Animal Idioms in Russian - ProBa Russian Language School
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Animal Idioms in Russian

There are several ways to master your conversational Russian and one of them is to learn idioms. Using them in a conversation makes speech more expressive and comprehensible. Idioms keep the whole concept and history behind them and help to express more clearly the emotions and situation that you are describing. The usage of them demonstrates a high level of proficiency and what is more important – knowledge of cultural specifics.

  • Медвежья услуга (Medvezh’ya usluga) – “Bear’s service”

This idiom describes a situation when you received help but it made things even worse than they were before. It comes from the fable by Krylov where monk went to sleep and flies bothered him. A bear decided to help and killed flies together with monk unintentionally.

  • Ехать зайцем (Yekhat’ zaytsem) – “Riding like hare”

When you use public transportation and don’t pay for it – you are a hare! The fear of being caught turns into shivering just like rabbits do. Be cautious as Russian conductors are very strict!

  • Собаку съел (Sobaku s”yel) – “Ate a dog”

Do you have any guesses? It indicates a person who is very professional in his/her field, has a lot of experience and knows all the details very well. Also it means that the person went through something many times and it has been easy to do since.

  • Денег куры не клюют (Deneg kury ne klyuyut) – “So much money that hens don’t pick grain” 

Basically, the translation shows the meaning. If hens are full, they’re no longer eat grain and when you have a lot of money, you don’t worry about it that much.

  • На птичьих правах (Na ptich’ikh pravakh) – “On birds’ rights”

That is the way to talk about people whose position is very unstable and shaky in terms of job or in life, and there’s a risk that they can quickly loose it (for example, a job or apartment). Usually, it is connected with the legal side: you do something but don’t have the legitimate right to do this officially and without fear (don’t mix with crime). Why birds? Their nests are easy to destroy and that is the history of this phrase.  

  • Подложить свинью (Podlozhit’ svin’yu) – “Put a pig while nobody sees”

The expression means creating a big trouble for somebody intentionally.  The list definitely goes beyond the phrases here so be ready to learn more by yourself in daily practice or on Russian classes in St.Petersburg!

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