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 Phonetic System: Soft and Hard Signs

These two Russian letters differ from the rest letters of the Russian alphabet. Ь (soft sign) and Ъ (hard sign) are neither consonants nor vowels. They both denote no sound and are never pronounced in modern Russian.

Ь (soft sign) makes the preceding consonant soft. It is used in the root or at the end of a word: e.g.

пить (to drink)

Soft sign is used quite often in the Russian language and being at the end of the word, it may distinguish the meaning of words: e.g.

вес[с](weight) - весь[с'](whole)
брат[т](brother) - брать[т'](to take)
был[л](was) - быль[л'](true story)
говорит[т](speaks) - говорить[т'](to speak)

Ъ (hard sign) is a separation sign and denotes a very short pause or the absence of a sound. It's used in modern Russian spelling only between the prefix and the root of words and before vowels ё, е, я: e.g.

подъём(lifting, ascent)

There are few words in the Russian language that have hard sign in their body.


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