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I have seen two words for "car" in Russian: "машина" and "автомобиль" or "авто". Which is most common?

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up vote 29 down vote accepted

The word most common in speech is Машина.

Автомобиль is the "right word", but it's long and unpopular. Авто (unlike, say, its German counterpart) is not a "real word" on its own, but rather a spoken short form of Автомобиль, or just a prefix. It has its usage (say, in magazines), but generally it's far behind Машина.

There are also slanguish variants, of course. The most popular are Тачка (and its derivatives тачила, точилка etc.) and Колёса (cf. "Wheels").

BTW. In XIX century speech Машина mostly denoted "Train". I bet, in the future when we won't have "cars" anymore, the word Машина will still be in use, meaning some kind of small spaceship and such.

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I highly appreciate the elaboration on this. Background information and relations/links that I could not find in my slovar (book). – Ева Jan 20 at 10:26
    
So the latter form is essentially equivalent to the English "automobile", with the same connotation in regards to usage of "auto" on its own? – JAB Jan 20 at 18:23
    
@JAB Yes, I think so. – Matt Jan 20 at 20:07
    
At least in my growing up, I always heard "Тачка" in more of a negative context (although it might have been idiosyncratic to my family). Can someone confirm or refute? – hexafraction Jan 20 at 21:49
3  
Колёса is more commonly used to mean drugs in form of pills, because how they resemble wheel in shape. – user1306322 Jan 20 at 22:40

I would say that "машина" is the only correct version. "автомобиль" is completely dated and today is only used for affectation or humorous effect, while "тачка" and "мотор" is pure slang and could never be used formally.

Lots of terms related to cars though are formed with a prefixoid АВТО - such as "автостоянка" (car park); "автозаправка" (petrol station); "автосервис" (car repair) etc., etc. Note (in it's turn dated, but widely used in the 60s-80s) "автолюбитель" - literally "car lover" or "car connoisseur", which meant simply a car owner - at a time, when car owners were few and far between.

Don't forget that "машина" also translates as "machine", such as "стиральная машина" (washing machine), "посудомоечная машина" (dish washer) and so forth, as well as "машина времени" (time machine (as in science fiction); "государственная машина" (machinery of government), ect.

Hope it helps.

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Thanks for the feed back. It is highly appreciated. I have only used "машина" so far but I needed to check what you that have more knowledge consider being the norm. Checking the slovar and the text book does not always mirror the real life. Thanks once again! – Ева Jan 20 at 18:53

Машина is the most common word. The word Автомобиль is the official way of saying it. So if you would like to use it in informal conversation: use the word машина.

The word Тачкаis used in jargon informal language that you might use with your close friends. Or not use at all. I wouldn't find the person who uses that word very attractive. So be careful

The word Колеса sounds like wheels and you should it use as often as you use this word in English. I can't say for sure but I pretty sure it's quite rare use of this word. It's fine to use these unless it has car contexts. Колеса might also mean drugs to russian teenager's jargon unless you use the drug contexts, they might use this word in 15-20% so not that usual thing though.

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official: автомобиль, автомашина, автотранспортное средство. [typically can be легковые and грузовые].

slang: жоповозка (a regular car), карета (a good car), ведро (a bad car), гроб (a very bed car), дизель (a diesel drive based car), джип (a 4WD enabled car), корыто (an old car), тазик (an AutoVAZ labeled car), лошадка (a working car), старушка (a beloved car), целка (a new car, or never used/crashed car), металлолом (a crashed car), дыра (a non economic car), помойка (a cheap, very second-hand car), кредитомобиль (a Ford Focus car), пиздовоз(ка) (a car with mostly girls inside), телега (a farm car), и т. д.

also distingushed by model, limited examples only: альмерочка, альмероид (Nissan Almera), [автомобиль] какашкой (Nissan Quashqai), калека (Reno Kaleos), мерин (a Mercedes Benze labeled car), чпокус (Ford Focus), газенваген (a Voltzwagen car), и т.д.

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"пиздовоз(ка)". What does "пизда" mean in this context? – Ева Jan 21 at 11:11
    
@Ева: пизда is an obscene word meaning "cunt, twat". – Quassnoi Jan 21 at 19:00
    
I have heard that word when I watched clips involving car crashes but in those situations men called each other that word. – Ева Jan 21 at 21:12
    
@Ева: it's an obscene word, it has quite a number of uses. Particularly, dat. + пизда means "to be fucked, to be in serious trouble". – Quassnoi Jan 23 at 10:26

Автомобиль is the "right word", but it's rarely used by the younger generation

Машина is used fairly often

Тачка is more like slang (like "a ride" in english)and people use this often

You decide, anyone is okay.

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protected by Quassnoi Jan 21 at 10:47

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