imperative mood is and how we use it to give orders or ask to do anything. That’s considered the most common and neutral way.

Also, among others, we sometimes use

1) infinitives (mostly when talking to dogs and in the army):

Сидеть! (Sit down! – to a dog)

Стоять! (Stop! – for example to a soldier, and what do we know about discipline?).

Master said

Master said, “Sit! Wait”… she will be waiting and hoping but he will not return…

2) past tense (sort of an urgent order, something which was meant to be done “yesterday”, depending on the context can be rude, or show different social levels):

Ключи мне дал! – Keys to me gave! (=Hey you give me the keys right now!!!)

Пошел отсюда! – Went from here! (=Go away!)


Petrov, swam (=swim) to the blackboard!

So don’t trust past forms! They can be an order sometimes.


Nationalities in Russian

In English, nationalities look like slightly modified adjectives. For example, we say “British culture” (adjective) and – about people – the British (adjective turned into a noun) or British people.

In Russian, for nationalities we use special nouns:

Британия (Britain) – британцы (British people)

Англия (England) – англичане  (English people)

Шотландия (Scotland) – шотландцы (Scottish people)

Америка – американцы (Americans)

Therefore, we do not say something like “английские люди” (English people) as we have this special word – англичане – which already means “English people”.

Tricky bits:

1) in Russian, endings will change depending on how many people we mean and what their genders are:

англичанин (English man) – англичанка (English woman) – англичанки  (English women) – англичане (English men or a mix of English men and women)

2) the word for “Russians” looks grammatically like an adjective (yet it is a noun) and changes therefore like an adjective:

русский (Russian man) – русская (Russian woman) – русские (Russian men or Russian women or a mix of Russian men and women)

Just because it is actually a noun, you don’t need to specify that it is a person, so you can just say:

Она русская. Он русский.

If we don’t mean just “people” in general but rather something specific, of course we will need adjectives + nouns. For example, to say “British scientists”, we need to say “британские учёные”. Here the ending in bold font depends on the noun after. A good one to practice:


British scientists found out that the smartest British are British scientists.

American schientists

American scientists found out that 50% (of) Americans are half of American population.


Going to Ukraine

Normally with countries (unless it’s an island) we use preposition В + Accusative case for to or В + Prepositional  case for in.

Я еду в Россию / в Англию / в Ирландию – I am going to Russia/ to England / to France

Я живу в России / в Англии / в Ирландии – I live in Russia/ in England / in France

It’s not easy with Ukraine. It used to be part of Russia, not a separate county, and we would say НА instead of В (there are lots of attempts to explain why but let’s not make it complicated now):

Я еду на Украину – I am going to Ukraine

Я живу на Украине – I am living in Ukraine

Now, when it is a separate country, some people, especially Ukrainians, say В instead of НА, like with other countries:

Я еду в Украину – I am going to Ukraine

Я живу в Украине – I am living in Ukraine

So, НА is more traditional while В has some political connotations.


(Word for word) How correct: to be on vacations в Ukraine or на Ukraine?
Correct? In Switzerland!

Учить, учиться or изучать?

Whatever in English is logically expressed with verbs study, learn and teach, in Russian can be pretty confusing. I hope my chart below will help you. Just click on it to get a better quality picture.


When ‘I have’ ≠ ‘Я имею’

When I was in Brighton Beach (‘Little Russia’), New York, I saw a funny shop and made a photo:

Мы имеем продукты

Мы имеем продукты из России по низким ценам – We have food from Russia at low prices.

I read this store belongs to a Korean family. But why was it funny? For Russians it sounds strange. Instead of saying Я имею (‘I have…’) in everyday Russian we usually say У меня есть (‘By me there is(are)…)’. We use иметь with some set expressions (e.g. иметь смысл – to have (make) sense), and in rather formal situations, documents, etc. So if we compare:

Я имею дом – У меня есть дом

we will see the first one sounds very formal. Some people would argue that in this case имею would – again formalities – mean legally own but the second one can mean that also. So, unless it’s a set expression or something formal, it’s better to use У меня есть. The bonus is that after this you don’t need to rack your brain with cases as you should use Nominative. Please note for the opposite (“I don’t have”) you should use У меня нет + Genitive.

Another danger of иметь, apart from the formal bit, is that it has also various slang meanings: to use somebody in a bad way, cheat somebody or other (sexual) meanings you wouldn’t want to actually mean. Just stick with У меня есть in everyday situations.

All Russian tenses explained in 5 minutes

Most verbs have 2 infinitives: perfective and imperfective. The choice is easy – imperfective forms are used in present (any), as well as in past or future (if you want to underline it was a process or a regular action). Perfective forms are used for single actions in the past or future and there’s no need to mention the process.

Here’s an example with imperfective verb “зарабатывать (to be earning/to earn)” and perfective verb “заработать (to have earned/to earn)”:

1To get a better quality picture, just click on it! It does not cover 100% cases (for example, sometimes with modality we use past tense even though refer to present or future), but this logic is applied most of the time.

Imperative mood in Russian

English is easy: you say “I do it every day”. When you ask somebody to do something, you again say, “Do it for me please”. In Russian, when you give an order or a command to do something, you need to reflect it in the ending. We have two types of endings:

– 2nd person singular (if you say “ТЫ” to the person you speak with);

– 2nd person plural (if you say “ВЫ” to the person(s) you speak with).

So, to determine which ending you need, go through my little questionnaire (good for most verbs):


For example (red means stressed):

делать – делаю – делай, делайте

верить – верю – верь, верьте

говорить – говорю – говори, говорите


Be! – Будь! Будьте!

Love! – Люби! Любите! (even though the stem of infinitive ЛЮБИТЬ in 1st person singular is ЛЮБЛ. Just disregard changes you do to some Type 2 verbs, in 1st person singular, like for example changing Д into Ж or Б into БЛ)

If the scheme is a bit blurry, just click on it.

Forgotten Russian cases

Often Russian grammar books mention only 6 cases:

  • Nominative
  • Genitive
  • Accusative
  • Dative
  • Instrumental
  • Prepositional

However, there is one more case which requires our attention as it is commonly used now in colloquial speech. It is the Vocative case used to address somebody.

It is usually excluded from the list above as it is considered extinct (they started excluding this case after the Revolution in 1917). Indeed, by the 11th century it was replaced by Nominative but some words with Vocative forms remained, mainly from of religious character. For example:

English – Russian Nominative – Russian Vocative

God – Бог – Боже

Father – Отец – Отче

Боже, дай мне сил! – God, give me strength (the Vocative case is used by the speaker to speak to God)

Also, these forms can be found in set expressions:

Боже мой! – Oh my Good!

But today there is also (so to say) the “Modern Vocative Case”. To form it:

– Take a short version of a name (or a noun which means a person) ending with A or Я and remove A or Я.

– Make the stressed vowel even longer (if you begin a phrase with it).

It is obvious that this makes a word shorter, more catchy and attracts attention better than conventional forms. Ideal for addressing a person.


Full name (or noun meaning a person) – Short version of this name – Short version of this name (noun) in the Vocative Case

Дмитрий – Дима – Дим

Александра, Александр – Саша – Саш

Юлия – Юля – Юль

Мама – n/a – мам

We remember if we need to make the stressed vowel longer, we pronounce it like:

– Диииииим

– Саааааааш

– Юуууууууль

– Маааааааам

 – Дим (“Дииииим”), сколько время?

 – Сколько время, Дим (“Дим”)?

In conclusion, a satirical look at modern values:

Дай мне

God, give me strength, patience, brains and, just in case, money.