Lesson 002

Russian alphabet: consonants

In the previous lesson we have learned 10 Russian vowels. Today we will get familiar with the Russian consonants.

There are 21 consonants in the Russian alphabet. Some of them form pairs as the vowels do, others do not.

6 pairs of Russian consonants

Consonants in Russian can be voiced or voiceless.

To explain the concept of voiced and voiceless consonants, let’s take the English letters V and F. To pronounce them both, you put your lips in the same position, but for the V you make a sound with your vocal cords, and for the F you don’t. So the V is voiced and the F is voiceless.

Study the letters below and notice that one is a voiceless counterpart of the other:

Voiced Voiceless
Б б [b] П п [p]
В в [v] Ф ф [f]
Г г [g] К к [k] or Х х [h]
Д д [d] Т т [t]
Ж ж [zh] Ш ш [sh]
З з [z] С с [s]

Being able to distinguish between voiced and voiceless consonants will help you to master the Russian pronunciation.

Russian Pod 101

Other Russian consonants

For the rest of the consonants, it is not important whether they are voiced or voiceless.

So let’s just learn them as they are:

Й й[î] (also called “и краткое” which means i short; like ‘y’ in ‘boy’)

Л л[l] (like English ‘l’)

М м[m] (like English ‘m’)

Н н[n] (like English ‘n’)

Р р[r] (a rolled sound ‘r’, like in Spanish)

Ц ц[ts] (like ‘ts’ in “it’s”)

Ч ч[ch] (like ‘ch’ in ‘cherry’)

Щ щ[sch] (like sounds ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ together)

Please pay attention that the way we pronounce these letters in the audio is not an “official” way to read the Russian alphabet but rather the natural sound of the letters when you read them in words.

The transcription of the consonants is quite close to the real sound of the Russian letters.


Practice reading Russian words

Now, you can even read some Russian words:

сок [sok]juice

пáпа [pá-pa]dad

бык [byk]bull

ток [tok](electric) current

бок [bok]side

кот [kot]cat (male)

ко́шка [kósh-ka]cat (female)

ва́за [vá-za]vase

лес [lyes]forest

мир [meer]peace, world

ру́сский язы́к [rús-keeî ya-zýk]Russian language

рука́ [ru-ká]hand / arm

интерне́т [een-ter-nét]internet

We understand that it can take you some time to get used to the Cyrillic letters. To help you with that, we created a separate site entirely dedicated to the Russian alphabet where you can find all the information about pronunciation and pratice with audio.

If you wonder what are the accents that you see above some of the letters, visit this lesson.

This is it for this lesson. We hope you enjoy learning Russian with us. In the next lesson we will finish learning the Russian alphabet.

Update: we have also created the whole site to learn the Russian alphabet easy and free. Don’t hesitate to check it out!


The offline version of this lesson is available here

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8 comments on “002 – Russian alphabet: consonants”

  1. kumududeva seneviratna says:

    good but you haven’t yet taught the letter “P” in Russian but given a word with that letter.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hi kumududeva seneviratna,

      Your are right, there is a small inaccuracy here. Sorry.
      You can learn the letter Р in the next lesson (004).

  2. Maya says:

    Hi, your lessons are so helpful. One question. Is this also the way letters are hand-written? I’m very confused since I’m reading a lot of things about the difference between handwriting and italic and reading Russian. Can you clear that up? I hope you continue making making these lessons.

    1. Learn Russian Step y Step says:

      Hi Maya,

      We’ll probably make such a lesson in the future, but so far you can find this information here: Russian alphabet.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Hoàng Anh Hào says:

    This is a great work.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hi Hoàng Anh Hào,

      Thanks. Feel free to ask questions and good luck!

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