Lesson 005

Accent marks in Russian words

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Every word in the Russian language carries an accent. These accents are fundamental – accentuated vowels are pronounced with more intensity and do not change their sound regardless or their position in a word.

These accents are one of the most challenging things for every Russian student as there are no rules that could help you to figure out where the accent should fall. To make things worse, Russians do not have a habit of putting accents in words when writing. At the same time, changing the accents can not only complicate the communication but change the meaning of a word completely.

Have a look at these examples below:

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

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

This is why you should always memorize Russian words together with the accents. It 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.

Russian Pod 101

Tools to help

There are a few tools in the internet that can help you with the 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 (and a few different meanings for every accent), this tool will offer you all of them.

In the example below, the word дома has two different meanings depending on where you put the accent:

дóма [dó-ma]at home
домá [da-má]houses

Russian accents

Always accentuated

The letter Ё is always accentuated.

Unfortunately, very soon you’ll come accross the fact that Russians are too lazy to put the dots above Е to make it Ё. Even when typing, many do not bother and just replace Ё with Е. 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-s, because the Ё is the least used letter in the Russian alphabet.

If there is only one vowel in a word, it’s the one that’s accentuated. In this case the accent is not shown.

A little secret

If you feel a bit intimidated by this information, we will tell you 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 version is considered to be звони́т.

More practice

To finish this lesson, here are some more examples of the words where changing the accent changes the meaning:

ви́ски [vées-kee]whiskey
виски́ [vees-kée]temples (body part)

тру́сы [trú-sy]cowards
трусы́ [tru-sý]underpants

пиро́ги [pee-ra-gée]pirogues
пироги́ [pee-ró-gee]pies

писа́ть [pee-sát’]to write
пи́сать [peé-sat’]to pee

в душе́ [v du-shé]in the soul
в ду́ше [v dú-she]in the shower

заплачу́ [za-pla-chú]I will pay
запла́чу [za-plá-chu]I will cry

Russian Alphabet

We hope you enjoy our lessons. Stick with us and we will help you to make your first steps in your journey to learn Russian language!

The offline version of this lesson is available here

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6 comments on “005 – 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://learnrussianwords.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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