Accent marks in Russian words
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.
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
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 Russians 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.
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-ró-gee] – pirogues
пироги́ [pee-ra-gée] – 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
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!
More lessons on the Russian alphabet
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