Why is "нет" pronounced "nyet" instead of "net"? I was informed that the Cyrillic letter 'е' is equivalent to the Latin letter 'e'. Is this incorrect? If so, what is the equivalent of 'e' if one exists?

  • I was correcting the capital letter. It might be confusing, I myself first thought that you are asking about the reading of this letter in the beginning of names, like "Ельцин"
    – Olga
    Nov 29, 2012 at 6:54
  • That makes sense. Usually in English we usually capitalize letters when we are referring to the letter itself, which is why I capitalized it. I'm sorry if I overreacted to the edits. I just didn't see a reason for it at the time.
    – ctype.h
    Nov 29, 2012 at 15:03
  • " that the Cyrillic letter 'е' is equivalent to the Latin letter 'e'. Is this incorrect? " This is incorrect. "net" is pronounced as with Э not as with russian Е. To denote the difference between russian E and Э using english letters, you need to write something like nyet, just to make it look different from "net".
    – Andrei
    Nov 30, 2012 at 19:35

5 Answers 5


'Е' Can be pronounced in several ways, depending on position, stress and previous letter

Basically, Russian vowels comes in pairs. First are simple vowels

  • 'А' as in u in run
  • 'O' as a in all
  • 'У' as u in bull
  • 'И' as ee in cheese
  • 'Э' as a in cat
  • 'Ы' with no direct analog.

There are several derived vowels

  • Э - Е
  • У - Ю
  • О - Ё
  • А - Я
  • (technically Ы - И are often paired, but this relation is incomplete)

These derived vowels are pronounced differently in different positions.

At the beginning of the word, after 'Ь' and 'Ъ' and after other vowel they are prononced as

  • Е - ЙЭ
  • Ю - ЙУ
  • Ё - ЙО
  • Я - ЙА
  • И can be sometimes pronounced as йи or й, but very rarely.

however, after сonsonants they are threated differently. First, they are pronounced as their basic vowel. Second previous consonant is palatalized (some consonants are always palatalized and И is still pronounced as И and has pretty quirks after ш/ж, but the base is this).

But that's not all, we have something to blow your mind: reduction. Every vowel if unstressed is reduced.

  • О (and O part of Ё) & A (and A part of Я) are reduced to really short 'a'
  • Э (and Э part of E) & И are reduced to really short 'и'
  • in fast speech most vowels in unstressed positions may be reduced to some common sound I doubt I can describe.

There are several inconsistencies, like жи/ши is pronounced ЖЫ/ШЫ , but never written. Another complication is the Ё often typed as Е and without context it is often impossible to guess which one is really here.


The fact that the Russian 'е' is an equivalent of the Latin letter 'e' does not mean that they should necessarily correspond to the same sound. Pronunciation of 'е' depends on the preceding consonant: 'е' "softens" most consonants (б, в, г, д, з, к, л, м, н, п, р, с, т, ф, х, ч. щ), producing the ʲe̞ sound not found in English, as in "нет" (no) or "день" (day). When 'е' follows one of the remaining consonants (ж, ц, ш), it makes a sound that is similar to the Latin e, as in "цель" (aim), "шея" (neck) or "жесть" (tin-plate).


"нет" is NEVER pronounced as "nyet". There is no "y" sound there. It is pronounced as "net" but with soft "n".

  • +1 The only correct answer here.
    – Gangnus
    Dec 3, 2012 at 22:27

There is so called close-mid front unrounded vowel, this is the sound you are exactly talking about, to put it simple it is 'e' :)

In Russian there are two letters you can use for indicating this sound, e and э. As many other letters, letter 'е' is used for indicating different set of phonemes. In the beginning of the word 'e', for example, actually stands for 'je', after consonants it stands, almost always, for [e] as well, it's just that the preceding vowel is palatalised. Exceptions are ж, ш and ц plus the majority of foreign words (e.g. шоссе, молибден, темп).

This is not that simple, since there are lot of words of foreign origin obeying "normal rule": checkout for example демократия.


The letters е, ё, ю and я sometimes indicate that the consonants before them are palatalized.

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