So, you’ve embarked on the exciting journey that is learning the Russian language! Before you know it, you’ll be able to converse with language partners or locals, travel and communicate independently, or even conclude big business deals—all in Russian. It’s a beautiful and beneficial language to learn (if you need some convincing, read our article about the top 7 reasons to learn Russian!) As important as it is to learn practical things like “How much does it cost?” and “No, thank you” in Russian, without idiomatic expressions, your conversations will be a bit lackluster. Adopt these common Russian idioms and express yourself more like a native speaker would!
8 Russian Idioms to Sprinkle Into Your Conversations
Learning idioms is a great way to get to know another culture. Each language has its own unique sayings and phrases that have specific meanings.
Idioms are not necessarily related to what the actual words themselves mean. For example, a common English idiom would be: it’s raining cats and dogs. Of course, English speakers know that if someone says this, it does not mean that there are literal cats and dogs falling from the sky. Rather, it’s an idiom that means that it is raining very hard.
Knowing some of the most frequently used idioms in the language you are learning can save you a lot of confusion. Here are a few idioms every Russian language learner should know.
How to pronounce it: podkovat’ blokhu
Literally means: To shoe a flea
Don’t confuse this with “to shoo a flea.” This idiom comes from a Russian story about a man who was so talented that he was able to put microscopic horseshoes on a flea. If you’re worried about how hard learning the language might be, give it a try! You may find that you’re quite talented at it.
And, check out the Russian artist Nikolai Aldunin, who actually did it (not just shoes, but a saddle and stirrups, too!)
How to pronounce it: byt’ v svoyey tarelke
Literally means: To be at one’s plate
If you are feeling good or at ease, throwing this idiom into a conversation will impress your Russian friends. The French have a similar expression, used in the negative to mean that someone is uneasy or not well: “être dans son assiette.” Literally, it means “to be in your plate” but its origins have nothing to do with plates. You will feel like a fish in water learning Russian. 😉
How to pronounce it: bez suchka, bez zadorinki
Literally means: Without a knot, without a hitch
This expression, which originates from the language of carpenters, means something that goes perfectly, with no unexpected difficulties. Some equivalent English expressions might be: “to go swimmingly,” “to go off without a hitch,” or even “as clean as a whistle.” Hopefully you can use this idiom to describe your Russian studies!
How to pronounce it: bez trudá ne výtashchish’ i rýbku iz prudá
Literally means: Without effort, you won’t pull a fish out of a pond
While your Russian language learning will be easier with the MosaLingua app and its specially-designed Spaced Repetition System, you’ll still have to put in the effort if you want to get good. This is one of the best Russian idioms to describe the hard work you’ll have to put in to achieve good results, something like “no pain, no gain” in English.
How to pronounce it: veshat’ lapshu na ushi
Literally means: To hang noodles on one’s ears
This is one of many hilarious Russian idioms. It is a slightly stronger way of saying, “You’re pulling my leg.” (Think: “That’s B.S.!”) It seems to be a favorite among some Russian politicians. Before it launched, we had been talking about creating a Russian app for quite some time. This would be an appropriate expression to use if you didn’t think we were actually serious about it. (Check your ears for noodles—see, we weren’t lying!)
How to pronounce it:odna noga zdes’, drugaya tam
Literally means: One foot/leg here, another there
This expression can be both a promise or a command, depending on the circumstances. Essentially, it means very quickly. In English, it would equate to something like, “in a jiffy,” “make it snappy,” or “before you know it.” Use this idiom to tell your friends about how quickly you started speaking Russian with your MosaLingua app!
How to pronounce it: vyprygnut iz shtanov
Literally means: To jump out of one’s pants
While in English, this idiom would usually imply fright, Russians use it when they are overly excited about something. And this expression sums up how we feel about the launch of our MosaLingua Russian app perfectly! (We also just love picturing someone jumping so high for joy that they physically lose their pants!)
How to pronounce it: ni púkha, ni perá
Literally means: Neither fur nor feather
And finally, here’s a sneak peek at the kind of cool content you’ll find in our app! This is a way to wish someone good luck in Russian. Find out how it came about and why people still use it in one of the bonuses you can unlock by learning flashcards with your app. We won’t spoil the answer for you, but here’s a hint: this expression has its origins in hunting… Download the MosaLingua Russian app to find out more.
To master these idioms and more, download the MosaLingua Learn Russian app. Our team worked hard to develop the most useful content, fun bonus items, and even a lesson that will teach you how to read the Cyrillic alphabet in just a few hours. You can also take a look at the online Russian learning resources we’ve compiled. We included e-books, online TV, radio, podcasts, movie recommendations, and more. До скорого!