One of the first words you will want to learn when starting to learn Russian, or before traveling to Russia is how to say “Hello” in Russian.
This post will teach you how to say “Hello” in Russian, and also teach you some other common Russian greetings, and also provide guidance on the cultural nuance surrounding each word.
How To Say Hello In Russian
The Russian word for Hello is “Здравствуйте”. It is pronounced “zdravstvuyte“. Now this might seem intimidating at first (four consonants in a row!?!), but please give me a chance to teach, and give yourself a chance to learn!
It is important to learn this form of the word “hello” in Russian if you will be in any kind of formal contact with any Russians. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s listen to how to pronounce “Hello” in Russian:
It is too bad that the Russian language can be discouraging at “hello”. But I guarantee that if you have fun with this tongue-twisting greeting on repeat, you will most certainly delight and impress the Russian-speaking people that you meet. This might sound strange, but you need to practice so that you can begin to “feel the sound in your mouth”. And you will be encouraged that even if you don’t pronounce exactly right, they will still be impressed at your effort, and over time you can drop a Russian “Hello” like the Russian mafia boss that you are.
One common mistake that I hear particularly with English speakers when they first start pronouncing the word Hello in Russian is actually the final syllable. It is “Tye”, and it is one syllable (not “tee-ye”, just “tye”). For some reason, when I first learned this word I would say something like “Zdrastvuche”. And I started noticing that this was a common mistake. Now again, your Russian-speaking friends will be very kind to you about this, but make a particular effort to enunciate the “T” at the end and not switch it out with a a “ch” sound.
FUN FACT: The Russian word for “Hello”, “Здравствуйте”, literally means “Be healthy!”. Now, of course, on most days Russians aren’t thinking about this deep meaning when they’re greeting each other. But sometimes your Russian friend might say “Hello” to you a bit more slowly with meaning in their eyes, and you can tell they aren’t just saying “hi”, they are wishing you health and that’s a very special moment for sure.
This brings us to…
How To Say “Hi” In Russian
I was sincerely shocked today when I googled “How to say hello in Russian” and received this result:
The Russian word for “Hi” is “Привет”. This word is pronounced “Pree-vyet” and is two syllables. This is, of course, considerably more simple than the Russian word for “Hello”, but before we work on the nuance of the pronunciation of the Russian word for “Hi”, allow me to provide some warning.
WARNING: Only say “Hi” in Russian if you are greeting a close friend, someone considerably younger than you, or if you are of a more youthful age, you can use this greeting when meeting someone who is your age.
I have seen foreigners walk into business meetings in Russia. They had found “Zdra-stvu-tye” to be too challenging, so they just went with “Pree-vyet” when greeting their new Russian counterparts. They were immediately and permanently banished to Siberia as a result. Kidding, of course, the Russians are always kind in these situations, BUT the foreigners started the meeting by demonstrating an ignorance to Russian cultural code. Which perhaps is not the best kickoff into the Motherland.
The most common mistake I hear (and again the same mistake I made early on) in saying “Hi” in Russian is turning it into three syllables. What I often hear is “Pree-vee-yet”. That is incorrect. Instead, work on making it two syllables: “Pree-vyet”. Again, repetition will help you “feel” it better as you speak.
Here’s an interesting tutorial on the pronunciation of the Russian “Hi”:
What If You’re Not Sure Which Greeting To Use?
Being unsure of what Russian greeting to use can be a somewhat amusing cultural dilemma, that quite frankly, I still run into from time to time even after living here for 23 years!
So, what do I do?
In situations where I am unsure which Russian greeting to us, I go with:
Good Morning: Dobroe Utro / Доброе утро
Here is the pronunciation:
Good Day: Dobriy Den’ / Добрый день
Listen to the pronunciation:
Good Evening: Dobriy Vecher / Добрый вечер
Pronunciation of “Good Evening” in Russian:
A FEW MORE RUSSIAN GREETING TIPS:
- It is important to use good morning strictly until noon, or else you might get a friendly lecture on getting out of bed earlier.
- Alternatively, if you start using “Good day” at about 11 a.m., you will be quietly respected for being such an early bird. I don’t understand this, particularly in a nation that starts work quite a bit later than where I grew up in Ohio, but there it is.
- Only greet a Russian ONCE per day! If you greet them twice they might give you an abrupt “мы уже сегодня здоровались”. This literally means “we have already greeted each other today”, with the subplot being “did you forget me already?”.
I hope this is helpful and takes away some of the complications of a Russian greeting. I do believe it is important to work on this, because wherever you are in the world, the first impression is a lasting impression. And if you demonstrate a sincere effort to greet your Russian-speaking comrade in their native language, you will have won them over from the get-go.
Now that you’ve learned how to say “Hello” in Russian, take a few minutes to learn how to shake hands in Russia.