Learn Russian: Russian Made Easy Ep. 18

How To Say I Need in Russian

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Welcome to episode 18. Today’s lessons is in response to an email I got from a listener named Sherri, in Perth, Australia. She writes, “Hi Mark, it’s great how you explained the forms of the word “need” in the course, but it’s still hard for me sometimes to choose the right one. Maybe you could give us more practice in your podcast? Spasibo bolshoe!”

Thanks for writing, Sherri. That’s a common question, which is why I like making these podcasts. They’re a good introduction to Russian for those who are just getting started, but they’re also a great opportunity for me to expand on a lot of the main constructions you learn in Russian Accelerator. Case in point: Practicing with that “I need” construction.

So, we’ll get to that in a minute, but first there are a few new words I’d like us to learn. Repeat this first one. It’s an easy cognate:




I realize you know the word is, but listen to this contextual phrase all the same. The little things we buy while on vacation — things like mugs and magnets for the fridge, and of course postcards — are all considered сувениры

So, in English we call them souvenirs, and in Russian they’re: сувениры

Did you hear that Ы sound at the end of the word this time? That’s their plural ending. The equivalent of our “s” in English. Like souvenir versus souvenirs.

Think, for example, about the word for crepes.


It has that Ы ending because it’s plural.. We’re saying pancakeS.

But back to our new word, how would you say:

I want a souvenir.

Я хочу сувенир.

Let’s try one more new word:


It’s kind of a cognate. But let’s get it from context:

The Mercedes S600 is my favorite машина.

But in the U.S., the best selling машина is the Toyota Camry.

So, a машина is a car.

Ask your friend:

Do you like my car?

Тебе нравится моя машина?

And now say:

I want a car.

Я хочу машину.

Obviously we changed that “ah” ending to an “uu” sound. mashinu

Alright…let those sink into the ever growing Russian language center in your brain and we’ll do some review of the last podcast now.

How would you say:

I don’t speak Spanish.

Я не говорю по-испански.

Try saying:

Jessica doesn’t speak Russian.

Джессика не говорит по-русски.

Ask your friend: You speak English?

Ты говоришь по-английски?

Mom doesn’t work.

Мама не работает

She wants to dance.

Она хочет танцевать

My friend Pavel lives in Moscow.

Мой друг Павел живёт в Москве.

Ask your friend Sasha…

Sasha, want coffee?

Саша, хочешь кофе?

How will he answer:

Ok, I will. (As in: Ok, I’ll have some coffee.)

Хорошо, я буду.

So, in that last phrase, хорошо is a way of agreeing. We translate it as “Okay” or “Sure.” But as I said when we first learned it, this very common word has other uses as well. How do you think it would translate in this phrase. My Russian friend tells me…

Марк, ты хорошо говоришь по-русски.

And I tell him:


So, хорошо also translates as “good” or “well.” As in, You speak Russian well. So tell your Russian friend:

You speak English well.

Ты хорошо говоришь по-английски.

Ok, please repeat the following two word phrase:

мне нужен

And again:

мне нужен

Here it is in context:

Imagine you’re working on your car. You thought you could turn this one bolt with just your fingers, but it’s too tight. So you call out to the friend who’s helping you: “I can’t turn this bolt. Мне нужен that wrench.”

Or, say you’re at a friend’s house and he has Wi-Fi. You’re trying to log in with your iPad, but it’s asking you for the password. So you tell him, “I can’t log on to your Wi-Fi. Мне нужен the password.”

So, мне нужен translates as I need. But literally it means, “To me is needed.” Which makes sense, right? After all, we learned mne nravitsa which literally translates as, “to me is pleasing.”

So try saying, all in Russian, I need a bank.

Мне нужен банк.

How about:

I need a souvenir.

Мне нужен сувенир.

Now let’s learn two more easy cognates that we can use with this construction. Listen and repeat:



One more time:



I bet you understand what those words mean, so let’s jump right to using them. Try saying:

I need a computer.

Мне нужен компьютер.

I need a phone.

Мне нужен телефон.

Now let me stop here for a second. In those phrases we said we needed the following things:

банк, сувенир, компьютер, телефон.

Now, I’ll give you one hundred imaginary rubles if you can tell me what all those words have in common.

The answer? They’re all masculine. That is, they all end with a consonant. And that’s why they all got “мне нужен.”

So, for one thousand imaginary rubles, can you guess how to say:

I need a car.

Hit pause and think about it.


I need a car.

Мне нужна машина.

We need the feminine нужна to rhyme with the femine машина.


Imagine you’re cooking Russian pancakes with caviar…

…but you’re out of caviar. So as you’re racing out of the house, your wife asks you with two words:

Where’re you going? (Literally: You…to where?)

Ты куда?

Tell her:

I need caviar.

Мне нужна икра.

How might you tell your friend:

You need a job. (Literally: To you is needed work.)

Тебе нужна работа.

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

Like today’s lesson, today’s tip is in response to a listener’s email. Matthew Shaw in South Carolina writes, “Hey Mark, thanks for putting together these podcasts. I think I’m ready to get more serious with Russian now, but what do you think…Should I learn to read Russian first, or put that off for a while? That Russian alphabet looks kinda scary to me.”

Hi Matthew. Thanks for writing. That’s a very common question: Do I need to learn to read Russian?

And the answer is, it depends. If all you plan on doing is speaking to people, and having conversations, then no, you don’t need to read. And you can definitely get around Russia or Ukraine on your knowledge of spoken Russian. You can order food, catch taxis, go shopping, and all that. But at some, it really is useful to know how to read Russian. Obviously all signs here are in Russian. But beyond that, learning to read allows you to then write in Russian, too. And to me, that’s the real advantage. Because, as I’ve mentioned, the physical act of writing helps you to learn more deeply.

But you don’t need to learn to read right from the start. After all, think of how long you’d been speaking English as a child, before you ever learned to read. It was many years, actually. That’s why in Russian Accelerator, we make reading optional by writing everything with both Cyrillic — that is, the Russian alphabet — and with English letters, too.

That being said, I do have a course that will teach you to read Russian in just a few days. I’m not kidding. Most members get through the course in about a weekend. And it uses the same very effective technique we’ve been using here to learn words…that is, context. And what’s cool is, the whole way, you’re learning to read real Russian street signs. It’s a really cool course. So if Cyrillic intimidates you, as you said Matthew, please go check it out. It’s called ‘Russian Destroyer’ and it comes free with Russian Accelerator.

Ok, so…back to our new stuff. If you’re feeling tired how would you say:

I need coffee.

Мне нужен кофе.


Where is my phone?

Где мой телефон?

Tell your friend:

I like your car.

Мне нравится твоя машина.

Let’s learn one more new cognate. Listen and repeat..


One more time:


Imagine you’re in a cafe in Kiev. Tell the waitress:

I need the internet.

Мне нужен интернет.

Is there Wi-Fi?

Есть Wi-Fi?

And here’s our last new word of today’s podcast. It’s not a cognate, so listen carefully and repeat:


And again…


Here it is in context. Can you get the meaning?

I’m giving my friend a tour of upper Manhattan. We’re outside a tall building and I point to it, “This is where I used to live. Up on the seventh floor, I had a two bedroom квартира.”

So, квартира is the Russian word for “apartment”…or a flat, I guess, if you’re British.

To me, the word sounds a like the word “quarter” in English. As in, “Someone will show you to your quarters.” Right? your quarters, in English, is your living space. From quarters….we get …kvarteera. It’s pretty close. And I’m not sure, but I bet they’re somehow related. Anyway, try saying:

I need an apartment.

Мне нужна квартира.

Did you remember to use the feminine version, нужна, to rhyme with the feminine квартира? If so, you’re really getting the hang of how Russian works. So let’s try just a few more phrases. Ask your friend…

Is this your apartment?

Это твоя квартира?

Say: No, this isn’t my apartment.

Нет. Это не моя квартира.

Ask your friend:

Is this your computer?

Это твой компьютер?

Say: Yes, it’s mine.

Да, это мой.

Ask your friend if he needs the internet:

Тебе нужен интернет?

Alright. Great job today. I hope you put all these on your flashcards. In the next episode, we’ll learn how to talk about the things we have, and ask other people what they have. I’ll see you then!

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14 responses to “Learn Russian: Russian Made Easy Ep. 18”

  1. Dave Avatar

    About the tip of the day: Do I need to learn to read Russian?
    I have to say that I was terrified by the Cyrillic alfphabet at first, but really, it is not as hard as it looks! Actually, it is really simple. Don’t let it scare you just because it has some crazy letters and others are different than we know in latin.
    And yes, maybe if you are only speaking the language, I think it is a big bonus once you know how to write and read as well.
    It took me a few days to get comfortable with it, but now I can also read some Russian. The Russian writing in latin alphabet I use only sometimes if I am not sure about prunonciation. But really, a new world opened up for me now I can read Russian (not that I understand everything that is says, that’s another thing).

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Привет Дейв!

      I totally agree. It’s easy to learn to read Cyrillic. And I made a fun free course to teach people to read (using real Russian signs).


      Keep up the great work! Hope you’re enjoying the podcast!


  2. Manan Avatar

    Hi mark,your teaching way is very good and very easy to learn a language . Will you make a lesson on (how to book bus tickets at bus station ((bakzal))).or how to talk people to buy a bus ticket in Russian.

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Manan,

      Thanks for writing. I have indeed made in-depth lessons on ordering bus and train tickets.
      Those lessons are part of my online video course called Russian Accelerator.

      Best wishes,

  3. Daiana Avatar

    Let me see if i can handle this, difference between want and need is like any lenguage, where you might want something but not necessarily need it, or viseversa, like a coffee or a taxi. Well hope is right, thankss
    Я люблю уроки ♡

  4. Antonio Avatar

    Dear mark, I’ve been learning Russian for a few months now, but I still don’t know what happens when “I need” is followed by a verb! What do I say whenever that happens? Is this example right: “ya nuzhno idti v banke.”?

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      The SLT = TO ME is necessary
      MNE nado…then the verb infinitive

      Also, it would be simply: v bank (without the ‘yeh’ sound t the end)

    2. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      (My apologies for being so late to answer this. A few posts to this page didn’t register a notification in our system)

      Мне надо спать. = I need to sleep.

      So after надо (need) comes the verb in its infinitive (dictionary) form.

      Мне надо идти на работу. = I need to go to work.

      So yourexample is incorrect: It’s not “я нужно” but “Мне нужно” or (more preferable) Мне надо…TO ME is necessary…

      Again, this is something we cover in great detail in Russian Accelerator, taking advantage of video to more clearly lay out the differences.
      If you’d like, you can check it out here…


  5. Rajat Sharma Avatar

    Very good website to learn Russian. I am now in Astana, Kazakhstan and learning Russian. I am also writing some experiences of learning Russian in my blog. I hope to learn from this website. Regards, Rajat

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Thanks, Rajat!

  6. Emily Avatar

    Hi Mark, I was just wondering if you could explain to me the difference between “тебе” and “тебя”. I am still a little lost on the difference in their meanings, and when to use each, outside of the “I like/you like” construction. Thank-you.

    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      Hi Emily,

      My apologies for being so late to answer this. A few posts to this page didn’t register a notification in our system.

      We use тебе when “you” is the recipient of something. I called you. (you received a phone call)
      I sent you an email.
      I gave you the book.
      I told you the answer.

      All these 9and many other constructions) require the “recipient”you (тебе)

      Тебя on the other hand is the “doing something to you” version.
      I love you.
      I hate you.
      I know you.
      I dont understand you.
      I saw you.

      ..etc These require the “doing something to you” form..Тебя

  7. mahmoud Avatar

    Could you please tell me ,What are the different between …Want & Need..When I Have to use …Я хочу…and when use Мне нужен ?


    1. Mark Thomson Avatar
      Mark Thomson

      (My apologies for being so late to answer this. A few posts to this page didn’t register a notification in our system)
      So…Want vs Need
      I want pizza. = Я хочу пиццу.

      I need an umbrella. = Мне нужен зонт.

      (You may not *need* pizza. You simply want it. And vice versa..You may not want an umbrella, but simply need one.)

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