How to Talk about Emotions in Russian
Despite all evidence to the contrary, it is, in fact, summer in St. Petersburg. Even though it’s been largely cold and rainy since my arrival in June, every once in awhile the sun decides to come out, and when it does, you can see young lovers strolling down the streets and lounging in parks at every corner. When it’s raining, love still abounds: in cafes, on the escalator in the metro–the list goes on. For fun, I recently bought a book called “The Grammar of Feelings,” which outlines all the various ways you can speak about love, friendship, and emotions both positive and negative in Russian. I’ve chosen a few phrases below to share that you can try out with your significant other, best friend, worst enemy, or babushka. Enjoy!
1. Потерять голову от любви (к кому, к чему)
Here’s the situation: you’re studying abroad in Petersburg and have fallen madly in love with a Russian. Help! How can you express this? The above phrase means “to lose one’s head over love,” and is a very poetic way to express that you’ve fallen crazy in love. A friend might look at you sadly and remark, “Ты совсем потерял голову от любви к ней,” or, “You’ve completely lose your head over her.”
2. Без памяти (от кого? от чего)
Essentially a synonym of the first phrase, this one translates literally as “without memory,” meaning you’re so crazy about someone that you’ve lost all sense of self, and the concept of life before your beloved is simply no longer in your memory. In context you might say: “Я без памяти от нее,” or “I’ve lost my mind over her.”
3. Я хочу признаться тебе в любви
This one’s for all the romantics out there who like to speak in grandiose, dramatic declarations when it comes to love. The verb признаться means to admit, and in this context has a meaning closer to the English “confess,” as in, “I want to confess my love to you.” The book doesn’t specify how frequently Russians actually use this, but I like to imagine that people inform their crushes on the daily that the time has come for a love confession.
4. Дружески относиться (к кому)
But of course not all love is romantic love. There are lots of ways to express friendship, but I particularly liked this one, which means “to relate to someone strictly with friendly intentions.” If someone declares their love for you, and the feelings aren’t reciprocated, you can say (nicely), “Я дружески отношусь к тебе.” A few other synonyms: по-дружески, дружелюбно.
5. Преданный, верный
More ways to talk about friends: a friend can be преданный (devoted) or верный (faithful). If a friend helps you out in a pickle, you might, in a moment of gratitude, proclaim, “Ты мой самый преданный друг,” (you are my most devoted friend).
6. Мне противно, омерзительно, отвратительно
Moving on to how to talk to your worst enemy. The three words following мне all mean basically the same thing: disgusting, and, if you put it all together, you get: “it disgusts me.” For example, you may be so enraged by the way your enemy behaves him/herself that you might feel the need to exclaim, “мне противно смотреть на твое поведение,” or in English, “I’m disgusted by your behavior.”
7. Они живут как кошка с собакой
This one is fairly self-explanatory–dogs and cats, as we all know, don’t tend to get along. “They live like a cat and dog” refers to two people who constantly fight, who are so completely opposite that they might as well be different species.
8. Избегать (кого? чего?)
If you meet somebody with whom you live like a cat and a dog, you might decide you want to avoid, or избегать, him or her. You can avoid people and also situations, but if you’re talking about somebody you can’t stand, you might say, “Я избегаю его,” or, “I avoid him.”
9. Уважать (кого?) высоко ценить (кого? что?)
Lastly, we’ve moved right along to ways to talk to your babushka, or talk about family members, and also friends and romantic partners. The first word, уважать, means to respect, and the second высоко ценить, means to highly value somebody. For example, “Он уважает своего деда,” (he respects his grandfather) or “Она высоко ценит их отношения,” (she highly values their relationship). Both are great ways to express a deep sense of care for a beloved.
There you have it. With these nine phrases you’ll be able to express your feelings more openly with those around you. Happy Friday everyone, and give these phrases a try with your Russian friends this weekend!
Emily, studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg