Duo Russian Grammar

1) Alphabet 1

We'll start with some simple sentences right away. Russian does not have articles, nor does it normally use the verb “to be” in the Present tense.

An em-dash is used instead of "the verb “to be” between the two nouns: «Мокка — кофе» ("A mocha is coffee").

Russian uses a version of the Cyrillic Alphabet. Many letters look similar to their Latin counterparts. As Cyrillic typography was remodeled around 300 years ago, both alphabets have a similar style.

For information on how to install a Russian keyboard layout, please click here.

To switch Duolingo from Latin transliterations to Cyrillic, click the little Aa-Яя switch near the top of the screen during a lesson.

Letters and Sounds

К, О, М, Т, А sound similar to their Latin counterparts (to be more precise, "о" is the sound in "more"). However, in handwriting and typed italics, the letter Т can look rather like a lower case 'm' in the Latin alphabet. E.g. in the verb просить (to ask for, to request), т = t.

Е actually sounds more like "ye", as in "yell", not as in "Hear ye, hear ye!" (this will work for now; it's more complicated after a consonant).

В sounds like 'v', Б sounds like 'b'. Н is "n" and И is "i" ('eeh'). The remaining letters are included in the table below:

Ёё⁰ (your) Вв (vase) Бб (bed)
Ээ (red) Нн¹ (nap) Дд¹ (dab)
Уу (soon) Хх² (Bach) Гг (gap)
Ии (meet) Йй (yes) Лл¹ (nil)
Юю (you) Рр (trilled R) Пп (poor)
Ыы³ (hit) Сс (Sam) Зз (zebra)
Яя (yard) Фф (photon) Цц (cats)
Жж⁴ (seizure) Шш⁴ (shun) Щщ⁴
Чч (cheer) Ъ and Ь⁵
  • Ёё The umlaut-like double dots are optional in writing. Syllables containing this letter are always stressed.
  • ¹ т, д, н, л are pronounced near your teeth
  • ² х('kh') is somewhat similar to the H in "hue". It is like making the "sh" sound, only it is pronounced where you make the "K" sound.
  • ³ ы has no equivalent in English. It is an "eeh"-like sound, but less distinct, sounds closer to "e" in "lover", and has your tongue deeper that in "heat" or "hit".
  • ⁴ for ш and ж your tongue is lower than in English and slightly bent back. Щ has all your tongue raised—it is a longer and more hissy sound. Ч corresponds to щ (i.e. a bit different than "ch")
  • ъ and ь are separators and have no sound.

Л can have a flat top, like П, or a pointy top like А (it comes from the Greek Λ). Д and Л have a similar top in many fonts, though it's up to the designer. Handwritten Д looks like D, and д like a g or a д (the last two affect the italic shapes).

An Italic Г in lower case usually looks this: г.

(a picture with a table of Russian letters)

That's it with the introduction! We will discuss reading words in more detail in later skills.