Lesson 153

Need, have to, must, should in Russian


In the previous lesson we have learned the Russian words можно and нельзя. This words express weither something is possible or allowed (or not). Today we’ll learn how to say that one “need”, “has to”, “must” or “should” do something.

Надо / нужно

Both words надо and нужно are used to express that something must be done or one needs to do or to have something. In general, there is no big difference between these two words, in most cases they are interchangeable. Some Russian speakers might feel or think that надо is a bit more strict than нужно, but since a lot depends on the intonation it’s not always the case.


На́до хорошо́ учи́ться.
It’s necessary to study well.

Цветы́ ну́жно полива́ть два ра́за в неде́лю.
Flowers need to be watered twice a week.

To say WHO needs or has to do something, use the Dative case (highlighted).

Нам на́до идти́.
Нам ну́жно идти́.
We have to go.

Па́пе на́до подстри́чься.
Па́пе ну́жно подстри́чься.
Dad needs a haircut.

Что тебе́ на́до?
Что тебе́ ну́жно?
What do you need?

Russian Pod 101

For more information about the personal pronouns in the Dative case refer to this lesson.

When нужно is followed by a noun or pronoun, it agrees in the gender and number with the item that’s needed as follows:

ну́жен – masculine
нужна́ – feminine
ну́жно – neuter
нужны́ – plural


Мне ну́жны но́вые ту́фли, э́ти совсе́м износи́лись.
I need new shoes, these one are totally worn out. (plural)

Тебе́ нужна́ э́та ру́чка?
Do you need this pen? (feminine)

Нам ну́жен 43-й авто́бус.
We need the bus #43. (masculine)

With negation:

Тебе́ не ну́жно приходи́ть.
You don’t have / don’t need to come.

Не на́до спо́рить.
Don’t argue. (No need to argue.)


Должен can express an obligation (have to, must) or expectation (should, expected, supposed). It agrees in gender and number with the subject as follows:

до́лжен – masculine
должна́ – feminine
должно́ – neuter
должны́ – plural


Ты до́лжен извини́ться.
You have to apologize. (obligation, masculine)

Я должна́ там быть в семь у́тра.
I have to be there at 7 am. (obligation, feminine)

Они́ должны́ ско́ро прийти́.
They should come soon. (expectation, plural)

В э́тот раз всё должно́ срабо́тать.
This time everything should work. (expectation, neuter)

With negation:

Должен with negation (не должен) can be translated as “don’t have to” or “should not” depending on the context. For example:

Ты не должна́ э́того де́лать.
You don’t have to do that. / You should not do that.

Он не до́лжен здесь находи́ться.
He does not have to be here. / He is not supposed to be here (should not be here).


Пора is used to say that it’s time to do something. Actually, it’s a shortened version of пришла пора (the time has come), but it mostly used as just пора. Use it with the Dative case as in the previous examples:

Пришла́ пора́ подводи́ть ито́ги.
The time has come to summarize (to look at the results).

Нам пора́ уходи́ть.
It’s time for us to go. (We should be leaving now.)

Тебе́ пора́ на рабо́ту.
It’s time for you to go to work. (You should go to work now.)

That’s it for this lesson. Practice the lesson examples with the audio track and try yourself in the exercises below.


Fill up the blanks with the words of today’s lesson in appropriate form:

  1. Всё … быть хорошо́.
    Everything should be ok.
  2. Не … повыша́ть го́лос.
    There is no need to raise your tone.
  3. Вы … успоко́иться.
    You should calm down. (formal)
  4. … не … в шко́лу?
    Isn’t it time for you to go to school?
  5. Ната́ша … прийти́ сего́дня к 11-ти.
    Natasha is supposed to come today around 11 am.
  6. … проща́ться.
    The time has come to say goodbye.
  7. Ско́лько вре́мени …?
    How much time do you need?
  8. Ты … держа́ть меня́ в ку́рсе обо всём.
    You have to keep me posted about everything.
Check the answers

1. должно
2. надо/нужно
3. должны
4. Тебе … пора
5. должна
6. Пришла пора
7. тебе нужно/надо
8. должен

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