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How to Use the Verb “To Be” in Russian

The verb “to be” is one of the basic foundational verbs in any language. Therefore, when studying Russian, it’s important to know how to deal with the Russian verb “to be.” To learn more about Russian verbs, study Russian with a tutor.

The Verb “To Be” in the Russian Language

The verb “to be” can be translated into Russian in two ways: “быть” (byt’) and “находиться” (nakhodit’sya). “Быть” is the infinitive form of the verb. Its form in the present tense is completely different. It’s “есть” (est’), which sounds and looks exactly the same as the Russian verb “to eat”: “есть” (est’).

Here’s the good news: the verb “есть” (est’) meaning “to be” is omitted in the present tense:

  • Он студент. (On student.)

  • He is a student.

  • Я учитель. (Ya uchitel’.)

  • I am a teacher.

Russians omit this verb in oral speech and replace it with with the hyphen in writing. We use the hyphen when the subject and the predicate are the same part of speech, for example, in the case of nouns.

  • Солнце - звезда. (Solntse - zvezda).

  • The Sun is a star.

Another meaning of the verb “to be” is “находиться” (nakhodit’sya), which is generally used to describe the position of something.

  • Магазин находится за углом. (Magazin nakhoditsya za uglom.)

  • The shop is around the corner.

  • Эрмитаж находится на Дворцовой площади. (Ermitazh nakhoditsya na Dvortsovoi ploshchadi.)

  • The hermitage is located in the palace square.

The Verb “To Be” in the Past and Future Tenses

There are only three tenses in the Russian language: present, past, and future. While we can forget about “to be” in the present tense, we need to use it in the past and future tenses.

Using “To Be” in the Past Tense

In the past tense, the verb “быть” (byt’) becomes “был/была/было” (byl/byla/bylo) depending on the gender of the noun, while “находиться” (nakhodit’sya) takes the form “находился/находилась/находилось” (nakhodilsya/nakhodilas’/nakhodilos’).

  • Я там был. (Ya tam byl.)

  • I was there.

  • Она была на уроке. (Ona byla na uroke.)

  • She was at the lesson.

  • Дом находился неподалеку. (Dom hakhodilsya nepodaleku).

  • The house was located nearby.

Using “To Be” in the Future Tense

In the future tense, the verb “to be” takes the form “буду” (budu).

  • Я буду на собрании. (Y budu na sobranii.)

  • I will be at the meeting.

The other meaning of the verb “to be” in the future tense, “находиться” (nakhodit’sya), is “буду находиться” (budu nakhodit’sya). Yes, to create the correct form in the future tense, you actually need to use the verb “to be” twice! But this form is rarely used.

  • Через год я буду находиться в Америке. (Cherez god ya budu nakhodit’sya v Amerike.)

  • I will be in the USA next year.

When it comes to the future tense, the “буду” (budu) form is important to remember, as it used as a linking verb with other Russian verbs.

It’s not difficult to learn how to use the verb “to be” in Russian—in some cases you don’t even need it. However, if you know how to use it, you’ll be able to easily build sentences in the Russian language. To speak Russian confidently, work with a teacher.

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