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How to Pronounce Russian Prepositions Posted by on Apr 10, 2019 in pronunciation

Have you ever struggled to pronounce these odd-looking one-letter prepositions in Russian? Especially if that letter was a consonant? The trick is to stop enunciating them and to attach them to the word that follows. Let’s break it down case by case.

letter types

Photo by Kristian Strand on Unsplash

One-Consonant Pronouns

Many Russian prepositions (предло́ги) only have one letter, a consonant at that. These include:

  • в — in(to)
  • к — towards
  • с — with; off

Their pronunciation depends on what follows them. If the following word starts with a voiceless (глухо́й) consonant sound like [ф] or [п], the preposition will be voiceless, too. In other words, в will sound like [ф], к like [к], and с like [с].

  • Ба́бушка родила́сь в Сара́тове [approximate pronunciation фсара́тав’и — apostrophes show “soft” sounds] (My grandmother was born in Saratov).
  • Дом с фонта́ном [сфанта́нам] стро́или три го́да (It took three years to build the house with the fountain).

If the following word starts with a voiced (зво́нкий) consonant sound like [д] or [г], the preposition will be voiced, too.

  • С глаз [зглас] доло́й — из се́рдца вон (Out of sight, out of mind).

This pattern does not apply when the second word starts with a sonorant (соно́рный) sound ([м], [н], [л], [р], [й]) or [в].

  • Хо́чешь пирожо́к с мя́сом [см’а́сам]? (Do you want a meat puff pastry?)

Additional Sounds

Sometimes an extra sound is added to a preposition so that it’s easier to pronounce. If the following word starts with в or ф + another consonant, в turns into во:

  • Писа́тель до́лго жил во Фра́нции [вафра́нцыи] (The writer lived in France for a long time).

In that case, treat the preposition like an extra syllable tacked onto the beginning of the next word.

Palace of Versailles

Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France
Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

Any word that starts with two consonants will be preceded by со instead of с:

  • Де́ти бы́ли со мно́й (The children were with me).

One-Syllable Pronouns

There are also pronouns that include a vowel (гла́сный) and form a complete syllable (слог). They include:

  • о — about
  • у — next to; in someone’s possession or area
  • про — about
  • на — on(to)
  • под — under
  • за — behind

Normally, these vowels are not stressed and are pronounced together with the word that follows. They are referred to as proclitics (прокли́тики).

  • Расскажи́те немн́ого о себ́е [ас’иб’э́] (Tell us a little bit about yourself).
  • Кот пря́тался под крова́тью [паткрава́т’йу] (The cat was hiding under the bed).
cat under a cover

Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash

Note that, in some cases, the stress may be on the preposition; these cases are described in Russian here.

Which of these cases are challenging for you? Is there a song or saying that helped you remember some of them?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.