Consonant Voicing

Произношение согласных

In Russian, as well as in all other languages, consonants are either voiced or voiceless. Consonants that make your vocal cords vibrate when you pronounce them are voiced, and the consonants which don't are voiceless. If you don´t feel the vibration you can make a little test: touch the area of the throat while making this sound 'z-z-z...' and then make this sound 's-s-s...' and you will feel the difference.

Most voiced consonants in Russian are paired with a voiceless one. The consonants in each pair below are pronounced in exactly the same manner, the only difference being in the presence or absence of vibration of the vocal cords.

Voiced б в д г ж з
Unvoiced п ф т к / x ш с

Voiced consonants at the end of words are pronounced like their voiceless counterparts. In Russian it is called devoicing of consonants.

друг друк
хлеб хлеп
обе́д обе́т

The change from voiced to voiceless also happens when voiced consonants precede a voiceless one.

For example, in the word завтракать (to have breakfast) the voiced consonant в is in front of the voiceless consonant т. Here the pronunciation of в will assimilate with the pronunciation of т; both will be pronounced voiceless therefore we pronounce ф instead of в.

во́дка во́тка
ло́жка ло́шка
всё фсё

Voiceless consonants before б, д, г, ж, з are pronounced voiced.

сде́лать зде́лать
рюкза́к рюгза́к
отда́ть одда́ть

Always keep in mind that when you have a pair of consonants, it is the second consonant that determines how the first will be pronounced.

Before к and ч pronounce г as х:

лёгкий лёхгий
мя́гкий мя́хгий
налегке́ налехке́

The combinations of сч, зч, жч are all pronnounced as щ:

сча́стье ща́стье
извозччик изво́щчик
мужчи́на мущи́на

The combinations of сш, зш are all pronnounced as шш. The combinations of сж, зж are pronnounced as жж.

сшить шшить
вле́зший вле́щший
сжёг жжёг

The consonants р, л, м, н, й don't have voiceless counterparts. When one of these consonants is preceded by a voiceless consonant, the voiceless consonant is not affected and pronounced as it is.

Examples: трава́, кни́га, слух

The pronunciation of the voiceless т, к, ц is not affected by the voiced consonants that follow them.

The letter в also does not affect the pronunciation of a preceding voiceless consonant.

Examples: кварти́ра, бу́ква, творо́г