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As far as I understand, both of these mean more or less the same thing. Rosetta Stone, that introduced me to the Russian language seems to prefer здравствуйте, but it seems привет is more commonly used in day to day speech.

Is здравствуйте just more formal, or is there something more subtle going on?

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Здравствуйте is a more formal version of привет, roughly equivalent to hello vs. hi in English, or bonjour vs. salut in French.

You should definitely use здравствуйте with strangers.

Especially when one is in a hurry, здравствуйте may be substituted with the shortened здрасте, but that may sound a bit colloquial and present some unwanted undertones.

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  • 3
    What about здравствуй? – Alenanno Jun 15 '12 at 13:55
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    @Alenanno, singular is a familiar form of address. If you want to be polite, the default for addressing a stranger should be plural. – Dima Jun 15 '12 at 21:35
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    @Dima Yeah, you're right, I remember it now. :D – Alenanno Jun 16 '12 at 0:29
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    "здравствуй" could also be used to politely greet a child who's a stranger to you – Eugene O Jun 3 '15 at 1:53
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It depends on your relationship and the context in which it is said.

"Здравствуйте" is fairly formal and "привет" is informal. With strangers and superiors "здравствуйте" is vastly preferred, while "привет" is mostly reserved for friends, family and close acquaintances. If you address a friend who is surrounded by people who should be using "здравствуйте" with him, it can be good to use the slightly less formal "здравствуй", if you want to be cordial but not to undermine their authority.

These aren’t the only two ways (or three, if you count "здравствуй") to greet somebody. "Доброе утро", "добрый день", "добрый вечер" are useful for greeting people you see on a regular basis but aren’t particularly close to, such as colleagues.

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12

Whenever you're talking with your peer, you would almost always say "привет".

If there is a bunch of people, in a room, amongst which are those older than you (and your friends), you would say "здравствуйте"

Привет is definitely less formal.

In general, I would say that a lot depends on age of the person you're talking to. Привет is more friendly, здравствуйте is more formal

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Использование "привет" абсолютно неадекватно при обращении к незнакомому человеку или к человеку с сильно отличающемся статусом. Но иностранцу это простят.

Форма "здрасте" - это сокращение от "здравствуйте", её используют подростки, малограмотные люди, или просто в неформальной среде, я давно не слышал этого приветствия, сейчас все говорят "привет".

Насчёт использования "ты". Эту форму стоит использовать только в общении с членами семьи и очень близкими друзьями. Есть многие, кто не придерживается этого правила, но они могут восприниматься как хамы или высокомерные люди.

разница между "здраствуйте" и "здраствуй": "здраствуй" подразумевает "ты" - ты - здраствуй, соответсвенно это редкая форма приветсвия, так как это комбинация формального приветствия с неформальным обращением на "ты", а в случае обращение к незнакомому ещё и хамским.

"здраствуйте" подразумевает обращение на "вы".

Вообще, интересно отметить что использование повсеместно "ты" в русском языке, особенно в интернете, пошло от ошибочного мнения что в англиском языке нету "вы" и там все общаются друг с другом на "ты" - "you". Что конечно же ошибочно. Так как как раз имеет место прямо противоположная ситуация. Но в обществе где учителя обращаются к детям на "ты", им сложно объяснять что в английском "you" это на самом деле аналог "вы", а не "ты" - множественное число ("You majesty", "How are you?"). Поэтому обычно учитиля англиского языка в обычных школах переводят "you" как "ты". После чего те приходят в интернет и им кажется что в англиском все друг к другу неформальны, это в результате проникает и в обычный язык. Все айтишники поголовно используют ты в общении, в результате.

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  • I'd rather say not малограмотные but "не идеально воспитанные" ))) – shabunc Nov 6 '12 at 7:26
  • If someone politely suggested, "Можно на ты?" ("Давайте на ты?") and the other accepted, that wouldn't automatically make both parties close friends or relatives. And yet you wouldn't think of them as хамы or высокомерные люди, would you. – Andriy M Nov 25 '12 at 4:10
  • @AndriyM Never in my life has anyone in a professional context suggested we should switch to "ты", I would only use it to address my colleagues which also were my friends outside of work. – Dmitry Grigoryev Nov 15 '16 at 16:30
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Phillip is correct, though здрасте is said to sound a little too informal or "cool". A safer shortened form of Здравствуйте is Здравствуй (with a "vee" sound at the end).

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    Здравствуй is usually used to address a person you already know, in which case you would use ты. Здравствуйте is both a polite form and a plural form of здравствуй. – Alexey Ivanov Jun 13 '12 at 21:05
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    As far as I understand, здравствуй is an imperative singular, while здравствуйте is in the plural, so their relation is similar to, e.g., садись / садитесь. – Giorgio Jun 17 '12 at 8:45
  • There is no "vee" sount in the end. – Anixx Nov 30 '12 at 0:13
  • Yes, there is a v sound for Здравствуй (not for здрасте). – Derek Morrison Dec 1 '12 at 20:57
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"Привет" is the less formal version, kind of like "hi," in English, used mainly between close friends.

"здравствуйте" is more formal, more like "hello," and used for everyone else.

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Simply colloquial vs. formal, BUT:

Try to use these:

Приветствую! (I've just been introduced to you, but I'd like to show that I'm a nice and merry guy!)

Здравствуй! (Actually, we know each other, and you're like no more than 20 years older than me, but who ever cares? Just Здравствуй!)

И Вам доброго здравия! (You greeted me in a very unusual way? So, I will try to do the same by saying this one! And I see you're already smiling back!)

Желаю здравствовать! (I'm an aristocratic man from the 19th century in my 20s/30s and I'd like to greet you, dear lady. So I Желаю здравствовать!)

Почитаю приятным долгом засвидетельствовать Вам моё почтение. (Same as the previous one but much much much more obsolete).

Рад(-а) Вас (тебя) видеть! (I'm amazingly glad to see you, and I haven't seen you for so long).

Да мы тыщу лет не виделись! (Hey, my friend! Like a few infinities have passed by since last time we've met! Forget about everything you have to do, let's go and drink some coffee and chat!)

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"Привет" is a short form for "Приветствую" and means "Greeting!". For example:

Здравствуй - это не только форма приветствия, но и прощания.

"Здравствуйте" is a formal wish for health expressed in the imperative mood, so it could be not the best way to greet a terminally ill or a disabled person. It can be also used for leave-taking, but it is not so common.

"Здравствуй" can be used to greet a person of the same level and age (someone you would address as "ты"), expecting good relations. "Здравствуйте" can be used for group greetings (many people you'd address as "вы") or for person you reverence (someone you would politely and formally address as "Вы") There are short forms for "здравствуй": "здорово", "здоров", "здрав будешь", "здоровеньки" etc.

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  • "Здравствуй" is never used as "Goodbye" in modern Russian. Also, there's nothing wrong with greeting disabled or ill people. – Dmitry Grigoryev Nov 15 '16 at 16:27

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