Some letters in the Russian language change the way they sound depending on their position in words and the surrounding letters. To be able to read in Russian, you need to know these nuances.
Below you will find Russian pronunciation rules for vowels and consonants. If you followed our course learning the Russian alphabet, you are already familiar with all of these rules. They are just summarized here for you if you want to refresh your memory.
Pronunciation of the Russian vowels
1. Russian О, when in unstressed position, tends to sound closer to A:
|Two first Оs are unstressed and sound like А.|
|О is unstressed and sounds like А.|
2. The letters Я and Е, when in unstressed position and in the middle of a word, tend to sound closer to И.
When Я is at the very beginning of a word, it sounds closer to Е.
When Е is at the very beginning of a word, you are most likely to hear its original sound.
When Я and Е are at the very end of a word, they keep their original sound.
3. If you see the letter Ё, you can be sure that it is the one that’s stressed. (Although Russians have a habit of using Е instead of Ё, so if you don’t know the word, it might be tricky.)
|Ё is always stressed.|
|Ё is always stressed. |
Е is unstressed and sounds like И.
Pronunciation of the Russian consonants
1. When a consonant is followed by one of soft Russian vowels, it becomes soft itself.
|Н is hard because the following О is not soft.|
|Н is soft because the following Е is soft.|
2. Russian voiced consonants, when at the very end of a word, are pronounced as their voiceless counterparts:
|Д at the end of a word sounds like Т.|
|Ж at the end of a word sounds like Ш.|
3. Voiced consonants become voiceless when they are followed by other voiceless consonants.
4. Voiceless consonants sound as their voiced counterparts when they are followed by the voiced consonants Б, Г, Д, Ж, З.
5. Ending -ГО (-ОГО/ЕГО) becomes -ВО (or -ВА if unstressed). But be careful, this rule only applies to the endings! When Г is a part of a word’s stem, it keeps its original sound.
6. If several consonants go together, some of them can be omitted to facilitate the pronunciation.
|Л is omitted.|
|В is omitted. |
Unstressed О becomes А.
|В is omitted.|
|The first Т is omitted. |
Unstressed О becomes А.
7. -ТЬСЯ and -ТСЯ are pronounced as -ЦА.
-ТЬСЯ is the ending of reflexive verbs in the infinitive.
-ТСЯ is the ending of the verbs in the Present tense, 3d person.