How do I pronounce the difference of и versus й? They sound very similar and I can't really hear a difference.

  • Can you provide a couple of words where you cannot hear the difference between "и" and "й"?
    – Abakan
    Jan 21 '16 at 14:30
  • 1
    й is a consonant, и is a vowel. How one can confuse them?
    – Anixx
    Jan 22 '16 at 6:47
  • 1
    Interesting fact: do you know that Ь was "Е краткое" and Ъ was "О краткое" (or Ы, or something between О and Ы) once in old Russian? Jan 28 '16 at 23:02
  • @AlanEvangelista I repeat, й is not a vowel, it is a consonant like "y" in "yes".
    – Anixx
    May 5 '20 at 17:53
  • @Anixx because и and й are pronounced, respectively, [i] and [j], and both the IPA vowel [i] (pronounced in "ee" in the words "see", "bee" and "fee" in English) and the IPA semivowel [j] (pronounced in "y" in ""young") sound similar. The ear doesn't know if these Russian letters are classified as vowels, semivowels or consonants, just that they sound alike. May 5 '20 at 17:59

Russian "и" is a vowel and sounds more like the double 'e' in "tweet", while "й" is a consonant and sounds more like the first sound of "young". Btw, you could try to listen to words at http://www.lingvo-online.ru/ to hear the difference.


rhymes with "joy" and ои rhymes with "Joey".

  • 4
    Cute way of explaining the difference! Not very accurate though.
    – InitK
    Jan 21 '16 at 14:41
  • I agree with @InitK. "joy" is pronounced /dʒɔɪ/ and the Russian letter й is pronounced /j/ , so this is a bad example. Jun 22 '21 at 8:16

Russians transliterate boy as бой. A word бои is a plural form of бой, and is pronounced distinctly differently somewhat like buyee.

So и is a vowel and sounds longer than consonant й. Your confusion stems from the feature of Russian pronunciation when Russian stick invisible й in front of many vowels, which makes it sound a little longer. For instance, when Russians say ем (I'm eating), they actually say something like yem. So in the first example бои has that invisible й in front of и.


The Russian "и" sounds like the vowel [i] in the International Alphabetical Alphabet (IPA) and like the letters 'ee' in the English words "bee", "see" and "tweet".

The Russian й" sounds like the semivowel/consonant [j] in the IPA and like the letter 'y' in the English words "young", "year" and "you", and the letter 'u' in the English words "use" and "unit".

The difference between both is that the middle part of the tongue is raised to the hard palate only in [j]. I suggest watching this video: https://youtu.be/XhqGU1WxOfc .


и = "i" й = more like "y"

You can understand the difference by listening how "i" and "y" sounds in two different words: "boy" and "blink", in first case it will be "boy" = "бой" while in the second "blink" = "блинк"

  • и is [ˈaɪ] and й is [ˈwaɪ]? I don't think so.
    – Abakan
    Jan 21 '16 at 14:18
  • Did you read my comment to it's very end?
    – Ruslan
    Jan 21 '16 at 15:05
  • Yes, I did read your ANSWER to its very end. But it doesn't make your first statement correct. Transliteration rules you used are not applicable in this case.
    – Abakan
    Jan 21 '16 at 15:17
  • Okay, but if we'll be honest then we can only compare mentioned by you [ˈwaɪ] to "и краткая" right?
    – Ruslan
    Jan 21 '16 at 15:25
  • й is pronounced as /j/ in Russian, but the letter "y" is not always pronounced as /j/ in English. Using your example, "boy" is pronounced /bɔɪ/ (i.e., the "i" is pronounced as a /ɪ/ instead of a /j/) (ref: dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/boy). The words "yes" or "you" would be better examples. Jun 22 '21 at 8:12

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