How to Say Thank You in Russian

Written on:November 5, 2012
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Spasiba - Thank you in Russian

What is the one most helpful word in any language? I think it’s a simple “thank you”. So let’s learn how to say it in Russian.

Спасибо – Thank you, thanks [spasiba]

This seems simple enough. So let’s look at the correct pronunciation. As you notice, the stress in the word спасибо falls on the “и” sound leaving the “о” unstressed. In Russian, unstressed “о” sounds like “а”. That’s why you will hear Russians pronounce it as spa-SEE-ba. Note that you may often find it written phonetically as spasiba.

Sometimes this simple спасибо is enough, like when someone holds a door open for you or passes you a plate of hot home made пельмени (pelmeni; meat dumplings). Of course, if you really like pelmeni, you might say большое спасибо (thank you very much) [balʹshoye spasiba]. If you really love them and been waiting for this treat for years, you might even say огромное спасибо (thanks a ton; lit: a giant thank you) [agromnaye spasiba].

If you are not a fan of dumplings, things get a bit more complicated. At a restaurant you can decline a dish with a simple нет, спасибо (no, thank you) [n'et, spasiba]. But if you are at someone’s home, being вежливый (polite) obligates you to taking at least a tiny bite of food. Only then, as you are offered more, can you say спасибо, но я уже наелся [masculine]/наелась [feminine] (thank you, but I am full).

Russians are very generous people and frequently the only thing they expect back for their help is a simple “thank you”. Coincidentally, if someone is particularly неблагодарный (ungrateful), we describe that person as someone who даже спасибо не скажет (won’t even say thank you) [dazhe spasiba ni skazhet]:

Я Диме помог, а он даже спасибо не сказал – I helped Dima, but he didn’t even thank me.

But when it comes to work for pay, работать за одно спасибо (to work for just a “thank you”) is not something Russians are eager to do. After all, спасибо в карман не положишь (you can’t pocket a “thank you”), из спасибо шубу не сошьёшь (you can’t make a coat out of “thank you”) and спасибом сыт не будешь (you can’t eat a “thank you”).

Sometimes we use спасибо at the beginning of a sentence as we tell a story in which case it means “thankfully” or “at least”. For example,

По дороге домой у нас закончился бензин. Спасибо, до заправки было всего ничего. (On the way home we ran out of gas. Thankfully, a gas station was close by).

Из-за погоды рейс задержали. Спасибо, хоть, в аэропорту был бесплатный интернет и я смогла поработать. (The flight was delayed due to bad weather. Thankfully, there was free Internet at the airport and I was able to work)

Отказывать было не вежливо и мне пришлось есть пельмени. Спасибо ещё, что я не вегетарианец. (It was impolite to refuse and I had to eat pelmeni. At least I’m not a vegetarian).

Oh, and before we forget. In Russian, we reply to спасибо with пожалуйста (you are welcome) which is also the word we use for “please” [it’s usually pronounced as po-ZHAL-sta]

- Пожалуйста, передайте пельмени. (Please, pass me pelmeni)
- Вот, пожалуйста. (Here they are, please), passing a giant bowl of pelmeni
- Спасибо большое! (Thank you very much!) [Spasiba balʹshoye!]
- Пожалуйста! (You are welcome!)

Пожалуйста, comment with your questions and examples. Большое спасибо!

Image source: flickr/Paul Lowry cc-by-2.0

7 Comments add one

  1. Spasibo says:

    Bolshoye spasiba za urok!

    • Yelena says:

      Chris, it’s great that you are learning Russian! We have quite a few audio files on the site with recordings by native speakers. Check out the links in the post.

  2. Ruslan says:

    По дороге домой у нас закончился бензин. Спасибо, до заправки было всего ничего. (On the way home we ran out of gas. Thankfully, a gas station was close by).

    actually ive never heard anyone use Спасибо like that, it is better to use “Ладно хоть” [LADNO HOT'] or “хорошо хоть” [HOROSHO HOT'] instead in this case. P/S sorry for my english :) and
    good luck everyone in learning russian

  3. Kat says:

    Hey everyone! my name is Kat(english version). I’m Russian and Igo to american school so I fluently speak english. If anyone needs help you can always ask me! Spasiba))

  4. Sharon says:

    I am still new and clumsy at Russian, and would appreciate any advice from anyone at this site for hints on memorizing words and how to use the imperfective/perfective forms of verbs, and how the prefixes c-, po-, y-, and pere- (no Russian fonts on my machine).

    Bolshoe spacibo, an d have a great day!

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