Lesson 009

"To be" in Russian


The verb to be is the basic building block in any language. Today we will learn the Russian verb to be.

To be in Russian is БЫТЬ [byt’].

It is an irregular verb and it changes completely in the Present tense.

Быть in the Present tense is есть [yest’].

Be careful, as it looks and sounds absolutely the same as the infinitive of the verb to eat, but don’t confuse them!

What makes the Russian verb “to be” even more irregular is that Russians do not really use it in the Present tense except for rare cases. Have a look at these examples:

Я студе́нт.I am a student.
[ya stu-dyént]

Ты учи́тель.You are a teacher.
[ty u-cheé-teel’]

Он до́ктор.He is a doctor.
[on dók-tar]

Она́ краси́вая.She is beautiful.
[a-ná kra-sée-va-ya]

Вы до́брые.You are kind (plural).
[vy dób-ry-ye]

Они́ у́мные.They are smart.
[a-née úm-ny-ye]

Russian Pod 101

As you might have noticed, there are no articles in these sentences either. It’s because articles do not exist in the Russian language.

Practice the examples of this lesson with the audio recording.

Congratulations on learning your first Russian verb! Stick with us, and we will help you with your journey to learn Russian! 🙂

For your homework, practice the conjugation of the Russian verb “быть” with examples and audio.

The offline version of this lesson is available here

Start the quiz
  • Question # 1
    Translate to English:
    Он студент.
    • She is a student.
    • He is a student.
    • I am a student.
    • You are a student.
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 2
    Which option is incorrect?
    • Он доктор.
    • Оно доктор.
    • Она доктор.
    • Я доктор.
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 3
    Say it in Russian:
    to be
    • быть
    • вють
    • бютъ
    • быдь
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 4
    Say it in Russian:
    She is an engineer.
    • Она есть инженер.
    • Он есть инженер.
    • Она инженер.
    • Он инженер.
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 5
    Say it in Russian:
    He is a professor
    • Она профессор.
    • Он профессор.
    • Они профессор.
    • Вы профессор.
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 6
    What is "быть" in the Present tense?
    • естъ
    • есть
    • съесть
    • сесть
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 7
    Say it in Russian:
    He is a teacher.
    • Он учи́телъ.
    • Оно учи́тель.
    • Ты учи́телъ.
    • Он учи́тель.
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 8
    Say it in Russian:
    She is beautiful.
    • Оно́ краси́вая.
    • Ана́ краси́вая.
    • Она́ краси́вая.
    • Она́ кроси́вая.
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 9
    Which option is incorrect?
    • Мы студенты.
    • Вы учителя.
    • Они брат.
    • Она профессор.
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)
  • Question # 10
    Translate what you hear
    • They are smart.
    • We are smart.
    • You are kind.
    • We are kind.
    Answered: 0 out of 10
    Correct answers: 0 (0%)

13 comments on “009 – “To be” in Russian”

  1. Svetlana says:

    I’ve tried 2 simple tests on present and past of to be and there mistakes in each of them. The idea is really good though. I just wish you checked it before implementing.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Svetlana,

      Can you please let us know what were the mistakes so we can correct them? We do check our tests and don’t see any mistakes in the tests you mentioned.

      We also have a page where you can report on any mistakes you find on the site so we can make it better. Thank you.

  2. Sachin says:

    The subject and predicate are the only words as displayed/written in Russian.

    My doubt is, from where did the words like ‘am a ‘, ‘are a’, ‘is a’ appear from?

    Are they to be assumed?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Sachin,

      As it is said in the lesson, in most cases we omit the verb быть in the Present tense.

      When you see a structure like “I student” you should understand it as “I am a student” (and other cases by analogue) by default.

  3. викрам пал синг says:

    sorry to say in second example you have used ты in place of вы as you taught us in earlier lesson to use вы for elder person and for boss and teachers etc. but you have used ты. Please explain me if i am wrong.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Викрам,

      Of course, if you are talking to your own teacher, you should use вы. But if your friend (or your brother, dad, uncle and so on) is a teacher, you say ты. Ты учитель.

  4. Bailey says:

    Hi, I was reading the comments above, are you Thai? It’s incredibly impressive that you are teaching Russian in English. I’m trying to learn Russian as my third language and it has been a struggle. Your website has helped fill in a lot of gaps! I have noticed a few spelling errors in the first few lessons so far, I didn’t want to comment on all of them and have you feel like I was picking on you. Like I said I am super impressed! Would you like me to go through and find the mistakes and let you know where they are? There aren’t many.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Bailey,

      No, I’m Russian, the visitors that left the comments were Thai. But thank you anyway. 🙂

      I started this website when I could barely speak English myself, then I re-wrote some of the lessons, but I assume there are still quite a few mistakes. I would greatly appreciate the proofreading indeed. There is actually a form to report on the errors, you can access it via the link right above “We appreciate your support!”. Or you can do it in any convenient for you form and send to valeria at learnrussian101 dot com.

      Thank you 🙂

  5. Tip says:

    Yes u r helping another Thai here!!

  6. Dana says:

    I hate to say this, but exactly in this case using a hyphen is a mistake, because the subject is a pronoun. However, if both subject and predicate are nouns, a hyphen must be used. Compare:

    Эта женщина – известный врач. A hyphen is required.
    Вы студент? A hyphen is absent.

    You can check any puncuation textbooks about that, e.g. http://orthographia.ru/punctum_uk.php?rid=46

    Like it is said in the link I gave above, only in rare cases a hyphen is possible between a pronoun subject and a noun predicate, e.g. to express surprise or in contexts of contraposition.

    Hope that helps!

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Dana,

      In this case what we meant is featuring the pronoun, as it’s described in notes to the rule 1 you mentioned, where the hyphen is possible.

      Anyway thanks for the comment, it’s very useful.

  7. waen says:

    I am a Thai and want to speak Russian. Thank you very much for your good website. (I just found it). I think this is one of the best websites for those who study the Russian as second language. There are only vocabularies and phrases (very good phrases) in most Russian language websites but we, as foriegners don’t know how to pronouce them . The good thing for your website is that I can see the words, phrases and hear them at the same time. Thank you very much. Большой сбасибо.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Waen,

      Thanks for your comment. I love Thailand and I’m glad to be helpful to Thai people.

      Good luck!

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