What are the basic words and phrases of politeness in Russian, and their English equivalents (preferably explained in English)?

I know that words, phrases, and occasions for politeness differ among languages, so if there is a phrase appropriate to e.g. both "Thank you" and "I'm sorry" (where I live, drivers raise and clearly wave their hands in a gesture that means either depending on context), I would appreciate an explanation of how the boundary lines are drawn in Russian where they are different from American English boundary lines.

I'm not looking for really obscure information known only to specialists in etiquette, but barring that, I would like as much detail as possible for words/phrases of politeness in dealing with ordinary Russians.

Spaseba, bolshoe spaseba,

1 Answer 1


I'm not absolutely sure about correctness of certain phrases of politeness in English, but I can give some simple examples.

When you ask something, for example, in a ticket booth or a shop, you can say "Будьте добры", "Будьте любезны" or "Пожалуйста", and then - whatever you wanted to be given. You don't even have to say "дайте мне" (give me). You can put that either in the beginning of sentence or in the end, doesn't matter much. For example, "Будьте добры, 2 билета на спектакль." "Билет на две поездки, пожалуйста/будьте добры/будьте любезны". Those are the equivalents of "Please".

Words of gratitude: "Спасибо" "Благодарю" "Благодарю вас". "Спасибо большое" can be used, but I rarely use it, it just feels too strong.

You're welcome: "Пожалуйста" "Не за что"

If you accidentally pushed someone: "Извините" "Простите" "Прошу прощения" "Простите, ради Бога" (this can be useful if a person fell because of you and you help them get up, a stronger form of being sorry).

If you stop somebody in the street to ask for directions, first word: "Извините" "Простите" "Прошу прощения"

The equivalent of "could you please..." : "Не могли бы вы...?" For example: "Не могли бы вы показать мне этот аппарат, пожалуйста?" ("Could you please show me this device?")

There might be more. You can write in the comments if you want me to add something.

  • 2
    Если кто-то стои́т у вас на пути или заблокировал выход: "Разрешите пройти", "Пропустите пожалуйста".
    – Eugene
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 10:25

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