007 – Pronunciation rules – consonants

In the last lesson we’ve started covering the Russian pronunciation rules and talked about the pronunciation of Russian vowels. Today we’ll study the pronunciation of Russian consonants.

There are a few cases when Russian consonants are pronounced not as they are written:

  • Russian voiced consonants are pronounced as their voiceless counterparts when they appear in the the very end of the word.
    Examples:
    – обе́́д [a-byét]dinner
    – муж [mush]husband

  • Voiced consonants become voiceless when they are followed by other voiceless consonants.
    Example: ю́́бка [yúp-ka]skirt

  • Voiceless consonants sound as their voiced counterparts when they are followed by the consonants Б, Г, Д, Ж, З.
    Example: футбо́́лка [fud-ból-ka]t-shirt

  • -ГО in the end of the word (when it’s a part of the ending in the Genitive case which we will cover later) becomes -ВО.
    Example:
    – ничего́ плохо́го [nee-chee-vó pla-hó-va]nothing bad

  • If several consonants go together, some of them can be omitted to facilitate the pronunciation.
    Examples:
    – со́лнце [són-tse]sun (omit Л)
    – чу́вство [chú-stva]feeling (omit В)
    – здра́вствуйте [zdrást-vuî-tye]hello (omit В)
    – аге́нтство [a-gyénst-va]agency (omit first Т)

  • -ТЬСЯ in the end of the word (the ending of reflexive verbs in the form of infinitive) is pronounced as -ЦА [tsa]. Same with -ТСЯ (the ending of the verbs in the Present tense, 3d person).

    Examples:
    – улыба́ться [u-ly-bá-tsa]to smile
    – улыба́eтся [u-ly-bá-ee-tsa](he/she) smiles

  • Remember the 5 soft vowels we learned in the lesson #2 (И, Я, Ю, Ё, E)? If any of them follows a consonant, you should soften that consonant to achieve more natural sound.

    For example:
    – нет [nyet]no
    – приве́т [pree-vyét]hi

Now we’ve covered the Russian alphabet and pronunciation rules, so you should be able to start reading Russian words. It will take you some time to master your reading skills and pronunciation in Russian. Further down the road you will also encounter some words that don’t exactly follow the rules you’ve been learning, but don’t let it discourage you.

Remember this: the best way to master the Russian pronunciation is to try to mimic the native speech. So listen to Russian as much as possible and try to repeat what you hear.

You can start from listening to the audio with the examples of this lesson and practicing their pronunciation.

Bon courage, as French people say! 🙂

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4 comments on “007 – Pronunciation rules – consonants”

  1. Röyal says:

    Hello! I am a bit confused with these rules:

    Voiced consonants become voiceless when they are followed by other voiceless consonants.
    Example: ю́́бка [yúp-ka] – skirt

    Voiceless consonants sound as their voiced counterparts when they are followed by the consonants Б, Г, Д, Ж, З.
    Example: футбо́́лка [fud-ból-ka] – t-shirt

    Is there any good technique so that I can grasp these rules more efficiently and easily?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hi Röyal,

      There is a logic behind these rules. Overall, Russian pronunciation rules came about due to the convenience of pronunciation. For example, it’s easier to pronounce yup-ka than youb-ka because you don’t have to engage the vocal cords. It’s easier to say ma-la-ko instead of mo-lo-ko because to say A you need just to open the lips while for O you need to put them in some sort of a “tube”.

      But this is as good as it gets. There will be much more complicated rules that need to be memorized to move forward. You have to engage your memory and train your brain to learn. If learning a language (any language) would be such an easy thing, everybody would be a polyglot.

  2. kawtar says:

    thank you soooooooooo much… i’m from morocco, i’m 14 ,and i can speak arabic,french,a little bit of “deutsch” and i want to learn reading russian as soon as possible
    (and i can read some korean words) 😀

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Kawtar,

      Thank you for the message and welcome to the site. If you have any questions, we are here to help. 🙂

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