008 – Accent marks in Russian words

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.

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


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

  1. 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] ?

    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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