I have heard two different ways of pronouncing the very common word-ending ый (as in, e.g., чёрный or кра́сный).

The first variant has a barely audible [j] sound after [ɨ].
The second variant has a clearly audible "sh" sound after [ɨ], quite similar to German "ch" [ç] (but certainly different to the English "sh" and also different to a ж, ш or щ sound).

This question came up because I frequently hear the [ç] ending in a "Basic Russian course" on Memrise.
Here's a video picked on Youtube where you can hear both pronunciation. She pronounces, for example, кра́сный with that [ç] ending. Most of the colors, however, are neatly pronounced, i.e. with that subtle [j] ending only.
And here's another video with a mixture of both pronunciations.

I assume that the first variant is the 'standard' pronunciation (if that exists?!) and the second one is kind of sloppy pronunciation; but probably the most common.

  • Is that true?
  • Which pronunciation should a language learner pick up?
  • And would that also be applied to the ending ий (e.g. англи́йский)?1

This question is not about the standard pronunciation and difference between и, ий, ы and ый. I am aware of the other question linked in comments and there are a lot of questions about this on the Internet. However, none of these questions does address what I'm asking here.

1 I haven't heard the second variant for ий (yet), but I guess the assumption is not too far-fetched.

  • 5
    There are no "both variations", believe me. I also hear "both variations" of English: the one when people are speaking while eating a burger and having their mouths full, and the other when they're speaking without food in their mouths. So which variety of English should I pick up? Your question sounds exactly like this. Naturally, if you want to speak whispering the ends of words, you're welcome, but usually people don't do that, one is supposed to speak distinctly.
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 23, 2014 at 13:01
  • 5
    The reason you hear [ç] is that while learning Russian you frequently listen to words spoken in isolation, meaning, there is nothing before or after. Thus, a speaker may slightly accentuate the "Й" while simultaneously already turning their voice off. You get a glide which indeed sounds not unlike German ch in ich or russian soft Х (devoiced Й gives you exactly that). That's just a normal deviation that appears by itself. Acceptable in normal speech, too, though in reality people do not much accentuate the pronunciation of endings — there rarely any reason to.
    – Shady_arc
    Oct 23, 2014 at 16:18
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    @Shady_arc I'd say this is an answer worth ;)
    – Em1
    Oct 23, 2014 at 16:23
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    @Em1 Sorry for a hasty reply. I then re-read the answers and found the same in the answer by YellowSky. Though, the explanation with "devoicing" instead of "whispering" would be much closer to the exact explanation I provided. Meaning, yeah, usually in Russian you tend to slightly devoice "Й" at the end of the utterance. Of course, only if you chose to pronounce it clearly as a consonant, which may be frequent in (amateurish?) teaching materials showing you the pronounciation of a single word (to make the ending extremely clear) but not much IRL both with native speakers and foreigners.
    – Shady_arc
    Oct 23, 2014 at 16:48
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    It never ceases to amaze me on this site how rude and insolent intelligent people can be when answering a perfectly reasonable question on this site. Honestly, a mouth full of burger?
    – CocoPop
    Oct 24, 2014 at 0:14

7 Answers 7


Em1, I've looked at the Youtube video and if I understand your question correctly – yes, she pronounces the name of the colors twice and each time the ending sounds differently.

It's an effect of emphasizing and not emphasizing accent "крАААсный" и "красный".

I am a native speaker and I don't really notice "sh" there or much difference, but I think it's totally normal for you to hear it, as for a foreign ear these two endings are different.

There is no right, wrong or standard way to pronounce it, not any rule; one is just pronounced with aspiration and it depends on articulation of this concrete person and way she talks. If you listen carefully to the words, you will notice that in general she produces a lot of "hiss", a kind of defect of articulation and pronunciation.

My only advice – try to listen the course where a lector has perfect diction (sorry I don't know right word in English for training to articulate words) and pronounce it as best as you can (anyway it will not sound immediately the same as native speakers do).

  • Это не "sh" :). Имеется в виду звук в немецком в словах типа "ich", и, "Bücher". Он напоминает русское "хь", но чуть менее глубокий, т.е. нечто среднее между "хь" и "щ". А так как слишком дотошный носитель, выделяющий "красныЙ" в конце может при этом оглушить его, неудивительно, что немцу слышится "ch".
    – Shady_arc
    Oct 23, 2014 at 18:12
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    @Shady_arc спасибо, теперь поняла, там есть какой-то похожий звук на хь, я бы просто назвала его предыханием или свистом, похоже на соседний вопрос про "горячий". Oct 24, 2014 at 6:09
  • I've heard something similar and thought of it as an occasional devoicing of that final й. I knew one guy in Moscow who had this pronunciation pretty consistently, but he seemed to be an exception – none of his friends (same age, same dept at МГУ even) had it. There's another quick example in the beginning of Служебный роман – listen for how the narrator pronounces мой (without the devoicing) and хороший (to my ear, with the devoicing). youtu.be/hR-1QGMK75c?t=6m39s
    – Curt
    Dec 2, 2017 at 13:49

Both suffixes are always pronounced as they are written, that is -ый as [ɨj] and -ий as [ij]. No kind of sh/ch is there. In some dialects the final [j] can be barely heard or disappear altogether, but that's rare.

The only explanation for your issue I can think of is that [ç] (the German 'ch' in 'ich') is the voiceless counterpart of the voiced [j]. You know, when speaking in whisper, all the consonants are pronounced voiceless, so one cannot pronounce [j] in whisper, one will inevitably say [ç]. The same happens in those adjectives ending in -ый [ɨj], at the end of a word [j] gets partially devoiced and acquires some [ç] coloring. But that happens because in your first video the girl is speaking very slowly, in normal speech that does not happen.


The sound [ç] is actually not sh, but a voiceless pair to [j]. Consonants tend to become voiceless in the end of Russian words. However, for [j] it is not correct, although it can sometimes happen.

  • Voiceless pair of й is хь.
    – Anixx
    Nov 28, 2014 at 17:06
  • @Anixx not precisely. Very close, but just a little different, more approximant. Moreover, [х'] is the closest Russian sound to [ç].
    – Viridianus
    Nov 28, 2014 at 22:24
  • prove it is different
    – Anixx
    Nov 28, 2014 at 22:29
  • @Anixx well, you can go to ipachart.com and find that there is voiced pair for [х'] different from [j], therefore, there also is a voiceless pair for [j]different from [х']
    – Viridianus
    Nov 28, 2014 at 23:26
  • how does ipachart prove anything? IPA uses different characters for the same sounds (multiple examples) and similar characters for different sounds (multiple examples). IPA is not suitable for Russian.
    – Anixx
    Nov 30, 2014 at 1:48

If i understand you properly, the sound you interpreted as a [ç] is just an air relieved after we stop pronouncing final [j]. Just a side effect.


As you can see on the first video you posted, there is no transcriptions ending with anything similar to the sh. As a native speaker I do know - there is no sh endings for adjectives in Russian.
Unfortunately, you just misheard.

  • Well, if I heard it once, I would agree this could be a mishearing. I, however, distinctly hear this ç over and over again; thus, I don't consider it a mishearing.
    – Em1
    Oct 23, 2014 at 12:42
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    @Em1 I have heared her pronounciation and I can hear nothing like anything other than [j].
    – Anixx
    Oct 23, 2014 at 13:03
  • @Em1 If you think you've heard something, this does not imply that it was pronounced. It is mishearing. Have you ever heard such pronunciation not related to the quality of the sound recording?
    – Dmitry
    Oct 23, 2014 at 13:04
  • @Dmitry The next time I meet a Russian person, I'll ask them to pronounce those words but right now I can only rely on sound recordings.
    – Em1
    Oct 23, 2014 at 13:42
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    I wasn't saying that I don't trust you guys :D. However, as I extract from my discussion with Yellow Sky, I think the point here is that I hear a difference due to my native language and a sound that exists in German but not in Russian. And to a Russian ear both sounds appear identical.
    – Em1
    Oct 23, 2014 at 14:02

They are pronounced exactly the same way, both with the [j] sound on the end.


I've sometimes noticed, when listening to recordings of myself speaking, that I occasionally pronounce it as [ç], and particularly in those cases when I'm paying extra attention to my articulation. That doesn't mean that there's a "correct" form and a "sloppy" one. As the answers above have shown, native Russian speakers tend not to even be aware of the difference, and some don't quite understand what "German ch" you're talking about (I did immediately, but that's because I'm very fond of these small phonetical observations), so we might call it free variation. I'd say go with the [j].

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