The Russian alphabet has 33 letters, out of which 10 are vowels and 23 are consonants. Two of the letters (Ь and Ъ) are used for changing sound of the preceding consonant.
|А а||Б б||В в||Г г||Д д||Е е||Ё ё|
|[a] like in car||[be] like in back||[ve] like in van||[ge] like in game||[de] like in den||[ie] like in yell||[io] like in york|
|Ж ж||З з||И и||Й й||К к||Л л||М м|
|[zhe] like in meas'ure||[ze] like in roze||[i] like in eel||[ji], [short i] like in bonsai||[ka] like in cat||[el'] like in lemon, but as soft as in Spanish el||[em] like in mammal|
|Н н||О о||П п||Р р||С с||Т т||У у|
|[en] like in note||[o] like in bore||[pe] like in pet||[er] like in break||[es] like in some||[te] like in tail||[u] like in tune|
|Ф ф||Х х||Ц ц||Ч ч||Ш ш||Щ щ||ъ|
|[ef] like in fall||[ha] like in home, but harder or like the Scottish pronunciation of loch.||[ce] like in tsetse||[che] like in cherry||[sha] like in shell||[s'ha] like in shield, it should sound softer than Ш/sh||[tvyor-diy znakj ]|
[hard mark] .
|ы||ь||Э э||Ю ю||Я я|
|[y, back i] i like in sick, ||[myàkh-keey znak][soft mark] ||[e] like in fell||[ju] like in you||[ja] like in yard|
You have reached the end of the Cyrillic alphabet. Now go and practice in Lesson 1!
The greatest problem in Russian phonetics for English speakers is Palatalization. Almost all the consonants in the Russian language come in two flavors: non-palatalized (called "hard") and palatalized (called "soft"). The quality of a consonant mostly depends on the following vowel and is reflected in writing. If the following letter is И, Е, Ю, Я or Ё thеn the consonant is soft, palatalized, that means that while pronouncing it you have to raise the middle part of your tongue. If the following consonant letter is А, О, У, Ы, Э then the consonant is hard, non-palatalized. Palatalization of the final consonant as well as sometimes that of the consonant before another consonant is marked with the letter Ь. Some consonants are always hard ( Ж, Ш, Ц ) and some are always soft ( Щ, Ч ) whatever letter follows. E.g. the last sound in мышь (mouse) is the same as the first one in шàпка (warm hat) and is hard.
Articles are not used in Russian.
As with many other languages, Russian is devised of several "cases" for their nouns. These cases reflect the context of how the noun is used and aids in understanding. The cases are: Nominative, Genitive, Prepositional, Accusative, Dative, and Instrumental. Furthermore, nouns also have an inherent Gender and Palatalization (or hard vs soft).
Verb Tenses or Cases
The Nominative case is used for the subject of a sentence. For example, "The cat is here!" = "Кошка тут!" Note: Russian lacks the present tense of the verb "to be." If you wish to declare something, you would say "Это кошка!" or "This is a cat!"
|Masculine ♂️||Feminine ♀️||Neuter|
As you can see in the chart to the right, Masculine Nominative nouns tend to end in consonants, while Feminine Nominative nouns end in "a" or "я," and Neuter Nominative nouns end in "е" or "о."
Another use for the Nominative case is labeling. For example, if you wished to say that you are a student, you would simply say "Я студент/студентка" (male or female, respectively). Again, there is no Russian for the present tense of "to be" so "is" is dropped. This works the same for adjectives, as you can label something with the Nominative case: "Студент -- умный," or "the student is smart."
More examples of the nominative case:
- Джон учит русский язык. = John studies Russian.
- John is the nominative because he is performing the action.
- Кошка пьет молоко. = The (female) cat drinks milk.
- The cat is the nominative because it is performing the action.
- Апельсин фрукт = Orange is a fruit.
- Nominative case is roughly the equivalent of the 'to be' structure in English.
- она - учитель = She is a teacher. (NB:Russians are very particular about usage of teacher and professor).
- Russians use a dash to indicate the verb 'to be'.
- Стул отремонтирован. = The (♂️)chair is repaired.
- The chair is the nominative because it was acted upon. In this instance the acting agent is unknown. This is the passive voice in English.
The Accusative case is used with direct objects and certain prepositions. For example, "I love you" = "Я люблю тебя," where "тебя" is the accusative form of "you." Furthermore there exists a distinction between "animate" and "inanimate" nouns. Animate nouns include people and animals. Inanimate nouns include mostly everything else. Masculine inanimate nouns do not change from the Nominative case. Masculine animate nouns take on the GENITIVE case when used as a direct object or with a preposition. Feminine and neuter nouns do not make this distinction (for now). To illustrate this:
|Masculine (animate)||Masculine (inanimate)||Feminine||Neuter|
The prepositions that use the Accusative case are в, на. Using these prepositions with the accusative case of the noun mean "direction towards a place." This is opposed to using в, на with the prepositional case, which means location. That is for later, however.
In Russian, using numbers above twenty is similar to English: you take the base 20 ("двадцать") and then add the single number ("один"). For example: 21 = двадцать один, 55 = пятьдесят пять, 126 = сто двадцать шесть.
Note that these numbers are cardinal numbers, which are not the same as ordinal numbers, i.e. "first" or "second." Cardinal numbers are treated as adjectives in Russian and follow a slightly different pattern.
Grammar of Numbers
When using Russian numbers to quantify an amount, i.e. four dogs, the case of the noun is dependent on the preceding number. If you have one object, you retain the Nominative singular case. If you have two to four of an object, you use the Genitive singular case. If you have five or more, then you use the Genitive plural case. For zero, you use the Genitive plural case. This is not to be confused with the phrase "Нет," which translates to "There is no" or "No such * exists," in which the case is usually the genitive singular.
|Nom Sing||Gen Sing||Gen Pl|
Further practice and how to say and ask time in Lesson 2.
There are several groups of pronouns in Russian language. The first is Personal Pronoun. A pronoun functions in the same way as the noun that it replaces.
Adjectives in Russian are declined based on the case, gender and plurality of the noun that they modify. In Russian, genders are broken down into: Masculine, Feminine and Neuter. There are six cases: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Instrumental, and Prepositional. For plurality, there is singular and plural. This can get very complicated, however.
The Russian language has 3 basic tenses: present, past and future.
The Present Tense
Let's take the Russian verb in its infinitive form "работать" as an example. Put "ть" aside and add the additions which are shown below.
- работать - To work.
- Я работаю - I work
- Ты работаешь - You work (singular and informal)
- Он, Она, Оно работает - He, She, It works.
- Мы работаем - We work
- Вы работаете - You work (plural and formal)
- Они работают - They work.
Some verbs which end in "ить" have got some differences. For example;
д becomes ж, з becomes ж, c becomes ш, ct becomes щ, т becomes ч, and for б, в, м, п, ф add the letter л. Remember, this only applies to the first-person singular (Я).
• говорить = To speak.
• Я говорю = I speak.
• Ты говоришь = You speak (singular).
• Он, Она, Оно говорит = He, She, It Speaks.
• Мы говорим = We speak.
• Вы говорите = You speak (plural).
• Они говорят = They speak.
Saying "What" in Russian
Что is used as an interrogative pronoun. Likewise, if you see an object you have never seen before, and have no idea what it is, then you ask the question of "что это?" which means "What's this?" or "What's that?"
- Что ты делаешь? =What are you doing?
- Что мы хотим есть? =What do we want to eat?
- Что мне купить в магазине? =What should I buy at the store?
Что такое is used when the object has been named or introduced, but you want more information on it. For instance: Что это? Это машина! Что такое машина? translates to: What's this? It's a machine! What's a machine?
- Что такое компьютер? (What is a computer?)
- Что такое водка? (What is vodka? [although this phrase is rarely spoken in Russian])
- Что такое Южная Осетия? (What is South Ossetia?)
If you wish to ask what type or variant something is, like in the sentence: "What type of computer is this?" then you use the adjective какой which declines depending upon its case. Note, it is an irregular adjective.
- Какая эта водка? =What kind of vodka is this?
- Какой это компьютер? =What kind of computer?
- Какое это слово? =What kind of word is that?
If you ask what a living creature, like a pet or a family member, is, you use the word кто (who), and apply it to the question: Кто это?
Saying "For" in Russian
Russian has many words that translate to the English "for". Here are some examples.
For recipient use of the word "for" such as "I have a present for you.", one uses the Dative cases.
- Это всё мне? (Is this for me?)
- Я принёс новые игры Ивану (I brought new games for Ivan.)
- Когда я куплю новую шапку папе? (When will I buy a new cap for father?)
For expressing "for the benefit of", such as "Anna reads better than Ivan, therefore Anna reads for him.", one uses для + Genitive.
- Мне нужна помощь для школы. (I need help for school.)
- Я сделала это для него. (I did it for him.)
- Ты можешь прочитать газету для твоей бабушки? (Can you read the newspaper for your grandmother?)
For expressing "exchange" or "replacement", one uses за + Accusative.
- Они говорят за меня. (They spoke [instead of/for] me.)
- Спасибо за билеты. (Thanks for the tickets.) Listen (help·info)
- Дай мне совет за деньги! (Give me advice for money!)[often used ironically]
Duration of time (During the action) uses the Accusative case.
- Он пил три часа (He has been drinking for three hours.)
|Она читала всего пять минут.||Listen (RU) (help·info)|
|(She has been reading for only five minutes.)|
Duration of time (After the action) uses на + Accusative.
To express "to get" as in "He went for some food." one uses за + Instrumental.
- Она пошла в магазин за продуктами. (She went to the store for products/items/groceries.)
- Он пошёл на кухню за чипсами. (He went to the kitchen for chips.)
To express "I am for taxes." as in "I support taxes", one uses за + Accusative. (против + Genitive is the opposite.)
- Я за социализм. (I am for socialism./I support socialism.)
- Я против социализма. (I am not for socialism./I do not support socialism.)
Last, to express "for" in the sense of a deadline or scheduled time, one uses на + Accusative.
- Я еду в Россию на зиму. (I am going to Russia for the winter.)
- Задание на завтра. (Homework for tomorrow.)
Они начали работу. =They started working.
- Это моя квартира. =This is my apartment.
- Мы живём большом доме. = We live in a big house.
- Вы живёте в доме или в квартире? = Do you live in a house or in an apartment? (formal)
- понимаете меня? = Do you understand me? (inf)
- Ну, видите ль? = Well, you see eh?
- Да чего вы скупитесь? = Yes, what do you mean?
- Что это за люди? = Who are these people?
- вы уж собираетесь ехать? = You really want to go.
- Извините, [iz-vee-NEAT-ye] = Sorry,
- Простите, [pras-TEET-ye] = Excuse me.
- Простите, я не подумал. = I'm sorry, I was not thinking.
- Это очень опасно! = That is dangerous!
- Не ставь! = Don't put (it there).
- Держи! = Hold it!
- Срочно! = It's urgent!
- Ничего!= Never mind!, Don't mention it!, It doesn't matter!
- Не беспокойтесь = do not worry
informal greetings and good byes
- Как дела? [kak dee-LA] = How are you?
- Как поживаешь? = How are you?
- Привет! [pri-VYET] = Hello! (Informal)
- Здравствуйте! [ZDRAST-vooy-tye] = Hello! (Formal)
- Пока! [pa-KA] = Bye! (Informal)
- До свидания! [da-svee-DAN-ee-ya] = Bye! (Formal)
- Очень приятно! [O-chin Pri-YAT-na] Nice to meet you! (Formal)
- Каково почивали? = Rested?
- Хорошо [hara-SHO] = Fine
- Плохо [PLO-ha] = Bad
- Вроде нет. = No, sort of.
- Вроде да. = Yes, sort of.
- Мне нужна помощь! [mnyeh noozh-NAH PO-mash'] = I need help. Help!
- потому, что я тупенький. = Because I'm stupid.
- Как тебя зовут? [kak tee-BYA za-VOOT] = What is your name?
- Меня зовут... [mee-NYA za-VOOT] = My name is…
- Так вы полагаете? = So what do you think?
- какое пекло! = What the hell?
- В туалете грязно. = The bathroom is dirty.
- Окна грязные. = The windows are dirty. (note change in грязн*)
- Пол влажный. = The floor is wet.
- Я устал! = I am tired.
- Важно, что я – тут = What's important is that I am here.
coming and going
- мы уходим. = We are leaving.
- -Я вернусь. = I'll be back.
далеко они? = Are they far?
quiz 2 directions
- to prevent preceding consonant from being palatalized by the following vowel
- that is being pronounced in behind of your mouth, close to the throat
- makes preceding consonant sound soft, palatalized. English language generally lacks palatalization, but it is very important in Russian. e.g. compare l's of life and live
On the subpage, place links to web sites which provide free resources that may aid in the learning of Russian. Regular Wikiversitans, participating generally here, may add or comment on links. See instructions on the subpage. Please do not add new links here without discussion. Such links may be removed without further attention.