Learn Russian: Russian Made Easy Ep. 29

How To Say They In Russian

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Exercises Only

Привет! And welcome to episode 29 of Russian Made Easy. In today’s podcast we’re going to master the sixth and final verb conjugation in Russian. I mentioned this at the end of the last episode: Did you figure out which one we’re missing?

First start by repeating this word:


One more time:


What does it mean? Well, here’s the set up: You see the neighbors across the street, the Johnsons, pull into their driveway and get out of their minivan. You ask your wife, “Did the Johnson’s take a trip?” And she says…

Да. Они были в Диснейленде.

She said, “Yes, oni were at Disneyland.”

So, они is one of the Russian words for “they.” By now, it’s no surprise that it rhymes with all those other plural forms. Try saying:

You guys, we, they



Nor is it a surprise that они rhymes with the past tense, plural form of the verb. Listen…

They were…

они были…

они были

How would you say:

They wanted pizza.

Они хотели пиццу.

They bought a car.

Они купили машину.

They said hi.

Они сказали Привет.

Try this:

He said, she said, they said

Он сказал, она сказала, они сказали

Try saying:

They gave me a present.

Они дали мне подарок.

So, using они with the past tense is easy. And for the most part, using the present tense is easy, too. Let’s look for the pattern. First say…

I’ll have the pancakes.

Я буду блины.

Now listen as he tells the waitress:

They’ll have pizza.

Они будут пиццу.

So say just:

I’ll have….they’ll have…

Я буду…они будут

How do you say:

I live in Cleveland.

Я живу в Кливленде.

Any guess on how you might say:

They live in Oakland.

Они живут в Окленде..

Now just say:

I live….they live

Я живу…они живут

One more time:

Я живу…они живут


I don’t know.

Я не знаю.

Now try saying:

They don’t know.

Они не знают.

I know….they know.

Я знаю….они знают

One more time:

Я знаю….они знают

So, the plural form in the present tense ends with a “t” sound, and usually you’re just adding it on to the Я form. Let’s try one more:

I work in an office.

Я работаю в офисе.

They work in a store.

Они работают в магазине.

I work, they work

Я работаю…они работают

There are some exceptions to this, which we’ll get to after this Tip of the Day…

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

As I mentioned in the last podcast, we now have learned all six verb forms, and all six grammatical cases. Let’s do a quick run-down, first of the verb forms, using the verb “to know.” Say…

I know.

Я знаю.

Ask your friend:

You don’t know?

Ты не знаешь?

Let’s ask a stranger on the street:

You wouldn’t happen to know where the subway is?

Вы не знаете где метро?

John knows.

Джон знает.

We don’t know.

Мы не знаем.

And today’s form:

They know.

Они знают.

As I said, that’s a huge accomplishment. And really, much more importantly, you’ve learned all six of the grammatical cases in Russian. And now that you know the case endings, just for fun, let’s take a look at some of the fancy names linguists like to use for them. I don’t expect you to memorize these. I just want you to have had some exposure to the terms. Ok, here goes:

Whoever or whatever is doing the action in the Russian sentence is considered to be in the nominative form. So, for example:

John wants beer.

Джон хочет пиво.

John is doing the action, so his name — that word “Джон” is in the nominative form.

Now, which word in the following Russian sentence is in the nominative case?

Мне нравится пицца.

In the Russian sentence you just heard, the word pizza is doing the action, so it’s in the nominative case. Nominative is also basically the dictionary form. When you look up a word in the dictionary, it’s going to be in its nominative case.


When you do something to someone or to something, that thing goes into the accusative case. It’s a bizzarre term, but what can ya do? So..

Я хочу пиццу.

The word Я is the one doing the action, so it’s in the nominative form. And we’re doing something to the pizza, which is why it’s in its accusative form: pizzu.


The recipient of something, like someone who receives a gift or receives a phone call, is in the dative case. Again…what kind of name is that? I would’ve called it the recipient case. But anyway…

I gave the present to John.

Я дал подарок Джону.

John is receiving the gift, so his name has to go into the dative form, which is Johnu.


To represent the idea of being in a particular location, the actual location word has to go into the prepositional case. So…

I live in New York.

Я живу в Нью Йорке.

…we add that “yeh” sound to the end of New York, because that word needs to be in its prepositional form.

Four down, two to go.

Let’s talk about the genitive case now.

Remember how we said that the small words, called prepositions, have a big effect on the words that follow? Well, each little word forces different cases, and one was this. Listen…

У меня есть кошка.

Literally we’re saying: AT me there is a cat.

The word “меня” is actually the genitive form of Я, and it was forced into that by the little word “У”.

And finally, there’s the instrumental case. Think of this as the “with” case, as in:

I want coffee….with milk.

Я хочу кофе с молоком.

To say “with milk” the word moloko has to change to molokom.

Or this: They were talking with Robert.

Они говорили с Робертом.

The word “Robert” has to go into its instrumental form, which is Robertom, with an “om” at the end.

And that’s it. All six grammatical cases in a nutshell. Sorry for covering all this so lightly. I just wanted to do the briefest overview, so that the names of the cases are no longer foreign to you.

So, why was this in the tip of the day? Well, my tip is — as you continue to use Russian and learn Russian beyond this podcast — try to keep these cases in mind. Not the names, so much, as the underlying principle for each one.

For example, if you know that the word for “jam” is a cognate:


…you can then try to speak grammatically if you’re in a cafe trying to order pancakes with jam.

I would say:

Я буду блины с джемом.

If you live in Phoenix, even if you’ve never heard the word “Phoenix” in its prepositional form, you can still try to guess the ending. Try saying…

I live in Phoenix.

Я живу в Финиксе.

Alright, before getting back to our new verb form that we’ve been working with today, please repeat the following new word:


One more time


What is it? Well, the deliciously sweet, yellow substance that bees make is called мёд.

So, мёд is the Russian word for honey. And it’s clearly related to the English word “mead”..m-e-a-d.

Mead is basically an alcoholic honey drink. From mead, you get:


So imagine you’re with your two children in a Russian cafe. Gesturing to your two kids, tell the waitress:

They’ll have the pancakes with honey.

Они будут блины с мёдом.

Did you remember to put the word “honey” into its instrumental form…the “with” form?

Try saying: With honey…

С мёдом

As I mentioned earlier, usually we just add a “t” sound to the end of the Я form, to get the ОНИ form, but not always. Listen to this:

They speak Russian.

Они говорят по-русски.

There’s still a “t” at the end, but listen to the difference:

I speak…they speak

Я говорю…они говорят

If I were to give you a 2nd tip for the day, it would be this: Don’t be afraid to guess. Don’t be afraid to apply the pattern to new situations. Yes, you never know when there’s going to be an exception, but it’s no big deal. A native speaker will understand that you’re applying the general pattern, and will gently correct you. So if you accidentally said:

Они говор…ют?

A native speaker would just correct you and say: Говорят

No big deal.

Try asking:

Do they speak English?

Они говорят по-английски?

And finally, try asking yourself…Do I want to take my Russian to the next level? If you do, then please go check out either of my next two courses: There’s the newly upgraded Russian Accelerator, a video-based course which you’ll use to become fully conversational. Or, if you’re only able to learn through audio, then you’ll love: Russian Made Easy plus.

Those lessons are in podcast format, just like these, but it comes with Lesson Guides, and Fluency Drills and Immersion Audios. You gotta check it out, so head over to RussianMadeEasy dot com. Or just send me an email: mark(at)russianMadeEasy dot com and I’ll send you a link.

Anyway, brace yourself for the final exam coming up in our last podcast, and I’ll see you then.

*Russian Made Easy Plus Information Here

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Episode 29 – Full Program

Episode 29 – Exercises Only


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9 responses to “Learn Russian: Russian Made Easy Ep. 29”

  1. Dave Avatar

    Привет Марк!
    Thanks for explaining the cases in this way. I tried several websites and videos trying to understand but it I thought it was so hard. As you say, it may have been covered slightly, but at least I understand now. I hope 😀
    One more podcast to go and then it is time to sign up for the Accelerator Course.
    Never thought when I started learning Russian a few months ago it would be so much fun. 🙂

    Still, there was this Russian documentary on TV the other day and I tried to understand without subtitles. Could not make much of it except some words here and there so that was a bit dissapointing. But like my Russian friend always tells me when I once again want to go to fast, “take it easy, Russian is difficult even for many native Russians.” I hope Russian Accelerator will help me with that.



    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Привет Дейв!

      Understanding fluently spoken Russian is the hardest aspect of learning the language, so don’t sweat it too much. In RA you’ll get tons of practice listening to multiple native speakers. And we just launched our awesome new Media Center where you can test your listening skills by watching clips which feature the vocab you’ve been learning. It’s a great addition to the course. Looking forward to welcoming you to the RA family… 🙂

  2. Danielle Stanley Avatar
    Danielle Stanley

    Steve drove me home. I was acted upon so wouldn’t “me” be accusative?

    Also: Is the word “mine” possessive or genative? Is “genitive” the same as “possessive”?
    Thanks for your answer.

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Danielle!

      D’oh! Yes, you’re totally right. (face palm) Of course, in English, “Steve drove me home.” The word “me” is in the accusative.
      (As it is in the Russian version, too. Simply, the accus.and the gen forms there are the same…hence my confusion.)
      Thanks for pointing out the obvious. Podcast and texts soon to be updated.

      re: possessive and genitive…Depends on who you ask, I believe.
      These toys belong to my children. They are the children’s toys. (“children’s” is the possessive.)
      That store sells childrens toys. (often spelled without the apostrophe)..and here, “childrens” is the genitive. (because the toys aren’t really belonging to a specific sset of kids)

  3. Alessio M Avatar
    Alessio M

    Great learning method! Anyway if I use the instrumental case on a name and surname, i’d have to use the “OM” ending in both or only for the name? Example: russianmadeeasy с Марком Томрсон?

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Alessio,

      Thanks for writing. So glad you’re enjoying my podcast.
      And yes, you would have to change both the first and last names into the instrumental:
      С Марком Томсоном.

  4. Alistair Avatar

    What a lovely website! Just discovered it now and the material is explained so well. Thank you so much.

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Thanks, Alistair. You just discovered the site and are already on the 29th episode? Phew! You go quickly! 🙂
      I hope you’ll check out Russian Accelerator. It’s my premiere online, video course. I promise, we’ll turn you into a confident, conversational Russian speaker. You can learn more about it here…


  5. Mark Thomson Avatar
    Mark Thomson

    Hi Anne,

    Thanks for the kind words. And actually, I made the typo (genetive) on purpose, to see who’s paying attention.
    Ok…so not true. Missed it in the spellcheck. Thanks again for the heads up. 🙂


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