Exercise books at Red Kalinka

Questions and Answers 06-10
Find an answer to your doubts about Russian grammar and vocabulary

Our language experts have gathered here the most common and interesting questions about Russian grammar and vocabulary. Discover the secrets of Russian verbs, case system and pronunciation.

6. What’s the difference between “если” and “ли”? Do they both mean “if”?

It's very easy to mix up the words "ли" and "если" when you learn Russian because both words can be translated into English as "if". In Russian they are quite different from each other. Let's see how to use them correctly.
We use "если" to express a condition:

  • Если завтра будет дождь, я буду дома. = If it rains tomorrow I'll stay at home. Pay attention that in Russian, we have to use future in both parts of the sentence (будет дождь, я буду дома).
  • Ты можешь взять мой велосипед, если хочешь. = You can take my bike if you want.
  • Если я буду в городе, я позвоню тебе. = If I'm in town I'll call you.

We use "ли" to express a doubt about something. You can also translate it as "whether". In fact, try to associate "ли" with "whether" in your mind and you won't mix it up with "если" any more. Let's have a look at the examples:

  • Я не знаю, будет ли завтра дождь. = I don't know whether tomorrow it's going to rain.
  • Я спросил его, хочет ли он взять мой велосипед. = I asked him whether he wanted to take my bike.
  • Я не знаю, буду ли я в городе. = I don't know whether I'm going to be in town.

Where should I put "ли" in a sentence? We usually put "ли" after the word that expresses the actual doubt. Compare these sentences:

  • Я не знаю, купил ли он хлеб. = I don't know whether he bought bread.
  • Я не знаю, хлеб ли он купил. = I don't know whether it was bread that he bought (or something else).
  • Я не знаю, он ли купил хлеб. = I don't know whether it was him who bought the bread.

As you must have noticed the "doubt" always comes first in the subordinate clause. If you change the word order you will also change the focus of the doubt.

7. How to say "I have" and "I don't have" in Russian?

Saying "I have" in Russian is a little tricky because we don't use the verb "to have" in this meaning. Instead is this verb, we use the construction "У меня есть..." which literally means "In my possession there is..." Let's have a look at some examples:


  • У меня есть кошка. = I have a cat (literally we say "In my possession, there is a cat").
  • У тебя есть братья? = Do you have any brothers? (literally "In your possession, are there any brothers?)
  • У него есть дом в деревне. = He has a house in the countryside (literally "In his possession, there is a house in the countryside).

As you might have noticed, after the preposition "У" we have to use the genitive case (у меня / у тебя / у него / у неё / у нас / у вас / у них). The thing that we possess is used in the nominative case because it's the subject of the sentence.


How to say "I don't have" in Russian? To say "I don't have" we have to change the word "есть" for "нет" (У меня нет......). But be careful! After the word "нет" we have to use the genitive case:

  • У меня нет кошки. = I don't have a cat (literally we say "In my possession, there is no cat").
  • У тебя нет братьев? = Don't you have any brothers? (literally "In your possession, are there no brothers?)
  • У него нет дома в деревне. = He doesn't have a house in the countryside (literally "In his possession, there is no house in the countryside).
Subscribe to our newsletter

Learn Russian without spam

We want to help you learn Russian. Do you want to receive news from us? Subscribe to our newsletter. You will only receive one email a month with 100% news and 0% spam: