011 – The verb ‘to be’ in Russian

The verb ‘to be’ is the basic building brick in any language. Today we’ll learn the Russian verb ‘to be’.

‘To be’ in Russian is БЫТЬ [byt’].

It’s an irregular verb and changes completely in the Present tense.

БЫТЬ in the Present tense is ЕСТЬ [yest’] (yes, it’s looks and sounds absolutely the same as the verb “to eat”, but don’t confuse them).

What makes the Russian verb “to be” even more irregular is that Russians barely use it in the Present Tense. In oral speech it’s not pronounced at all, and in writing Russians use the hyphen instead of it. Have a look at some 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]

Listen to the audio to hear these example phrases.

For your homework, learn the conjugation of the Russian verb ‘быть’ with examples and audio.

Spotted an error? Let us know please!

5 comments on “011 – The verb ‘to be’ in Russian”

  1. Tip says:

    Yes u r helping another Thai here!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
      Personally, I love Thailand very much and I’m glad to be helpful for Thai people.

      Good luck!

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