How to Say Hello in Russian (Informal and Formal)

happy girls plays during Shrovetide
Shrovetide celebration in Russia. JackF / Getty Images

The most common way to say hello in Russian is Здравствуйте (ZDRASTvooytye), but there are more details you need to know in order to navigate all the likely social encounters. 

The most important thing to remember is that the way you say hello in Russian depends on who you are speaking to. Russian has two main registers: formal and informal. To know which greeting to use, you need is to establish if you are in a formal or an informal situation. 

Formal situations include speaking to someone you don’t know or only know a little, as well speaking with people to whom you want to show respect, such as your teachers, officials, people of a higher rank, in-laws, or simply people older than you. Informal register applies to conversations with your friends and family, as well as young children (although on some formal occasions it is appropriate to address children in a formal way, too). 

Informal Conversation Greetings

Russian word: Привет
Pronunciation: preeVYET
Meaning: Hello

Use this word when addressing your friends, family members (unless they are your in-laws), and children. 

Russian word: Здорово
Pronunciation: ZdaROHvah
Meaning: Hey

This is a more familiar greeting, only used among close friends. It can be translated as Hey or Yo!

Formal Conversation Greetings

Russian word: Здравствуйте
Pronunciation: ZDRASTvooytye
Translation: hello, or how do you do?

Здравствуйте is the safest bet when you find yourself in a formal situation. Literally translated as "stay healthy," this formal greeting is appropriate when speaking to acquaintances, people you don’t know, colleagues, older people, or people you respect.

Russian word: Здравствуй
Pronunciation: ZDRASTvooy
Translation: Hello

Be careful to use this expression only with those whom you already address as ты (singular you). This makes it much less formal than Здравствуйте, but more formal than Привет.

Russian word: Доброе утро
Pronunciation: DOBraye OOtra
Translation: Good morning

Доброе утро is used in the same way as you would use good morning in English–with everyone and anyone, in the morning. 

Russian word: Добрый день and Добрый вечер
Pronunciation: DOBry DYEN’ and DOBry VYEcher
Translation: Good afternoon and good evening

Just like Доброе утро, these phrases can be used in any situation, formal or informal.

Other Greetings

Russian word: Как у тебя / у вас дела?
Pronunciation: Kak oo tyeBYA / oo VAS dyeLAH
Translation: How are you?

Once you have gotten past hello, use Как у тебя / у вас дела? to ask How are you? Remember to choose the correct form of "you" (singular у тебя or plural у вас) based on who you are speaking with. 

Russian word: Как дела?
Pronunciation: Kak dyeLAH
Translation: How are things?

Как дела? is a shortened, and very common, alternative to Как у тебя / у вас дела?

Как (вы) поживаете (Kak (vy) pazheeVAyetye) and Как (ты) поживаешь (Kak (ty) pazheeVAyesh) can be used instead of Как дела. This translates literally as how are you living? and means how do you do. As before, remember to choose the correct form of address:

  • Как (вы) поживаете? When speaking to those whom you address as you plural
  • Как (ты) поживаешь? When talking to your friends and family

When someone asks you how you are, the best way to respond is with Хорошо, спасибо, meaning fine, thanks. Another option is to say Нормально, спасибо (narMAL’nah, spaSEEbah) – okay, thanks. This is a more informal variation used among good friends.

Russian word: Хорошо, спасибо
Pronunciation: HaraSHOH, spaSEEbah
Translation: Fine, thanks

You can also use:

Russian word: Прекрасно, спасибо
Pronunciation: pryekRASnah, spaSEEbah
Translation: Great, thank you

Russian word: Неплохо, спасибо
Pronunciation: nyepLOHkha, spaSEEbah
Translation: Not bad, thanks

Saying Goodbye in Russian

Russian word: До свидания
Pronunciation: dah sveeDAHnya
Translation: Goodbye

When it comes to saying goodbye, the well-known До свидания is appropriate for most situations, but you may also opt for a more familiar Пока (paHAH) – bye. Just be careful to only use Пока with people you already address as ты (ty) – you, plural. 

Below are other ways to say goodbye:

Russian word: Мне пора
Pronunciation: mnye paRAH
Translation: I have to go

This expression is usually a precursor to another, more final, greeting. For example, the speaker may say Ну, мне пора, до свидания (NOO, mnye paRAH, da sveeDAnya) – well, I have to go, goodbye

Russian word: Увидимся!
Pronunciation: ooVEEdimsya
Translation: See you soon (used with friends and family)

Russian word: Счастливо
Pronunciation: schastLEEvah
Translation: Happily (literally, but means have a good day or good luck)

Use Счастливо in most situations apart from the very formal ones. 

Russian word: Удачи!
Pronunciation: ooDAchi
Translation: Good luck!

This expression is often preceded by Ну (noo), meaning well. Ну, удачи! therefore translates as well, good luck!

Russian word: Счастливого пути
Pronunciation: shasLEEvava pooTEE
Translation: Have a good trip

Счастливого пути is a variation of Счастливо. It is fine to use it in any formal or informal situation. 

Russian word: Доброй ночи
Pronunciation: DOBray NOOchi
Translation: Good night

Russian word: Спокойной ночи
Pronunciation: spaKOYnay NOOchi
Translation: Good night

Доброй ночи and Спокойной ночи both mean the same thing: good night. Used interchangeably, both expressions are appropriate for formal and informal situations, although Доброй ночи has a slightly more formal register.