One of the most difficult aspects of learning Russian is figuring out the proper ударение (stress) in different words. What makes it so difficult is that in Russian there are virtually no rules that dictate which syllable has to be stressed. There are some закономерности (patterns), such as it never falls on the endings -ий/-ый. However, as Russians acknowledge нет правил без исключений (there are no rules without exceptions) and Russian grammar rules are particularly riddled with long lists of those.
The only way to figure out word stress is to memorize stressed vowel for each Russian word you learn and listen to lots and lots of conversations by native speakers (radio, movies and video work just as well). Do not assume, however, that by learning where stress falls in one word, you can now say однокоренные слова (cognates) or even different forms of the same word correctly. A real-life example would be of a language learner who would say:
Я бы хотел выпить воду (I would like to drink water), placing stress on у instead of о just because he knows that in the nominative вода the stress falls on the ending.
You see, in Russian, stress can fall on any слог (syllable) and on any часть слова (part of a word). In various grammatical forms of the same word (i.e. different cases, tenses, genders, etc) ударение can move from one vowel to another.
Тревога – тревожный – тревожить (alarm – alarming – to alarm) – the stress is consistently on the second гласная (vowel)
Земля – приземистый (ground – low to the ground) – the stress moves from the ending to the root
Чувство – чувственный – чувствительный (sense – sensual – sensitive) – the stress moves again in the last word
There is, however, one rule that is easy to remember. Whenever you see a word with ё in it, you can bet your dollar that ударение falls on this ё. But don’t bet more than a dollar because there are exceptions even to this rule – заимствованные (borrowed) words and сложные (compound) words are exempt.
Since word stress is so confusing, why bother with it at all? Aha! Good question! Продолжение следует... (To be continued…)