I was creating a Memrise course for Russian the other day and as I was collecting audio files from Forvo to add to it, I came upon this word:


Usually, when I make a course, I add a field for the word with its accent marks so I can get into the habit of correctly pronouncing the word (rather than guessing). This word, however, gave me a bit of cognitive dissonance because it doesn't appear that it is pronounced according to how dictionaries place the stress mark. I can't think of any examples right now, but if I'm not mistaken, this has happened once or twice with a couple of other Russian words. Below are some examples of different pronunciations of крити́ческий:

крити́ческий from Forvo

крити́ческий from Wiktionary

Neither sound as if the stress is being placed on that second syllable.

In the following video, however, the pronunciation does match the stress I see in the dictionaries I've visited:

Наступает критический момент...

Fortunately this dichotomy between what I see listed in the dictionary and pronunciations I find at Forvo and elsewhere are few and far between. Nevertheless, does anyone know of a resource, similar to Forvo, that provides free online audio recordings of Russian? I often tend to focus on resources that were created in English with an English-speaking user in mind, but I realize there may be quite a few additional resources in the native language that I may just not have exposed myself to yet.

In the absence of any such resource, can anyone tell me how most people pronounce this word -- критический -- even if it differs from what is indicated by dictionaries. Also, if you have a good Russian dictionary that shows a different stress mark than what I found at Wiktionary (and WordReference and PONS), please add that to your answer.

As always, thanks in advance for your thoughts on this.

  • 7
    Pronunciation is correct by both speakers. The stress is on the second syllable. However, both speakers pronounce the word fast, and neither one increases the duration of the stressed syllable. The lack of expected long vowel might be causing confusion.
    – Vitaly
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 19:28
  • 4
    remark - ur link to Forvo is to adverbium "-ки" not to full adjective "-кий"
    – Arioch
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 6:57
  • 2
    The both speakers pronounce the words correctly, with stress on the second syllable, clearly. The lik to Forvo though pronounces an adverb rather than the adjective (difference in the last sound).
    – Anixx
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 19:45
  • @Vitaly You hit the nail on the head with your comment, "the lack of expected long vowel ...." I think that's exactly why it didn't sound correct to me. I listed to the pronunciations at Forvo just now. I see two pronunciations for "критический." Earlier, I had mistakenly used the link for the adverb "критически" and not the adjective as had been initially intended, but there doesn't appear to be much difference (if any) in the pronunciation.
    – Lisa Beck
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 21:52
  • 3
    Following up on my answer, I thought of what makes one identify a syllable as stressed in Russian, what the bare minimum is—and I've come to the conclusion that it's a certain keynote-ness, a finality, even if the word has more syllables following. The test is, if you break off the word after the stress syllable, it's going to sound like you can put a full stop there. It may or may not make sense, but it will sound like something complete. Whereas with pre-emphatic syllables and that thing I talked about in my answer, if you break off after them, the intonation is somewhat left hanging. Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 4:55

3 Answers 3


I love questions like these, they uncover small quirks that even most native speakers aren't aware of.

The stress is on the second syllable, and sounds like it. There's more at play at Forvo and Wiktionary, though; it's subtle, modern, and I don't think they teach that. There's often a sort of quasi-stress — qualitatively different from regular Russian stress — on the first syllable of a word that comes after a pause. Any pause. Starting an utterance, picking up mid-sentence, or as in this case, pronouncing a standalone word. And the curious thing is, the more "clear" the speaker is trying to sound, the more likely they are to put that quasi-stress on the first syllable. You can hear it most clearly in loud, cheery PSAs: Приглаша́ем на нашу выставку! Less markedly, some newscasters do that, something like: отвечая на вопросы журналистов, представитель компании [small pause] заяви́л: [soundbite]

So in your two samples, it's that thing — крити́ческий — drowning out the "real" stress, which never shifts anywhere. In the movie scene, критический comes mid-utterance, and that's how it's "meant" to sound in the absence of any other factors.

  • Though I appreciated Avtokod's answer, yours wins the green checkmark handily due to the fact that it adds insight that I don't know how many books or web pages I might have had to scan through before I found something that addressed this. It has really helped close up that cognitive dissonance between where my eyes see the stress mark and what my ears are hearing. When I think back to all the many times this confusion has surfaced, this explains it oh so perfectly. Большое спасибо!
    – Lisa Beck
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 22:16
  • 1
    Brilliant answer. I wonder if it's the same effect that makes us say жèлезобетóн (instead of желèзобетóн) and ко̀раблекруше́ние (not кора̀блекруше́ние). This is what Е.В. Кузнецова calls rhythmical stress in her article. Commented Aug 27, 2017 at 14:38
  • In критический, unlike приглашаем and заявил, the stressed syllable being second (or, rather, the pre-stressed syllable being first) also can play a role due to reduction rules.
    – Viridianus
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 19:49

Lisa Beck> does anyone know of a resource, similar to Forvo, that provides free online audio recordings of Russian?


Lisa Beck> if you have a good Russian dictionary that shows a different stress mark ...

Automatic, involuntary speech will be the good Russian source to check where is actually the Russians make stress and how they pronounce words by motor reflex activity when no thought involved.

https://youtu.be/zSZBapE7v4k?t=4m28s ну это критически важный навык
https://youtu.be/gkcGPPS6yY8?t=4m19s так как это критически сокращает срок её службы
https://youtu.be/rt3up3BwCcE?t=59s для использования на критически важных объектах
https://youtu.be/HjIWl7ES_B0?t=24s для проверки теории критически необходимо найти доказательства
https://youtu.be/2LhvYcpLZk0?t=1m4s при этом критически важно составить список конкурентов
https://youtu.be/VZ4sNPYAJJQ?t=2m1s если показатели спермограммы критически снижены, то

Here, you can identify for yourself which syllable of the word has been stressed or accented, making your own decision without interference from advisors (native speakers).

  • Haven't looked at all the videos yet, but the first one you showed me was good. I'm looking forward to viewing the others. You also taught me something new. I now know how to pinpoint an exact moment in time that a video contains the teaching moment I'm trying to use as an example.
    – Lisa Beck
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 22:00

As a native speaker, I confirm the actual stress is on second и, критИческий. What might confuse you is that the first и is also "a bit" stressed. So it's more like крИтИческий.

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