How exactly is й pronounced in adjective endings such as ий/ ый?

I seem to remember something, from some of the first grammar books that I read, about it being more or less silent--not having any sound. But recently I read that there should be a /j/ sound.

How does this work? What is the difference between ый and ы in normal speech? Do you hear the й? I 'm looking for a practical explanation not so much phonetic theory. Although the latter is welcome too.

E.G., красивый/ красивы

тихий/ тихи

I also read that in older styles speakers would pronounce the й much stronger. Or at least that's what I understood from the book I'm reading--see below.

This is from Jones and Ward (1969), The phonetics of Russian. —

Old Pronunciation of -их


UPDATE-- So I read the introduction to the Book by Jones and Ward (1969) and they mention this--

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Yet another Update-- I looked through some reference books and here's what they say about й—

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  • 1
    Both are valid I guess, at least according to this de.forvo.com/word/%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%85%D0%B8%D0%B9
    – Trey
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 20:53
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    user maria_704 there articulates it accurately Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 21:04
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    they say it either too softly to the point of being indistinguishable for an uninitiated listener or don't put enough effort in its articulation, after all they try to demonstrate the sound of a full word and not a specific phoneme Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 21:23
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    i'm not in a position to argue with philologists and linguists, so let's just say it's my personal opinion that reduction of -ий isn't a prescriptive rule, where it would be incorrect to articulate it, this phenomenon happens naturally to the native speakers, but it's certainly not wrong and in my opinion desirable to make sure that Й is pronounced, and when it's monophongized the ending is still a wee bit longer than the simple И/Ы Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 22:15
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    Красивы/красивый - in the latter word й is pronounced (never heard of reducing й). The question is good, and I wonder why no native speaker has mentioned than footnote 1 in 1969 book has nothing to do with the quality of й. It says of the quality of и in words like тихий which was pronounced very similar to тихой (o sounds similar to 'schwa'). This pronounciation can sometimes today be heard in recorded classical Soviet theatre works (video, TV, audio), recorded Soviet songs (20s to 70s I'd say), and implied in poetry, and yes this is 'older mode' (now deemed old-fashioned).
    – alexsms
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 6:07

2 Answers 2


It's not one of those cases where a sound can be reduced in spoken language without affecting the accuracy and euphony.

In fluent speech it can get swallowed so to speak at the end of words, due to its curtness, but it's a result of sloppiness and lack of effort, and ideally it has to be pronounced even if briefly.

If Й is left out, instead of красивЫЙ we get красивЫ, which are two different forms of the adjective, full singular and shortened plural respectively. Likewise for тихИЙ vs тихИ.

  • How exactly does ый sound? I'm having trouble separating ы from ый (
    – VCH250
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 19:54
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    @VCH250 check out THIS recording, in each pair 1st word is adjective in the shortened plural form (-Ы/И) while the 2nd is its full singular masculine form (-ЫЙ/ИЙ)... initially i thought to just refer you to Google Translate TTS voice but it turned out very bad at pronouncing this ending properly Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 20:57
  • I think I have it know, thanks :) It turns out I was more or less saying these endings correctly, but I didn't really. perceive й as a short и soft (although yes, that is it's name). Even in English I never thought of the y in "boy" as an e-like sound, but it truly is, if you isolate it. This has also helped me a lot with palatalized sounds--they always say to blend the consonants with /j/, and now I know what the hell that is, haha. I guess it was good I had this little crisis of confidence. it made me think harder about й and what it actually is, both in English and Russian. :)
    – VCH250
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 21:05
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    @VCH250 don't know if you heard much of Public Enemy but Flava Flav, who's 1/2 of the duo, in his ad-libs would purposely distort the pronunciation of boy as booyeee, which brings out and emphasizes this short E, here at 0:13 Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 21:39
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    Yea, I know them, haha) I didn't realise how palatalised й was until today. What a cool discovery. I mean, I was not consciously aware of it.
    – VCH250
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 21:49

Russian "й" sounds very much like English "y" in words: "boy", "may", "fey". Unlike in English sound "й" is never dropped or converted into "и", as it happens in words: "icy", "chimney".

As an example, my first name "Виталий" is typically pronounced by English speakers as vee-tah-lee, while the Russian pronunciation always preserves the semivowel at the end vee-tah-leey

  • So should I just add a quick "ye" sound to the end of adjectives? It's possible I do this correctly anyway, and I don't remember any grammar ever stressing this point, but it's also possible I've been staying it wrong for a long time.
    – VCH250
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 19:53
  • @VCH250 Just make your "ye" sound at the end of full adjectives similar to pronunciation in длинный, красивый, низкий
    – Vitaly
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 22:17

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