Russian greetings invariably trip up beginners. At first they learn a Russian greeting which is supposedly a direct replacement for an English expression. But in time they notice that though it works in some situations, in other situations people do not seem to understand it properly. The problem is that the beginner does not know the literal meaning of the expression. Keep reading to learn how to use Russian greetings in a way which will make sense to Russians.
Even though it is difficult to pronounce, this is the greeting you should learn first.
To use it properly, you need to know:
These expressions mean “Good morning!”, “Good day!”, and “Good evening!” respectively. There is no “Good afternoon!”
“Здравствуй!” or “Здравствуйте!” is used at the first meeting in a given day and these expressions are used when the same person is seen again later in the day.
By using these expressions you are expressing a wish that the person will have a good morning, day, or evening. They are not comments on how the day is turning out.
This an informal substitute for “Здравствуй!” which is used between close friends.
In Russian “Hello” is not a greeting. It is a word used to get the other party’s attention at the start of a telephone conversation or when the line seems to have gone dead. At the beginning of the conversation it should be followed by one of the actual greetings described above.
This expression literally means “How are your affairs?”, but is less formal, more like “How are you?” While in English such expressions are used as greetings when meeting strangers, in Russian they are genuine inquiries used between friends.
Some language courses, particularly those originally created in the 1950's, feature dialogues which go something like this:
|Господин Иванов: Как Вы поживаете?||Mr. Ivanoff: How do you do?|
|Господин Смит: Хорошо. А Вы?||Mr. Smith: Well. What about you?|
Note the phrase “Как Вы поживаете?” which means “How do you do?” When Russians talk like this they are imitating foreign culture. The following chart plots the use of this phrase in Russian literature:
Note that little blip at 1869. This is Russians using the phrase when describing letters they had written in French. Then there is a big rise starting at World War I. But the big rise is only relative. Here is another chart comparing this phrase and “Как твои/ваши дела?” (see above) with the good honest Russian greeting “Здравствуйте!”:
In comparison to “Здравствуйте!” these “How do you do?” expressions barely register.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not a greeting. Instead it means “Until we meet again”. It is the standard way of saying goodbye.
This is an informal alternative to “До свидание!”. It literally means “Until our meeting.” The closest English equivalent is “So long!”