Hard and Soft Consonants

All Russian consonants (with two exceptions) are naturally "hard" consonants. When a consonant is followed by a hard vowel, the consonant maintains its hard pronunciation. When a consonant is followed by a soft vowel, the consonant is pronounced "softly." For example, the consonant л is naturally hard. When it is followed by a hard consonant, as in лы, the л is still pronounced hard. When it is followed by a soft vowel, as in ли, the л becomes "soft." We will discuss the exact pronunciation of soft consonants on the next page. For now, just keep this one principle in mind: a soft vowel makes the consonant before it soft as well.