How To Say “I’m Tired” in Russian Without Making Mistakes

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Today we are gathered here for a short article packed with useful information about how to say “tired” in Russian.

You may think that such a simple, everyday sentence as “I’m tired” would be easy to say in Russian, right? Think again! Unfortunately, virtually everyone (me included) says that wrong at the beginning!

Here below, you will find out how to say “I’m tired” in Russian without making serious grammatical mistakes.

tired in russian

Tired in Russian: Intro

Whatever your native language, the problem is always the same! In Italian, we say “sono stanco”, in English “I’m tired”, in French “Je suis fatigué”, in German “ich bin müde”, in Chinese “我很累”… Well, you get the hint.

In most languages, being tired describes someone’s condition and for this reason, is expressed through the use of an adjective.

But guess what?! Exactly – the Russian language likes to stand out of the crowd, as always. If you want to say “I’m tired” in Russian you don’t use an adjective, but a verb. And to make things even worse, it’s a verb form that resembles an adjective, but is not!

Of course, this confuses non-native speakers and leads them to a series of grammatical errors.

The verbs “уставать – устать”

The verbs “уставать – устать” translate into English as “to get tired”.

When Russians want to complain about being tired, they use “я устал” (masculine) and “я устала” (feminine). Of course, they’re saying that they’re tired, but from a grammar point of view, they’re actually saying “I got tired“.

In fact, these two short sentences are nothing other than the past form of the perfective verb “устать”, which here is used to underline the result of all the actions performed during the day! Can you recognize the classic ending of Russian verbs in the past tense?

The problem lies in the fact that our brain continues to perceive them as adjectives, perhaps because they look like Russian short-form adjectives. Let’s make an example: how would you say “Yesterday I was tired” in Russian?

“Я вчера был устал”?

Absolutely not! We are using a verb in the past tense and the past tense in Russian is only one, it does not have a compound form and therefore can never be preceded by an auxiliary.

In Russian, “Yesterday I was tired” would be “Я вчера устал”, which grammatically translates as “Yesterday I got tired”. Obviously, the same goes for “устала” in the feminine.

The adjectives

Do Russians have an adjective that expresses the meaning of being tired? Of course, they do, they even have two of them, but they are used differently than we are used to!

The adjective “усталый” means “that is proper of someone tired” and is used in sentences like “У тебя усталый вид” (you look tired, you appear tired). And no, in contemporary Russian, this adjective does not have a short form!

The second adjective is “уставший“ and it is actually a participle that means “who got tired“. You can use it in phrases like “Ты выглядишь уставшим” (you look tired).

Although they have two different nuances to them, Russians use these adjectives in everyday language as synonyms. But can they be used to say “I am/was tired”?

Sure, you can, but it doesn’t always sound natural.

Yesterday I was so tired that I got home and fell asleep:
1) Вчера я так устала, что пришла домой и уснула – most common and natural phrase
2) Вчера я была такой уставшей, что пришла домой и уснула
3) Вчера я была такой усталой, что пришла домой и уснула

Clearly, after the verb to be the adjective goes in the instrumental case!

Tired in Russian: Let’s sum it up

I know that “я устал” and “я устала” look like adjectives, but they are not! They are the past form of a perfective verb and as such should be used.

Have a look at these posts!

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