The Many Ways to Say “No” in Russian

August 24th, 2009 by Mark Leave a reply »

Russian word for NoMost of my students don’t seem to have a problem remembering the word for ‘no’ in Russian, but for the sake of consistency, here’s my powerphrase for it:

Is the boss in his office? No, he’s not in yet.

Ok, let’s talk about how to say no in Russian..Politely..

The word for ‘no in Russian, is ‘nyet’. To pronounce it, first say “in yet”, then take away the “ihh” sound. Although it’s obviously imperative to know ‘nyet’, you run the risk of coming across as rude if you simply answer ‘nyet’ to certain questions, offers or requests. (Imagine if a host offers you something to eat. You’d probably decline by saying ‘No, thank you’ and not just ‘No.’) With that in mind, here are some other ways to say ‘No’ in Russian:

To answer politely, the equivalent of ‘No, thank you.’ in English, you’d say ‘Nyet, spahSEEba.’ [As always, the capital letters indicate emphasis.]

To answer sarcastically, or in anger, as in: ‘Thanks, don’t bother!’, a Russian person will say ‘Nyet, nee NAHdah!’

In English, we have quite a few informal ways to say ‘No’, as in: Nope and Nyeah and Nah. In Russian, an informal ‘No’ sounds like ‘nyet’ but without the ‘t’ at the end: ‘Nyeh.’ It’s worth noting that this informal ‘no’ is as common in Russian as it is in English. My girlfriend Dasha and I, for example, hardly ever say ‘nyet’ to each other — in any context — because it’s way too formal. Instead, we use the lighthearted ‘nyeh.’

There’s one more form of ‘No’ worth mentioning: ‘Da nyet’. Since ‘da’ means ‘yes’ in Russian, it appears as if you’d be saying ‘yes no’, but you’re not. Instead, ‘da nyet’ has the feeling of acknowledging something, and yet declining or contradicting it. Here are some examples:

Every time I visit Dasha’s home, her mom immediately offers me something to drink, saying, “You must be thirsty.” I then smile, pat my stomach, and say, “Da nyet, on the way over I drank a whole thing of juice. But thanks.”

If it’s winter, her mom might say, “Let me turn up the heat, you must be cold.” Assuming I’m not cold, I’d reply, “Da nyet, I’m very comfortable.”

It took me a while to get used to saying ‘da nyet’ because, as I mentioned, it seems like you’re saying ‘yes no’, but then I realized that in this phrase, ‘da’ is an acknowlegment. It’s as if the ‘da’ part is saying, “Yes, I see your point, but…”

So, there you have it. The many ways to say ‘no’ in Russian.

Similar Posts:


Leave a Reply