10 Misleading English Phrases To Russians

As well as in the Russian language, in English there’re plenty of phrases that can be quite confusing to the Russian audience. What’s more, if to literally translate them into the Russian language, some of the expressions can become abusing or carry absolutely different sense. The reason for these ambiguities is that it takes some time to get used to these English slang and everyday phrases and to understand them in a right way.

The following blogpost is going to discuss some of the common English phrases, that might easily confuse or mislead the temperamental Russians and will explain how to avoid the misunderstandings.


1. Sit Down! 

“Садись вниз!”/ “Caдись, даун!”

When asking a Russian to sit down, some people might assume that this request means to actually take a sit somewhere downwards, for example on the floor. But that’s not it. In the Russian pronunciation, the word “down” is very close to the term of the Down syndrome. So instead of saying “sit down!”, it’s better to paraphrase it into “would you like to take a seat?”. Otherwise, you might get familiar with the Russian tempremant very soon.

2. Would you like to take a seat?

“Вы бы не хотели бы забрать себе стул?”

Therefore, if you have chosen to offer a seat to Russian in that matter, you should also be careful. Make sure, that after saying that phrase, the seat/chair will still be on it’s place. In Russian, the literally context of “to take a seat” carries the meaning “to take the seat away with you”.

3. How is it going? 

“Как оно ходит?”

If the person you are taking to is Russian and he/she is new to the country, it’s better to ask “how are you?”. When people say “how’s it going?” this can be confusing to Russians, as they literally think something is moving or in transport! They might start turning around.

4. It’s banging! (It’s very cool)

“Что-то стучит!”

Saying to a Russian person that something what he/she has done “is banging” will completely misguide the meaning. Instead of taking a compliment, the Russian will think that someone is banging on the door.

5. I’m off to shop!

“Я отключился в магазин!”

In Russian it means: “I have turned off myself and afterwards I went to the shop.”

In this case it’s better to avoid the slang and use a longer variant. In other way, the provident Russians can start worring about you and initiate the shadowing.

6. “I’m on my phone!”

“Я сижу на своем телефоне!”

Here, the Russians can possibly start thinking than you are an idiot. Simply because the literally translation is that “you are sitting on your mobile device”. Not to make a wrong assumption of yourself, it would be smarter to stay “I’m talking on my phone!”.

7. My phone died

“Мой телефон умер”

In this kind of situation, Russian people can assume that you are an absolute mobile phone addict. They might also wonder about the funerals of your phone to make you look even more silly.

8. Sound, mate! 

“Звук, чувак!”

If you going to say that while having a phone conversation to a Russian, instead of understanding it as if “cool, mate!”, the Russian native speak will believe that there’s something wrong with the phone reception. He/she will probably start shouting into the telephone, “Hello, hello! Can you hear me? It must be my cell phone. I don’t think I have good reception!”

9. To take a shower

“Забирать душ”

When announcing to a Russian that you are going to take a shower, it might become dangerous to your health. Again, the literary meaning is “to take away a shower from someone”. Accordingly, the Russian speaker will assume that you are going to steal one from him/her. In this case, I kindly recommend to use a longer explanation, like “I think I need a shower. Do you mind if I use yours?” .

10. I’m pissing myself! 

“Я хожу в туалет на себя!”

Russians will probably take this one seriously, certainly not in a figurative sense. Therefore, don’t be surprised, if after saying that one, your Russian mate will abruptly move away from you. No-one in it’s right mind would like to stand right behind you.

During my first 2-3 weeks in UK, this was one of the most confusing phrases among all the new slang ones. I remember when someone told me, “Yesterday I was pissing myself over that joke!”, I though to myself that English people must be very open-minded and uninhibited. It took me a while to realise the actual meaning of it and not to feel awkward when someone says it.

“The Russian way of thinking can never be understood by foreigners.” – Popular Wisdom

Also, check some excellent Russian English skills:

In General, the Russian nation is known for not being very good at learning languages. Therefore, up to date more and more of Russians are improving their foreign languages skills, including English. I believe, that English people just need to be more patient and understanding towards this national characteristic. Just give them some time and Russians will be excellent in whatever they do. Likely, there’s a saying about them, “A Russian as if a superman – can try all the spirits on the night out, to crawl home half-alive, then wake up in the morning, have a meal and a cigarette – as if he has not been drinking at all!”

All in all, English people should be careful when communicating with Russians. As it has been proved above, some wrong assumptions and unexcpected scrambles could be made out of nothing. Hopefully, this blogpost will prevent some of the language misunderstandings between two nations.

8 thoughts on “10 Misleading English Phrases To Russians

  1. In the summer of 1990, I was working in western Finland when it was confirmed that I would be travelling to Russia later in August. A Russian lady, who was a representative of the company I’d be working for, told me this, so I tried to tell her in my very rusty Russian how much I was looking forward to this. Her jaw dropped and she looked at me as if I were a simpleton, because instead of using the verb for general motion towards, she later informed me that I’d expressed the desire to *walk* three hundred miles or so to her country 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on wallacerunnymede and commented:
    This is great! I wonder about other forms of English as well. This is UK English; interesting one day to find out about how some Russian people might find slang from other English speaking places. E.g. ‘what’s the craic?’ (Even some people in England struggle with that one).

  3. Hilarious literal translations! I didn’t think much about this before, but now it’s pretty clear to me how a Russian-speaking ELL could find numerous English phrases bizarre. Very good. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s