Russian Letters and Pronunciation
Russian (Cyrillic) script is derived from the Greek script and has 33 letters. Some letters look exactly like Latin ones.
In most cases Russian words are pronounced as they are written. However, sometimes different letters or combinations of letters sound the same. And one letter may have different sounds. Phonetic transcription of Russian words shall help beginners to pronounce the words correctly.
|A||[a]||as in papa = папа|
|K||[k]||as in key = ключ|
|M||[m]||as in mother = мать|
|T||[t]||as in Taxi = такси|
|O||[o]||as in pot = горшок|
|B||[v]||as in vase = ваза|
|E||[ye]||as in yet = ещё|
|H||[n]||as in night = ночь|
|P||[r]||as in arrow = стрела|
|C||[s]||as in souvenir = сувенир|
|Y||[oo]||as in moon = луна|
|X||[h] or [ch]||similar to Lochness = Лохнесс|
Check out the Russian alphabet with sound samples.
Hard: а, о, у, ы, э
Soft: я, ё, ю, и, е
In the following cases soft vowels (except for “и“) are pronounced with an initial “y”-sound:
- in the initial position as in яблоко – ya-bla-ka – apple
- after another vowel as in красивая – kra-sée-va-ya – beautiful (feminin)
- after a hard sign (ъ) as in подъезд – pad-yézd – doorway
- after a soft sign (ь) as in семья – seem-ya – family
Stressed vowels are long:
Город – gó-rat- town/city
Unstressed vowels are short:
Городской – ga-rat-skói – town/city as an adjective
Here there is an obvious difference between spelling and pronunciation: unstressed “o” has a pronounced very much like “a”, but shorter.
Most consonants can be hard or soft (palatalized). The softness is marked by the letters that follow the consonant.
Soft vowels (я, ё, ю, и, е) and the soft sign (ь) soften preceding consonants. Compare the differences in the pronunciation of the following consonants, first hard and then soft.
|Hard consonants||Soft (palatalized) consonants|
|масло – más-la – butter||мясо – mya-sa – meat|
|мост – most – bridge||мёрзнуть – myór-znoot – freeze|
|рука – roo-ká – arm||рюмка – ryóom-ka – small wineglass|
|быть – bit – to be||бить – bit – beat/hit|
|каратэ – ka-ra-té – karate||телефон – tee-lee-fón – telephone|
|город – gó-rat– town/city||лошадь – ló-shat – horse|
Always hard are ж, ш, ц
Always soft are ч, щ
In Russian there are voiced and voiceless consonants. Most of them come in pairs:
Voiced consonants are pronounced voiceless:
- in the final position
- if followed by a voiceless consonant
|дружба – dróosh-ba – friendship||хлеб – chlyep – bread|
|думать – dóo-mat – to think||идти – ittí – to go/ to come|
Always voiced are л, м, н, р, й
Always voiceless are х, ч, ц, щ
Word stress in Russian
There are no stress rules in Russian. Any syllable of the word can be stressed. In transcriptions, an accent mark indicates the stressed vowels. It is important to learn the place of the stress when learning a new word.
Capitalisation in Russian
In Russian, following words begin with a capital letter:
- Names / Surnames
- Names of towns, cities, countries and other geographical names
- Official institutions
- First words of a new sentence
Russian Language Exercises online (some with audio samlples)
Russian language course
VERB CONJUGATION TRAINER: Learn and practice the conjugation of Russian verbs online