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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Little Exclamations Pack Big Meaning, and How!

It is the little things that really reveal how well a foreigner speaks Russian. You might be a genius at conjugating verbs or using numbers in oblique cases, but you won't really have made it until you have mastered the exclamation -- those little, untranslatable expressions that burst out spontaneously and distinguish those whose Russian is in their heads from those with truly russkiye dushy, or Russian souls.


Vot eto da! This is my favorite Russian exclamation, expressing the heights of delight. If, for example, you are working outside on a hot day and you send someone off for some water and he unexpectedly returns instead with a bottle of ice-cold beer, your reaction is Vot eto da!


And when your companion asks if you want the beer, your answer is Yeshchyo by! This means "Of course!" in the sense of "Of course I do, it is really hot out here." You might also respond Yeshchyo kak! which means "And how!" in the sense of "I'm really dying for a beer."


The difference here is that kak, meaning "how," points to and intensifies the verb. If someone asks you if your favorite soccer team won, you can answer Yeshchyo kak! to mean, "Yes, they really creamed the opposition."


These expressions should not be confused with vot kak! and vot yeshchyo! As an exclamation, vot kak! expresses mild surprise. If someone you are talking to suddenly gets up and announces that he is leaving, you might say, Vot kak! Ya dumal, ty yeshchyo pobudesh' u nas (Really? I thought you would be staying with us a bit).


Vot yeshchyo! on the other hand, is the equivalent of "No way." If someone says, Prinesi mne etu knigu (Bring me that book), you might answer Vot yeshchyo! Pust' Vanya prinesyot. (No way, let Vanya bring it).


When you get tired of saying konechno (of course), nu da! is often a handy substitute. Ty idyosh' s nami? (Are you coming with us?), a friend might ask. Nu da! you answer, "Of course!" But beware. As often as not, nu da is used ironically. For example, Ty vypolnil ego pros'bu? (Did you do as he asked?). Nu da! U menya stol'ko del! (Oh, yeah! As if I don't have enough to do). A safer substitute for konechno might be A kak zhe!: Ty segodnya obedal? (Have you had lunch today?) might be answered A kak zhe! Sovsem nedavno (Of course. I just finished). On the other hand, when you're sick of saying, konechno net (Of course not), try ni za chto (Not on your life!). Prosti menya (Forgive me!), someone might say. Ni za chto! you answer, "No way. Not on your life!"


These expressions may seem like melochi (small change), but in language, as in love and war, the little things make all the difference. Yeshchyo kak!