Understanding Spoken Russian – Learn Russian Ep. 17

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

Welcome to Ep. 17. Glad you tuned in because I think this episode will prove to be instrumental to your success in Russian. Yeah, I know…You’re thinking: Why did he use that particular word, instrumental? You guys are on to me. Hang around and you’ll see. For now, listen as our speaker tells you who he was talking with…

Я говорил…с Владом. / …с Марком. / …с доктором. / с Толиком.

A lot of “Oms” there. You catch that? And that ‘C’ by the way translates as “with”. Anyway, you try it. Say: Mom was talking with Chris.

Мама говорила…с Крисом.

You added that ‘s’ sound before the name, right? S krisom

Say: Mom was talking with Andrei…with William…

Мама говорила с Андреем. Мама говорила с Уильямом.

Now you might be wondering: Wait…Doesn’t ‘talking with someone’ count as doing something to them? Why aren’t we saying: Криса…Андрея…Уильяма

Well, because we’re not talking at them. We’re talking with them. In Russian that makes a big difference. Here’re some more examples…Some female names now…

I’m talking with Karina….with mom…with Nina.

Я говорю…с Кариной. / …с мамой. / …с Ниной. /

Interesting sound there at the end. That ой sound. Let’s do more…

I work with Franklin….with John….with Christina….with Olga.

Я работаю с Франклином. / …с Джоном. / …с Кристиной. / …с Ольгой /

I live with Greg…with a musician….with grandpa…with Yana

Я живу с Грегом. / …с музыкантом. / …с дедушкой. / с Яной. /

So far so good? Now let’s listen to some more complex phrases that use these new forms. See if you can get the gist…

Я говорил с официанткой, и сказал что ты ещё ждёшь омлет.

I was speaking with the waitress, and said that you are still waiting for the omelet.

Я говорила с барменом, и сказала что ты ещё ждёшь вино.

I was speaking with the bartender—lit: barman—and said that you are still waiting for the wine.

Это моя мама и это мой папа. Сегодня я говорил с ними через Скайп.

This is my mom and this is my dad. Today I was talking with them via Skype.

Это моя сестра Сара, и мой брат Эрик. Сегодня я говорила с ними через Фейстайм.

This is my sister Sara, and my brother Erik. Today I was talking with them via Facetime.

с ними…with them One more:

Это мой друг Чарли и моя подруга Настя. Я жила с ними в Лондоне.

This is my friend Charlie, and my female friend Nastya. I was living with them in London.

You try it. Say…I lived with them in Moscow.

Я жил с ними в Москве.

I worked with them in Epicenter.

Я работал с ними в Эпицентре.

Next, let’s listen to our speakers. They’re going to pretend to be my kids. First, Alex will say:

“Mom, Andrei hit me with…”

Then see if you can guess what he was hit with. It’ll be the last word each time.

Мама! Андрей ударил меня…телефоном. / …рюкзаком. / …магнитом / Вини-пухом

Mom, Andrei hit me with a telephone…with a rucksack…with a magnet…with Winnie the Pooh

Same “om” ending we heard earlier. Like: I was talking with John. Я говорил с Джоном.

One more round…

Папа! София ударила меня…книгой / …игрушкой. / …вилкой. /

Dad! Sophia hit me with a book…with a toy…with a fork

Those were all feminine objects…книга игрушка вилка…and they got that ОЙ ending we heard earlier with feminine names. So, what’s going on here?

Well, those endings—OM with masculine nouns and ОЙ with feminine ones—those are “instrument markers.” They tell a Russian person how something was done. If English did this, it would sound like this:

What did Andrei hit you with? – A pillow-om

How’d you open that rusty door? – A crowbar-om

What’d you use to smash the glass? – A hammer-om

What’d you use to wash away the chalk? – SodOI

To bust out another fancy grammar term, words with these endings are in their instrumental form. Or the instrumental case. No need to memorize that, but I wanted to toss it out there.

And when we say who we did something with…that person’s name also goes into its instrumental form. That’s what we were doing at the start of the lesson. In both situations, there’s this idea of “with.” I broke it with a brick. I was talking with Jim.

Try to say: I was working with the manager.

Я работал с менеджером.

I was working with a client.

Я работала с клиентом.

I was playing with grandma.

Я играл с бабушкой

I was playing with Maxim.

Я играла с Максимом.

I was waiting with Vladimir.

Я ждал с Владимиром.

I was waiting with Larrisa.

Я ждала с Ларисой.

This stuff is starting to get pretty advanced, so if you’re hanging in there….that’s really impressive.

So let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. Specifically, the different endings of people’s names that we’ve encountered so far. There’s been a lot. Listen. I wont translate for now.

Это Полина.Это Джон.

Я знаю Полину.Я вижу Джона.

У Полины есть кошка.У Джона есть собака.

Я дал книгу Полине.Я дал журнал Джону.

Я говорил с Полиной.Я играл с Джоном.

In these last ones, a паук is a spider…

Есть паук на Полине. Есть паук на Джоне!

Incredible, isn’t it? All those forms of the same name? And what’s even more incredible is, now you understand them. You understand what each version means, and how it functions. I say incredible, because it’s so foreign to how we think in English. And yet you’re getting it.

Of course, now it’s your turn. I’ll prompt you to say those same phrases. Ready?

This is Polina. This is John. I know Polina. I see John. Polina has a cat. John has a dog.

I gave the book to Polina. I gave the magazine to John. I was talking with Polina.

I was playing with John. There’s a spider on Polina. There’s a spider on John.


Today’s tip is simple, yet challenging. Try to run other names through all the forms that we just covered. And here’s a tip: A lot of names won’t work,especially non-Russian girls names.

Jennifer, Sally, Michele…pretty much any female name that doesn’t end with an ‘a’ sound won’t change. And guy’s names that end, for ex, with an O….Pablo…also wont change. Or an ‘E’ sound, like Harry. But still, give it a try. Start with Darina and James.

In fact, one second…Andrei, иди сюда. Say hi everyone.

ANDREI: Hi, everyone.

How would you say in Russian…This is Yana. Say: I know Yana. Yana has a son. I said to Yana Hi! There’s a spider on Yana!

Ok…now it’s your turn, guys…


Time for our Russian Immersion section.

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What do you think С кем means?

C….translates as ‘with’

кем is ‘who’…(in its instrumental form.)

Ask me: Mark, who were you talking with?

Марк, с кем ты говорил?

Ok…sorry for the interruption. Back to our immersion…

– – –

Чай с лимоном…What does that mean? Tea s lemon-om.


So what’s the basic form of the word lemon? Take your time on that one. It must be just: лимон

But that little word ‘C’…with…forced it into which form? Its instrumental form. If you got that, you’re doing awesome. Ok, one more….

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So, that word кукуруза…What is it? I actually did define it for you way back in Episode 11, but I never tested you on it, so I’m guessing you don’t know what it means. But here’s a really important point…Perhaps the most important thing I can convey to you in this whole course. In language, meaning isn’t all or nothing. What I mean is, It’s not like you either know what the word means or you don’t. That’s not how language works, and that’s not how the brain organizes information.

Tell me. Is кукуруза the word for “fuzzy”? It’s not? I thought you didn’t know what the word meant. Is it the word for ‘winter’? No? How about ‘clock’? How do you know?

You know it’s none of those things because in the last conversation, Mom made tort with kukuruzoi.

So you know it’s some kind of food. And so, you know a whole lot more about kukuruza than “absolutely nothing.” Right? Because meaning is a continuum. From having zero clue what a word might mean, to knowing it so precisely, you could draw a picture of it.

For so many words—even in our native language, okay—meaning is hazy. We kind of know what certain words mean. And not knowing them precisely…it’s no big deal. Can you precisely define the word capitulate? Like, The other side capitulated. I’m not saying it’s not useful to know the definition. Of course it is. But it doesn’t stop us from speaking English, right?

So, what’s кукуруза? I’ll give you a hint: It’s the most important crop in Nebraska. And you usually eat it on the cob.

Here, translate this phrase: Я люблю кукурузу.

I love…..corn.

Want a way to remember the word? You’d have to be cuckoo not to love corn. Maybe that’ll help you remember it.

Alright, you ready for our final exam? As always, there will be words here we haven’t covered. Just try to get the gist.

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Alright…how’d you do? Hopefully you’re still doing great. So keep it up and I’ll see you in the next episode.