Verbal Accent in Russian
There are two basic types of accent in Standard Contemporary Russian (for nouns and adjectives as well as verbs): (1) fixed and (2) variable. If the accent falls on the same syllable of every form in a conjugation, it is fixed. Fixed accent may be fall on the same syllable of the stem or on the ending. If the position of the accent is not the same throughout the conjugation, it is said to be 'variable', and shifts between the first syllable of the ending and the last syllable of the stem.
Many verbs in Russian exhibit accent on one syllable of the stem where it remains no matter which ending is attached to the verb: present-future, past, imperative, infinitive. The following table illustrates the fixed accent pattern in the first and second conjugations with делай- 'do, make' and остави- 'leave (something)'. The accented syllable is indicated in the table below by boldface type.
делай- 'do, make' остави- 'leave (something)' делаю
делать 'to do, make' оставить 'to leave' делал 'was doing' оставил 'left' Делай! 'Do (it)! Оставь! 'Leave (it)!' cделан 'done' оставлен 'left'
Click any of the highlighted words and hear how each of the forms in the conjugation are pronounced. Pay particular attention to the loudest syllable: that is the accented one.
The accent of other verbs is fixed on the ending throughout the conjugation, so that regardless of the form, the first (or only) syllable of the ending is always accented. Among the Conjugation I verbs, вёд- "take, lead" is such a verb and among those of Conjugation II прости- "forgive" is a good example.
вёд- "lead, take" прости- "forgive" веду
вести "to lead" простить "to forgive" Веди! "Lead!" Прости! "Forgive (me)!" вёл
Again, you may click any of the highlighted words above for their pronunciation. As a rule of thumb, strong consonant stems have end accent while stems on й tend to have stem accent.
Variable accent is found most frequently among vowel stems. It falls on the suffix in (1) 1st person singular, (2) the infinitive, (3) the imperative, (4) the past tense (on the vowel preceding л), and moves one syllable back onto the stem in the other present-futute tense forms and in the past passive participle.
мог- "may, can" люби- "love" могу можем люблю любим можешь можете любишь любите может могут любит любят
By now you should have a firm lock on the (as usual) very simple principle of Russian verbal accent. Let's see just how well we have mastered it.
Practice Your Russian Accent
In the blank spaces below, write in the vowel—just the vowel—that receives the accent in the full verbal forms listed on the left. The stems on the far left provide you with the information as to whether the stem has fixed or variable accent. Yellow indicates the position of fixed accent. (If the final consonant is yellow, the stem is end accented.) White indicates the position of variable accent in the infinitive and past tense.
When you've typed in your vowel, push the magic button to prove you picked the right one.
Next we need to examine the remainder of the results of the consonant and vowel wars between the final sound of stems and the initial sound of endings mentioned previously. In the section on rules of combination, we noted that stem vowels generally disappear when ending vowels appear but most stem consonants put up a fight. Let's now turn to some of the results of these contests.
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© 1996 Robert Beard