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Don’t just say ‘no’

It goes without saying that if you want to take linguistic courses at CREF, that is three times да (da)! But there are situations where one must stand firm in one’s opinions and beliefs. A ‘no’ – нет (net) might do the trick, but here we offer how to add a little nuance to your refusal and learn the art of the polite refusal – вежливый отказ (vezhlivy atkaz). This expression, by the way, is the name of a Russian rock group.

Desaccord en russe

You do not share your business partner’s opinion on a sensitive topic? A somewhat-aggressive ‘I disagree’ – я возражаю (ya vazrazhayu) risks closing the discussion on a bad note. Perhaps a more diplomatic phrase is, ‘I do not agree’ – я не согласен (ya ne saglasen). Or choose the more formal yet neutral phrase ‘I have another opinion’ – я придерживаюсь другого мнения (ya priderzhivayus’ drugova mneiya).

You can be even more flexible and show your willingness to keep the topic open by saying  ‘Let’s discuss this at another time’ – давайте поговорим об этом вдругой раз (davayte pagavarim ob v etom drugoyraz). An even more positive phrase is  ‘I’m sure we will find some common ground’ – я уверен, что найдем общий язык (ya uveren, chto naydem obshchiy yazyk), or even better yet is, ‘We will find a solution’ – найдем решение (naydem resheniye ).

When it is still necessary to refuse, the refusal can range from the traditional ‘I’m sorry’, … – к сожалению… (k sazhaleniy) to the more emphatic but slightly hypocritical-sounding phrase ‘much to my regret, …’ – к моему глубокому огорчению … (k mayemu glubokamu agarcheniyu).

If you sell canned asparagus and someone wants to buy a turbine from you, it is a perfect time to say, of course, with an air of deep regret, ‘I can’t do anything to help you’ – ничем не могу вам помочь (nichem ne magu vam pamoch’).

On another note, if your significant other asks you to take out the garbage at night, which can have adverse consequences (see our article on superstitions), most often a simple ‘I can’t’ – не могу (ne magu) or, an  ‘I am busy’ – язанят (ya zanyat) will do. But you could skillfully turn the conversation reflecting your progress in Russian by using a beautifully-turned phrase such as ‘I would happy to, but …’ – Был бы рад, но(Byl by rad, no…) or ‘I would like to, but …’  – при всем желании … (pri vsem zhelanii). And, you can use these polite refusals in front of your significant other’s astonished eyes!

Finally, on a beautiful weekend this summer, you start out with some Russian friends in search of a beach – пляж (plyazh) (yes, you heard right, there are beaches in Moscow!). You politely ask a passerby, who answers ‘I have no idea’ – понятия не имею (panyatiya ne imeyu), ‘I’m not from here’ – я не местный (ya ne mestnyy), a common refrain in capital cities all over the world!

However you manage to find your Eldorado, and as you are kind of enterprising – otherwise why would you be in Russia? – you propose to take a dip – окунуться (akunyt’sa) in the Moskva river. Needless to say, your Russian friends who know this river like Parisians know the river Seine, are likely to look for ways to dissuade you – отговорить (atgavarit).

Besides, if you pretend you’re already bathed in the Seine in Paris, they might exclaim incredulously, ‘You’re kidding, right?‘  – Да ну! (Da nu!)  or да ладно! (Da ladno!), or, ‘It is not possible!’- не может быть (ne mozhet byt’).

On the other hand, you sweep aside their protestations with a ‘Nonsense!’  – Ерунда! (Yerunda!). In this case, you may hear a  ‘What for?’ – А зачем? (A zachem?) which is the ultimate expression, (often used as the first response, for that matter), to indicate that they do not see the point of such an undertaking, and especially that they have absolutely no intention of accepting your outlandish offer.

Suddenly, a doubt crosses your mind, and you ask your Russian friends, ‘Are you afraid?’ – боитесь? (Baites’?). They answer immediately, ‘Not at all!’ – Нисколько! (Niskol ‘ko!). Ultimately, they might have done better to answer you right away with a ‘There is no way…- ни в коем случае (Ni v koyem sluchaye) …for anything in the world!’ ...ни за что! (…ni za chto!), for which there is really no suitable polite reply.

And now, you can’t pretend that Нет‘ – (niet) is enough, is it? не так ли(ne tak li?)