My dictionary's translations of "to type" are, unfortunately, quite verbose:

2 (write with typewriter) печа́тать (impf) (на маши́нке) / напеча́тать (pf) (на маши́нке); (write with computer keyboard) набира́ть (impf) на клавиату́ре / набра́ть (pf) на клавиату́ре, набира́ть (impf) на компью́тере / набра́ть (pf) на компью́тере

Frustratingly, Google Translate seems to pick from amongst these almost at random.

What a soup! Do you have any advice for a relative beginner as to which of these verbs to lean towards, and in what contexts? In particular, meanings relevant to learning Russian ("I can almost type a sentence", "I have been learning to type Cyrillic") and programming ("you'd never type it that way", "we don't really need to type fast as programmers") are particularly relevant to my interests.

  • What do you mean by "you'd never type it that way"? Which way? With your back to the keyboard? Or using incorrect spelling? Dec 29, 2021 at 19:54
  • I think Elliot is referring more to how it's entered there — using what symbols/keys.
    – CocoPop
    Dec 29, 2021 at 21:17
  • 2
    I'd add "писать" to "печатать" and "набирать" to make life more difficult. E.g. in the context of typing texts on a computer you "печатаешь статью" when you type in some prepared text, but not composing it for the first time; the latter would be more likely "пишешь статью". "Набирать статью" has even less creative connotation here. A similar situation with programming: you either "пишешь программу/код" as a reference to creative work, or "набираешь" in the case of more mindless kind of activity. At the same time, "печатать" about a program(me)/code is used in the context of printouts.
    – DK.
    Dec 30, 2021 at 23:17

3 Answers 3


Basically, the choice is between печатать and набирать. Набирать refers to large volumes of text and it tends to need a direct object: набирать статью/книгу.

I'd go with печатать as the default because it's more universal and it does not require a direct object:

  • Вася быстро печатает.
  • Я уже почти могу напечатать предложение.
  • Я учусь печатать кириллицей.
  • Нам, программистам, необязательно печатать быстро.

Keep in mind, though, that печатать also means "to print" and you may need to add на клавиатуре or на принтере to specify which.

  • 2
    Excellent answer! I've often wondered about this myself. If I'm not mistaken, набрать is also used for dialing phone numbers, correct?
    – CocoPop
    Dec 29, 2021 at 21:20
  • 2
    @CocoPop That's right. Dial a number = набрать номер. Thanks for your edits! My English has reached a whole new level. :) Dec 29, 2021 at 23:20
  • 1
    You don’t know how happy that makes me, Sergey. There’s always very little to correct! 😉
    – CocoPop
    Dec 29, 2021 at 23:22
  • 1
    I would disagree that набрать is about large volume. For example, the following sentence doesn't strike me as odd at all: Следствие утверждает, что Гробов «от нечего делать, из праздного любопытства» набрал на клавиатуре компьютера команду на подачу в отсек огнегасителя
    – il--ya
    Dec 31, 2021 at 23:11
  • I agree with @il--ya, набирать can be used with any type of text, the most typical expression being набирать текст, and also without any object at all, just google “Как быстро набирать на клавиатуре.”
    – Yellow Sky
    Jan 3, 2022 at 21:52

I second Sergey Slepov's suggestion to lean more towards "печатать", but I would disagree with his suggestion that "набирать refers to large volumes of text".

The difference between "печатать" and "набирать" hearkens back to the days of the printing press. In those days, "печатать" meant "to print" or "to publish", but printing required typesetting - the long, arduous process of putting the text together, letter by letter, which is known as "набирать", and, in the present day, the process of manually transferring text into digital format continues to be called "набирать". Additionally, every precise symbol-by-symbol operation like dialing phone numbers and entering passwords, is also called "набирать".

These days, the first meaning (digitizing large amount of text, like in "набирать статью/книгу") is obsolete for the most part, while the second meaning (entering a number/code) is still in active use. This leaves "печатать" as the preferred translation for "to type", except in some special cases.

  1. to type something using a typewriter:

  2. to type something using a computer keyboard (or other typewriter-like device, e.g. telex)

    2.1 to press the keys

    • печатать/напечатать
      Note that it also means "to create a hard copy", "to print", so add на клавиатуре if it's necessary to avoid ambiguity. All your examples seem to fall into this category:

      • I can almost type a sentence.
        Я почти могу напечатать предложение.
      • I have been learning to type Cyrillic.
        Я учился печатать на кириллице.
      • You'd never type it that way.
        Ты бы никогда так не напечатал это.
      • We don't really need to type fast as programmers.
        На самом деле нам, программистам, не надо печатать быстро.

    2.2 to create a machine representation of a text

    • набирать/набрать (especially for "type up" situation)

      • I will have this report typed up in about five minutes.
        Я наберу этот отчёт минут за пять.
      • You typed a command correctly, but forgot to preface it with sudo.
        Вы правильно набрали команду, но забыли написать перед ней sudo.
    • печатать/напечатать might work as well
      Again, you might need to add на клавиатуре to avoid ambiguity.

      • He slid from the table, approached the keyboard, and typed 'Who are you and where are you?'
        Он соскользнул со стола, подошёл к клавиатуре и напечатал/набрал: "Кто ты и где ты?"
  3. to type something on a device that doesn't have a typewriter-like keyboard

    • набирать/набрать, not печатать/напечатать
      • Then he typed a long SMS to someone, read it carefully, frowned at the screen, and pressed "send".
        Потом он набрал длинную эсэмэску кому-то, нахмурился, глядя на экран, и нажал "отправить".

      • Inside, Anna pushed the door shut and typed on another alphanumeric keypad.
        Зайдя внутрь, Анна захлопнула дверь и набрала что-то на другой буквенно-цифровой панели.

Also note that набирать/набрать requires a direct object, so you might need to add что-то when translating:
She was lying on her bed and typing on her laptop.
Она лежала на кровати и печатала на ноутбуке.
Она лежала на кровати и набирала что-то на ноутбуке.

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