Russian Slang and Idioms. Lesson 15.

TPronunciation of Russian conconantsoday we will continue working on your Russian pronunciation. To make things easier I decided to create a couple of lessons to show you how pronunciation of Russian vowels and consonants can change depending on their nature and their position in the word. In one of our previous lessons we’ve discussed pronunciation of the Russian vowels. Now you know that pronunciation of the vowels changes based on whether they are stressed or not. Today we will discuss pronunciation of the Russian consonants. 

You can review the lesson about the pronunciation of the Russian vowels here. If you are not familiar with Russian alphabet watch this video lesson – Russian Alphabet.

And so we begin.
As you might already know, there are 21 consonants in Russian language. Here they are:
б, в, г, д, ж, з, й, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ц, ч, ш, щ.

Hard and Soft Consonants in Russian

Russian consonants can be pronounced as hard and soft. Whether a consonant is hard or soft most of the time would depend on the vowel that follows it. However, some Russian consonants can only be hard or soft. For example, Russian consonants й, ч, щ are always soft, and consonants ж, ц, ш are always hard.

Russian consonants below can be hard or soft (‘-this little sign above the consonant indicates on it being soft):
б- б’; г- г’; в- в’; д- д’; з- з’; к – к’; л- л’; м- м’; н- н’; п- п’; р- р’; с- с’, т- т’; ф- ф’; х- х’.

A Russian consonant is pronounced as hard if it’s followed by vowels а, у, ы, о, э. For example, all consonants in the words below are hard:
Мама [MA-ma] mom
Суп [SOOP] soup
Рыба [RI-ba] fish

A Russian consonant is pronounced as soft if it’s followed by я, ю, и, ё, е, ь.
For example, the consonants underlined in the words below are soft:
Пять [PYAT’] five
Лес [LYES] forest
Мёд [MYOT] honey

Voiced and Voiceless Consonants in Russian

When it comes to differentiating between the Russian voiced and voiceless consonants, it all is very easy. Russian voiced consonants are called voiced because they use the voice. Voiceless consonants do not use the voice, they simply use sounds.

To feel the difference between voiced and voiceless consonants, please place your fingers on your throat and pronounce the sounds in the table below:

Vocal chords vibrate (voiced consonants): б, в, г, д, ж, з
Vocal chords do not vibrate (voiceless): п, ф, к, т, ш, с

If you feel the vibration, the consonant is voiced. If you don’t feel the vibration, and just a short explosion of air as you pronounce the consonant, then it means that it’s not voiced.

Russian Voiced Consonants Can Become Voiceless

Bus in Russian

Russian voiced consonants can become unvoiced in the following situations:
If they are at the end of the word
For example:
Лоб [LOP] forehead
Год [GOT] year
Пляж [PLYASH] beach

If they are immediately before an unvoiced consonant, such as к, п, с, т, ф, х, ц, ч, ш, щ. Here is an example:
Вчера [fchee-RA] yesterday
Ложка [LOSH-ka] spoon
Автобус [af-TO-boos] bus

This is all that I wanted to share with you today. Use this infographic below to review the rules discussed above.

Pronunciation of Russian consonants

Remember, some foreign accent always sounds very attractive, so please don’t worry if you don’t sounds exactly like a native Russian speaker. Just keep practicing, and I’m sure your Russian pronunciation will be perfect (if it’s not yet already)!

Talk soon!

Study with Maxim Achkasov


The courses of Russian as a foreign language with FunRussian take place online via Skype. The teacher works with adults individually since he is convinced that each person must receive maximum time for practice and professional attention while learning a foreign language.