A few very important Russian grammar rules

In this lesson for beginners we’ll cover a few Russian grammar rules and features of special importance. Studying them carefully will let you avoid many mistakes in the future, especially in written Russian.

Each grammar rule comes along with examples. The audio recording of today’s lesson contains all today’s examples read in slow spoken Russian.

Update: we have many more lessons about Russian grammar! Visit Learn Russian Step by Step – Free online Russian grammar and vocabulary course for beginners.

Stress (Ударение)

Russian Pod 101

There are no rules in Russian grammar about the position of stress. When memorizing Russian words you should do it together with stress. Moreover, the position of stress in the word can change when the word changes its form, for example:

hand: рука́ (singular) – ру́ки (plural)
leg: нога́ (singular) – но́ги (plural)

In other cases a change of position of the stress can change the meaning of the word. For example:

мука́ (flour, meal) – му́ка (torment, torture)
замо́к (lock) – за́мок (castle)
уже́ (already) – у́же (narrower)

Capitalization (Заглавные буквы)

Russians don’t capitalize:

  • Names of the days of the week and months:
    – а́вгуст (August),
    – вто́рник (Thuesday).
  • Words derived from proper names:
    – Москва́ -> моско́вский (of Moscow),
    – Росси́я -> росси́йский (of Russia, Russian).
  • Words designating nationality:
    – италья́нец (Italian person),
    – америка́нец (American person),
    – францу́женка (French woman).
  • Titles and modes of address:
    – господи́н (sir),
    – профе́ссор (professor).

The only two cases when you should use the capital letters are:

  • if it’s a beginning of a sentence:
    – “Была́ зима́.” – It was winter.
  • if it’s a proper name:
    – Дми́трий,
    – Санкт-Петербу́рг.

Spelling: vowels Я, Ю, Ы and О
(Правописание: гласные Я, Ю, Ы и О)

There are three important rules of Russian spelling. Remember them and you will never have a hard time trying to write a lot of Russian words correctly.

1. Never write vowels Я and Ю after the consonants Г, К, Х ,Ш, Ж, Щ, Ч and Ц.

Я must be replaced by А, and Ю must be replaced by У.

Examples (приме́ры):

ча́шка – teacup
шага́ть – to step
восхища́ться – to admire

Exceptions (исключе́ния):

парашю́т – parachute
брошю́ра – booklet, pamphlet, brochure

2. Аfter the consonants Г, К, Х ,Ш, Ж, Щ, Ч (but not Ц) the vowel Ы is never used and must be replaced by И.

широ́кий – wide
хоро́ший – good
жизнь – life

3. Аfter the consonants Ш, Ж, Щ, Ч and Ц, unstressed vowel О is replaced by Е.

stressed: жучо́к – small beetle (diminutive form)
ustressed: вну́чек – grandson (diminutive form)

4 comments on “A few very important Russian grammar rules

  1. Alex Nicht says:

    Great summary! You may want to add another exception word to the “no Ю after certain consonants” rule: жюри (jury). Together with брошюра and парашют, those are the three such words they usually teach kids in grammar school in Russia.

    Also, there are some geographic names that don’t conform to this rule: off the top of my head, Цюрих (Zurich), Шяуляй (Siauliai, city in Lithuania), Питкяранта (Pitkäranta, city in Karelia, RF) and others.

    • Everyday Russian says:

      Hello Alex,

      Thanks for the comment and suggestion. We agree, the list of exceptions will be helpful. We added in our to-do list to add it. 🙂

      Have a nice day!

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