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Formal and Informal Manners of Speaking in Russian

By Natalia on April 4, 2015 in Russian Language 101
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It is important to understand that there are two manners of speaking в ру́сском языке́ [in Russian language]: formal and informal.

Formal:

Grammatically, formal simply means using a plural form of the pronoun you – вы to refer to a singular individual.

Semantically, depending on a situation, a formal way of speaking can basically mean три ве́щи [three things]: уваже́ние [respect], ве́жливость [politeness], and расстоя́ние [distance].

You should use a formal manner of speaking in Russian language when:

– you are speaking with strangers, acquaintances, superiors, and people who are much older than you are;
– you want to show respect for someone;
– you want want to distance yourself from others.

Informal:

Grammatically, informal simply means using a singular form of the pronoun you – ты to refer to a singular individual.

Semantically, depending on a situation, an informal way of speaking can basically mean three things: неуваже́ние [disrespect], неве́жливость [impoliteness], and бли́зость [closeness].

You should use an informal manner of speaking in Russian language when:

– you are speaking with your close friends and family members;
– you are speaking with children or with people who are much younger than you are;
– you are speaking with people who insist that you refer to them informally.

Remember that speaking informally to strangers or superiors in Russian language can be interpreted as being rude.

As a child, I was taught to speak my grandparents, uncles, and aunts as well as to other adults using a formal manner of speaking. Мои́ роди́тели [my parents], however, grew up speaking formally not only to their grandparents, aunts, and uncles but also to their parents! I was brought up to refer to my parents informally. Мои́ племя́нники [my nephews], as well as many other children of their age, often refer to other adults, especially family members, using an informal way of speaking.

Now that you know when to use formal and informal manners of speaking в ру́сском языке́ [in Russian language], you can start speaking the language! Watch our video and review the new material with us again:

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