Suppose you want to ask someone for directions or to attract someone's attention. What is the appropriate way to address this person?

Context:

..., подскажите, как выйти на улицу Чехова?

or

..., вы платок уронили.

In English it would be "mister" or "miss(is)", in French people say "monsieur" or "madame". Is there something like this in Russian?

  • 6
    How about Извините,...? – KCd Jul 16 '12 at 20:25
  • Да, но во во второй ситуации обязательно надо как-то обратиться, например если человек уже отошел и его как-тио надо подозвать. А "мужчина" звучит уж как-то вульгарно. – Olga Jul 16 '12 at 20:28

13 Answers 13

up vote 23 down vote accepted

A boy or girl can be addressed мальчик and девочка.

A person looking between about 14 and 35 could be addressed молодой человек (male) or девушка (female).

A more senior person lacks the proper addressing in the modern language. There are several forms of address of limited use:

  • гражданин / гражданка (used by law enforcement, may also be used by strangers, but this sounds too official)
  • товарищ (widely used in Soviet time but almost obsolete now, though still acceptable. Without adding a surname, only appropriate for males)
  • мужчина / женщина (are only appropriate to draw attention of a complete stranger you're unlikely to ever talk to again, in an urgent case).

    Мужчина, вы кошелёк уронили.

    Женщина, вы не выходите на следующей остановке?

  • уважаемый / уважаемая can be used (somewhat ironically) to make a polite remark to a person violating the norms of behavior:

    Уважаемый, разрешите пройти.

    Уважаемая, уберите тележку.

If in doubt, it would be best to use an impersonal addressing: прошу прощения, извините etc.

A child before about 8 can call an adult дядя / тётя or бабушка / дедушка. The latter are also appropriate for younger people to address senior people, but only if they called them сынок, дочка, внучек or внучка first.

An Orthodox priest, monk or a nun can be addressed батюшка / матушка.

A police officer can be addressed товарищ полицейский, or, if you can read insignia, товарищ with addition of their rank: товарищ сержант, товарищ капитан. Usually, servicemen are very sensitive to rank formalities so use the first if in doubt.

When starting a letter, the recipient can be addressed уважаемый with compulsory addition of their first name (and probably patronymic) if you know it: уважаемый Василий Львович, уважаемая Светлана. Without the name, this addressing would sound derogatory (as in the previous examples).

  • 10
    My feeling is that the usage of молодой человек (male) or девушка (female) exceeds any reasonable age boundaries bordering on бабушка/дедушка ;-) – Alexander Serebrenik Jul 17 '12 at 0:34
  • 1
    About Orthodox monks: you can also address younger of them as сестра \ брат. And that's also the way they address you. – Olga Jul 17 '12 at 12:35
  • 5
    Oh, if somebody addressed me "брат" or "братишь", I would be very much afraid, this is very much like criminals approach people they are likely assault. – Anixx Jul 20 '12 at 12:36
  • 1
    @Anixx: criminals approch that all people who they don't know, as it's the only neutral addressing according to their social rules. Hearing that just means you're going to talk to a criminal, not that they will necessarily attack you. Of course they could, but that's another story. – Quassnoi Jul 20 '12 at 13:37
  • 1
    Нет, только "господин полицейский" или "товарищ милиционер" (в русскоязычных странах, где еще сохранилась милиция, например, на Украине, в Белоруссии). – Anixx Apr 6 '13 at 3:45

I just say "sorry, ..." ("простите / извините") in situations like that. Moreover, it's more or less okay to use "sorry" with people you know but whose names you don't remember (I used to begin most of conversations with my teachers at the university with "sorry").

  • 2
    "Извините, ..." is actually "Excuse me, ..." – Eugene Pankov Jun 30 '14 at 18:32

It is perfectly normal not to address a person at all. Both подскажи́те, как пройти́ на у́лицу Че́хова? and вы урони́ли плато́к are normal.

You can also use

  • граждани́н / гражда́нка,
  • мужчи́на / же́нщина,
  • ма́льчик / де́вочка,
  • де́душка / ба́бушка.

I child may address an adult as дя́дя / тётя.

  • You can use бабушка even if the woman is not a grandmother? – KCd Jul 16 '12 at 20:24
  • @KCd: It's OK if the woman addressed you сынок or внучек first. Also, it's acceptable for small children. – Quassnoi Jul 16 '12 at 21:03
  • 1
    @KCd "бабушка" may mean "old woman", is acceptable. – A-K Jul 17 '12 at 2:27
  • more appropriate to use бабуля/дедуля if it is not yours бабушка or дедушка, but they have to be really old. Better to not address them in such way, they have right to address. – MolbOrg Sep 26 '16 at 2:13

Немного устаревшее, но до сих пор встречающееся сейчас обращение сударь/сударыня. Лучше всего подойдет в форме обращения к официанту:

"Сударь, налейте чашку кофе"

  • 2
    Please provide an English translation: if the question was asked in English, it's polite to answer in the same language. – Aleks G Nov 17 '12 at 15:24
  • 4
    Правильным обращением к официанту будет любезный. – Denis Ibaev Jan 19 '13 at 13:35

There is no such a word as universally polite form of address to an unknown person in modern Russian.

The reason is that such words are used to emphasise a polite distance, a concept being nearly extinct after the Soviet times.

Часто можно окликнуть человека просто словом "извините". Если требуется уточнение, если человек не слышит, или место слишком людное, можно сказать "молодой человек" или "девушка". Но только если они действительно молоды :) Для более старших подойдут "женщина" и "мужчина", в том числе и для людей преклонного возраста. Это никоим образом не будет звучать вульгарно.

  • Для пожилого мужчины вполне нормальным будет обращение "Мужчина, вы уронили платок" или "Извините, мужчина, не подскажете, как пройти на улицу Чехова?" – Jane Apr 3 '13 at 2:20
  • Вообще-то будет, и весьма. – Manjusri Apr 13 '13 at 19:07
  • "Извините, мужчина, не подскажете, как пройти на улицу Чехова?" - word мужчина is useless, there is no need in specifying sex. – MolbOrg Sep 26 '16 at 2:17

What I know usually is the following for referring to unknown persons in the street or in a restaurant:

  • девушка -- young lady, misses (Ms.)
  • молодой человек -- young man, mister but younger ones (18-25 age)
  • госпожа -- lady, Mrs.
  • господин -- older man, Mister (Mr.)
  • официант - официантка -- waiter - waitress in a restaurant (However if the waiter or waitress is young, молодой человек - девушка is more convenient for referring)
  • 1
    госпожа, господин - do not use those words, be safe, do it at home with wife. – MolbOrg Sep 26 '16 at 2:19

Women in post-Soviet countiries are still rather sensitive about their age. Some middle aged ladies here might feel offended when addressed "zhenschina". Sometimes a little bit flattering form of address ("devushka") can do you good. In such a way, you demonstrate that you believe she is still young and looking good. So, use your common sense.

You can use this:

— Не могли бы вы мне подсказать, как пройти на улицу xxx?
— Простите, как пройти на улицу xxx? 

В русском языке мы редко употребляем мисс, мистер (можно сказать, совсем не употребляем).

There’s one more way — none, that is without any special word. Works for me.
Just make your speech self-attractive and addressive.

А не подскажете…

Though initial А above is also an addressing word, it can be omitted.
Seems not very polite maybe? Universal.
(Вам шашечки или ехать?)

The best way to address (not old) male is to say "Молодой человек". For example - "молодОй человЕк, не подскАжите, как пройтИ к кремлЮ?".

Also, you can use "Парень": "пАрень, не подскАжешь, как пройтИ к кремлЮ?". First sentence is a bit more formal.

  • 1
    А что если это бабушка? Как к ней обратиться? – Artemix Jul 2 '14 at 21:16
  • Error: should be "не подскажете, как ..." – Victor Sep 19 '16 at 9:43

You don't have to address a person directly. You can always use an indirect form. Then a good start would be "Извини" or just an appropriate greeting, like "Добрый день".

For example:

  • "Извините, ты вы не подскажЕте, как мне пройти к Павелецкому вокзалу?"

  • "Добрый день, подскажите, пожалуйста, где ближайшая аптека?"

Простите, как пройти ... ?
(touch him/her:)Извините, вы тут ... .

  • 3
    Welcome to Russian SE and thank you for your contributions. I just want you to know that your answer is, well, too short and does not provide any additional informational value regarding the fact there are already many other answers. – shabunc Sep 23 '13 at 16:51

protected by Artemix Jul 2 '14 at 21:15

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