Lesson Number 5. Finding the stress in Russian words.

Today I would like to talk about stress in words and how to pronounce them.

For some people, especially who already happened to learn other languages, it might be unnecessary to explain what word stress is. However, in my practice there are some people who never came across the idea of word stress and find it confusing.

So, what is word stress?

Every word in Russian and in English has a syllable (a chunk of a word with 1 vowel sound) which is pronounced stronger than others. We say that the vowel in this syllable is stressed. It is denoted as an accent above the vowel, for example: а́, е́, о́, я́, и́ etc.

Compare cóntent as a subject matter and contént as happy; próject as a plan and to projéct as to expand outwards.

The stressed sounds are:

  • L-o-n-g-e-r,

  • More POWERFUL and LOUD,

  • Are said more clearly and distinctly,

  • The pitch of the stressed syllable is usually higher,

  • The facial movements are larger (you might notice slight difference speaking in front of the mirror).

If I put a stress in the wrong place in English, I probably won’t be understood. The same is in Russian, so the stress is highly important - in both languages.

Sometimes I used to order déserts to finish a meal with! The same in Russian, the meaning of the words can completely change if the stress position is moved:

За́мок (castle) - замо́к (lock)

У́же (narrower) - уже́ (already)

Now, when it became clearer what the word stress actually is, let’s proceed to the position of the stress in Russian language.

How should we define where the stress in the Russian word should be?

The answer is - as in English, it is impossible! That’s unfortunate, but learners of both languages must simply remember where the stress is, in every word. Furthermore, in the Russian language stresses can jump from syllable to syllable depending on singular/plural forms, cases etc.

There is just one firm rule: ё is always stressed in Russian language (актёр, сёрфинг).

Take a look at the table. Each column of words shows which syllables are stressed (´) and which aren't (-). For example, in the column number 1 the words are made only of 1 syllable, it's always stressed and doesn't require the stress sign. In the columns 2 & 3 there are 2 syllable words, and the stress might fall on the 1st syllable (column 2) or the second (column 3). In the columns 4,5,6 there are 3 syllable words and the same logic applies.

My husband Mark usually asks himself: where I would never put the stress? That’s probably where it should be. That’s the truth, almost none of Russian surnames are pronounced correctly in English speaking countries.

My maiden name is Капустина, how hard is it for you to guess where the stress should be? :)

Say it out loud.

Where did you place the stress?

It should be Капу́стина. How did you do?

Needing some help to find the right stress in Russian words?

Feel free to contact mу for a Russian lesson.


Russian Teacher Glasgow


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