Friendly Russian: Learning How to Read & Write in Russian

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Chapter 1: Lesson 3

Language and Culture

"Ты" и "Вы"

You need to pay special attention to the difference between “ты” and “Вы”. The first one, “ты,” is the singular informal “you.” Russians use “ты” when speaking to children, members of their family, and close friends. Young people may use “ты” speaking to each other from their first meeting, or may switch to it rather soon after getting acquainted.

The second equivalent of the pronoun “you,” “Вы,” has a dual function. One function is the same as that of “you” plural – to address or refer to more than one person. The other function is to show respect or a distance when speaking to ONE person, for example an adult who is neither your close friend nor a family member. Grammatically, the pronounВыwill always agree with plural form of the verb.

Students always use “Вы” when speaking to their teachers or professors. Students usually address them by their first name and patronymic and almost never use their titles – Doctor or Professor (до́ктор, профе́ссор ) which, if used at all (at formal meetings and conferences, for example) precede the last name only. In grade school, teachers address their students by “ты”, but in high school classes “Вы” may also be used. University students are always addressed as “Вы” by their professors.

Sometimes, adults who are on “Вы” terms (“на Вы“) may decide to switch to “ты” terms (“на ты”). They usually do it by mutual agreement which, if it happens at an evening party is accompanied by drinking ‘Bruderschaft’- “на брудерша́фт”. They fill their glasses with a liquor, link /intertwine/ their arms, and drink, after which they kiss. More often than not it is done between a man and a woman, often in a joking manner.

Дава́йте на "ты"!
Let's (speak, be) on "ты"(terms)!  



  • The pronoun “Я” is never capitalized unless it begins a sentence.
  • Try not to use “OH” or “OHÁ” in reference to a person who is present – it is considered impolite.
  • Bread and salt symbolize hospitalityHome | Site Map | Contact Us | ©2006-2010 The University of North Carolina Charlotte