It makes no sense to me; when I'm listening to Russians on YouTube they all do it either way, another thing. If I choose to do most of my o’s as a’s will there be others who don't still understand me?

  • This has been a life long pet peeve. Where I'm from, we pronounce the letter O in most words. When our family moved to a location where people never ever pronounce the letter O, they instead make it sound like an A, it drove all of us nuts. Example: DOG is somehow pronounced "DAHG". Why? COFFEE is KAFFEE. How did this happen? Really, Kaffee? Isn't there an O in that word? It's not DAHG. It's DOG. Say the word right. Just recently there was a twitter battle with people arguing over how to say VP Kamala Harris' first name. One guy said it was pronounced "COMMA-LA". Wrong. The letter O in the wor Jul 28, 2021 at 15:43
  • Actually in English this is exactly what happens in different dialects as well
    – shabunc
    Aug 6, 2021 at 9:48

1 Answer 1


This is a phenomenon called vowel reduction.

A good starting point would be the Wikipedia article on Russian phonology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_phonology#Vowel_mergers

In a nutshell, most Russian dialects distinguish о and а and pronounce them more or less the way it says on the tin when they are stressed, and merge them (pronounce a neutral schwa instead of clear о or а) when they are unstressed.

There are some Russian dialects which (mostly) don't merge о and а even if they are unstressed, and those dialects are readily understood by practically any Russian speaker, though they do sound peculiar to those not accustomed to them.

You can't go pronouncing а instead if о or the other way around all the time. You have to separate them when they are stressed either way, and if you are unsure you can just always pronounce them as а and о, respectively, even if they are unstressed. You will be well understood.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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