Forum Rocket Russian Russian Vocab поживаете или дела?

поживаете или дела?



I am looking for some clarification on these similar phrases.
как дела - Lesson 1.0, How are you?
как у вас дела - Lesson 1.6, How are you? (formal)
как вы поживаете - Lesson 1.6, How are things?
как ты поживаешь - Lesson 1.6, How are you? (informal)
1)It seems to me как дела would be the informal or familiar of как у вас дела. Right?
2)как вы поживаете, would seem to be the formal of как ты поживаешь so why do we have differing translations?
3)What concept do the words поживаете and поживаешь convey? I ask because I have noticed the вы and ты often dropped from the phrases.
4) Where как вы поживаете is translated as How are things? is what piqued my curiosity on this matter. I recall, maybe a year ago, a Russian speaker explaining the phrase как дела and while she said it meant -how are you?- she also said it was more literally - How are your things. I can't find a good definition of дела on its own and I have been very distrustful of translators ever since I put in the phrase Мальчикам Это Нравится and got back "house bunny" LOL!

I guess ultimately, I want to know if there is any real difference between the meanings of the дела and the поживаете question that would cause me to select one over the other in a given situation? Спасибо.
Evgenia - Rocket Russian Tutor

Evgenia - Rocket Russian Tutor

Здравствуйте, David
Как у вас дела? versus Как вы поживаете?

I’ll try to explain the formal versions of these phrases, because their informal versions used with friends and family (Как дела? and Как поживаешь?) will be used in exactly the same manner. 
The primary meanings of the Russian word дело (pl. дела) are ‘work and business’. The phrase itself is abbreviated from ‘Как у вас идут дела..?” literally meaning ‘how is your work/business or study going’. This question is normally asked if you are interested in a person’s work, business or any full-time activity, like study, etc. Often it can be followed by words like: на работе ( at work), or в школе (at school) etc., e.g:
Как идут дела на работе (в школе, в офисе…)?

The verb поживать found in the phrase Как (вы) поживаете? is related to жить (to live). The meaning of this phrase is the same as ‘how’s life? or what’s happening in your life?’ in English - which inquires about a person’s life in general and not specifically work related. 

You can see from both meanings that these Russian questions are quite personal, and you wouldn’t expect to hear them at a shop, even from the friendliest Russian shop assistant. Actually, a Russian person might get quite offended by some stranger trying to ask personal questions. ‘Mind your own business’ - could be what you hear in reply… 

There are, of course, many other phrases that Russians use to inquire about each other’s wellbeing. But rather than being similar to generic English “How are you?” they are more specific and fall into three main categories: 1) work/business/study; 2) (personal) life; 3) health.


Years ago in the old days of Russian By Radio,  Nina Krilova explained that the only people who say Как (вы) поживаете? are very old Russians and foreign language learners.
Evgenia - Rocket Russian Tutor

Evgenia - Rocket Russian Tutor

It is true that "Как вы поживаете?" is more formal than "Kак дела?" and hence, more polite. That is why it is often used to address older people and should be used by foreign language learners when addressing older people as well : ) 



Ask a question or post a response

If you want to ask a question or post a response you need to be a member.

If you are already a member login here.
If you are not a member you can become one by taking the free Rocket Russian trial here.