My Russian teacher recently had us, his students, listen some audio recordings of what he called "authentic everyday communications of Russians." We had to understand the dialogues and briefly describe them in our own words, explaining possible contexts. That was a very hard task because of various slang words and idiomatic expressions as well as a very fast and somewhat indistinct manner of talking in the recorded dialogues.

Quite a few dialogues made me seriously puzzled, and I remember one of them particularly well. Here it is:

X (female voice): Ну что переходим?

Y (male voice): Какой переходим красный же.

X: Ну я имею в виду вообще.

Y: Вообще да.

The dialogue seems to be grossly ungrammatical and to make little sense, yet the pronunciation and the manner of talking left almost no doubt that the interlocutors were native speakers.

Does it look like a natural communication in Russian? If so, how does it make sense in terms of meaning and grammar? And what could be the context?

UPDATE: @YellowSky suggests that my transcript has to be punctuated as follows:

X: Ну что, переходим?

Y: Какой "переходим", красный же.

X: Ну, я имею в виду, вообще.

Y: Вообще — да.

As far as I remember, however, there were no pauses in those phrases whatsoever. That is, the intonation did not appear to imply any punctuation signs.

  • 11
    Your transcript of the dialog badly needs punctuation. A comma after что. The word переходим should be put into quotation marks and a comma after it. A comma after ну, and one more comma after в виду. A long dash "—" between Вообще and да. The dialog is pretty grammatical, pretty natural colloquial spoken Russian. Don't forget that speech units are utterances, not sentences, sentences belong to the language, not to the speech.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jun 26, 2020 at 13:04
  • 9
    Yes, there should be punctuation even if you don't hear it. I am Croat(ian) who knows Russian. Our languages are related and very similar (both are Slavic languages) and I can translate this particular dialogue to Croatian almost word by word. It was difficult to read it without punctuation. And you are right, when we speak it, especially when we speak fast, there are almost no pauses in speech, Croatian and Russian alike. But when you write it down, you shouldn't omit punctuation because it will be difficult to read. It is something you will learn with time.
    – dosvarog
    Jun 26, 2020 at 20:52
  • 4
    I can see how difficult this could be to understand for a non native speaker, but I find the only thing that is strange in this dialogue is that they hesitate about the red light to cross the street Jun 28, 2020 at 19:32
  • 1
    @Mitsuko if someone says a phrase "я имею в виду вообще" - it means that the person is seeking for a confirmation of his/her idea or concept or vision in general. Another typical example would be asking if someone smokes or drinks alcohol - this might have two different answers like "yes I drink alcohol, but not now because I'm driving" - where the person who's asking may clarify the intention of a general attitude towards alcohol rather than offering to drink right now, by saying "ну вообще".
    – magnump0
    Jul 1, 2020 at 20:44

4 Answers 4


You have a very good teacher, Mitsuko, and I'm sure one day you will appreciate what he's doing for you. :)

The dialogue seems to be grossly ungrammatical and to make little sense

It makes perfect sense to a native speaker.

The woman asks whether they shall cross the road (or not).
The man points out that they can't cross now because the light is red.
She then clarifies that she doesn't mean "right at this moment" but "in general".
He replies - yes (we are going to cross this road).

That's the way people talk in their everyday life and they do understand each other with no great difficulty.

As to "ungrammatical" - the only questionable thing I can see here is:

Какой "переходим"

but, well, that's colloquial Russian, that's an "established expression" and you can hardly apply the formal grammatical rules to this register of the language.
(Note: Some people would say "Какое "переходим"" instead).

  • 12
    +1. In fact, when spoken, какой and какое are practically indistinguishable.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jun 26, 2020 at 19:10
  • In an informal conversation in Russian, a word can be even more personified, as in "Кто такой <<берем>> ?" (rougly can be translated as "I don't know this guy named <<we buy it>>", but it is pretty short to say it in Russian)
    – fraxinus
    Jun 27, 2020 at 20:34
  • 2
    @fraxinus never heard such phrase (as a native)
    – RiaD
    Jun 29, 2020 at 9:21
  • 2
    @fraxinus "Кто такой вуглускр?"
    – WhatHiFi
    Jun 29, 2020 at 9:25
  • @WhatHiFi too much for me. What "вуглускр" is? "В углу ххх?"
    – fraxinus
    Jun 29, 2020 at 9:34

It is as grammatical as might be a conversation between two hillbillies mumbling to each other about going for a beer or two. It is also as natural and does make sense. Consider:

X: So, are we crossing?

Y: TF crossing, don't you see it's red?

X: Nah I mean, like, eventually.

Y: Eventually yes.

  • 20
    Come on, it's a very common way to talk conversational Russian. Not only hillbillies, but anyone can talk that way. As for me, the first time I read the dialog I at once imagined the female voice character as a blond girl with silicon lips who's just came out of a hair and nail salon. And, by the way, the dialogue is pretty grammatical, I don't see anything ungrammatical in it. What about you?
    – Yellow Sky
    Jun 26, 2020 at 12:43
  • 10
    "Какой" is nowhere near as emotional as TF. More like: What do you mean "crossing"? It's red, don't you see? Jun 26, 2020 at 13:44
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    @YellowSky What a vivid imagination you have)) Anyway, I find this to be a very typical dialogue, that's a perfect example of a casual conversation. Upvoted the question too. (Silicon lips?)
    – tum_
    Jun 26, 2020 at 15:19
  • 1
    @tum_ silicone, of course
    – Ruslan
    Jun 27, 2020 at 19:19

The dialogue is grammatical from the linguistic point of view: this is how many native speakers do speak. It is however not the prescriptive grammar that one finds in grammar books.

Indeed, this is far from the literary Russian or the Russian that Russians learn in school or speak in an educated society (this is why there is some difficulty in punctuating this dialogue). Such highly redundant and somewhat disordered phrasing is referred to as косноязычие.

To summarize: a non-native Russian speaker must be able to understand such language, but not necessarily use it as an example to follow.


You wrote it with a mistake. It should be какое "переходим". Otherwise it is grammatical:

-- So, we are crossing?

-- What "crossing" [do you mean], don't you see the red light?

-- I mean, in general

-- In general, yes.

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