Learn Russian from the beginning!
Lesson Five

Getting what you want in shops

You will learn

  • to ask for stamps, postcards and newspapers
  • to inquire how much things cost
  • to buy tickets for the opera
  • to shop for groceries
  • to ask for something cheaper, or in another language,

and you will find out about shopping in Russia

Этикетка на торт 'Люблю тебя'
Label from the cake box "Love you".

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, 4: listen without the book
Dialogues 3, 4: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Dialogues 5-8: listen without the book
Dialogues 5-8: 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. Lyena asks how much a stamp for a letter to England costs.

Lyena Скажите, сколько стоит почтовая марка для авиаконверта в Англию? Skazhitye, skol'ka stoit pachtovaya marka dlya aviakanvyerta vAngliyu?
Assistant Пятьдесят копеек. Pit'disyat kapyeek.
Lyena Дайте, пожалуйста, три. Daitye, pazhalsta, tri.
Assistant Рубль пятьдесят с вас. Rubl' pit'disyat svas.
Lyena Спасибо. Spasiba.
Assistant Пожалуйста. Pazhalsta.

сколько стоит почтовая марка для авиаконверта в Англию? [skol'ka stoit pachtovaya marka dlya aviakanvyerta vAngliyu?] how much does an airmail stamp to England cost?
Сколько стоит...? [skol'ka stoit...?] how much does... cost? can be used whenever you want to know a price. And if you don't know the word, you can always point and ask сколько это стоит? [skol'ka eta stoit?] how much does that cost? Incidentally the word почтовая [pachtovaya] postage can be left out. What other kind of stamps would you be buying in a post office?

в Англию [vAngliyu] to England. For other countries you would say:
в Германию [vGermaniyu] to Germany
в Америку [vAmeriku] to America
во Францию [va Frantsiyu] to France
в Казахстан [fKazakhstan] to Kazakhstan
You can find out why these endings are used in Lesson 8.

рубль пятьдесят [rubl' pit'disyat] one ruble fifty

с вас... [svas...] that will be... (lit. 'from you...'). This could be the answer to the question сколько с меня? [skol'ka sminya?] how much will that be?

2. Lyena also needs some postcards

Lyena Скажите, у вас есть открытки с видами Москвы? Skazhitye, uvas yest' atkritki svidami Maskvy?
Assistant Да, пожалуйста. Выбирайте, вот несколько видов. Da, pazhalsta. Vybiraitye, vot nyeskal'ka vidaf.
Lyena Дайте, пожалуйста, вот эту с видом Кремля. Daitye, pazhalsta, vot etu svidam Krimlya.
Assistant Это Спасская башня Кремля. Шесть копеек с вас. Eta Spasskaya bashnya Krimlya Shest' kapyeek svas.
Lyena Пожалуйста. Pazhalsta.

выбирайте [vybiraitye] choose
Спасская башня Кремля [Spasskaya bashnya Krimlya] Savior tower in the Kremlin

открытки [atkritki] postcards. A single postcard would be открытка [atkritka].

с видами Москвы [svidami Maskvy] with views of Moscow. This ending -ами [ami] is used for most nouns in the plural after с meaning 'with'.

вот несколько видов [vot nyeskal'ka vidaf] here are several views

эту с видом Кремля [etu svidam Krimlya] this one with the view of the Kremlin. Even in such telegraphic speech, the word for 'this' эту [etu] still has to be feminine like the noun it refers to. If Lyena wanted an envelope - конверт [kanvyert], a masculine noun - she would ask: дайте вот этот [daitye vot etat].

Practice what you have learned

1. Listen to the recording and then see if you can work out how much each customer spends in the post office. A little arithmetic is required!

I. first customer (stamps to Kiev)
II. second customer (postcards)
III. third customer (postcard and stamps)
IV. fourth customer (stamps to Germany)

2. On the "postcards" below, two vital details are missing: the name of the city from which they have been written and the name of the country to which they are being sent. Listen to the transactions in the post office and then fill in the gaps.

I. This is the Pecherskaya monastery


II. This is the 'Bronze Horseman'


III. This is the monument to Pushkin



3. Tanya has dropped into the hotel kiosk for a paper.

Tanya У вас есть Московские новости? Uvas yest' Maskofskiye novosti!
Assistant У нас есть Московские новости на английском языке. Unas yest' Maskofskiye novosti na angleeskam yizikye.
Tanya А на русском? A na russkam?
Assistant На русском нет. Na russkam nyet.
Tanya Ну тогда дайте на английском, пожалуйста. Nu tagda daitye na angleeskam, pazhalsta.
Assistant Пожалуйста. Вот газета. Pazhalsta. Vot gazyeta.
Tanya Спасибо. Spasiba.

тогда [tagda] then, in that case
газета [gazyeta] newspaper

Московские новости [Maskofskiye novosti) Moscow News is a high-quality weekly newspaper published in several languages. At the time of recording, it was often more difficult to obtain a copy in Russian than in English, French or Greek!

на английском языке [na angleeskam yizikye] in the English language. Tanya wants it in Russian, so asks на русском нет? [na russkam nyet?] you don't have it in Russian? (The word for 'language' is understood.) You could also ask for Moscow News in the following languages:
на французском языке [na frantsuskam yizikye] in French
на испанском языке [na ispanskam yizikye] in Spanish
на арабском языке [na arapskam yizikye] in Arabic
Or if you want any newspaper, in German for example:
У вас есть газеты на немецком языке? [uvas yest' gazyety na nimyetskam yizikye?] do you have any papers in German? (More about plurals in Grammar section.)

4. Still in the hotel, Tanya wants to buy tickets to the Bolshoi Theater

Tanya Здравствуйте. Zdrastvuytye.
Assistant Здравствуйте. Zdrastvuytye.
Tanya У вас есть билеты в Большой театр? Uvas yest' bilyety vBal'shoy teatr?
Assistant А что вас интересует? A shto vas interisuyit?
Tanya Пожалуй, опера. Pazhaluy, opera.
Assistant Опера... Когда? Opera... Kagda?
Tanya Если можно, на завтра. Yesli mozhna, na zaftra.
Assistant Завтра идёт опера Римского-Корсакова Снегурочка. Zaftra idyot opera Rimskava-Korsakava Snigurachka.
Tanya Очень хорошо. Ochin' kharasho.
Assistant А сколько вам билетов? A skol'ka vam bilyetaf?
Tanya Два. Dva.
Assistant Сейчас. Есть два билета. Один билет стоит двадцать три доллара. Sichas. Yest' dva bilyeta. Adin bilyet stoit dvatsat' tri dollara.
Tanya Пожалуйста... Два. Pazhalsta... Dva.
Assistant Сдачи, пожалуйста, четыре доллара. Sdachi, pazhalsta, chityrye dollara.
Tanya Спасибо. Spasiba.
Assistant Пожалуйста. Pazhalsta.

что вас интересует? [shto vas interisuyit?] what would you be interested in?
пожалуй, опера [pazhaluy, opera] perhaps opera
очень хорошо [ochin' kharasho] very good

билеты в Большой театр [bilyety vBal'shoy teatr] tickets to the Bolshoi Theater.

To ask about tickets for the movies, you would also use в [v]:
билеты в кино [bilyety fkino]
but if you are talking about the performance itself, use на [na]:
билеты на оперу [bilyety na operu] tickets for the opera
билеты на балет [bilyety na balyet] tickets for the ballet.

когда? [kagda?] when? Tanya wants tickets for tomorrow на завтра [na zaftra]. For today would be на сегодня [na sivodnya].

идёт опера Римского-Корсакова Снегурочка [idyot oрега Rimskava-Korsakava Snigurachka] Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Snow Maiden is on.
To find out what is on you would ask что идёт...? [shto idyot...?].

сколько вам билетов? [skol'ka vam bilyetaf?] how many tickets would you like? The answer is два билета [dva bilyeta] two tickets. There is an explanation of numbers and their quirks in Lesson 7.

сдачи четыре доллара [sdachi chityrye dollara] four dollars change. At the time of recording, tickets to the Bolshoi Theater were virtually impossible to obtain for rubles.

Practice what you have learned

3. On your recording you will hear some hotel guests asking for newspapers and books in various languages. Listen, then decide whether the following statements are true or false.

I. Moscow News is available in Russian and French
II. You can buy Anna Karenina in English and Russian
III. Chekhov's works are only available in German and French
IV. Pushkin's works are available in German

4. The lady selling theatre tickets has developed an efficient system for recording tickets. Listen to your recording and fill in the number of tickets under the right day.

  (а) сегодня (b) завтра
I. балет Жизель    
II. опера Верди    
III. опера Римского-Корсакова    
IV. балет Ромео и Джульетта    

5. You want to buy two tickets to the Bolshoi, preferably to the opera. Read the program below, then let Andrei guide you.

сегодня ... Снегурочка Римского-Корсакова ... (опера)
    Ромео и Джульетта Прокофьева ... (балет)
завтра ... Борис Годунов Мусоргского ... (опера)


5. Olya is buying some groceries

Olya Молоко есть? Malako yest'?
Assistant Утром было, уже нет. Utram byla, uzhe nyet.
Olya А масло? A masla?
Assistant Масло есть. Masla yest'.
Olya А сколько стоит масло? A skol'ka stoit masla?
Assistant Три пятьдесят килограмм. Tri pit’disyat kilagramm.
Olya Двести грамм, пожалуйста. Dvyesti gramm, pazhalsta.
Assistant Платите в кассу семьдесят копеек. Platitye fkassu syem'disyat kapyeek.
Olya Спасибо. Spasiba.
Assistant Пожалуйста. Pazhalsta.

утром [utram] in the morning
масло [masla] butter

молоко есть? [malako yest'?] is there any milk? A telegraphic version of у вас есть молоко? [uvas yest' malako?] do you have milk?

утром было, уже нет [utram byla, uzhe nyet] there was this morning, it's already gone

три пятьдесят килограмм [tri pit'disyat kilagramm] three rubles fifty a kilogram. The words for rubles and kopecks are often left out, especially in shops.

двести грамм [dvyesti gramm] 200 grams. One often asks also for half a kilogram - полкило [polkilo].

платите в кассу [platitye fkassu] pay at the cash desk. You will find an explanation of the procedure in Did you know?

семьдесят копеек [syem'disyat kapyeek] 70 copecks. The numbers 60, 70 and 80 follow the same pattern as пятьдесят [pit'disyat] (50). Thus:
шестьдесят [shist'disyat] 60
семьдесят [syem'disyat] 70
восемьдесят [vosim'disyat] 80.
90 and 100 break this pattern:
девяносто [divyanosta] 90
сто [sto] 100

6. Olya goes to the cashier

Olya Семьдесят копеек, пожалуйста. Syem'disyat kapyeek, pazhalsta.
Cashier Какой отдел? Kakoy atdyel?
Olya Молочный. Malochny.
Cashier Пожалуйста. Pazhalsta.
Olya Спасибо. Spasiba.
какой отдел? [kakoy atdyel?] which section? Olya replies молочный [malochny] milk or dairy products section. However, always look for a number - more often than not, you'll be able to say первый [pyervy] first, второй [ftaroy] second, третий [tryetyi] third, etc.

7. And then back to the counter for her purchase.

Olya Пожалуйста, чек. Pazhalsta, chek.
Assistant Пожалуйста, масло. Pazhalsta, masla.
Olya Спасибо. Spasiba.
Assistant Пожалуйста. Pazhalsta.

чек [chek] the receipt you hand over at the counter in order to receive your purchase

You will have noticed how few words were used in the above dialogues. This is quite normal, and very convenient for learners!

8. Tamara is at the market and wants some tomatoes.

Tamara Скажите, пожалуйста, сколько стоят помидоры? Skazhitye, pazhalsta, skol'ka stoyat pamidory?
Trader Три рубля. Tri rublya.
Tamara Скажите, а подешевле нет? Skazhitye, a padishevlye nyet?
Trader Есть по два. Yest' pa dva.
Tamara Хорошо. Дайте мне, пожалуйста, килограмм по два рубля. Kharasho. Daite mnye, pazhalsta, kilagramm po dva rublya.
Trader Два рубля. Dva rublya.

помидоры [pamidory] tomatoes. A single tomato is помидор [pamidor]

Сколько стоят помидоры? [skol'ka stoyat pamidory?] how much do the tomatoes cost? The ending of the verb стоят [stoyat] has changed because it refers to a noun in the plural. It's not a major point since you can scarcely hear the difference.

три рубля [tri rublya] 3 rubles. Numbers make any noun change. As well as три рубля [tri rublya], you have seen три дня [tri dnya] three days and три доллара [tri dollara]. You will find more details in Lesson 7.

подешевле нет? [padishevlye nyet?] are there none a little cheaper?

Other useful comparative forms:
побольше [pabol'she] a bit bigger or a bit more
поменьше [pamyen'she] a bit smaller or a bit less.
But when you are buying fruit, vegetables etc., use:
покрупнее [pakrupnyeye] a bit bigger
помельче [pamyel'che] a bit smaller.

по два [pa dva or po dva] for two (rubles)

Now the exercises based on these dialogues.

Practice what you have learned

6. In the pictures below the names of the items have been omitted. If you listen to your recording, you will discover what they are.

a)   b)
20 копеек кг.   3 рубля кг.
c)   d)
3 рубля 70 копеек кг.   2 рубля 70 копеек кг.

7. The man selling tomatoes in the market was having quite a morning. One after another his customers made extra requests, until he was forced to make a list. But has he taken down all the requests correctly? Listen to your recording and pick out his mistakes.

I. 1st man 2 kilograms, smaller size tomatoes
II. 1st woman 1 kilogram, cheaper (2.50)
III. 2nd man 3 kilograms, larger size
IV. 2nd woman 2 kilograms at 2 rubles

8. You are buying some vegetables for dinner. And money is an object! Andrei will guide you.

Key words and phrases

To use  
сколько стоит... [skol'ka stoit...]
марка для авиаконверта
[marka dlya aviakanvyerta]
в Англию? [vAngliyu?]
масло? [masla?]
молоко? [malako?]
how much is...
a stamp for an airmail envelope
to England?
сколько стоят... [skol'ka stoyat...]
помидоры? [pamidory?]
открытки с видами Москвы?
[atkritki svidami Maskvy?]
how much are...
the tomatoes?
postcards with views of Moscow?
дайте вот эту с видом Кремля
[daitye vot etu svidam Krimlya]
этот [etat]
give me this one with
the view of the Kremlin
this one (referring to a masculine noun)
на русском языке [na russkam yizikye]
на английском языке [na angleeskam ...]
in the Russian language
in the English language
билеты в Большой театр
[bilyety vBal'shoy teatr]
в кино [fkino]
на оперу [na operu]
билеты на сегодня [bilyety na sivodnya]
на завтра [na zaftra]
tickets to the Bolshoi theater
to the movies
to the opera
tickets for today
for tomorrow
подешевле нет? [padishevlye nyet?]
побольше [pabol'she]
покрупнее [pakrupnyeye]
поменьше [pamyen'she]
помельче [pamyel'che]
you don’t have any cheaper?
a bit bigger, a bit more
a bit bigger (fruit, etc.)
a bit smaller, a bit less
a bit smaller (fruit, etc.)
килограмм по два рубля
[kilagramm pa dva rublya]
a kilogram at 2 rubles
To understand  
с вас... [svas...]
идёт опера... [idyot opera...]
сколько вам билетов?
[skol'ka vam bilyetaf?]
один рубль [adin rubl']
2, 3, 4 рубля [2, 3, 4 rublya]
5, 6... рублей [5, 6... rublyey]
один доллар [adin dollar]
2, 3, 4 доллара [2, 3, 4 dollara]
5, 6... долларов [5, 6... dollaraf]
платите в кассу [platitye fkassu]
какой отдел? [kakoy atdyel?]
that will be...
the opera... is on
how many tickets do you need?
one ruble
2, 3, 4 rubles
5, 6... rubles
one dollar
2, 3,4 dollars
5, 6... dollars
pay at the cash desk
which section?

The Russian alphabet

Congratulations! When you have studied the five letters below, you will have completed your introduction to the Russian alphabet. Do not worry if you still find it difficult - and slow! - to read in Russian. Remember how hard it was at the beginning - you have come a long way since then!

So the last five letters are:

ю [yu]
ц [ts]
щ [shch]
х [kh this is pronounced ch as in Scottish loch)
ъ 'hard sign'. This letter has almost disappeared in modern Russian. Once you have made sure that it is a hard sign (i.e. that it has a little squiggle at the top!) we recommend that you ignore it - the effect it has on how a word sounds is very slight.

A few small but crucial words:

ВХОД (entrance) ВЫХОД (exit) ЦЕНТР МЕНЮ

The following people played a role in Russian history:


And a role in Russian literature:


Билеты Tickets

Here are some of the posters you might see around theaters and cinemas in Russia. Do you know the works advertised?

  Театр на Таганке  
  сегодня идёт:  
Мусоргский БОРИС ГОДУНОВ (опера)
Прокофьев РОМЕО И ДЖУЛЬЕТТА (балет)

  Большой театр  
  сегодня идёт:  
Римский-Корсаков СНЕГУРОЧКА (опера)
Чайковский ЕВГЕНИЙ ОНЕГИН (опера)

  Кинотеатр 'Россия'  
  фильм сегодня:  
Андрей Тарковский АНДРЕЙ РУБЛЁВ  


Plural of nouns

Most of the nouns you have met so far in the plural have the ending (sometimes spelled ). This applies to both masculine and feminine nouns. Thus:

помидор [pamidor] tomato
газета [gazyeta] newspaper
помидоры [pamidory] tomatoes
газеты [gazyety] newspapers

Neuter nouns, those nouns which end in -o or -e in the singular, normally end in -a or in the plural. For example:

письмо [pis'mo] letter платье [platye] dress письма [pis'ma] letters платья [platya] dresses

There are of course exceptions to the above, but any irregularities will be noted in a dictionary. We will point out important ones along the way.

9. Complete the sentences below putting the noun in round brackets into the plural.

I. У вас есть с колбасой? (бутерброд)
II. Сколько стоят для авиаписьма в Англию? арка)
III. Что у вас? У меня (фунт)
IV. У вас есть в Большой театр? (билет)
V. У вас есть на немецком языке? (газета)
VI. Сколько стоят ? (мандарин)
VII. Сколько стоят ? (платье)

Did you know

The information is out of date!

The majority of visitors to the Russian Federation shop exclusively in 'Beryozka' shops, and at kiosks in their hotels. These shops accept only foreign currency, travelers' checks and credit cards. As you might expect, they stock the souvenirs traditionally popular among tourists: dolls, varnished boxes, vodka, caviare and, inevitably, fur hats. They also, however, have other items - foodstuffs, cosmetics, technical equipment etc. - which are not available for rubles. This strange situation has led, amongst other things, to a flourishing - and nasty - black market in foreign currency.

Such shops are convenient but since you are learning Russian, it seems safe to assume that you would like to see something of the life led by ordinary people in the Russian Federation, and, of course, practice your Russian!

In this lesson we have talked only about government-owned shops, leaving markets and the new cooperatives to Lesson 6. As you saw when Olya was buying groceries, there are at least two, sometimes three steps to making a purchase in a Russian shop. First you have what you want weighed and priced, then you pay the cashier, then finally you return to the counter with your receipt and take your purchase. Experienced shoppers, if they are sure that the product is available and that it won't have run out before they reach the front of the line, will generally dispense with the first step.

This rather cumbersome system has not created the chronic problems of shortages and lines, but it certainly increases the already considerable amount of time people spend each day doing shopping.

Your turn to speak

In the final exercise on your recording, you will be playing the role of a tourist in Moscow. You will need to use the following words and phrases:

сколько стоит...? [skol'ka stoit...?]
дайте, пожалуйста, ... [daitye, pazhalsta, ...]
на английском языке [na angleeskam yizikye]
один килограмм [adin kilagramm]
нет подешевле? [nyet padishevlye?]
персики [pyersiki] peaches
мандарины [mandariny] mandarins
помидоры [pamidory] tomatoes