Spelling and Pronunciation

Ukrainian spelling is based on the four principles: phonetic, morphological, historical/traditional, and symbolic/ideographical.

According to the phonetic principle, the words are spelled the way that they are pronounced in the literary language: голова [holov`a] (head), рука[ruk`a] (hand).

The morphological principle implies that the same part of the word (root, prefix, suffix, ending) is spelled the same in all words regardless of their pronunciation: людство [`liutstvo] (humanity), людський [`liuts’ky] (human).

The historical or traditional principle means that the word spelling can’t be explained so you have to just memorize it: ясний [`yasny] (clear), кишеня [kysh`enia] (pocket), клас [kl`as] (class).

In keeping with the fourth principle, you have to find out the meaning of each of the two similar words to distinguish them, although they are pronounced likewise: компанія [komp`ania] (company) - кампанія [kamp`ania] (campaign).


There are six vowel sounds: а, о, у, е, и, і which indicate ten vowel letters - а, о, у, е, и, і, ї, є, ю, я. No long or short vowels can be found.

In the process of word change and word formation, the vowel sounds interchange, and this phenomena is called gradation:



I.Vowels о, е in an open syllable alternate with і in the closed syllable.

1. Vowel gradation occurs:

a. when the word changes;

b. when the word is formed.

2. Gradation doesn’t occur:

a) if the sound appears in the words or is absent there;

b) in the groups -ор-, -ер-, -ов- between consonants;

c) in the groups -оро-, -оло-, -ере-, -еле-;

d) In the Genitive case plural of the neuter nouns ending in -ення.

Київ (Kyiv) - Києва (of Kyiv),сім (seven) -семи (of the seven)

будова (structure) - будівник (builder),село (village) - сільський (rural)

день (day) - дня (of the day), кінець (end) - кінця (of the end)

шовк (silk) - шовку (of the silk), вовк (wolf) - вовка (of the wolf)

коловорот (whirlpool), шелест (rustle)

значень (of the meanings) (значення)

II. Vowels е and о after ж, ч, ш, щ, дж, й:

a. е precedes a soft consonant and the syllable consisting е or и;

b. о precedes a hard consonant and the syllables with а, о, у, и

пшениця (wheat), учень (student), черниця (nun)

бджола (bee), його (his) , шостий (the sixth)

III. Vowel gradation in verb stems:

a. о alternates with а in some verbs changing their meaning;

b. e alternates with і in the roots of the verbs of the perfective and imperfective aspect.

гонити (to chase) - ганяти (to drive), котити (to roll) - качати (to swing)

вигребти (to get something scratched out) - вигрібати (to scratch out),

підмести (to get swept) - замітати (to sweep)


Consonants are characterised and classified by the following features:

  1. voice and noise (work of vocal chords);
  2. place of production (active speech organ);
  3. manner of production;
  4. hardness and softness (palatalisation);
  5. nasalisation.









































































The softest is the sound [ j ] (letter й), so it is always called a soft consonant. Other consonants are softened to a lesser extent, therefore they are called softened. These include: [д'], [т'], [з'], [с'], [ц'], [дз'], [н'], [л'], [р']. In addition, there are semi-softened consonants mainly before [ i ]: [б'], [п'], [в], [м'], [ф], [ж'], [ч'], [ш'], [дж'], [ґ'], [к'], [x'], [г'].

Most of the Ukrainian consonants are compliant with the English ones. Two consonant sounds - дж (dzh = j like in jam) and дз (dz like in dead zone) - have no separate sign so they are indicated by two letters. The consonants щ, ц and ч are formed of two sounds:

щ (shch) = ш + чщастя [shch`astia] (happiness)
ц (ts) = т + с цілувати [tsiluv`aty] (to kiss)
ч (ch) = т + шчарівний [charivn`y] (wonderful)




I. Consonant gradation occurs at word change and word formation:

г - ж; к - ч; х - ш

a. in the Vocative case;

b. at word formation;

c. in verbal forms.

г - з; ґ - дз; к - ц; х - с

a. In declensional forms of the noun;

b. at word formation.

(young man) - юначе

пастух (shepherd) - пастушка (shepherdess)

колихати (to wave) - колишу (I wave)

книга (book) - книзі (to the book)

грек (Greek) - Греція (Greece)

II. Gradation in the verb stems:

д - дж; ст - щ; зд - ждж; б - бл; з - ж; т - ч; с - ш; п - пл; м - мл; ф - фл; т - д; в - вл.

III. Gradation in different parts of speech:

д - ж; т - ч

Любити (to love) - люблю (I love), висіти (to hang) - вишу (I hang), їздити (to drive) - їжджу (I drive)

Освіта (education) - освічений (educated), правда (truth) - справжній (true)

To indicate the softness of the preceding consonant, the letter ь (soft sign) is used: лінь [lin’] (laziness), кінь [kin’] (horse). The ь sign doesn’t indicate any sound.

Designation of softness in writing



The softness of sounds is most often designated by:

1. the soft sign ь;;

2. the letters я, ю, є;

3. the letter i

навшпиньках [navshp`yn’kah] (on the toes)

земля [zeml`ia] (land)

іт [sv`it] (world)

I. Put the soft sign:

1. in the end of the word and syllable;

[д’], [т’], [з’], [с’], [ц’], [н’], [л’], [дз’]

2. after soft consonants in the middle of the syllable before o;

3. in the words with the suffixes -еньк-, -оньк-, -есеньк-, -ісіньк-, -юсіньк-; -зьк-, -ськ-, -цьк-;

4. after soft л before the following consonant etc.

мідь [mid’] (copper), тінь [tin’] (shadow) , кінець [kin`ets’] (end)

сьогодні [s’oh`odni] (today), льон [l’on] (linen)

малесенький [mal`esen’ky] (tiny), тонюсінький [ton`iusin’ky] (very thin)

близький [blyz’k`y] (close)

пальці [p`al’tsi] (fingers), їдальня [jid`al’nia](canteen)

II. Don’t put the soft sign:

  1. after б, п, в, м, ф; ж, дж, ч, ш;

  2. in the end of the syllable or the word afterр;

  3. after н before ж, ч, ш, щ and before the suffixes -ств(о)-, -ськ(ий)- etc.

вісім [v`isim] (eight), ніж [nizh] (knife) , дощ [doshch] (rain)

гіркий [hirk`yi] (sour), секретар [sekret`ar] (secretary)

кінчик [k`inchyk] (tip), менший [m`enshy] (smaller)

Use of an apostrophe



Put the apostrophe before я, ю, є, ї

1. In the Ukrainian words:

a. after б, п, в, м, ф if they are not preceded by other consonants (except for р)which belong to the word root;

b. after the hard р;

c. after б, п, в, м, ф, к, р in proper nouns;

d. after prefixes and first part of compound words endingin hard consonant.

кав’ярня [kav`jarnia] (coffee shop), м’ясо [m`jaso] (meat)

кур’єр [kur`jer] (delivery man)

В’ячеслав [vjachesl`av] (Vyacheslav (the name)), Прип’ять [Pr`ipyat’] (Pripyat, the town)

[pivjevr`opy] (half Europe)

2. In the loan words:

a. After б, п, в, м, ф, г, к, х, ж, ч, ш, р and prefixes ending in a consonant;

b. After a shortened particle де and afterthe particle о in the last names.

бар’єр [bar`jer] (barrier), інтерв’ю [interv`ju](interview)

д’Акоста [dak`osta] (d’Acosta), О’Генрі [oh`enri] (O.Henry)

Don’t put the apostrophe:

1. Before я, ю, є in the Ukrainian and loan words:

a. after б, п, в, м, ф if the other preceding consonants (except for p) belonging to the root;

b. after б, п, в, м, ф, ж, ч, ш, г, к, х, р which designate soft consonants.

c. before йо.

духмяний [dukhm`iany] (fragrant), свято [sv`iato] (holiday), цвях [tsv`iah] (nail), but черв’як [tcherv`jak] (worm)

Гюго [hiuh`o] (Hugo), пюре [piur`e] (puree), буря [b`uria] (thunderstorm)

мільйон [mil`jon] (million), серйозний [ser`jozny] (serious)

There is no complete correspondence between sounds and letters in the Ukrainian language: you can see more letters written but hear less of them pronounced.

There are words with different meanings that are spelled similarly but sound differently, e.g. зАмок [z`amok] (castle) and замОк [zam`ok] (lock). The word stress moves to the other syllable depending on the form of the word:

стінА [stin`a] (a wall) - на стінІ [na stin`i] (on the wall)
стІни [st`iny] (the walls) - на стІнах [na st`inah] (on the walls).


А а


Б б


В в


Г г


Ґ ґ


Д д


Е е


Є є


Ж ж


З з


И и


І і


Ї ї


Й й


К к


Л л


М м


Н н


О о


П п


Р р

rice (rolling R!)

С с


Т т


У у


Ф ф


Х х


Ц ц


Ч ч


Ш ш


Щ щ

rush charge

Ь ь

(soft sign)

Ю ю


Я я