Russian alphabet

Any language should be studied starting from the aphabet (алфави́т), and many our readers asked us for such a lesson. Today we prepared it for you. Learn Russian alphabet, pronunciation rules and see how hand written Russian is different from the printed version of Russian you are used to.

Download the audio file of this lesson


The Russian alphabet uses Cyrillic symbols and consists of 33 letters: 10 vowels, 21 consonants and 2 letters which do not have a sound (instead, they just make the precedeing letter sound harder or softer).

Let’s learn Russian letters one by one:

[] – approximate pronunciation. Listen to the audio to hear the real sound of each letter.

А а [a]
Б б [b]
В в [v]
Г г [g]
Д д [d]
Е е [ye]
Ё ё [yo]
Ж ж [zh]
З з [z]
И и [ee]
Й й [y]
К к [k]
Л л [l]
М м [m]
Н н [n]
О о [o]
П п [p]
Р р [r]
С с [s]
Т т [t]
У у [u]
Ф ф [ph]
Х х [h]
Ц ц [ts]
Ч ч [ch]
Ш ш [sh]
Щ щ [sch]
ъ the hard sign
ы ~ [i]
ь the soft sign
Э э [e]
Ю ю [yu]
Я я [ya]

Hand-written Russian

Some letter in the hand-written Russian look quite different to their printed version, and even if you are not going to write in Russian by hand any time soon, it’s always useful to have at least a basic understanding of it.

Let’s study the hand-written letters one by one:

А а
Б б
В в
Г г
Д д
Е е
Ё ё
Ж ж
З з
И и
Й й
К к
Л л
М м
Н н
О о
П п
Р р
С с
Т т
У у
Ф ф
Х х
Ц ц
Ч ч
Ш ш
Щ щ
Э э
Ю ю
Я я

Pronunciation rules: vowels

[Правила произношения: гласные]

  1. In unstressed positions, Russian letter O is pronounced like unstressed Russian A. But when stressed, it sounds like О in more.
  2. In unstressed positions, Russian letters Я, Е, Э are pronounced like an abbreviated Russian И.
  3. The letter Ё is always stressed in Russian words.
vowel stressed unstressed
а ма́ма (mother) каранда́ш (pencil)
o по́мощь (help) молоко́ (milk)
у ру́ки (hands) уро́к (lesson)
э э́хо (echo) эта́ж (floor)
ы ры́ба (fish) краси́вый (beautiful)
и кри́к (scream) игра́ (game)
е ме́бель (furniture) семья́ (family)
ё зелёный (green), жёлтый (yellow)
ю ю́бка (skirt) любо́вь (love)
я я́щик (box) тяжёлый (heavy)

Pronunciation rules: consonants

[Правила произношения: согласные]

Pairs of consonants. Пары согласных.

voiced voiceless
б п
в ф
г к / х
д т
ж ш
з с
  1. Russian voiced consonants are pronounced as their voiceless counterparts when they appear in the the very end of the word.

    Example: обе́д(dinner) – [abе́t]

  2. Voiced consonants become voiceless when they are followed by other voiceless consonants.

    Example: ю́бка – (skirt) – [yúpka]

  3. Voiceless consonants sound voiced when they are followed by voiced consonants.

    Example: футбо́лка – (t-shirt) – [fudbólka]

  4. If a consonant is followed by one of these vowels – Я, Е, Ё, Ю, И, soften the consonant to achieve more natural pronunciation. For example, the word нет consists of sounds N, IE, and T. To avoid many beginners mistake of pronouncing “нет” like “ниет“, soften the Н, and it will allow you to go over Е much smoother.

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2 comments on “Russian alphabet

  1. Is it easier or better to learn Russian by starting with handwritten Russian first. I am teaching myself with no help.
    Thank you!

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