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.

Further in our lessons we’ll have more information about the Russian verbs.

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

  1. 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 🙂

  2. Tip says:

    Yes u r helping another Thai here!!

  3. 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.

  4. 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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