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Forms of address

In every language there is a standard group of expressions used in greetings and farewells. These expressions are universal; they are used regardless of the subject of conversation.
In this chapter, we will review the most typical forms of greeting, farewell, inquiry, apology, and re-1 quests.


You should pay particular attention to the fact that in Russian there are two ways of addressing other people: formally (вы) (you) and informally (ты) (you). Which form is used demonstrates the level of closeness, age difference, ease of conversation, and length of acquaintance. So whom should you address as «вы»? Firstly, all! middle-aged and elder people, as well as young people with whom you are unacquainted, should be addressed formally. It is also common to address all official personnel as «вы», such as retail workers in a store, cashiers in the metro, and colleagues at work. If you know a person better, you can move to «ты». In such a case they will use the phrase «Давай на ты» or «Можно на ты» (“Let’s start! using ты” or “We may use ты”). Children and teenagers, even ones with whom you are unacquainted (upon meeting them in the street, for example), can be addressed using «ты», as well as people you know well, regardless of their age. For example, elder people who know each other well can address each other as «ты».

When greeting and parting, different forms are used depending on the level of closeness and ease of conversation. You can use the phrases: «Доброе утро!» (“Good morning!”), «Добрый день!» (“Good afternoon!”), «До брый вечер!» (“Good evening!”)-This form of greeting is neutral and doesn’t depend on whether you are greeting a person with! whom you are acquainted or not,; nor whether you are addressing a young man as «ты» or an elder one as «вы». The greeting «Здравствуй/Здравствуйте!»     (“Hello”)  is also neutral, and is appropriate when addressing people ofl any age whether you are acquainted with them or not, although addressing them as «вы» or «ты» does remain important in such a case. The form «Привет!» (“Hi!”) is colloquial, and is only used when greeting people you know well enough to address as «ты». Moreover, this form of address is commonly used only when greeting younger people.
You should also pay attention to the fact that when greeting each I other Russian men usually shake hands.
The forms of farewell «До свидания!» (“Goodbye!”) and «Пока!» (“Bye!”) differ from eacrl other in their style of communication. «До свидания!» is a neutral form used when addressing people both as «ты» and «вы», and when addressing people of any age, be they your acquaintances or not. The form «Пока!» is colloquial and is appropriate only when addressing people you know, and mostly younger ones at that.

Thus, your young friends will say «Привет!» and «Пока!» when meeting and parting. Middle-aged and elder people will say: «Здравствуйте!» and «До свидания!». Your colleagues at work may say either, depending on their level of closeness.
To make a request, the phrase «Можно (May I…)+ infinitive» is used: «Можно войти?/ Можно выйти?/ Можно позвонить?/ Можно посмотреть?» (“May I come in?/ May I leave the room for a moment?/ May I use your telephone?/ May I look at it?”). The phrase «Можно + accusative case of a noun» is also used: «Можно ручку?/ Можно тетрадь?/ Можно учебник?» (“May I take your pen?”/ May I take your notebook?/ May I take your textbook?”). A polite request is expressed with the same construction, adding the word «Извини/ Извините» (“Excuse me”): «Извините, можно войти?/ Извините, можно посмотреть?/ Извините, можно ручку?» (“Excuse me, may I come in?/ Excuse me, may I look at it?/ Excuse me, may I take your pen?”).

To express apology, the word «Извини/Извините» (“Excuse me”) is used. To make an apology stronger you can add the word «пожалуйста» (“please”): «Извините,   пожалуйста!».   After someone complies with your request, you should say «Cna- I сибо» (“Thank you”). After you have made your request, the per- I son to whom you are speaking will I say «Пожалуйста» (“Certainly”), i Thus, we have: «Можно..,? — По- J жалуйста. — Спасибо.» (“May I I…? — Certainly. — Thank you.”)
Requests can also be made using the phrase «Imperative + пожалуйста (“please”)»: «Дайте, пожалуйста, …/ Скажите, пожалуйста, …/ Покажите, пожалуйста, …» (“Give me please …/ Tell me please …/ Show me please …”).
It should also be noted that it] is customary in Russia on solemn occasions to welcome one’s guests with bread and salt. This involves a round loaf of bread on a tray, and al saltcellar with some salt on the loaf of bread or next to it. It is common to break off a bit of the bread, put it into the salt, and to eat it. This tradition has existed since days of yore and has remained in Russia up until now, being called “the traditional bread and salt”.

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