Learn Russian: Russian Made Easy Ep. 9

How To Ask For Things in Russian

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Exercises Only

Alright, welcome to episode #9. Today we’ll learn how to talk about the things we want. But first, let’s review by asking our friend about what she wants. Ask…

Want coffee?

Хочешь кофе?

How would she ask:

Is there cappuccino?

Есть капучино?

Ask her:

Want pasta?

Хочешь пасту?

How will she ask:

Is there spaghetti?

Есть спагетти?

You thought she didn’t like spaghetti, so ask her:

You want spaghetti?

Ты хочешь спагетти?

Now imagine you’re at your girlfriend’s place. She intends to make dinner for you, so she opens her pantry to show you what your options are. All sorts of pastas and soups and so on. So she asks:

What do you want?

Что ты хочешь?

Pointing to the spaghetti you say:

Я хочу спагетти.

Now listen again:

Я хочу спагетти.

So, Я хочу translates as “I want.”

Let’s practice those two pairs. To make it more concrete, try tapping your chest — I know that sounds silly, but — try tapping your chest as you say this:

I want.

Я хочу

And now gesture to your friend — or gesture as if your friend were across from you — and say:

You want

Ты хочешь

One more time. Tapping your chest…

I want.

Я хочу

Now gesture to your friend:

You want.

Ты хочешь

Great. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, there are lots and lots of food cognates in Russian. And one of the most popular in recent years is clearly sushi. I see sushi restaurants everywhere, now, in Russia and Ukraine. So, try saying: I want sushi.

Я хочу суши.

Let’s add a truly Russian food to our vocabulary. We encountered this word for a moment in episode 7, but didn’t officially learn it. So try saying:


Note the emphasis on that last sound…


In English we call them pancakes, in France they’re called crepes, and in Russian they’re called…


But American pancakes are big and fluffy because they add baking soda to make the batter rise. Crepes and blini are very thin, and they usually roll them or fold them, adding various fillings. My favorite filling, by the way, is red caviar. Anyway, try saying:

I want blini.

Я хочу блины.

Ask your friend: Want blini?

Хочешь блины?

Now let’s add one more very Russian word. Listen and repeat:


So, what is чай? Well, when you pour boiling water over the dried leaves of the tea plant, the resulting drink is called чай.

So, we call the drink “tea” and in Russian it’s чай

There’s a simple PowerPhrase for this one: Imagine someone has served you some very bad smelling tea. Tell him, “I wouldn’t drink this for all the TEA in China.”

Do you hear how the word “чай” is hidden in the word “Chi-na”?

Anyway, ask your friend:

Want tea?

Хочешь чай?

How will she say:

No, thanks. I want coffee.

Нет, спасибо. Я хочу кофе.

Say: I want tea and pancakes.

Я хочу чай и блины.

Until now, we’ve only been adding nouns — mostly foods — into these, I want, or Do you want…constructions. But we can also add verbs. In other words, just as in English, we can ask:

Want to go?

Want to watch?

Want to eat?

…and so on.

So here’s a new verb for us. Listen and repeat:


One more time: кушать

So what does it mean? Well, if you’re thirsty you’d say, “I want to drink.” But if you’re hungry you’d say, “I want to кушать.”

So, кушать is one of the Russian verbs meaning, “to eat”. So, in two words, ask your friend:

Want to eat?

Хочешь кушать?

Or, knowing she’s hungry, ask her:

What do you want to eat?

Что ты хочешь кушать?

Notice how we included the word “you” in the Russian version:

Что ты хочешь кушать?

Imagine you’re mumbling to yourself as you shuffle into the kitchen one morning. Say…

I want to eat.

Я хочу кушать.

Imagine calling out to your roomate, John, while you’re in the kitchen. Ask him…

John, want to eat?

Джон, хочешь кушать?

Some native speakers might’ve added ТЫ there. Listen…

Джон, ты хочешь кушать?

He asks: What is there?

Что есть?

Peering in the fridge, tell him:

There is soup and there is salad.

Есть суп и есть салат.

He says: Ok, I’ll have the soup.

Хорошо. Я буду суп.

V.O. And now, here’s your Tip of the Day from Russian Made Easy…

Do you know what a verb conjugation is? I know, “conjugation” is one of those fancy grammar terms I usually hate, but it’s good to know, at least for today’s tip. So, in English we say: I want…You want…They want….but Steve…wants.

Or….I go, you go, we go, but she….goes.

Why is it “you go” but “she goes”? Because, in English, there’s a different conjugation for he and she.

Well, in Russian there are separate conjugations for each “doer” of the action. If you bear with me here, I’ll russify the English verb “to want” to kinda give you a feel for all six. Listen…do NOT repeat…

I want-ayu

To a friend: You want-ayesh?

He want-ayet

We want-ayem

They want-ayoot

You guys want-aityeh

So, see the two groups? The first group is me, you, and that guy or that girl

The second group is we, you guys, and them

And again, in Russian, each of those six “doers” of the action has its own conjugation. That is, a different ending to the verb. And we’ve learned two of them so far. The two most common:

The “I” form, as in: I want tea.

Я хочу чай.

And the “you” form, as in:

You want pancakes?

Ты хочешь блины?

So, where’s the “tip” in all of this? Well, the absolute worst thing you can do is try to learn all six conjugations at once. And yet, just this morning, I got an email from a frustrated student who is also taking private Russian lessons from a native speaker. The woman is not only making him learn all six conjugations right from the start, she’s chiding him for not having them down…for not having mastered them. That really frustrates me because, yes, native speakers are experts, of course, at speaking Russian. But that does NOT in any way make them experts at teaching it. The fact is, conjugations should be learned gradually. One at a time. Do it that way and they’re no sweat at all.

The last new word for today is a tiny one. Listen…


One more time:


So, it sounds like НЕТ but without the “t” at the end. But that’s really only when the speaker is emphasizing the word. When spoken quickly, in the middle of a sentence, it really sounds simply like:


Listen for it in this short conversation. I’m in my kitchen, and I’m taking some leftover pizza out of the fridge. So, I ask my friend:

Хочешь пиццу?

Нет, спасибо. Я не хочу кушать.

Listen to her answer again:

Нет, спасибо. Я не хочу кушать.

Did you hear “nyeh” or “nee”? Я не хочу кушать?

What she’s saying is, “No, thanks. I don’t want to eat.”

She might’ve phrased it with fewer words. Listen to this version:

Хочешь пиццу?

Нет. Не хочу.

There she’s simply saying: “No. Don’t want.”

In English, we can’t really leave out the word “I” like that. We have to say, “No, I don’t want.” In fact, we also need to add “any”, as in, “No thanks. I don’t want any.”

But in Russian, it’s normal and grammatical to say:

No. Don’t want.

Нет. Не хочу.

This time using the word “I”, say:

I don’t want pizza. I want sushi.

Я не хочу пиццу. Я хочу суши.

In three words, say:

Tanya, want tea?

Таня, хочешь чай?

How will she say:

No thanks. I want coffee.

Нет, спасибо. Я хочу кофе.

How will she ask you:

Want pancakes?

Хочешь блины?

Tell her:

No thanks. I want yogurt.

Нет, спасибо. Я хочу йогурт.

Or, if you’re not hungry, tell her:

No thanks. I don’t want to eat.

Нет, спасибо. Я не хочу кушать.

Imagine you’re in your girlfriend’s pantry as you two decide what to cook for dinner. She holds out a box of pasta. You frown and say…

No, I don’t want pasta. I want soup.

Нет, я не хочу пасту. Я хочу суп.

She then pokes fun at your picky eating habits…

Ты не хочешь пасту, ты не хочешь пиццу, ты не хочешь блины….ты только хочешь суп!

There was a new word in there, did you catch it? только Could you guess the meaning based on what she was saying? To check, please visit RussianMadeEasy.com. You’ll find the answer the transcript of this podcast.

Meanwhile, in the next episode we’re going to have you play the role of interpreter. It’s great practice and you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve learned and can understand. See you then!

ANSWER to today’s mystery word: только = only

..as in: You don’t want pasta, you don’t want pizza, you don’t want pancakes…you only want soup!

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Episode 9 – Full Program

Episode 9 – Exercises Only


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21 responses to “Learn Russian: Russian Made Easy Ep. 9”

  1. Alex Romano Avatar
    Alex Romano

    Mark you are awesome! The best language teacher Ive ever had! I was enjoying your podcast and “Tolka” word curiosity brought me finally here and I wanted to say Thank you! You truly make Russian easy and sweet. Good job!
    Btw the chest tapping while saying Hachu was the best :))

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Большое спасибо, Алекс!
      Thanks so much, Alex! I hope you’ll check out my premier course called RUSSIAN ACCELERATOR. I promise we’ll turn you into a confident conversational speaker of Russian.


  2. Tom Avatar

    Hey Mark,
    Maybe I’m late to the party, but I want to say thank for for making this series. You provide really incredible instruction in not just what you teach but HOW you teach it. They have been very engaging and I feel that what I’ve learned so far has really stuck. I have found it useful to read the transcripts afterwards to develop my reading and memorization as well. Thanks again!

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Привет Томми!

      Thanks for the kind words. So glad you’re enjoying the podcast and no, you’re not late to the party. In fact, just last month I made a huge upgrade to RME, re-recording many of the episodes, adding new native speakers, and most importantly, adding our brand new RME Media Center. Have you seen that yet?
      Anyway, thanks again and I hope you’ll check out my premier online course called Russian Accelerator. I promise, we’ll turn you into a confident, conversational Russian speaker. You can learn more about it here…


      Cheers from Ukraine,

      Mark Thomson
      Pres. Russian Accelerator

  3. Lindsey Avatar

    I’m American, but lived in Kazakhstan for a while and I am about to return to another Russian speaking country in the fall, to Ukraine. I learned a bunch of nouns and phrases while in Kazakhstan, but never sat down to really learn any grammar…as it always scared me. I had a panic attack when you mentioned all the verb conjugates , but breathed a sigh of relief with your approach to make the learning gradual. Thank you!

    When children learn word patterns and vocabulary, there are leveled, predictable books they can read in English. “She has a dog. He has a dog. They are friends…” Is there anything like that in Russian?

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Lindsey,

      There are definitely such graded readers in Russian. I usually recommend books by Успенский
      He has a whole (beloved) series called: Простоквашино КОТ И ПЁС ( Простоквашино = the little village where the dog and cat live) кот = male cat, пёс = male dog

      Here’s one place to find the books (I’d also search on eBay)

      ..which you can then watch the cartoons:
      old Soviet version

      modern version

      Hope this helps!

  4. Clinton Avatar

    Hello Mark!
    Thanks for the mention about learning verb conjugations. That’s one of the things that tripped me up when I tried to learn to speak Russian before. That and grammatical cases. Of course, both are important, but they’re so complex that there’s no way someone can learn them all at once, which is what I tried to do. Oh, and while I’m commenting, something I want to mention about the flashcard method. I’ve found that after I make the flashcard for a word or phrase, I have it down and rarely have to double-check or correct myself. You explain how writing it serves to concrete it into one’s mind. I’ve found that you’re correct. I hope that others taking this course see this and put emphasis on that.
    Thanks again for the course.

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Thanks, Clinton. And yes, always good to remind people of the power of making flashcards. 🙂

  5. Lieve Avatar

    I always remember russian words with memoryhooks. Я Хочу I sneeze (ja chatsoe)
    When you want to order something in Russia you only have to sneeze and than say what you wanted 😆

  6. Mauricio Avatar

    Hello Mark!
    I’ve been using your podcast to learn Russian and so far I love it very much. I have taught myself several languages but Russian has been such a challenge. I see you are a very good teacher with a lot of experience and I have also benefited from your teaching skills because I myself am a teacher too. Mark, my brain is so used to learn languages that I think your podcast (althought it’s great and I love it) is maybe too easy for me. Have you got any ideas to help me learn Russian faster?

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Thanks for the feedback, Alon. The app is indeed due for an upgrade and we will be trying to incorporate all of those new functions.
      Thanks again for the kind words and hope to see you in Russian Accelerator! 🙂



  7. Ryder Avatar

    этот курс действительно помогает мне, спасибо!

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Не за что! 🙂

  8. Aaron Avatar

    Hey Mark, these podcasts have been great. It’s helped me not only with my Russian, but with my polish and Ukrainian as well. I’ve considered myself a memory expert for years, being able to pick up vocabulary at rapid rates, but I’ve picked up a few tips here that I can apply to my other languages.

  9. Sebastian Avatar

    Hey Mark, i want to say thank you, this is a great website and i can see all the effort you put on this to help people, that speaks well of you. I’m actaully a non native english speaker as you might notice. It’s so cool i have the chance to listen to english and some russian simultaniously. Thanks again.

    Could I share your website on facebook on a russian group? Bye

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Sebastian,

      So glad you’re enjoying the podcasts (in both languages!) And please, feel free to share the site with other students o Russian.
      Maybe we’ll see you in my Russian Accelerator course this year!


  10. Снегурочка Avatar

    Hello! I’m having some trouble with the word кушать, apparently it’s old fashioned and Russians use есть. And instead of saying Я голоден they say Я хочу есть, so I’m hungry is less common than I want to eat? Thanks in advance, I’m enjoying these podcasts, you make Russian so easy!

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Mariko,

      Кушать isn’t old-fashioned. It’s the most common form you’ll hear for “to eat.”
      But ***only*** in the sense of “having a meal.”

      Whereas есть is used for the things one wats in general.
      He doesn’t eat pickles.

      …you can only use the verb есть there, not кушать

      But if someone calls during a meal, a Russian is most likely to say,
      We’re eating
      Мы кушаем.

      it’s colloquial…and very common.

      Hope that helps,

    2. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Кушать isn’t old-fashioned. It’s the most common form you’ll hear for “to eat.”
      But ***only*** in the sense of “having a meal.”

      Whereas есть is used for the things one wats in general.
      He doesn’t eat pickles.

      …you can only use the verb есть there, not кушать

      But if someone calls during a meal, a Russian is most likely to say,
      We’re eating
      Мы кушаем.

      it’s colloquial…and very common.

      Hope that helps,

  11. Mike Wanner Avatar
    Mike Wanner

    Greetings. I am enjoying your work. I am sure it took a tremendous effort to create this work and am writing in a spirit of support with the intention of being helpful.

    My challenge with the work is comprehension. I am not able to get the pronunciation
    and i instinctively look at the Russian words which further distract me from what i heard.
    I hear myself constantly saying “what” and then another “what”. The articulation is not connecting for me. I wonder if English pronunciation text would be helpful. It could be a smaller font or a different color. Just something to grab on to so that there is some comprehension. I understand that might be impossible because you are working with many different factors of which i have no knowledge but i wanted to share and wish you well and say thank you.

    Best wishes.


    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Mike,

      We do just that, in fact, in our video based course, Russian Accelerator.
      (That is, using a smaller font with English letters, we sound things out for you.)
      Maybe we’ll see you there?


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