Warmth and friendliness might not be the words to describe many Russians at first sight. But, the truth is, knowing how to say “thank you” and “please” in Russian will be much appreciated if you are lost in Saint Petersburg or having a cup of tea near the Red Square in Moscow. It might even reveal to you one of those rare Russian smiles and help you navigate a country where English is not widely spoken.
Now, let’s see how you can break the Siberian ice by learning how to say “thank you” in Russian, as well as essential phrases like “you’re welcome” and “please”.
Say “thank you” in Russian
1. “Thank you” in Russian
Say: Спасибо / SpaSIba
Good old spasiba is the common way to say “thanks” in Russian for both formal and informal situations. The word originates from the phrase “god save you”, from times when a three-day drought would leave you hungry for a month.
If you would like to add a pinch of formality you could say Cпасибо вам, with “вам” being the dative form of the pronoun “вы”. That would be the plural “you” in Russian. Nice little “oh-god-not-the-six-cases-again” easter egg there.
2. “Thank you very much” in Russian
If you would like to highlight your gratitude, “большое спасибо” and “oгромное спасибо” are the equivalent to “thanks a lot” or “thank you very much” in Russian. You might recognize”большое” from the name of Bolshoi Theatre, incidentally meaning “Big Theatre”.
So, the literal translation would be “big thank you” and “huge thank you” correspondingly. “большое спасибо” would be appropriate for most social occasions. However, I wouldn’t shout “oгромное спасибо” easily in a very formal setting.
3. “Thank you” or “I am grateful” in Russian
This is one of my favorite words to say “thank you” in Russian, both phonetically and etymologically. You can trace the roots of “Благодарю” to the word “благо” meaning blessing, or good. As you saw with spasiba, we Orthodox Christians are always hoping that God will courier us a miracle. Maybe not so much after the October Revolution and two World Wars, but still.
Sadly, today you will not hear “Благодарю” thrown around frequently in a friendly environment. However, it is still a nice relic amongst older generations and within formal settings. As far as written communication is concerned, it would definitely be a cordial, good-impression version of “thank you”.
4. “I would like to thank…” in Russian
If you want to thank your mom for receiving an Oscar, the online teaching system for letting you graduate, or generally articulate your gratitude more eloquently, this phrase always does the trick. Note that “Xотел” is for dudes, “хотелa” for gals.
I really don’t want to freak you out with the six cases before we know each other better, but it is something I need to tell you.
If you are refering to an inanimate object of masculine gender, use the accusative case, which will coincide with the nominative case. Meaning don’t change anything.
- I would like to thank the restaurant/university… = Я хотел(a) бы поблагодарить ресторан / университет…
If it is a living person of masculine gender, the accusative case will coincide with the genitive case.
- I would like to thank the director/officer/teacher/friend…= Я хотел(a) бы поблагодарить директора / офицера / учителя / друга…
If it is a person or object of feminine gender, the accusative case would mean that you replace “а” (a) with “у” (u) and “я”(yia) with “ю”(yiu).
- I would like to thank the company/the association/the migration office/my wife…= Я хотел(a) бы поблагодарить компанию / ассоциацию / миграционную службу / жену…
How do you know how to conjugate the six cases and understand which noun is of feminine or masculine gender? It’s a four-ingredient recipe if you’re on a budget, like most of us: Google, study, practice, repeat.
5. “Thank you for your help” in Russian
If you prefer to be specific about what you are thanking someone for in Russian, “cпасибо за” is the golden rule. “Спасибо за” is followed by the accusative case. In this case, it would be pretty easy since “cпасибо за” is usually accompanied by inanimate objects. For example:
- Thank you for your help = Спасибо за помощь
- Thanks for the drink = Спасибо за выпивку
- Thank you for understanding = Спасибо за понимание
- Thanks for the meal = Спасибо за еду
- Thank you for your good wishes = Спасибо за твои пожелания
Alternative ways to say “thank you” in Russian
6. “I am grateful…” in Russian
This is pretty much the exact translation of “I am grateful” in Russian. It can be used on the same occasions, either in informal or formal settings.
Again, ”благодарен” is used by the gentlemen and “благодарна” for the ladies. As in English, you can structure this phrase as “I am grateful to you…” or directly “I am grateful for…”.
To build a sentence with “to”, use the dative case:
- I am grateful to you = Я благодарен/благодарнa тебе (informal you)/ вам (formal or plural you).
- I am grateful to my family = Я благодарен/благодарнa семье.
Instead, a sentence with “for” (за) calls for the accusative case, as with spasiba:
- I am grateful for your guidance = Я благодарен/благодарнa за ваше руководство.
- I am grateful for dessert = Я благодарен/благодарнa за десерт.
7. ”Thanksies” in Russian
If you are a “thanksies” texter like me, “cпасибочки” will become indispensable for you. It is the baby form (or hypocoristic) of informal “thank you” in Russian and can be used to thank somebody, often for a minor favor.
Another similar word would be cпасибки, again used between close friends and family. So, definitely not the go-to choice for an email to a colleague or your professor.
8. “That’s kind of you” in Russian
- Это очень мило / Eta Ochen MIla
- Это очень любезно / Eta Ochen liouBEzna
- Вы очень добры / vi Ochen DObri
Let’s start with “это очень мило”. The phrase centers on the word “мило” which is the adverb for the adjective “милый” meaning “sweet” or “cute”. So, this might be used to thank someone, in particular, following an act of kindness.
“Любезнo”, based on “любезный”, leans towards the words “kind” and “gracious”, so you could use those interchangeably.
On the other hand, “вы очень добры” is the formal Russian equivalent of “you are very kind”. This would be the most appropriate phrase for someone helping with your bags at the supermarket or showing you how to get to the Hermitage.
9. “Regards” in Russian
I always considered “kind regards” as a way to close an email by expressing my respect and somehow my gratitude. If you are writing a Russian email or even an old-style letter, “c уважением” will definitely come in handy. It is useful for business correspondence, requesting a return from Ozon.ru, or when writing to an acquaintance you are not familiar with.
Say “you’re welcome” and “please” in Russian
10. “You’re welcome” or “please” in Russian
“Пожалуйста” is the safest phrase for saying either “you’re welcome” or “please” in Russian.
Let’s consider this story for example. You stop the metro doors from closing before someone narrowly misses their train. The stranger briefly looks at you, exclaiming a hurried “спасибо”. You nod with a smiling “пожалуйста”. Then, in the train, you are crammed together like sardines. You bump into the stranger, automatically saying Извините (IzviNIte, =sorry). They respond with a ничего страшного (nicheVO strAsnava, =it’s ok). The conversation starts to flow, and you guys end up having a coffee together. You leave, thanking them for the coffee спасибо за кофе (spaSIba za kofe).
11. “Not at all” in Russian
You know that sometimes using “you’re welcome” seems too heavy, so you change to “not at all” or “no worries”. The exact same applies to Russian pleasantries, with “нe за что” being a common Russian way of saying “nothing to thank me for”. Here a few situations where you could use it:
- Thank you for the invitation! = Спасибо за приглашение! / SpaSIba za priglaSEnie
Don’t mention it! = Не за что! / Ne za sto
- Thanks for the favor! = Cпасибо за одолжение! / SpaSIba za adalzenyie
- Not at all! = Не за что! / Ne za sto
12. “No problem” or “don’t worry” in Russian
These are also direct translations of “no problem” and “don’t worry” in Russian. They are common phrases you hear when you have to postpone a meeting or, in my case, cancel a Russian lesson.
13. “No worries” in Russian
Say: Пустяки / PustIAki
If you are in a relaxed environment, another informal word for “you’re welcome” would be “πустяки”, often preceded by “да” (=yes, da).
The word is literally translated into “trivialities” or “trifles”, so it can be used instead of “не проблема” or “не волнуйся” amongst friends and close family.
14. “Happy to help” in Russian
If you are looking for something that lies in between the formality of “пожалуйста” and the outgoingness of “πустяки”, then “рад(a) помочь” is a neutral phrase to respond to someone’s gratitude. I find it ideal for occasions when you collaborate with colleagues or classmates at the same hierarchy level as you.
Now that you have become an expert on the different ways to thank and respond to expressions of gratitude in Russian, here are some tips on decorum in Russia!
Good manners and Russian politesse
Salutations and greetings amongst Russians can be quite straightforward and even intense. A strong handshake is usually in order, without breaking eye contact. Though, don’t be surprised if you see good friends hugging while greeting each other. Some Russians might even go for a Slavic version of the French biz, kissing each other on the cheek three times.
Try to keep a neutral emotional state and body language when making new Russian acquaintances. That said, most Russians I have met are very amiable and conversational. However, this is not always the norm. Of course, after a couple of vodkas and a few crazy stories of swimming in a lake when it’s -20 degrees Celcius outside, you will notice Russians warming up towards you.
When invited to someone’s home, buy a small gift or flowers (not even-numbered) if you are a guy. Be prepared for large portions and a great feast for special occasions, so put on your large pants. If you are also a bit familiar with Russian literature, you will see that people who do not know each other use all three names (first name, patronymic, last name). Acquaintances will address each other with their name and patronymic while friends and family are, of course, on a first-name basis.
We have reached the end of this crash-course on Russian etiquette! Impress locals even more by learning common Russian greetings and ways to say hello. If Russian fascinates you and you’d like to take a step further, dive into this list of 40+ resources to learn Russian for every budget and learning method. All the best!