Expressing gratitude in a foreign language
Saying thank you is an important part of everyday communication in all dialects in the world and the Russian language is no exception. Even though it is such a simple expression, it can mean a lot to the recipient and reinforce bonds between people. As in every language, there are many different ways to say thank you in Russian depending on the context we find ourselves in.
The importance of learning to say “thank you” in a foreign language
Along with greetings, expressing gratitude is one of the most frequently occurring communicative acts in all languages. From saying thank you during transactions at a store to conveying gratitude for a kind act or somebody’s well wishes, it is an expression that we find ourselves using multiple times a day. As such, the importance of learning how to say thank you in a new language cannot be underestimated.
Even if we haven’t yet reached full proficiency, making an effort to say thank you in a country’s local language shows a willingness on our part to be part of the local community, which is greatly appreciated by the natives we are communicating with.
Saying thank you shows your appreciation for what another person has done for you, exhibits respect and leaves people feeling good about themselves. This simple phrase of gratitude is actually very powerful: it will help people remember you and allow the exchange to go further, making it a great way to build relationships and delve deeper into a culture.
While manners and etiquette differ from culture to culture, a sincere thank you always goes a long way, which is why it should always be one of the first words we learn when starting to learn a foreign language.
Expressing gratitude in different ways: different phrases for different situations
In order to be an effective communicator, one must adapt their language to fit different contexts. For example, in our native language, we would use different words and expressions when talking to our boss than what we use when hanging out with our friends.
The same principle should be adapted when learning a new foreign language. Sometimes simply saying thank you won’t do, because we might want to express gratitude more formally or convey deeper thanks.
Similarly, when we are typing to a friend online, we might want to speak more colloquially or use abbreviations to make our typing speedier. This is precisely the reason why it is important to be able to express gratitude in many different ways in a foreign language.
When choosing our wording for saying thank you, we should think about who our audience is and adapt our vocabulary accordingly. Knowing our audience helps us to determine what words to use in order to communicate effectively and connect to people better. Failing to tailor our language can often lead to misunderstanding, confusion or even cultural faux-pas, which is why it is crucial to memorize different words and expressions for different situations.
The Russian спасибо
Politeness is a very important part of Russian culture. If you want to make a good impression with the locals during your travels to Russia, you should make sure to add words of gratitude to your vocabulary and use them as often as the situations you find yourself in allow.
Say Thank You in Russian
The most common way to say thank you in Russian is спасибо (pronounced as spasiba). While the word’s literal translation is God save you, it actually means thank you and it can be used in most situations, whether formal or informal.
The etymology of the Russian word спасибо
Etymologically, спасибо is made up of two words: спаси (спасать/спасти = to save; to rescue) and Бог (God). It is, therefore, the short version of the phrase спаси тебя Бог (spasi tebya Bog), which means God save you. It originates from Russia’s long religious tradition of Orthodoxy, which integrates Christian facets into everyday living.
The word спасибо and Russian culture
Prior to the twentieth century, the longer version of спасибо, i.e. спаси тебя Бог, was the go-to expression for communicating gratitude in Russia. The country’s strong ties to Christian Orthodoxy meant that religion heavily permeated language and, so, the phrase was essentially a blessing or wish for God to favor the person being thanked.
The modern version of the phrase is the shortened спасибо, which contemporary Russians do not necessarily associate to religion despite its original meaning.
In fact, it is argued by some intellectual circles that the word’s religious connotations render it impolite, as it puts God in the forefront rather than the person being thanked and, as such, does not actually express sincere gratitude. Despite these arguments, however, if you are wondering how to say thank you in Russian, it remains the most popular word to use.
Expressing gratitude in Russian in different styles
So how do you say thank you in Russian in different ways? The Russian language is very rich and provides a plethora of vocabulary choices to express gratitude in different situations. Here, we go through some popular expressions, ranging from formal ways to say thank you to more informal Russian and even Russian slang.
A neutral style is the type of communication that can be applied in most circumstances. If you are lacking a more specific alternative for the occasion you find yourself in, you can be sure that the following words and phrases will help you genuinely convey gratitude in a polite manner – whether you are talking to a stranger or someone you know well.
1. Спасибо (spasiba)
As mentioned previously, спасибо is the most popular word for saying thank you in Russian. You can use it as you would use thank you in English, no matter what situation you find yourself in.
2. Большое спасибо (balshoye spasiba)
This phrase translates to a big thank you and can essentially be used to say thank you very much in Russian. Whether you are using it in an official engagement, work, social occasions or daily interactions, you cannot go wrong with большое спасибо.
3. Благодарю (blagodaryu)
One step beyond your typical thank you, благодарю literally translates to I offer you blessings but means I am grateful. It is a very polite expression, mostly used by older generations of Russians and, though not as common as спасибо, you might hear it when interacting with seniors during your travels to the country.
For those times when a simple thank you isn’t enough, because you want to express deeper gratitude and more warmth with your words, you need some more emphatic expressions. If you feel at ease with the person you are speaking to or if you’re seeking to develop a more meaningful connection with them, you can try using the phrases listed below.
4. Огромное (тебе, вам) спасибо (Ogromnoye (tebe, vam) spasibo)
In this case, if you are talking to one person that you are familiar with, you would say огромное тебе спасибо. If you are talking to multiple persons, you would say огромное вам спасибо.
The literal translation of this phrase is a massive thank you to you, but it could be said that the English equivalent is thank you so much. This expression demonstrates more gratitude than спасибо and indicates you are extremely thankful to someone.
5. Благодарю тебя от всего сердца (Blagodaryu tebya ot vsego serdtsa)
The English equivalent of this phrase is thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is an expression that communicates a lot of warmth and sincere gratitude and should be reserved for those special moments when you want to show someone you have been very touched by their kind words or actions.
6. Огромное человеческое спасибо (Ogromnoye chelovecheskoye spasibo)
Translating to massive human thanks, this is certainly a phrase that does not have an English equivalent. However, it is very possible that you will hear it during your time in Russia. It evokes our humanity since we are the only species capable of demonstrating such breadth of emotion.
7. Дай тебе Бог доброго здоровья (Day tebe Bog dobrogo zdorov’ya)
Similarly to spasibo, which is short for God save you, this expression is used to thank someone by wishing for God to give them good health. Given that good health is one of the most important things in a person’s life, it is the ultimate way to wish someone who has been helpful to you well.
A high style of communication is to be used for occasions that require more formality, such as in work environments or when speaking to elders.
8. Премного благодарен (Premnogo blagodaren)
This is an older Russian phrase meaning I am very grateful, which can be used to magnify the expression of your gratitude and will, in no doubt, go down well with older Russian generations.
9. Весьма признателен (Ves’ma priznatelen)
While this expression can be directly translated as I am very grateful or I appreciate it very much, its closest English equivalent semantically is Much obliged. Better reserved for formal settings, you can use this phrase to show your appreciation to someone and convey a feeling of obligation.
10. Отдельное спасибо кому-либо за что-либо (Otdel’noye spasibo komu-libo za chto-libo)
If you are looking to thank someone for something specific, this is the phrase to use. The word oтдельное highlights just how important it is for you to thank that person and elevates your expression of gratitude to another level.
Like all languages, Russian is constantly evolving and becoming more and more modern. This means that certain words and phrases have become obsolete over time. However, if you’re reading older texts, you may come across expressions of gratitude that are not commonly used in spoken Russian language anymore.
11. Благодарствую (Blagodarstvuyu)
The literal translation of this expression is I offer you blessings, yet it is more loosely used to mean I am grateful. While it is an old-fashioned expression that is rare nowadays, you might hear it used by older generations or ironically by youths.
An informal style of communication is what you will most commonly hear spoken on the streets or read in books and magazines. If you are thanking friends, these are the phrases that you will find most useful.
12. Спасиб (spasib)
When listening to native Russians speak, you will notice that the word спасибо is often shortened to спасиб. This is a convenient and quick, casual way to thank someone that should be reserved for informal environments.
13. Спасибки (spasibki)
With no equivalent in English, спасибки translates to little thank yous. It is a very affectionate and playful way of thanking someone, usually close friends that you feel at ease with.
14. Спасибочки (spasibochki)
In the same vein as спасибки, this expression means very little thank yous. Needless to say, this word should be saved for close friends and family.
15. Мерси (mersi)
Мерси actually means thank you in French, but it is often used casually by Russians to thank someone in a playful manner.
If you find yourself typing to a Russian online, you may want to use Internet abbreviations for speedier communication.
16. Спс (sps)
Спс is the Russian version of thx, which is often used in online forums and chatrooms.
Спасибо for your attention!
Learning how to say thank you in a foreign language should be at the top of a student’s list. Knowing the right words to express one’s gratitude will in no doubt come in handy when traveling abroad.
When it comes to Russian, while there is nothing wrong with simply saying спасибо, there are many other ways to convey gratitude. Depending on the situation you find yourself in, you should adapt your language to match the setting and your audience.
If you are taking Russian lessons online, Eurekly is one of the most useful resources to use in order to perfect your vocabulary, grammar and accelerate your learning. If you decide to learn Russian on Eurekly, you will not only get access to expert Russian tutors but also benefit from the multitude of learning tools, such as the website’s apps, games, ebooks, and videos.