Q&A: Three Different Words For Real

What’s the difference between настоящий естественный and реальный ? Could you give some example phrases to illustrate the distinctions, and some collocations?

Настоящий – 1) real as opposed to fake. Это настоящий Хеннеси, не подделка! This is real Hennessey, not a counterfeit.
2) It can also be used an amplifier, similar to English ‘real’: Это настоящий бардак. It’s a real mess.

Естественный – natural, the opposite to artificial, or normal. Она была естественной – She was natural (= she acts normally, she didn’t pretend to be someone else). В естественной среде кошки живут 5-6 лет. In the wild (i.e. in the natural environment) a cats’ life span is 5-6 years.

Реальный – real as opposed to imaginary, also practical, factual. Добро пожаловать в реальный мир, Нео! – Welcome to the real world Neo! Реальная опасность для города – это автомобили, они отнимают всё общественное пространство. The real threat for a city is cars, they take all the public space.

In modern colloquial Russian, реальный is overused and (partly because of that) has a flavor of a poor language, a slang, when used as an amplifier (compare to настоящий) or a synonym for cool, awesome.

I hope this helped.

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