Learn Russian from the beginning!
Lesson Two

Talking about yourself and others

You will learn

  • to talk about members of the family
  • to talk about where you live and where you work
  • to use numbers up to 20
  • one or two crucial phrases for beginners

and you will be given an introduction to Russia and the Russian Federation.

Before you begin

As in Lesson 1, use the Study guide below to check your progress.

Study guide

Dialogues 1, 2: listen without the book
Dialogues 1, 2: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Dialogues 3-5: listen without the book
Dialogues 3-5: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Dialogues 6-8: listen without the book
Dialogues 6-8: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Study the Key words and phrases
Read and practice writing the Alphabet
Study the Grammar section carefully
Read Did you know?
Do the exercises in Your turn to speak
Listen to all the dialogues once again straight through


1. Ira asks Anna Ivanovna about her family.

Ira Скажите, у вас есть семья? Skazhitye, uvas yest' simya?
Anna Ivanovna Да, я замужем. Da, уа zamuzhim.
Ira А дети у вас есть? A dyeti uvas yest'?
Anna Ivanovna У меня есть дочка. Uminya yest' dochka.

скажите (пожалуйста) [skazhitye (pazhalsta)] tell me (please)

у вас есть семья? [uvas yest' simya?] do you have a family? There isn't a common verb 'to have' in Russian. У вас есть...? [uvas yest'...?] literally means 'with you is there...?'. The reply will often begin да, у меня есть... [da, uminya yest'...] yes, I have...

да, я замужем [da, ya zamuzhim] yes, I'm married. This is what a woman would say. A man says я женат [ya zhinat]. You can say you're not married by putting не [nye] before the appropriate word: я не замужем [ya nyezamuzhim] (unmarried woman); я не женат [ya nye zhinat] (unmarried man).

дети у вас есть? [dyeti uvas yest'?] do you have children? There are no strict rules regarding word order in Russian.

у меня есть дочка [uminya yest' dochka] I have a daughter. A more formal word for 'daughter' is дочь [doch]. And if Anna Ivanovna had a son she would say:
у меня есть сын [uminya yest' sin] I have a son

2. Maria Dmitrievna asks whether Olya has a brother or sister.

Maria Dmitrievna Оля, у тебя есть брат или сестра? Olya, utibya yest' brat ili sistra?
Olya У меня есть брат. Uminya yest' brat.
Maria Dmitrievna А как его зовут? A kak yivo zavut?
Olya Дима. Dima.

или [ili] or

у тебя есть брат или сестра? [utibya yest' brat ili sistra?] do you have a brother or sister? У тебя есть...? [utibya yest'...?] is used instead of у вас есть...? [uvas yest'...?] when asking a child or somebody you know well

как его зовут? [kak yivo zavut?] what is his name? If Olya had a sister, the question would be как её зовут? [kak yiyo zavut?] what is her name?

Practice what you have learned

Before each exercise, read the instructions and then turn on the recording.

1. On your recording you will hear five snatches of conversation. Listen to them and decide whether the following statements are true or false.

I. Ivan is married. true; false.
II. Tanya is married. true; false.
III. Musya has a daughter. true; false.
IV. Boris Alekseevich’s daughter is called Natasha. true; false.
V. Masha's sister is called Sonya. true; false.


2. Mila is asking a man, Ivan Antonovich, and a young girl, Tanya about their families. Listen to the dialogues first with your book closed, then again, following the text. Using your pause button, fill in the gaps. The words omitted are listed in the box below but they're not in order.

Иван Антонович, у вас есть семья?

I. Да, я
А дети есть?

II. У меня есть
А как её [yiyo] зовут?

III. Её [yiyo] Оля [Olya]

She then chats with a young girl, Tanya.

Таня, у тебя есть брат или сестра?

IV. У меня брат.

(а) есть [yest'] (b) женат [zhinat]
(с) зовут [zavut] (d) дочь [doch]

(The unfamiliar letters in these words are in the Alphabet section)


3. Anna Sergeevna asks Sergey Mikhailovich what his profession is

Anna Sergeevna Простите, а кто вы по специальности? Prastitye, a kto vi paspitsyal'nasti?
Sergey Mikhailovich Я филолог. Ya filolag.
Anna Sergeevna А где вы работаете? A gdye vi rabotaitye?
Sergey Mikhailovich В издательстве Советская энциклопедия. Vizdatil'stvye Savyetskaya intsiklapediya.

филолог [filolag] philologist (here is used linguist [лингвист - lingvist] though it is not correct...)
в издательстве Советская энциклопедия [vizdatil'stvye Savyetskaya intsiklapediya] for the publishers of Soviet Encyclopedia

простите [prastitye] excuse me. This word, like извините [izvinitye], can be used to mean 'sorry' or simply to prepare the way for a question.

кто вы по специальности? [kto vi paspitsyal'nasti?] what is your profession? Or, broken down: кто вы? [kto vi?] who are you? по специальности [paspitsyal'nasti] by profession.

где вы работаете? [gdye vi rabotaitye?] where do you work? Verbs in Russian have different endings depending upon who is doing the action. If Sergey Mikhailovich had answered with a full sentence, it would have begun: я работаю [ya rabotayu] I work.
(You will find more about these verbs later.)

4. And what is Tamara's profession?

Lyena Скажите, кто вы по специальности? Skazhitye, kto vi paspitsyal'nasti?
Tamara Я по специальности инженер, работаю на заводе. Ya paspitsyal'nasti inzhineer, rabotayu па zavodye.

инженер [inzhineer] engineer (used for both men and women)
на заводе [na zavodye] in a factory

работаю [rabotayu] I work. Я [ya] (I) is often omitted since the ending makes it clear who is doing the action.

Tamara asks Lyena what her husband does.

Tamara Скажите, а кто по специальности ваш муж? Skazhitye, a kto paspitsyal'nasti vash mush?
Lyena Печатник. Pichatnik.
Tamara Он работает в типографии? On rabotayit ftipagrafiyi?
Lyena Да. Da.

печатник [pichatnik] printer
в типографии [ftipagrafiyi] at a printing press

кто по специальности ваш муж? [kto paspitsyal'nasti vash mush?] what is your husband's profession or job? To find out from a man about his wife's profession, you would ask: кто по специальности ваша жена? [kto paspitsyal'nasti vasha zhina?].

он работает в типографии? [on rabotayit ftipagrafiyi?] does he work at a printing press? If we were talking about a woman, the verb would be the same, but the pronoun would change: она работает [ana rabotayit] she works.

Practice what you have learned

As before, read the instructions for each particular exercise before you turn on the recording.

3. Ilya asks Darya Ivanovna what she and members of her family do for a living. Listen to the interview and then try matching up the people and their jobs.

I. Darya Ivanovna (a) physicist
II. husband (b) journalist
III. daughter (c) linguist / philologist
IV. son (d) engineer

4. Some people are asked where they work. Listen carefully, then look at the pictures and see if you can name the person in each scene. Their names are given in the box below.

I. кто? [kto?]
II. кто?
III. кто?
IV. кто?
V. кто?
(а) Таня (b) Виктор (c) Коля (d) Анна (е) Алла


6. Tanya wants to know where Boris Mikhailovich lives

Tanya Извините, Борис Михайлович, а где вы живёте? Izvinitye, Boris Mikhailovich a gdye vi zhivyotye?
Boris Mikhailovich На Остоженке. Na Astozhinkye.
Tanya Это далеко от центра? Eta daliko ot tsentra?
Boris Mikhailovich Недалеко. Nidaliko.

на Остоженке [na Astozhinkye] on Ostozhinka street

где вы живёте? [gdye vi zhivyotye?] where do you live?
я живу... [ya zhivu...] I live...

это далеко от центра? [eta daliko ot tsentra?] is that far from the center? In Russian one can often form the opposite by prefixing the word with не- [nye-], thus Boris Mikhailovich answers недалеко [nidaliko] not far.

7. Boris Mikhailovich gives Tanya his work and home phone numbers. Can you write them in numerals?

Boris Mikhailovich Запишите мой телефон: два ноль три, четыре три, шесть семь. А на работе: три пять три, пять пять, шесть восемь. Zapishitye moy tilifon: dva nol' tri, chityrye tri, shest' syem'. A na rabotye: tri pyat' tri, pyat' pyat', shest' vosim'.

запишите мой телефон [zapishitye moy tilifon] take down my telephone number
на работе [na rabotye] at work

Numbers up to ten are:

один [adin], одна [adna], одно [adno]
два [dva]
три [tri]
четыре [chityrye]
пять [pyat']
шесть [shest']
семь [syem']
восемь [vosim']
девять [dyevit']
десять [dyesit']

You will also hear ноль [nol'] zero, though this is not included when counting.

один [adin] is used if the noun referred to is masculine, одна [adna] if it is feminine and одно [adno] if neuter.

The numbers from 10 to 19 are easy to learn since you really just add -надцать [natsat'] to the numbers above:

одиннадцать [adinnatsat']
двенадцать [dvinatsat']
тринадцать [trinatsat']
четырнадцать [chityrnatsat']
пятнадцать [pitnatsat']
шестнадцать [shisnatsat']
семнадцать [simnatsat']
восемнадцать [vosimnatsat']
девятнадцать [divitnatsat']

and 20 is: двадцать [dvatsat']

Now turn on the recording and follow Andrei while he reads the numbers aloud.

8. Ira is looking for the nearest subway station.

Ira Извините, пожалуйста, где здесь станция метро? Izvinitye, pazhalsta, gdye zdyes' stantsiya mitro?
Passer-by Я очень плохо говорю по-русски. Говорите медленно. Ya ochin' plokha gavaryu parusski. Gavaritye myedlinna.

здесь [zdyes'] here, in the vicinity
станция метро [stantsiya mitro] subway station

я очень плохо говорю по-русски [ya ochin' plokha gavaryu parusski] I speak Russian very badly

Other languages will be formed in the same way:

  / по-английски [pa-angleeski] I speak English
я говорю [ya gavaryu]   по-французски [pafrantsuski] I speak French
  \ по-немецки [panimyetski] I speak German

You may want to say 'I speak only a little Russian' я только немного говорю по-русски [ya tol'ka nimnoga gavaryu parusski]

говорите медленно [gavaritye myedlinna] speak slowly

Practice what you have learned

5. Participants in a folk concert in Moscow are asked where they live. Listen to their answers on your recording, then match the names below with the places.

I. Таня ; II. Тарас ; III. Мария ; IV. Олесь ; V. Нина
(а) в Минске; (b) в Москве; (с) в Киеве; (d) в Вене; (е) в Бонне


6. Masha finds it easiest to add up aloud. Listen to the recording, then fill in the missing numbers.

I. два [dva] + один [adin] =
II. семь [syem'] + = девять [dyevit']
III. один + три [tri] + три =
IV. + семь = десять [dyesit']
V. девять + = одиннадцать [adinnatsat']
VI. восемь [vosim'] + = девять


7. In this exercise, you take the role of a Ukrainian, Oksana. You live in Kiev, and, yes, you do speak Russian, but your English is pretty bad. You will need to use:

я живу [ya zhivu]
я говорю (ya gavaryu]

Key words and phrases

скажите [skazhitye] tell me
у вас есть...? [uvas yest'...?] do you have...? (formal or plural)
у тебя есть...? [utibya yest'...?] do you have...? (to a child or friend)
у меня есть... [uminya yest'...]
дети [dyeti]
дочка/дочь [dochka /doch]
сын [sin]
брат [brat]
сестра [sistra]
I have...
a daughter
a son
a brother
a sister
или [ili] or
замужем [zamuzhim] married (woman's form)
женат [zhinat] married (man's form)
как его зовут? [kak yivo zavut?] what is his name?
как её зовут? [kak yiyo zavut?] what is her name?
кто вы по специальности?
[kto vi paspitsyal'nasti’?]
what is your profession?
я / она инженер [ya / ana inzhiner] I am/she is an engineer
я / он филолог [ya / on filolag] I am/he is a linguist (philologist)
где вы работаете? [gdye vi rabotaitye?] where do you work?
я работаю [ya rabotayu] I work
вы работаете [vi rabotaitye] you work
он/она работает... [on/ana rabotayit...]
на заводе [na zavodye]
в издательстве [vizdatil'stvye]
he/she works...
in a factory
in a publishing company
где вы живёте? [gdye vi zhivyotye?] where do you live?
я живу [ya zhivu] I live
далеко от центра [daliko ot tsentra] far from the centre
где здесь... [gdye zdyes'...]
станция метро? [stantsiya mitro?]
where around here is there...
a subway station?
я очень плохо говорю по-русски
[ya ochin' plokha gavaryu parusski]
I speak Russian very badly
я только немного говорю...
[ya tol'ka nimnoga gavaryu...]
I only speak a little...
вы говорите по-русски?
[vi gavaritye parusski?]
do you speak Russian?
я говорю... [ya gavaryu...]
по-английски [pa-angleeski]
по-французски [pafrantsuski]
по-немецки [panimyetski]
I speak...
говорите медленно [gavaritye myedlinna] speak slowly

You'll find the numbers from 1 to 20 in the notes to dialogue 7.

The Russian alphabet

In this unit you will practice reading and writing the letters that you already know and you will learn five new ones. The transliteration should help with pronunciation, but let Andrei guide you.

If you can glance over the alphabet even for just a few minutes every day, you'll find that apparently formidable letters soon become familiar.

The new letters are:

[zh as in vision, pleasure]
[i/ее as in meet]
['] 'soft sign'

This last letter doesn't have a sound on its own. Instead it makes the consonant before it 'soft'. If this means nothing to you, listen to Andrei and try to follow the way he pronounces the following two words:

Гоголь [Gogol'] a famous writer
гол [gol] a goal in sports

Can you recognize the following cities and countries?


8. Which word is out of place in each horizontal list?


As in Lesson 1, try writing out all the words above.

9. A little geography with your Russian! The following lists of cities and countries have been jumbled up. Can you link up each city with its country? Only names with letters you haven't met are transliterated.

I. Киев (а) Испания [Ispanya]
II. Москва (b) Австрия
III. Ереван (с) Армения
IV. Минск (d) Украина
V. Мадрид (е) Россия
VI. Вена (f) Беларусь [Byelarus']

10. Look at the following pictures and then write out the name of the thing in the space provided. All the words are jumbled in the box below.

I. такси II. киоск III. дискотека
IV. стадион V. кинотеатр VI. икона


In Lesson 1 you saw how words that describe a noun change. This is not all! The noun itself has different endings depending on its role in the sentence, or which preposition it follows. In this unit you will see different endings after в [v] and на [na] meaning 'in', 'at', 'on'.

Before we look at these endings, a word of advice: you should be aware of these endings, but do not let them inhibit you. A wrong ending will rarely prevent you from being understood, and indeed when you listen to people speaking, you may not even be able to hear the ending.

If you ask where something is где...? [gdye ....?], the answer is likely to begin with the preposition в [v] or на [na]. There are rules as to when в is used, and when на, but there are also a bewildering number of exceptions! Whichever preposition is used, the ending of the noun will change, normally ending in -e.

Вот Киев. Я живу в Киеве. [Vot Kiev. Ya zhivu fKievye]
Here is Kiev. I live in Kiev.

Вот Москва. Я живу в Москве. [Vot Maskva. Ya zhivu vMaskvye]
Here is Moscow. I live in Moscow.

As you see, в before some consonants is pronounced [f]. This is simply because it is impossible to pronounce it as [v]!

11. Here is a list of people along with the cities they live in. Using the first sentence as an example, write down what the other people would say.

  Таня Москва я живу в Москве
I. Том Манчестер
II. Ян Вена
III. Мария Мадрид
IV. Виктор Ереван
V. Анна Минск
Большой чекан - почтовая марка СССР 1981г. Совместный космический полет - почтовая марка
Почтовая марка - Россия 1992 - 10 руб

12. Can you answer the question next to each picture? The words are listed in the box below, but you'll need to change the endings.

где Соня?
она в
где Иван?
он в
где Рита?
она в
где Лариса?
она в
где Вадим?
он на

Did you know


Since the time of Peter the Great, Russian writers and intellectuals have debated Russia's place in the world: is it part of Europe, part of Asia, or does it have a role peculiarly its own?

We will not attempt to find an answer here, but it is easy to understand how the question might arise. The Russian Federation’s huge territory spans two continents, extending from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean, and from Murmansk in the far North to Irkutsk near the Chinese border.

Russia’s population in 1989 was 145 million. Some 80 per cent are Russians. These, like their neighbors the Ukrainians and Byelorussians, are Eastern Slavs. They trace their common roots to Kievan Rus’, which flourished and grew from about AD 900 to AD 1240. Kiev is now the capital of Ukraine, while Russia’s capital is Moscow.

There are also a large number of non-Slavic national minorities within the Russian Federation. Some of these have ‘autonomous republic’ or ‘autonomous region’ status. During the Soviet period (1917-1991), this autonomy remained largely on paper. With the break-up of the Soviet Union, calls for greater independence have been heard from many ethnic groups.

Russia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

There has long been a tendency to treat these two terms as interchangeable. This is quite misleading. Within the Soviet Union the Russian Federal Republic (RSFSR) was the biggest of fifteen republics: the others were Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan and Kirgistan. After the failed coup of 1991, the Russian Federal Republic was among the first to declare independence from the Soviet Union and one of the most instrumental in bringing about the latter's demise. The fairly widespread assumption that the Russian Federation is the 'heir apparent' to the Soviet regime has led to resentment in many of the other republics.

Throughout the Soviet period the Russian language was spoken in all the republics. At one stage this was the language for ‘getting ahead’, and in many republics it was difficult to find a school which taught in the native language. While this has now changed, it is probable that Russian will remain a lingua franca in a large number of the republics.

In an attempt to create a new 'Soviet man', the Soviet authorities encouraged people to settle in other republics. Under Stalin vast numbers of people, indeed whole nationalities, were sent into exile or forcibly resettled. As a result, in all the republics of the former USSR there are a considerable number of Russians and other national minorities. While some have integrated fully, others have not and are increasingly expressing dissatisfaction with their status in the newly independent countries.

Your turn to speak

13. In the first exercise, you will be asking Aleksandr Nikolaevich some questions. You will be using:

у вас есть...? [uvas yest'...?]
как его зовут? [kak yivo zavut?]

14. This time you will be playing the role of Anna Sergeevna, a physicist who lives in Moscow and works in an institute. You will need the words:

физик [fizik]
я работаю [ya rabotayu]
институт [institut]
я живу [ya zhivu]