5 crazy Russian expressions

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My friend Тимур is always forwarding interesting articles about the Russian language. He recently sent this article:

10 русских выражений, которые сводят с ума иностранцев! 10 Russian expressions that drive foreigners crazy!

Haha, crazy? After reading through them, I agree!

Here are 5 expressions that I really liked:


#1. Не стой над душой! = Stop watching me work! Use this expression to get rid of that annoying coworker who is always looking over your shoulder. It literally means don’t stand over my soul, but you know how much Russians love to bring up matters of the soul.


#2. What? This is wild… both those expressions mean the same thing!

How can this be?

The verb остывать means cool off… so не остывать is best expressed as stay warm.

Чайник долго остывает. = The tea kettle is cooling off slowly.

Чайник долго не остывает. = The tea kettle stays warm for a long time.

Here’s how you might hear it in everyday life.

Хороший чайник. Так долго не остывает. = This tea kettle is great. It stays warm for a long time.


#3. Okay, переборщить is now officially my new favorite Russian word. It’s like borsch turned itself into a verb!! 😀 The meaning, however, has nothing to do with this delicious soup.

переборщить = overdo, add too much

If you added too much salt to something, you can say с солью переборщила, I overdid it with the salt. (Or you can stick with a more general sentence, like advice to a friend who just joined a gym: Главное — не переборщить, It’s important to not overdo it.)

Meanwhile, пересолить = oversalt. So, if you added too much salt to borsch, you get борщ пересолила, I oversalted the borsch.


#4. Ноги в руки и вперёд! Literally, this sounds like “put your feet in your hands and go forward!” It means get a move on! For example, your boss might say Почему ты ещё здесь? Ноги в руки и вперёд! Why are you still here? Get a move on!

A related phrase: Ноги в руки и побежали! = Drop everything and run! Use this expression for drama, like when someone is about to miss their flight.


#5. This one confused me. My husband had to explain it about 5 times, and I’m still not sure that I totally get it. This is definitely a crazy expression!

Let’s break it down…

Часы могут идти, когда лежат, и стоять, когда висят.

First, remember that идти is used for a clock that works, and стоять is used for a clock that doesn’t work.

Часы могут идти… и стоять. Clocks can work… and not work.

Meanwhile, these verbs also have another meaning you probably know: идти means go and стоять means stand.

It gets really confusing when you add лежат, lay and висят, hang to the mix.

Часы могут идти, когда лежат, и стоять, когда висят

To someone learning Russian, the sentence might look like this:

Clocks go when they lie and stand when they hang.

To a native speaker, the sentence actually means this:

Clocks can work when lying (on a surface) and not work when they’re hanging (on the wall.)

Still a little weird to me, but it’s a good reminder to not use работать, work when describing a clock (or watch) that works.

For example:

Они еще идут. It’s still ticking.

Эти часы уже встали. Я их не заводил. This watch stopped working. I didn’t wind it.



What do you think? Leave a comment with your favorite expression! 🙂

And be sure to check out the whole article for the other 5 expressions I didn’t cover here-

10 русских выражений, которые сводят с ума иностранцев! 10 Russian expressions that drive foreigners crazy!

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