005 – Russian alphabet: hard sign (Ъ) and soft sign (Ь)

Now you’ve already learned 31 Cyrillic letters – almost the whole Russian alphabet. There are just 2 letters left to learn, they are neither vowels nor consonants. They don’t even have their own sound. So what are they? We call them signs: the hard sign and the soft sign.

We also recommend:
Russian alphabet, pronunciation and hand-written Russian

the hard sign – Ъ ъ (твёрдый знак) [tvyór-dyî znak]
the soft sign – Ь ь (мягкий знак) [myáh-keeî znak]

What do they do?

As you will learn in the next lessons, the “soft” part of the Russian vowels (Я, Ё, Е, Ю, И) changes the sound of the preceeding consonants making it softer. The idea of “softening” can be illuststrated by the letter N in such words as ‘now’ and ‘new’ – it sounds harder in the first case and softer in the other one.

The hard sign makes the preceding consonant sound hard even if the following vowel is supposed to soften it.

The soft sing, the opposite, makes the preceeding consonant sound softer.

In transcriptions, we mark the soft consonants with an apostrophe ‘. The consonants hardened by the hard sign are separated in transcriptions from the softening vowels with a dash. For example:

мать [mat’]mother

съесть [s-yest’]to eat

That’s it! Now you know all the 33 letters of the Russian alphabet!

It’s time to recap: listen to the audio and repeat the letters after it.

А а [a]
Б б [b]
В в [v]
Г г [g]
Д д [d]
Е е [ye]
Ё ё [yo]
Ж ж [zh]
З з [z]
И и [ee]
Й й [î]
К к [k]
Л л [l]
М м [m]
Н н [n]
О о [o]
П п [p]
Р р [r]
С с [s]
Т т [t]
У у [u]
Ф ф [f]
Х х [h]
Ц ц [ts]
Ч ч [ch]
Ш ш [sh]
Щ щ [sch]
ъ the hard sign (твёрдый знак)
ы [y]
ь the soft sign (мягкий знак)
Э э [e]
Ю ю [yu]
Я я [ya]

Next two lessons we’ll dedicate to the pronounciation of the Russian letters depending on their position in the word.

Spotted an error? Let us know please!

Your feedback and questions

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *