As far as I know syllables are split at the vowel, whereas in English it's often at a consonant.

But today I came across this word— Щипцы (Tongs)

Apparently it is split like this— Щип-цы (I expected Щи-пцы)

I know that Syllables are split at Л, М, Н, Р. But are there other rules? What are the rules for splitting up words into Syllables?

  • Related russian.stackexchange.com/questions/138/…
    – V.V.
    May 10, 2018 at 14:19
  • No matter how linguists advise to do it, we'd rather close the syllable with the consonant in real life. I would never say и-зба (as prescribed ), but из-ба or по-ло-тно, but по-лот-но. But you should do the opposite.
    – V.V.
    May 10, 2018 at 17:13
  • Thanks) To be honest I'm not sure what linguists say about this; that's why I'm asking)
    – VCH250
    May 10, 2018 at 18:54
  • @V.V. Depends a lot on the speaker. There are Russians with exactly the opposite tendency described by, I think, Avanesov: always leave the syllable open except for sequences where first is sonorant and second isn't (as in парта). There are also speakers with tendency more or less close to the prescribed one.
    – Viridianus
    May 10, 2018 at 19:38

2 Answers 2


A good description can be found in Knyazev & Pozharitskaya's textbook. In short:

  1. If there is at least one consonant, the last consonant always goes to the right (no splitting like *her-o; for graphical splitting but not for pronunciation prefixes can be an exception);
  2. A syllable can only begin with sequences a word can begin with;
  3. If both apply and there's still some choice, sonority of consonants in the syllable must go up to the vowel before it and down after it. Sonority hierarchy is approximately: s,z < p,t,k < b,d,g < s,sh,z,zh,v < m,n < l,r < j (s and z are given twice, it's not a typo). Affricates (c and ch) are analyzed as sequences but cannot be divided, palatalization is irrelevant for sonority;
  4. If some choice remains after that, you can choose freely (as in сестра) but official recommendation is "put as much as possible to the right" (i. e. се-стра is preferable to сес-тра and сест-ра).

syllables are split at the vowel

Seems modern academic currents indeed say it. But it seems to be of limited usage for practical task of splitting words at line ends.

https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B3 says "Понятие слога лежит в основе правил переноса слов в русском языке. Однако, разбиение слова для переноса не всегда совпадает с разбиением слова на слоги, в связи с чем некоторые источники разделяют понятия фонетического слога и слога для переноса". So what I describe below, and what I remember from USSR school, is maybe in modern currents called "syllables-for-splitting" while ones you describe in your question are perhaps "syllables-for-pronunciation". In practice, I can't say why anyone would need latter in the casual life. The former ones seem to be those that practically matter. And the former I would discuss further on.

Слог - syllable - (at least the "syllable-for-splitting") consists of

  1. initial single consonant (sometimes missing: Russian has no diphthongs, not in writing at least, so two adjacent vowels spawn two syllables)
  2. a single vowel (the syllable nucleus)
  3. a number (from zero to many) final consonants

A mid-word syllable terminates at the start of the next syllable, which means at the initial consonant of that.

So, in your case, Щип-цы, the second syllable is built around "ы" vowel and contains the preceding consonant "ц". That makes the first syllable end at п - the sound preceeding next syllable's ц. That makes the between-syllables dash be inserted between п and ц, not earlier or later.

Granted in practice there may be more rules for splitting words, less strict and giving you more options. http://orthographia.ru/orfografia.php?sid=97

However if you stick with the between syllables borderlines (the safest rule of thumb) then the above holds: syllables include only ONE consonant preceding its vowel (if such consonant exists), not two consonants or more.

Notice, that the first syllable of the word might contain multiple left-side consonants. Яб-ло-ко has б and л in different syllables, but бло-ка-да has them both in the first one. Because then there is no "zeroth" vowel-less syllable to own "б".

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.