In the phrase:

Что э́то?
(meaning “What is this?”), the letter о sounds like o in open. But in the second word, the same letter has a sound somewhere between the u in cup and the a in aha. Why? It’s a matter of stress.

When we talk about a stressed syllable, we mean the syllable that gets the most emphasis when you pronounce it.

In the English words below, the stressed syllable is shown bold and colored:


Look at these two English words with the stress on different syllables.

desert meaning “large dry area with sand”
dessert meaning “sweet yummy thing you eat at the end of a meal”

When you pronounce them, you’ll notice that the first e changes its sound depending on whether it's stressed or not.

The Russian letter о also changes its pronunciation depending on stress. Here’s the rule:

What would you like to do next?

  1. Find out why the ч is pronounced like “sh” instead of “ch”.
  2. Find out where the word “is” went.
  3. Continue with the tutorial.
  4. Go back to the “What is this” page.