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Table of contents:

  1. The vowels Яя, Ёё, Юю, Ее
  2. Hard and soft consonants
  3. Indicators of the softness of consonants
  4. Reading rules for the vowels Яя, Ёё, Юю, Ее
  5. The training

1. The vowels Яя, Ёё, Юю, Ее

The letters Яя, Ее, Юю, Ёё  are a combination of the sound of the consonant [й] and the corresponding counterpart of the vowels:

Аа [а] – Яя [йа] (≈ ya in "yard")

Оо [о] – Ёё [йо] (≈ yo in "your")

Уу [у] – Юю [йу] (≈ you in "you")

Ээ [э] – Ее [йэ] (≈ ye in "yet")

 

Listen, repeat, and read.

ам [ам] – ям [йам]
ом [ом] – ём [йом]
ум [ум] – юм [йум]
эм [эм] – ем [йем] 

ат [ат] – ят [йат]
от [от] – ёт [йот]
ут [ут] – ют [йут]
эт [эт] – ет [йэт]

а [а] – я [йа]
о [о] – ё [йо]
у [у] – ю [йу]
э [э] – е [йэ]

ан [ан] – ян [йан]
он [он] – ён [йон]
ун [ун] – юн [йун]
эн [эн] – ен [йэн]

ай [ай] – яй [йай]
ой [ой] – ёй [йой]
уй [уй] – юй [йуй]
эй [эй] – ей [йэй]

яма [йа́ма]
ёлка [йо́лка]
юмор [йу́мар]
еда [йэда́]

яхта [йа́хта]

юбка [йу́бка]

 

 ATTENTION! In a position after a consonant the letters Я, Ё, Ю, Е have a different variant of pronunciation. (See further in the section "Hard and soft consonants")

 

2. Hard and soft consonants

In English consonants are pronounced exclusively hardly. In Russian the majority of hard consonants has a soft counterpart. For example:

hard Н:  [трон] — throne
hard Т:  [порт] — port, harbor
hard Л:  [балкон] — balcony

soft Н:  [кон’] — horse
soft Т:  [гост’] — guest, visitor
soft Л:  [пал’то] — overcoat

 

The hard/soft distinction can make a difference in the meaning of some Russian words. For example:

hard Т:  [брат] — brother
hard Л:  [угол] — corner

soft Т:  [брат’] — to take
soft Л:  [угол’] — coal

 

3. Indicators of the softness of consonants

The softness of the preceding consonant is indicated by the letter Ь, but also by the vowel-letters Яя, Ёё, Юю, Ее and Ии

 

Ь – soft sign

The soft sign Ь doesn’t designate a sound of its own. Its role is to denote, that the previous consonant must be pronounced softly. Compare:

н

трон

 

нь

конь

 

т

порт

брат

ть

гость

брать

л

балкон

угол

ль

пальто

уголь

 

Я, Ё, Ю, Е, И

Whether the consonant preceding is hard or soft is designated by the choice of the vowel-letter. Vowel-letters in the Russian alphabet generally come in pairs — one to reflect the hardness and one to reflect the softness of the previous consonant.

Hard-Indicating Vowels:

а

о

у

э

ы

Soft-Indicating Vowels:

я

ё

ю

е

и

 

That means the consonant, following the letters а, э, о, у, ы, is hard. The consonant, following the letters я, е, ё, ю, и, is soft.

Be aware, that in Russian unlike in English the consonant, which comes before И, is always pronounced softly.

 

Hard-Indicating Ы

Soft-Indicating И

ры [ры]

рыба [рыба]

ри [р’и]

риск [р’иск]

мы [мы]

мыс [мыс]

ми [м’и]

миф [м’иф]

ты [ты]

тыква [тыква]

ти [т’и]

тигр [т’игр]

 

After consonants the letters Я, Е, Ё, Ю only denote the softness of the previous consonant, but are read like the corresponding to its counterpart (without [й]). For further information, see the section "The generation of soft consonants".

Hard-Indicating А

Soft-Indicating Я

ра [ра]

рак [рак]

ря [р’а]

ряд [р’ад]

на [на]

наука [наука]

ня [н’а]

няня [н’ан’а]

да [да]

дамба [дамба]

дя [д’а]

дядя [д’ад’а]

Hard-Indicating О

Soft-Indicating Ё

мо [мо]

мозг [мозг]

мё [м’ё]

мёд [м’од]

ло [ло]

клон [клон]

лё [л’о]

клён [кл’он]

во [во]

звон [звон]

вё [в’о]

свёкла [св’окла]

Hard-Indicating У

Soft-Indicating Ю

ру [ру]

фрукт [фрукт]

рю [р’у]

рюкзак [р’укзак]

лу [лу]

лук [лук]

лю [л’у]

люкс [л’укс]

ду [ду]

дуэт [дуэт]

дю [д’у]

дюны [д’уны]

Hard-Indicating Э

Soft-Indicating Е

мэ [мэ]

мэтр [мэтр]

ме [м’е]

метр [м’этр]

рэ [рэ]

рэп [рэп]

ре [р’э]

ребус [р’эбус]

сэ [сэ]

сэр [сэр]

се [с’э]

сетка [с’этка]

 

Listen, repeat, and read.

м – мь
ма – мя
му – мю
мо – мё
мэ – ме
мы – ми

б – бь
ба – бя
бу – бю
бо – бё
бэ – бе
бы – би

д – дь
да – дя
ду – дю
до – дё
дэ – де
ды – ди

н – нь
на – ня
ну – ню
но – нё
нэ – не
ны – ни

п – пь
па – пя
пу – пю
по – пё
пэ – пе
пы – пи

т – ть
та – тя
ту – тю
то – тё
тэ – те
ты – ти

р – рь
ра – ря
ру – рю
ро – рё
рэ – ре
ры – ри

в – вь
ва – вя
ву – вю
во – вё
вэ – ве
вы – ви

з – зь
за – зя
зу – зю
зо – зё
зэ – зе
зы – зи

л – ль
ла – ля
лу – лю
ло – лё
лэ – ле
лы – ли

ф – фь
фа – фя
фу – фю
фо – фё
фэ – фе
фы – фи

с – сь
са – ся
су – сю
со – сё
сэ – се
сы – си

ка – ку – ко – кэ – ке – ки
га – гу – го – гэ – ге – ги
ха – ху – хо – хэ – хе – хи

 

 ATTENTION! If you have problems with hearing the difference between hard and soft consonants or with their pronunciation, do a range of exercises of the section "The generation of soft consonants".