Yesterday I asked a question about the meaning of "научись," and it turned out that in the movie in which I heard this, it was not "научись," but "на, учись." This was a real trap! The Russian phonetics is so tricky!

Kind users of this forum explained to me that the particle на in "на, учись" is somewhat more stressed than the prefix на in "научись" is, and I got curious whether this is a general principle to distinguish between prefixes and separate words and whether I should always stress words that could be taken for a prefix.

My question is this: What is the difference in pronunciation between:

(1) "Зачем пришел?" ("Why did you come?") and "за чем пришел?" ("What thing did you come to take?").

(2) "Выхóдите гулять?" ("Are you going out to walk now?") and "Вы ходите гулять?" ("Do you regularly go to walk?").

(3) "Он невежливый" ("He is impolite") and ""он не вежливый" ("He is not polite").

(4) "Давайте порублю" ("Let me cut") and "давайте по рублю" ("Give me one rouble each").

3 Answers 3


There's no phonetical difference, those phrases are pronounced exactly the same way. Whether one should write "не" together or separately, for instance, is quite often a source for confusion of Russian pupils exactly because of this.

As of "на, учись" - well, the comma exists for a reason, in this case there's indeed a gap between pronouncing "на" and "учись".

  • Ohh.. But do you agree with the others that "научись" is pronounced differently from "на, учись"?
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 5, 2019 at 10:36
  • Ah, I see, you reflected this in an update to your post, thanks a lot.
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 5, 2019 at 10:39
  • 1
    @Mitsuko nice examples by the way - it looks like your understanding of Russian language is on a very high level!
    – shabunc
    Jun 5, 2019 at 10:40
  • 1
    Thanks a lot for your kind compliment. I am indeed among the best students (judging by grades), but still nowhere near you, native speakers. You are like gods to me.
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 5, 2019 at 10:47
  • oh it's not a valid comparison - native speakers does not count after all )
    – shabunc
    Jun 5, 2019 at 10:48

Only the second example can show phonetic difference which reveals itself in interrogative tone rising on one or another word. In Выходите гулять? (in the context 'Is it for a walk that you are going out for now?') the word гулять is emphasized with tone rising, as opposed to the other question, where the word ходите is emphasized. However, another context is possible for the first question (emphasis on выходите) where it sounds the same as the second one: asking someone to hurry up with their going out for a walk.

  • Isn't there a difference in the meaning between "Вы ходите гулять(!)?" and "Вы ходите(!) гулять?" either?
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 5, 2019 at 11:43
  • There is some. The first version contains a guess гулять (You often go out - is it for a walk?). The second one is a neutral question (Do you do such a thing as going for a walk?)
    – Alex_ander
    Jun 5, 2019 at 11:48
  • Ohhh... This is so tricky! I was sure that the neutral question requires the neutral Intonation, in which none of the words is stressed. I was sure that the question "Вы ходите(!) гулять?," with "ходите" stressed, means something like, "How do you get to the place where you walk - by walking or by public transport?"
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 5, 2019 at 11:52
  • The context of getting to workplace needs different words: вы ходите (на работу) пешком. Гулять is just walking for pleasure.
    – Alex_ander
    Jun 5, 2019 at 11:58
  • Aha I see. Our languages then have something in common - the meaning is often determined by subtleties of the context.
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 5, 2019 at 12:00


"Зачем пришел?" ("Why did you come?")
"За чем пришел?" ("What thing did you come to take?")

Both sound the same, but if Russian ear hears this phrase with 100% Russian brain thinks that it is [зачем пришел].


"Выхóдите гулять?" ("Are you going out to walk now?")
"Вы ходите гулять?" ("Do you regularly go to walk?").

Both sound the same, but first sound unnatural to Russian ear.
In real life it will be like this

"Гулять выхóдите?" ("Are you going out to walk now?")


"Он невежливый" ("He is impolite")
"Он не вежливый" ("He is not polite").

Both sound the same, but said aloud it does not have difference in meaning.
For Russian ear it is 100% first variant [невежливый].
For Russian ear the second varian usually goes with [not this, but this]

"Он невежливый." ("He is impolite")
"Он не вежливый, а мошенник" ("He is not polite, but a cheater").


"Давайте порублю" ("Let me cut")
"Давайте по рублю" ("Give me one rouble each").

Both sound the same, but context is too different to mix it.
For Russian ear it is 100% the first [порублю].

For the second it is sound unnatural.
In real life they will say like this.

"Сдавайте по рублю" ("Give me one rouble each").

[Давайте по рублю] is also possible, but it is about robbery.

[Давайте скинемся по рублю] ("Let's make a mutual fund by investing 1 ruble from each of us").

[Давайте скинемся, а то порублю] ("Let's make a mutual fund, otherwise I will cut you all").

Bonus track

  • [научись] must be pronounced [науч'ись] - one stress
  • [на, учись] must be pronounced [н'а] [pause] [уч'ись]- two stresses

[на] here is a short form for [возьми]
[на, учись] = [возьми и учись]

  • Thanks a lot for the detailed explanation :)
    – Mitsuko
    Jun 10, 2019 at 20:34

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