“To have” (“иметь”) and “to be” (“быть”) – (Russian-RU)

NOTE: Look out for a post on the Cyrillic alphabet and transliteration. It’s easy to get accustomed to reading Russian in the Latin alphabet, which I don’t recommend as it can make it hard to then move onto Cyrillic! If need be, write in Latin alphabet alongside your Cyrillic, but always try to read and write in Cyrillic and it will get easier, I promise! I won’t be transliterating in my Russian posts, but you can always try it for yourself for practice as you become accustomed to reading Cyrillic. Very quickly, you should notice that you become so used to reading Cyrillic that you don’t need the Latin alongside.

“To have” and “to be” are the bread and butter of a new language, and so it’s a good place to start when you’re looking at learning your first verbs. However, Russian makes it very easy in this case, as “to have” and “to be” aren’t really used where you might expect! You can simply say “I student” to mean “I am a student”, and instead of saying “I have a cat”, Russians usually say “To me (there is a) cat”. This involves learning the dative case, so this will be covered in future posts. However, there are verbs for “to have” (although it’s rarely used for possession) and “to be” (which is used particularly in the future tense), and they will be conjugated here. You’ll also learn the personal pronouns here, and get accustomed to the idea of writing out verbs in their conjugations, i.e. the different forms the verb takes depending on the subject of the sentence.

The infinitive of a verb is its “to” form, such as “to have”, “to play”, and is usually the form you use when talking about the verb as a concept. There are three grammatical “persons”: first, second, and third. Each of these persons has a singular form and a plural form, giving a total of six combinations. The first person contains the speaker, i.e. “I” in the singular, or “we” in the plural. The second person is the person you are addressing, i.e. “you” in the singular to one person, or to a group of people, that doesn’t include the speaker. The third person is neither the speaker nor the addressee; in the singular, it can be “he”, “she”, or “it”, and in the plural “they”. It’s a good idea to get used to the terminology, if you’re not already familiar, for personal pronouns, so when you hear “second person plural” you know exactly what it refers to – plural “you”, in this case.

First person singular я I
Second person singular ты
Вы (formal)
Third person singular он
First person plural мы we
Second person plural вы you
Third person plural они they

When “Вы” is used as a formal “you”, it is always capitalized.

Russian personal pronouns are often dropped when they are the subject, e.g. “знаю” (“I know”) is equivalent to “я знаю”.


(я) имею I have
(ты) имеешь you have
(он/она/оно) имеет he/she/it has
(мы) имеем we have
(вы) имеете you have
(они) имеют they have

“To be” in Russian makes things very easy indeed, as it is usually omitted altogether in the present tense. To say “she is a student”, for example, one simply says “Она – студентка”.

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