Lesson 006

Russian pronunciation rules - vowels


In the Russian language, as in many other languages, some letters change their pronunciation depending on their position in words and the letters that surround them. Today we start learning the Russian pronunciation rules.

This lesson we dedicate to the pronunciation of Russian vowels. You might have noticed that we add an accent mark (stress) to every Russian word that includes more that one vowel (syllable). It’s because the position of the accent affects the pronunciation of Russian words, so knowing where to put an accent (make the stress) tells you how to pronounce the word. If there is only one vowel in a word, it’s the one that’s stressed. You can read more about the stress in the Russian words here.

Now, the pronunciation of the Russian vowels:

Russian Pod 101
  • Overall Russians tend to be sort of lazy with their pronunciation, so the Russian letter O, when unstressed, usually sounds close to A. For example:

    по́мощь [pó-masch] – help
    молоко́ [ma-la-kó] – milk

  • The same “lazy pronunciation” happens to the letters Я, Е and Э. When unstressed and not in the beginning or the end of the word, the Russian letters Я, Е and Э tend to be pronounced close to the Russian sound И. For example:

    е́хать [yé-hat’] – to go (by vehicle) [E stressed]
    мечта́ [meech-tá] – dream [E unstressed]
    я́щик [yá-scheek] – box [Я stressed]
    тяжёлый [tee-zhó-lyî] – heavy [Я unstressed]
    э́хо [é-ha] – echo [Э stressed]
    аэродро́м [a-ee-ra-dróm] – airfield [Э unstressed]

  • The letter Ё (don’t confuse it with E) is always stressed (accentuated) in the Russian words (you will never see an accent mark above it as it’s always assumed):

    зелёный [zee-lyó-nyî] – green
    жёлтый [zhól-tyî] – yellow

That’s all you need to remember about the pronunciation of Russian vowels. Listen to the audio examples and repeat after it.

We are happy that you decided to learn Russian with us. In the next lesson we’ll learn about the pronunciation of Russian consonants.


More lessons on the Russian pronunciation

Spotted an error? Let us know please!

28 comments on “006 – Russian pronunciation rules – vowels”

  1. ZHU says:

    In china how I donate by wechat or 支付宝 I donot have paypal

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Zhu,

      You can try to donate an amout in rubles here using your bank card. This is our fundraising page on Yandex.

      If you can’t access it, unfortunately, we don’t have WeChat. But thank you very much for your intention. 🙂

      Feel free to ask questions on the lessons, we are always ready to help! 🙂

  2. emin says:

    why in some sentence you pronunce the o as A a

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Emin,

      As the lesson above says, when the O is unstressed it is often pronounced as A.

  3. уссама says:

    hey there , i just want to thank you all for your effort , these lessons has boosted my Russian language ,

  4. khalid says:

    I cant find listening file, Please guide me how to play the listening file ?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Khalid,

      There is a blue button at the bottom of screen, click on it and you will see an audio player.

  5. Peace says:

    Thank you so much for the great job you do. I really love to learn Russian here

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Peace,

      Thanks for the comment. If you have any questions, we are here to help.

  6. Peace says:

    тяжёлый [tee-zhó-lyî] – heavy [Я stressed]
    I think in this word, Я is unstressed not stressed.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Peace,

      Thanks for noticing the error, it’s corrected.

  7. Röyal says:

    Hello. Which level will I reach after I complete this course? E.g. B1, B2, C1 etc.

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Röyal,

      This is mostly a grammar course and designed to walk you through the complicated Russian grammar. To reach even the level A1 in Russian you need some vocabulary besides grammar. For the moment we have a few vocabulary lessons that cover topics of the level A1, A2 and even B1. As we said earlier replying to your comments, this course by itself is not enough to start speaking Russian. You need to combine it with other activities.

      For your information: http://en.russia.edu.ru/russian/levels/

  8. Röyal says:

    Hello! Is it necessary to learn the example words used in lessons? Or they will be taught in the next lessons?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hi Röyal,

      No, you don’t have to learn the example words. In this lesson they are given just to demonstrate the pronunciation. Some of them you’ll see again in the course, some of them we don’t mention anymore.

      But overall you can’t go too far without learning new words, you’ll have to memorize some of them at some point to be able to move forward.

  9. Madelyn says:

    Hi! Im a bit confuse with the pronunciation of the two vowel together in a word. Can you help me

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Madelyn,

      In Russian, when two vowels go together, each of them is pronounced separately and keeps the sound as it was alone. For example:

      аудио [á-u-dee-o] – audio
      биоакустика [bee-a-a-kús-tee-ka] – bioacoustics
      аэропорт [a-e-ra-pórt] – airport

  10. ken muruthi says:

    HI how does one pronounce the Russian vowels. And how is the word Grandduchess written in Russian?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Ken,

      Grand Duchess in Russian is Великая Княгиня.

      As for the pronunciation of Russian vowels, please refer to the lesson you are looking at and the lessons 001 and 002.

  11. jeffrey jones says:

    any advice on dictionaries?

  12. loth says:

    thank you so much. ^^ I am right, then. No need to put the hard sign after the “T” since “O” is not a soft vowel, right? I love this lesson 🙂

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Loth,
      Your are right, in your name there is no soft sign.

  13. loth says:

    This is just so great! 🙂
    I’ve been learning a lot here, but how to write the /th/ sound in Russian?
    How to write my name? (LOTH)

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Loth,

      The sound TH in Russian is replaced by simple T, so your name would be Лот.

  14. Craig B Caldwell says:

    I am wanting to write my given name in Cyrillic letters. My name is Craig. The C is a hard sound. It’s the AI I’m not sure about! The name does not rhyme with Greg! The correct sound is closer to the a, in way. So, at this point, I have this:

    Кр __ гь

    What letter, or combination best fills in the blank? The English equivalent is the word “plain,” (simple, ordinary)

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Craig,

      You name in Cyrillic will be Крейг. No need for the soft sign in the end.

      Good luck!

  15. daniele says:

    itash or etash?
    why some russian person tell tyazhioliy and other tizhioliy?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello daniele,

      Usually the real pronunciation is something between и and я, different people give different efforts to pronounce the words clearer.

      But if you tend to pronounce the word exactly as it’s written it sounds less natural. So the best advise – try to listen to the pronunciation and you will feel it.

      Good luck.

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