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  5. й vs и - You're killing me


й vs и - You're killing me

It's taken a long time for me (and some close, focused listening) to be able to differentiate the very close sounds and groupings in Russian.

But this one still eludes me. At first I thought the difference between ш and щ was impossible. As long as it's not slurred I get that one. Now. It took a while.

However, I just can NOT hear the difference between й and и.

What am I missing? Anyone have any good comparisons I can use to train my ear?

Side note - Adjectival endings (these may occur in other places, I just see them now with nominative adjectives). I get the Russian Spelling Rule to use ый instead of ий after certain (palatalized?) sounds. But sometimes ий is used even outside of the spelling rules. Are these just irregular forms or is there something else I'm missing?

February 20, 2016



Alright, so it's like this.... The letter и is pronounced as "ee" and the letter й is pronounced as "y." The reason you can't hear the difference is for the same reason you pronounce the words "key" and "money" in English without voicing the letter "y" at the end of these words. To better explain this, the word "йогурт" is pronounced as "Yogurt" as in English but in the word "Русский" is pronounced as "Ruskeey." Like in the word "key" you don't hear the "y" sound too much. I hope this helps:)


Thank you! Your explanation does help but I fear it may have just shifted the problem. Because now I'm thinking that "й" is actually now closer to the sound of the Russian "е" (American "ye") than it is to "и".

What I mean by that is (and my ear is still terrible and this is hard to say in text):

и - in english might be "ee"

е - in english might be "ye"

й - in english is more like "ye" except the "e" part is more like schwa/reduced vowel (yэ?)

Am I close?


е = йэ (ye, Yemen)
ё = йо (yo, York)
я = йа (ja, ja, das ist fantastisch!)
ю = йу (union)


Brilliant! Thank you!


The letter й is just the equivalent of the letter "y" in English. The first two letters you listed are correct though (и and е.) Russian pronunciation is pretty straight forward. I wouldn't think about it too much. I mean it's not as phonetic as Spanish, but it's relatively easy. To be quite honest, I would focus on reading and comprehending Russian. For example, if you learned English in Australia, you would have an Australian accent, and if you were raised in the U.K., you would have British or perhaps Scottish accent. Therefore, if you listen to authentic Russian 1-2 hours a day, you should naturally start to pick up how the language is spoken. It's very rare for a foreigner not to have an accent in any language, but at least you could have a very light one, where no one would care about your pronunciation.


Don't worry about pronouncing "й" by itself. You'll only see it in combination with vowels. It has a sort of "soft j" or "y-" sound, like the y in "your." Look at the four examples alexm678 gave.


Thank you. I didn't realize/notice that it only ever existed in combination with other vowels as a modifier. Of course, now that you say it, it's obvious (exception for loanwords as mentioned by TheHockeyist).


You're welcome.


и and й are similar, so I can see your confusion.

The letter и is a pure vowel, like the "i" in ski of the "ee" in free. Always. It NEVER makes diphthongs, so аи is "ah-ee", ои is "oh-ee", etc.

The letter й is mostly used in diphthongs. ай is "eye" and ой sounds like it does in "toy" or "Oy vey!".

It can be confusing. Remember - й makes diphthongs almost 100% of the time (the exceptions being loanwords like йогурт), and и is a pure vowel.

Usually -ий endings indicate either spelling rules, or usually (especially with -ний endings) a soft stem, like синий (blue). The -ий ending here shows that it should be declined like синяя, синее, etc., and not with the letters а and о.


This is extremely helpful, thank you! The diphthong makes all kinds of sense, I just never noticed it :-/

Bonus points and thanks (and a lingot) for the adjectival information. You know, I've heard soft stem, it's on my charts, I just never really looked that closely at what it actually was.


No prob. Glad I could help.

  • 121

It might help if you think of the Russian vowels as coming in pairs (this is the way I was taught): а and я э and е и and ы о and е у and ю In this arrangement, й (as described by others here) doesn't function as a "vowel" like the other letters do, but as a modifier of a vowel sound. Another way to look at is that й does not have a sound of its own. If you asked me to read й to you, I wouldn't say a sound, but rather its name (и краткое, short i).


I like the pairing idea, thank you! It makes a lot of sense. As does looking at й as a modifier and not a letter/sound in its own right.

  • 160

Well, й IS a sound in its own right, a consonant sound easily pronounced by native speakers, just like "y" in "yes". However, its distribution is indeed quite limited, so you mostly find it after or between vowels to produce sounds not unlike i-ending diphthongs in English.


I'm not sure what she was saying about the pairing idea. Could you explain it to me?


Not sure if my comment is helpful, but unless you are going to translate poetry , it doesn't really matter. people will understand you even you totally forget about й and щ. Duolingo should forgive such little mistakes.


I know it probably doesn't matter and, in listening to videos and films and music many of these sounds seem... less than distinct. But I'm one of those people that wants to understand what's going on and (before this thread) й was a source of confusion.


I dunno how to type that letter so I always get it wrong. и ӣ if I hold down the и key I can make ӣ after pressing 1; but I have no idea how to type this character using the russian phonetic keyboard

  • 160

Probably J. The letter represents the sound of Y in boy or in yes depending on position. You'll probably see the former more often (e.g., мой, белый, большой, тайна, синий, уйти)


I think i get it thanks to The Hockeist below. Simply, its Y - (Й) vs EE - (И)

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