The р /r/ is trilled.
The г /g/ is a hard velar, unaspirated in the standard speech.
The л /l/, т /t/, and д /d/ are dental, with a much harder sound when unpalatalized than, for example, the English equivalents.
The х /kh/ is a hard guttural similar to the German hard ch in ach.
The ж /Z/ is pronounced similar to the French j in jour, but considerably harder.
The consonants б, в, г, д, ж, з, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х can be palatalized, or softened, with the mouth slightly more open in a horizontal slit, and the tongue drawn slightly back, almost as though to pronounce an /i:/ that is not there. The above consonants, except for ж, are palatalized:
The consonant ж is palatalized if doubled in writing, e.g. жжёшь /Z'oS/, "you (sg) burn", and in the single word жюри /Z'uri´/ "jury". A palatalized ж sounds very similar to the French j in jour. The soft sign ь is written after the ж as historical tradition in feminine nouns and in some inflectional forms, but the sound remains hard.
- if followed by a soft sign ь;
- always before the vowels я, ё, и, ю, which are then pronounced as standard uniotated а, о, и, у (recall from above that initial и has not been iotated since the nineteenth century);
- almost always before the vowel е, which is then pronounced as э, except for some words borrowed from othe languages, in which case the tendency has been to palatalize on full adoption after a period of time has passed. (For example, Fr/E chauffeur > R шофер; pronounced with hard /f/ as though шоффэ´р /Soffe´r/ at the beginning of the twentieth century, the modern pronunciation (and occasionally written form) is шофёр, /Sof'o´r/.
The consonant ш /S/ is never palatalized even if the soft sign ь is written after it, for historical purposes, as in feminine nouns and in some inflectional forms. It is considerably harder than the English /sh/.
The consonants щ /S'/ and ч /tS'/ are always palatal, whether or not the soft sign ь is written after them, for historical purposes, as in feminine nouns and in some inflectional forms.
The palatal хь /C/ is a soft guttural similar to the German soft ch in the northern pronunciation of ich.
The palatal ль /l'/, ть /t'/, and дь /d'/ are much closer to the English /l/ and /t/ than their hard dental unpalatalized equivalents.
While Russian has a mostly phonetic orthography, there are exceptions. Below are a few of the most common.
- In a small number of extremely common instances, г is pronounced as /v/: in masculine and neuter singular genitive pronouns (such as его /jevo/ his, him), and masculine and neuter singular genitive adjective endings (~ого /-ovo/ and ~его).
- Voiced consonants with voiceless counterparts lose their voicing at the end of a word, e.g. строганов is pronounced /stroganof/.
- Voiceless consonants with voiced counterparts become voiced before voiced consonants, e.g. футбол (soccer/football) is pronounced /fudbol/.
- Similarly, voiced consonants with voiceless counterparts become voiceless before voiceless consonants, e.g. водка (vodka) is pronounced /votka/.