Are you finding that learning Russian is challenging? Are you cautious at times about saying something incorrectly? If your answer is yes you need to stop worrying, because you are not alone. Russian is not an easy language and even native speakers make mistakes in their daily conversations! In fact, some of the errors are so common that even many fluent speakers would not know how to correct them.
In this article, we will look at seven common mistakes that even native speakers make in Russian.
1. The gender noun of “кофе”
About half of the native Russian speakers are incorrectly labeling кофе as a neuter noun. The word кофе (which by the way is a borrowed foreign word) is a masculine noun. Since so many people think of кофе as a noun of neuter gender, some dictionaries have already labeled it as such. Nevertheless, remember that if you want to be grammatically accurate you should say мой кофе rather than моё кофе.
2. Одевать & надевать
As in any other language, there are verbs that essentially mean the same thing yet can only be used with certain nouns. This is the case with the verbs одевать and надевать. Both words mean ‘to dress’, but there is a small difference regarding how these verbs can be used. The verb одевать refers to dressing someone else, while надевать refers to dressing yourself. For example:
- одевать моего ребенка translates as to dress up my child.
- надевать мою шапку translates as to put on my hat (referring to dressing oneself).
3. Звóнит & ЭвонИт
Stress positions are very significant when it comes to pronunciation in Russian. They are so important, in fact, that putting the emphasis on the wrong vowel can make it difficult for others to understand you. Stress positions can cause issues not only for foreigners, but for native speakers as well. One of the common conversational error occurs in the following sentence.
- Когда ты позвóнишь мне? (When will you call me?).
As you can see, many would pin the emphasis on the second vowel of the word по-звó-нишь. The correct way of pronouncing this would be по-звo-ни́шь, with the emphasis on the final vowel of the word. This is a small inaccuracy that many fluent speakers also struggle with.
4. Экспрессо & Эспрессо
Imagine yourself on your way to work as you decide to stop by Шоколадница for a cup of hot coffee (Шоколадница is a well-known coffee shop in Moscow). As you get your hot beverage, you hear another customer next to you make the following order:
- «Экспрессо, пожалуйста».
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever pronounced it this way? This is an example of another small yet common mistake that you will most definitely hear when buying coffee in Russia: there is no к sound in this word. Remember that you order эспрессо, not экспрессо!
5. Ихнийm, Eвоный & Eёный
You may find that some native speakers of Russian use certain words to substitute certain pronouns. For instance, ихний is a common substitution for их, which means theirs.
The word евоный is a common substitution for ево, which means his, and the word еёный is a common substitution for её, which translates to hers.
Unless you have been having regular conversations with native Russian speakers, you will likely not have heard these words. It is acceptable to use these words in conversation as part of Russian slang. Nevertheless, ихний, евоный, and еёный should NOT be used in writing, as they are considered grammatically incorrect.
6. Тся & ться
Verb endings can be quite tricky in Russian, even for fluent speakers, especially when it comes to the soft sign (ь). Luckily, the presence of the soft sign can easily be checked by following a simple rule. We use the question что делает & что сделает? and the question что делать & что сделать? to see whether we need the soft sign or not. If the soft sign «ь» appears in the question, we should use it in the verb. Let’s look at the following example:
- На небе начали появляться первые звёзды.
- The first stars began to appear in the sky.
As you can see, we need to include the soft sign in the word появляться since it answers the question что делать?. In another example:
- «На небе скоро появятся первые звёзды.
- The first stars will soon appear in the sky.
In this example, we do not need to include the soft sign, since the word появятся answers the questions что сделают?
7. Будующий or будущий?
The above word means the future, but what is the correct spelling? Many Russian speakers feel the need to add the letter ю; this is, unfortunately, incorrect. The accurate spelling of the word is будущий. The reason why many incorporate the extra vowel in this word is because of natural analogy to the similar sounding word следующий (next), where the letter ю is present. Therefore, remember that the vowel ю is not necessary in будущий, yet must be present in следующий.
Let’s look at two examples:
- В следующем году я поеду во Францию.
- Next year, I am going to France.
- В будущем человечество полетит в другие галактики.
- In the future, humans will go to other planets.
In this article, we have covered seven common mistakes that Russian speakers make in their native language. Study these examples and try to remember them so that you don’t make the same mistakes in your conversations, and keep practicing them! I am sure you have found something new and interesting in the article and have improved your Russian. Don’t be shy to write your own examples in the comments below. That’s it for today. See you!