Essential Expressions for Everyday Use

Idioms are what make our language authentic. Let’s explore a fresh batch of common expressions that often blend seamlessly into speech, making them almost undetectable as idioms to native ears.

Sudden Onset

The Russian language offers a variety of ways to express something happening unexpectedly. You can say something arose на ровном месте , literally “on flat ground,” or ни с того, ни с сего, meaning “out of the blue.”

— Шеф на ровном месте распсиховался! The boss freaked out over nothing! 
— Да, и наорал на всех ни с того ни с сего. Yeah, and he yelled at everyone out of the blue. 

Just Because

Просто так prosto tak  can mean “for no reason” and “for free.”

— Я тебе просто так помогаю, не надо денег! (Ya tebe prosto tak pomogayu, ne nado deneg!) – I’m just helping you out, I don’t need money!

Backseat Drivers, Beware!

We’ve all encountered the pesky “backseat driver,” the one who offers unsolicited advice, often with good intentions but ultimately annoying. In Russian, we have говорить под руку for this situation, literally translating to “to speak under the hand.” Imagine fixing a leaky faucet while a relative constantly criticizes your technique – that’s “говорить под руку” in action.

— Не говори мне под руку! Я чуть палец не порезала! Shut up! I almost cut my finger! 

Putting Your Heart (Well, Soul) into It

When fully dedicated to a task, be it painting or whipping up a pot of soup, you can say вложить душу in Russian. This translates to “to put your soul in,”  as Russians tend to keep their hearts to themselves in such expressions.

— Я душу вложила в этот борщ!  I poured my heart into this borscht!

Doing it in One Go

На одном дыхании describes something done in one breath, signifying swift completion.

— Я сегодня записала подкаст на одном дыхании! Всегда бы так!  I recorded the podcast today in a heartbeat! I wish I could always do that!

Good Enough for Now

Sometimes, striving for perfection isn’t necessary. To express something that’s “good enough” or just meets the minimum requirements, you can use худо-бедно.

— Я худо-бедно свожу концы с концами, но без премии мне будет совсем трудно.  I’m making ends meet, more or less, but without the bonus, it’s gonna be tough.

Куда ни шло is another expression for situations or quality that barely meet the minimum threshold.

— В городе ещё куда ни шло можно жить, а в деревне такая скука – умереть можно. You can live in the city alright, but in the countryside it’s so boring you can die.

Holding On for the Right Moment

When something needs to wait for the opportune time, use до поры до времени.

— Я отложила этот проект до поры до времени, сейчас нет сил им заниматься. I’ve put this project on hold for the time being, I don’t have the energy to do it now

Explaining Like You Mean It

Объяснять на пальцах describes explaining something in a very basic way, literally “to explain on fingers” – like you would to a small child.

— Выплата больших социальных пособий вызывает быструю инфляцию, я же на пальцах это объяснил! Paying out large welfare benefits causes rapid inflation, I’ve explained it already in most simple words!

As usual, attached to this post are downloadable PDFs with the flashcards that will help you to memorize the expressions faster!