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Ukrainian spelling troubles: і or и?

Hello peoples,

I have a lot of trouble choosing whether to use the letters 'і' or 'и' when spelling many Ukrainian words. Granted, my misspelled answers are often accepted as correct but I would like to eventually not make those mistakes.

Some of the trouble words are more common than others, so it's easier to remember the spelling but I'm still often just guessing. For example:

"Він мій перекладач" instead of "Вин мий перекладач" "Ви мій викладач" instead of "Ві мий вікладач" "Шахи та література" instead of "Шахі та литература" "учитель" instead of "учітель" "піаніно" instead of "пианино" "Я жила у Одесі" instead of "Я жіла у Одеси"

Are there any rules in Ukrainian about spelling words using 'і' or 'и'?


February 21, 2017



It isn't a spelling rule but rather two different sounds. "і" like the "ee" in meet, but it's a lot tighter than in English with your tongue on your palate. "и" is like the "i" in hit approximately, but longer. Depending on the dialect it can sound like the Polish "y" or a Russian "ы" or a mix between the two.


Thanks but my question has nothing to do with pronunciation. I'm asking how to tell whether to spell Ukrainian words with an 'i' or an 'и' without having to memorise the exact spelling of each one, otherwise I am often just guessing.


Because the are pronounce differently. Кіт means cat and we spell it like that because it's pronounced /kit/ and кит means whale and we spell it like that because it's pronounced /kɪt/.


The difference between these two sounds is very difficult for English speakers to here in fast speech. If you exaggerate it we can hear it but to me unstressed "i" sounds almost the same as "и" - and I speak Russian.

  • 1777
  1. Where in the words of European origin stands i, there will be Ukrainian і (in most cases): піаніно, література

  2. Alternated vowel in the root - always і: він - вона, мій - моя, кінь - коня, село - сільський, піч - на печі, річ - речі

  3. Beginning - і or ї, never и

  4. Endings in nouns f. sng nom. -ія will have і in all cases and in pl: історія-історії...,
    f. sng nom. -ість: і will alternate with о: кількість - кількості

I cannot remember any other rule of thumb. Other cases depend on so many factors that I'd advise just to memorize.


So how are you supposed to pronounce и?


и is like "i" in "bit" of "sick".

Ukrainian і is like the vowel in "we" or "meet", as you would expect.

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