Friendly Russian: Learning How to Read & Write in Russian

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Chapter 1: Lesson 7

The Alphabet

 

Letters without sounds

Ь

-soft sign

Ъ

-hard sign

These signs do not have sounds of their own but are used for modifying neighboring sounds only.

Ь” - There are two functions to the soft sign.

1. One is reflected by its name: it makes a preceding consonant soft (palatalizes it.) The “Ь” sign may be at the end of a word:

ListenListen

день

гость соль о́сень

тетра́дь

day (m.) guest (m.) salt (f.) autumn (f.) notebook (f.)
       
       
о́чередь

здесь

о́чень

боль

пло́щадь

line/of people; someone's turn (f.) here very pain, ache (f.) square, plaza (f.)

Or within a word:

ListenListen

больни́ца

то́лько

большо́й

письмо́

пальто́

ма́льчик

де́ньги

hospital only big (m.) letter coat (little) boy money

2. The other function of the soft sign “Ь” is to add a 'J-quality' to the vowel that follows it while keeping the softness of the preceding consonant:

           
Listen Listen      
         
бульо́н cтатья́

cемья́

пла́тье

конья́к
broth, bullion article family dress cognac
         

 

 

 

 

 

         

 

Это семья́.

 

3. Words ending in “Ь” can be either feminine or masculine and you have to look them up in a dictionary to know the gender. However, when “Ь” follows “Ж,” “Ч,”  “Щ” at the end of a word, it is a sure indicator of feminine gender:

       
       

ListenListen

       
ложь (f.) вещь (f.) дочь (f.) ночь (f.)
lie thing daughter night
       
       
       
       
       
ночь

The absence of the soft sign after Ж, Ч, Щ signals that they are all masculine:

     
     
нож (m.) врач (m.) това́рищ (m.)
knife doctor friend, comrade
     
      ма́льчик и де́вочка врач

Ъ” - the hard sign is used in a small number of words. Its only function is to add 'J-quality' to the vowel that follows, while keeping the hardness of the preceding consonant:

ListenListen

   
   
   

объявле́ние

подъе́зд

advertisement, announcement entrance in apartment buiding
   
   
   
   
подъе́зд

Caution: Don’t confuse the soft signЬor a hard signЪ" with the vowelЫ”- they are all different letters.

Now you have been introduced to the entire Russian alphabet. You may master reading within 2-3 weeks. Don't get discouraged if it takes longer. it's the quality of reading that matters, after all. Besides, the more time you devote to mastering reading Russian, the more words you will learn by repetition alone.

Note: It's important to know the letters in the alphabetical order, so you can look up words in a dictionary.

1. Complete the crossword with new words! (click on number in square for clue)
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