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I am never quite sure when to stress particles such as не.

Also, I am confused about people saying that the a in the past tense feminine is stressed, and whether or not this is always the case.

I am aware that stress is very irregular and can move around when the case, gender, number, or conjugation changes.

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When не is written separately, I can only think of two cases when it's stressed:

  • the past tense of быть, except the feminine form (so нé был, нé было, нé были, but не былá);

  • the pronouns некого and нечего when split by a preposition: нé у кого, нé с чем.

The in the feminine past tense is not always stressed, and I'm sorry to say there's no useful rule to determine when it is (i.e. one that wouldn't have a ton of exceptions) other than a tendency for those verbs to have monosyllabic or -ти or -чь infinitives. (For our purposes, a monosyllabic infinitive with a prefix still counts as monosyllabic: проспатьпроспалá, same as спатьспалá. Again, mostly. Забыть is an exception. It really is very irregular.)

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  • В тот миг, когда пучиной\\Был кубок поглощен,\\Пришла ему кончина,\\И больше не пил он. – Matt Feb 22 '16 at 12:50
  • @Matt Or Tsoy's "кричат — нам нЕ дали петь, кричат — попробуй тут спой". I don't think those are useful for a learner to know; what's more, I think the later a learner encounters such one-off phenomena the better. With any unusual and curious things in a language you learn, there's always the danger of coming to think of them as more of "a thing" than they really are. To give a personal example, I wish I hadn't known about the Scots form "cannae" before I was aware of its context. I think I used it as a "hip" way of saying "can't" a couple of times, which was weird and random. – Nikolay Ershov Feb 22 '16 at 12:56
  • Also, just wondering, is 'но' pronounced as 'nah' or 'no'? Or does it depend on the situation? – casey Feb 23 '16 at 19:47
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    It's always "no". – Nikolay Ershov Feb 23 '16 at 19:54
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Stress in past tense feminine verbs is a painful issue for many native speakers too.

Answer from here:

В каких глаголах женского рода ударение падает на последний слог?
Ударение в прошедшем времени обычно падает на тот же слог, что и в неопределенной форме глагола (например, смотрЕть — смотрЕла). Однако у большинства односложных глаголов (и глаголов, образованных от односложных с помощью приставок) ударение в форме женского рода прошедшего времени падает на последний слог: взялА бралА ждалА лгалА вралА дралА рвалА звалА гналА лилА пилА далА
У этих глаголов со всеми приставками (кроме приставки вы-) и с постфиксом –сь ударение также падает на последний слог: убралА, совралА, взорвалАсь, отозвалАсь.
Исключения.
У глаголов класть, красть и красться, пасть, упасть, слать, послать, стлать ударение в форме женского рода прошедшего времени остаётся на основе: клАла, крАла, пАла, упАла, крАлась, слАла, послАла, стлАла.

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  • I found that one too. The exceptions list is too incomplete to present it as authoritative. Ела? Стригла? Выла? – Nikolay Ershov Feb 22 '16 at 13:05

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