Do you know the feeling when some weird Russian phrases are just beyond you? I mean, they sound alright when you first learn them, but once you find out what they literally mean, you start tearing your hair out.


Let's look at five linguistic gems of the Russian language, which are brilliantly ridiculous, extremely common and easy to remember.


Да нет


The most famous of the weird Russian phrases is probably Да нет, which literally translates as “yes no” and is used to express soft rejection or disagreement, comparable to “not really”.


It sounds totally unbearable, but, as a matter of fact, it's not that crazy. Да in Russian, apart from “yes”, is also a filler word, which goes at the beginning of a phrase and doesn't actually mean anything. One example is Да ты с ума сошёл! (“You've gone mad!”). You can simply omit Да, but with it the sentence sounds really natural.


An important thing is, when it comes to pronunciation, filler Да is unstressed and always reduced to [də]. Да нет [də net].


The phrase Да нет may be expanded to Да нет, наверное [da net navérna] (“Yes no maybe”)--a phrase that makes Russian learners groan.




  • Я думаю сходить в кино сегодня вечером. Пойдёшь со мной?
  • Да нет, наверное, cпасибо. Я что-то плохо себя чувствую.


  • “I‘m thinking of going to the cinema today. Would you like to come with me?”
  • No, not really, thanks. I'm not feeling well.”


Когда как


In English you can easily say “It depends” and not give any details on it (like, “it depends on…”).


In Russian you can't just say Это зависит and put the full stop. It's got to be: Это зависит от того, во сколько я уйду с работы (“It depends on when I leave work”) or Это зависит от настроения (“It depends on my mood”). Which are very long, clumsy and tricky phrases.


But there's another phrase in Russian, which you can use instead: Когда как ([kəgda kak])-- it literally means “When how?”.



  • Тебе нравятся комедии или мелодрамы?
  • Когда как. Иногда я хочу улучшить настроение и смотрю комедии, а иногда можно и поплакать.


  • “Do you prefer comedies or dramas?”
  • It depends. Sometimes I want to improve my mood and then I watch comedies, and sometimes I don't mind crying a little.”





Do you know what to reply to Как дела? (“How are you?”). Of course you do. You may say Хорошо [harashó] (“I'm fine”) or Нормально [narmal’na] (“I'm okay”) if you're happy. If you want some sympathy you may say Не очень [ni ochin’] (“Not very well”) if you.


Here's another phrase for you--Ничего [nichivó] (“Not bad”). It literally means “Nothing” and is probably short for “Nothing special” (Ничего особенного).




  • Привет! Ты как?
  • Ничего. А ты?


  • Hey! How are you?
  • Not bad. You?


Да ладно!


When something that your friend is telling you sounds impossible, you may exclaim Да ладно! [da ládna] to show either your sincere surprise (“No way!”) or distrust (“Yeah, right…”).  




  • Ты знала, что Маша и Валя встречаются?
  • Да ладно?!


  • “Did you know that Masha and Valya are going out?”
  • No way!”  


The intonation of the phrase is very important. So note the use of the phrase and its intonation in this video and practice saying Да ладно!:


An interesting thing about this phrase is that ладно literally means “good” or “okay”. You'll hear it in a conversation a lot.




  • Ладно, мне пора (“Ok, I have to go”)
  • Купи сахар, ладно? (“You'll buy some sugar, won't you?”)




Now for curse words.


Блин! is a common Russian curse word, which is translated as… “Pancake”! Soft and nice as its literal meaning, it's not usually considered to be rude. Personally I use it a lot. Almost as often as Ой!. Not in a formal situation, though. Блин! is used to show a range of emotions: annoyance, disappointment, surprise, etc.


It is considered to be a euphemism for another word that starts the same, a totally abusive one. But it is very unclear why a pancake was chosen to replace it.




  • Ты помнишь, что у Макса сегодня день рождения?
  • Блин, забыла…


  • “Do you remember it's Max's birthday today?”
  • Oh no, I forgot…”


Watch this video to find out how Блин is pronounced.


Well, that's all the weird Russian phrases for now, folks. Enjoy your learning!/


Coming soon:


  • Да ладно! (another meaning)
  • А что?


...and more.


Image Sources


Hero image by Koshy Koshy (CC BY 2.0)