Understanding Spoken Russian – Learn Russian Ep. 12

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* NOTE *

All phrases intended for translating/listening practice have been deleted.

Welcome to Episode 12. We’ll review the previous episode a little later. For now let’s jump to today’s new construction.

У меня есть

That’s three separate words. Listen again.

With the help of our speakers and some sound effects, I wonder if you can figure out the meaning.

– – –

(popcorn sounds, microwave ding) Стоп! Стоп! Стоп! Что это?

Я сделала попкорн. Хочешь попробовать?

Хорошо. Попробую (crunch) Ммм! Вкусный! Спасибо.

У меня есть попкорн.

У меня есть кола.

У меня есть is often translated as I have. That’s certainly a good translation, but for us it’s not the best way to think of it. Because what у меня есть literally means is: At me there exists

Take that last word…есть. Again, literally it means “there is” or “there exists.”

For example, let’s say you’re wanting to bake a cake but you’re not sure you have all the ingredients. So you tap the pantry door and ask your roommate: Is there sugar?

Есть сахар?


Is there salt?

Есть соль?


Is there butter?

Есть масло?


У меня есть literally translates as: At me there is, or there exists.

So now it’s your turn. I’ll feed you the things that are “at you.” And notice that feminine nouns don’t change because nothing is being done to them. They are simply “at us.”

The first time through you might not know many of the words, so let’s note this point in the episode. You can then rewind to this spot and try again. Ready?

– – –

File that away for a second. Now let’s do a quick review. Try to say:

– – –

Next I’m going to play for you three brief music clips. None of these singers are destined to become Grammy winners, but that’s okay. They’re each using today’s new phrase. Just listen and try to spot it. I’ll play each one twice…

So, that first one, she said:

У меня есть только ты! Остальное не считается.

At me there is only you. The rest don’t count.

The next one, the proud Papa sang…

А у меня есть дочка, весёлая, смешная.

And at me there is a daughter…happy and funny.

We note, by the way, how those adjectives—happy and funny (весёлая, смешная)—rhyme with дочка. Listen again…

And then we heard this little kid singing about grandma…

У меня есть Бабушка, бабушка родная, бабушка родная, очень молодая

At me there is Grandma…grandma by birth or relation (she means, as opposed to some elderly lady who might just be a family friend)…and “очень молодая” translates as “very young.”

Again, we note how those adjectives родная and молодая rhyme with бабушка.

So, here’s what’s interesting: That little word ‘У’ has a big effect on the words that follow. For example, the word for I is Я. But you put the word ‘У’ in front of it: У меня

The word for ‘you’, when talking with friends or family, is Ты. Again, you put У in front of it: У Тебя.

That little ‘У’ changes the ends of people’s names, too. Listen…

Джордж….У Джорджа

Франк….У Франка

Might as well try to guess these next ones.

What about girl’s names, you ask. Let’s listen…

Светлана…У Светланы

Мама….У Мамы

Катрина….У Катрины

Hey, your turn now:

All those literally translate as, At George, or At Svetlana…meaning that they have something.

Heck, that little word ‘У’ even changes the word ‘who’. Listen…

It changed кто to кого. Literally: At who, or At whom…

So let’s make that the topic of our Russian Immersion section. You’ll be told told who has what.

Then you’ll be asked about it. As always, if you don’t know, just say so. Ready?

– – –

Three more new words I’d like to learn today. большой хороший очень

You probably know them already, but just in case, here they are in context.

My grade school was small, but…мой университет очень большой.

In Jurassic Park, the velociraptors were small, but…Тиранозавр Рекс очень большой.

So, очень большой translates as very big.

If you ask me, Led Zeppelin…очень хорошая группа

Мерседес – очень хорошая машина.

So хороший translates as “good.” Again, you probably already knew those. And there’s certainly no need to actively learn or recall them. You’ll hear them so many times, they will sink in naturally.

But one thing to note: Since очень is what we call an adverb, it never changes its form. Ever. Yay for adverbs!

<<tip of the day>>

You know, one of these days you need to reward yourself for your success. What I did very early on, maybe a month or two into my studies…was learn how to make blini…Russian crepes. It took some practice, but when I finally got it, they were great. Doing that made me feel just a little Russian, and it was a treat to myself for having learned my first few hundred words. A few months later, when I was able to recite a paragraph I’d written abut myself, I took some friends to a Russian cafe…nearly an hour drive away, but still. Those poor waitresses, having to suffer through my recitation. Then, after my first full year, I treated myself again with a two week trip to Russia, to St. Petersburg.

And given that you’ve made it this far and can translate most of what you’re hearing, you’re doing awesome. So reward yourself. If not blini, if not a trip, then maybe just buy something Russian online…a Russian T-shirt or poster or book. You can find tons of cool stuff on eBay. But something. Because you’re doing great and you deserve it. You got that?

<<end tip>>

…but don’t get a matryoshka doll (матрёшка). One of those cheesy nesting dolls that stack smaller and smaller wooden babushkas one inside the other? Don’t get that. There’s not a single Russian person who owns one. Literally.

Иван купил матрёшку.

Боже. Зачем?

Не знаю. Но сейчас, у Ивана есть матрёшка.

Did you catch most of that? Can you translate this time?

Иван купил матрёшку.

Ivan bought a matryoshka…that nesting doll we were just talking about.

Боже. Зачем?

Gosh. What for? (Remember that word from the song in the midterm?)

Не знаю. Но сейчас, у Ивана есть матрёшка.

I don’t know. But now, Ivan has a matryoshka…lit: at Ivan there is a matryoshka.

Anyway, getting back to business…How would you translate this?

– – –

Getting back to our main new phrase of the day—у меня “at me” – isn’t just used to indicate the things we possess, but is also used to describe our mood or situation.

For ex: I have a good mood.

У меня хорошее настроение.

Lit: At me good mood. No need for есть here

Or the opposite: I have a bad mood. Listen…

У меня плохое настроение.

Remember I mentioned that it’s good to watch dubbed cartoons? Well, here’s Buzz in Toy Story, after Woody accuses him of not thinking straight. Listen…

So Woody says: У тебя видно каша в голове.

At you, obviously, kasha in the head. That’s a common Russian phrase: you got porridge in your head. In normal English we’d just say: “You’re not thinking straight.”

And Buzz tells him…

Нет, Woody. У меня впервые ясность в голове.

No, Woody. At me for the first time clarity in my head.

That is: For the first time I’m thinking clearly…

There was no “есть” in those. They were temporary conditions.

A few lines later, Woody encourages Buzz…

У тебя есть крылья. Ты можешь светиться.

You have wings. You can light up.

Woody included есть because Buzz has wings permanently.

Anyway, let’s listen to two more song clips. Again, they’ll be using у меня to describe their mood or situation. And again, no one’s at risk of winning a Grammy here.

So he said: У меня всё окей….At me all okay.

And the other one: А у меня всё хорошо…мне не нужно ничего.

At me all good….I don’t need anything.

Quick break, then back with our final exam…

– – –

For today’s final exam, we’re going to hear what various people have, and each time we’ll hear a version of either хороший or большой. You remember those, right? There’ll be a lot of new cognates here, too. See if you can translate these. You ready?

– – –

Alright, great job, guys. Remember what I said about treating yourself to something. Make that your goal for this week, okay? Meantime, I’ll see you in the next lesson.