Lesson 008

Accent marks in Russian words

The audio for the lesson is available at the bottom of the screen under the blue button.

Russian accents (stress marks) is one of the most challenging things for every Russian student. Today we’ll talk about them and try to make the idea of the unpredictable Russian accents a little bit less stressful for you.

As we saw in all the previous lessons, every word in the Russian language carries an accent. These accents are fundamental in Russian – accentuated vowels are pronounced with more intensity and do not change their sound in pronunciation as we learned before.

Unfortunately, there is no rules in Russian language that would help you to figure out where the accent shoul fall. To make the things worse, Russians do not have a habit of putting accents on words when writing. At the same time, changing the accents can not only complicate the communication, but change the meaning of the word completely. For example:

замо́к [za-mók]lock
за́мок [zá-mak]castle

у́же [ú-zhe]narrower
уже́ [u-zhé]already

This is why you should always memorize Russian words together with the accents. It’s seems like a lot of work, but we promise, further down the road it will become easier as you’ll start seeing some patterns and be able to guess the correct accentuation.

There are a few tools in the internet that can help you with the Russian accents. For example, morpher.ru will put all the accents in the text you enter into the field. Attention though: when the word can have a few different accents (i.e. a few different meanings for every accent), this tool will offer you all of them.

In the example below, the word дома have two different meanings depending on where you put the accent:
– дóма – at home
– домá – houses

Russian accents

Remember also that the letter Ё is always accentuated. Unfortunately, very soon you’ll come accross the fact that Russains prefer to replace the written Ё by E. If you find yourself trying to read a text where Ё-s are not specified, it’s safer to assume that the words contain E, because the Ё is the least used letter in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Russian Pod 101

We will disclose a little secret: sometimes even Russian themselves can’t remember where the accent goes in certain words, for example, the word звонит (calls/is calling) is prounounced by many as звóнит, although the correct variant is considered to be звони́т.

To finish this lesson, let’s learn some new Russian words and practice their pronunciation. Listen to the audio and repeat after it.

сло́во [sló-va]word

компью́тер [kamp-yú-teer]computer

ве́тер [vyé-teer]wind

бума́га [bu-má-ga]paper

экра́н [ek-rán]screen

письмо́ [pees’-mó]letter, mail

сообще́ние [sa-ap-sché-nee-ye]message

More lessons on the Russian pronunciation

6 comments on “008 – Accent marks in Russian words”

  1. ByakkoChan says:

    Hello, I’m learning Russian, mainly through an online service (though I took a university-level introduction many years ago, which is now VERY rusty). I’m wondering about accent marks and diacritical marks.

    My app (of the online service I mainly use at the moment) tells me that the word for “water” is a word I cannot create on my iPad using only my Russian keyboard, because the accent mark which is shown in the correct answer does not seem to exist. I have to borrow from my French keyboard to create the correct appearance which, understandably, is rejected by the app.

    The word (as it appears in the correct answer) is водá, but the app DOES accept an unaccented вода, which makes me wonder if this mark might be more an aide to pronunciation rather than an actual accented letter, would that be possible?

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello ByakkoChan,

      Yes, you got it right, the accent mark is usually only shown to the learners so they memorize where it falls as the pronunciation of the word greatly depends on it.

      In real life, Russians never use the accent marks in writing. That’s why your app accepts the answer without it, as it should.

      If you have more questions on the way, you are welcome. 🙂

  2. Mohammad says:

    why don’t you give any examples for each new word??

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hello Mohammad,

      The purpose of the lesson to teach you how to read Russian words. There will be a lot of new vocabulary in the following lessons, if we start giving examples to each new word, our lessons will grow in size immensely and this is not our goal. If you want to learn words with examples, please heck out this website: https://learnrussiandaily.com.

  3. tania says:

    hi, your lessons are fab!! but since i’m still at the beginning there is something i don’t really understand.
    in lesson 006 you said that unstressed Я E and Э are pronounced as И (ee) like in эта́́ж [itásh], so why here is экра́н pronounced [ekrán] and not [ikrán] ?
    thanx!!

    1. Learn Russian Step by Step says:

      Hi Tania,

      There are many things in Russian that can’t be described by rules. Actually, in both words – экран and этаж – э sounds more like something between e and ee. That is why sometimes you might come across different ways of transcription.

      The best way is to practice your pronunciation listening to real Russian speech (for example, audio files of this site).

      Thanks for your feedback.
      Good luck.

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