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How to Properly Use the Verb “To Have” in Russian



The verb “to have” is probably one of the first words you come across when you start learning a language. Why? In many European languages, “to have” is used to express possession. Today we’re going to figure out how to properly use the verb “to have” and how to express possession in Russian. To learn other useful expressions, study Russian with a tutor.


The Verb “To Have”

Let’s start from the beginning. The verb “to have” is translated into Russian as “иметь” (imet’). This is the infinitive form of the verb. It’s mostly used in formal language and in idioms and set expressions.

  • Что ты имеешь ввиду? (Shto ty imeesh' vvidu?)

  • What do you mean?

  • Я не хочу иметь с ним дело. (Ya ne khochu imet' s nim delo.)

  • I don’t want to have anything to do with him.

In the examples above, two set expressions are used. They are “иметь ввиду” (imet’ vvidu), meaning “to have something in mind,” and “иметь дело” (imet’ delo), which can be translated as “to deal with someone or something.”


How to Express Possession in Russian

It may sound paradoxical, but to express the idea of possession in the Russian language, you don’t need the verb “to have” (иметь). You just need to use one simple construction. It’s “у меня есть” (u menya est’), where “у” means “at,” “меня” is the genitive form of “я” (I), and the word “есть” is actually the verb “to be.” So if you want to say “I have” in Russian, forget about “to have” and use the verb “to be.”

  • Let’s practice.

  • У меня есть собака. (U menya est' sobaka.)

  • I have a dog.

  • У меня есть машина. (U menya est' mashina.)

  • I have a car.

  • У тебя есть время? (U tebya est' vremya?)

  • Do you have time?

Remember that instead of “меня” (menya), you can use any pronoun or a noun in the genitive form.

  • У него есть книга. (U nego est' kniga.)

  • He has a book.

  • У нее есть обязательства. (U nee est' obyazatel'stva.)

  • She has obligations.

If you want to say “I have no,” use the construction “у меня нет” (u menya net). As you can see, the negative form of expressing possession doesn’t require the use of a verb. It’s quite easy, isn’t it?

  • У меня нет денег. (U menya net deneg.)

  • I have no money.

  • У меня нет домашнего задания. (U menya net domashnego zadaniya.)

  • I have no homework.

Now you know that Russians don’t use “to have” when they want to say that something belongs to someone. They use certain constructions with the verb “to be” or without. In case you still have doubts, practice Russian online with a teacher.

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