006 – Russian pronunciation rules – vowels

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

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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 the words in Russian, so knowing where 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.

  • Overall Russians tend be lazy with their pronunciation, so the Russiah letter O, when it’s 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 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 stressed]
    – 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 (but you’ll never see an accent mark above it as it’s 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.

In the next lesson we’ll learn about the pronunciation of Russian consonants.

Spotted an error? Let us know please!

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

  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. jeffrey jones says:

    any advice on dictionaries?

  4. 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.

  5. 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)
    Thanks!

    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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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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