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Ukrainian F.A.Q.

All of these questions were already asked so many times, but it was mostly in the comment section for sentences, so people ask them again and again. I think it would be really nice to have them all gathered in one place

Apostrophe (')

There are some letters in Ukrainian that denote not one sound, but two: й and some vowel. These letters are:

  • я = й + а (ya)
  • ю = й + у (yu)
  • є = й + е (ye)
  • ї = й + і (yi)

When they are in the beginning of the word or after a vowel you pronounce them just as I wrote them in Latin characters. But! Situation changes when they are after a consonant. Instead of being a combination of two sounds they become one - the vowel one - and the consonant before them becomes palatalized. Compare:

But, there's a snag! There are some consonants (they are called labial) that can never be palatilized. And still want to have one those letters after them. That's when apostrophe comes in handy.

Labial consonants in Ukrainian are: б, п, в, м, ф. We have mnemonics for remembering those: "Мавпа Буф", but I doubt that it will make any sense for any of you. (мавпа is monkey, Буф is like a monkey's name)

You should put apostrophe between a labial consonant and one of those (я, ю, є, ї). And between "p" and one of those. Р isn't labial but it clearly had an affection to the apostrophe.

Oh, and when there's another consonant before labial consonant you don't put an apostrophe. "How," - you can ask youself, - "we thought they can't be palatilized!". Yep, that's still true. Please, don't ask any further questions. You have to deal with it - свято (holiday) Oh! And if that another consonant is р you still put the apostrophe (because it has an affection to him, remember?) - черв’як (worm).

There're some other rules about apostrophe, but I think these are more than enough. Just think of an apostrophe as a part of the word's spelling and try to memorize where to put it in a particular word.

Soft Sign (ь)

The soft sign is used to indicate the palatalization of a consonant. It's hard to explain how that palatilized consonant should sound, you just have to learn and listen. I'll just give you some soft sign rules for using it.

The rules say that you have to use it after д, т, з, с, ц, л, н (another cool meaningless mnemonics: Де ти з’їси ці лини) when they are soft. So you need to hear that a consonant is soft in order to spell a word correctly. But sommon "places" for soft sign are:

  • suffixes ськ, зьк, цьк (these suffixes make an adj. from a noun)- український (Ukrainian)
  • diminutive suffixes -еньк-, -оньк-, -есеньк-, -ісіньк-, -юсіньк- - малесенький (tiny)
  • in verbs that end in ться - збирається (getting ready, going to)
  • in verbs before ся - станься (imperative of happen)

Soft sign can never be put:

  • after б, п, в, м, ф, р, ж, ч, ш, щ
  • between doubled consonants - волосся (hair)

і, й / та

As someone mentioned in one of the discussions, "euphony is a grammatical category in Ukrainian". I couldn't say any better. We have a tonne of things just for the sake of euphony. One of those things is 3 words to say and (actually 4, but the fourth one has a different meaning).

These 3 words for and are interchangeable, you should choose what sounds better, i.e. try to avoid many successive consonants (or vowels). Use i:

  • on the beginning of the sentence before a consonant
  • after a consonant
  • before 2 consonants

For other cases you have й.

Та is a special word that can mean either and or but. You usually use it if there's already і/й in the sentence and you want something different. Or between a consonant and a vowel. Just try not to use it near words that already have lots of t's (тато та тітка - not cool)


This also caused a lot of confusion. You just got used to a thought that there are 3 conjunctions that you can interchange and than Whoa! There's even another one. And this time you can't just interchange them freely.

і implies similarity. а is used for contrast, to compare two things. Something like English while, but lighter. There's a fancy term juxtaposition for this

Here's a fancy scheme for ye:

  • A is an X, not an Y: Він письменник, а не директор.
  • A does X, not Y : Вона готує, а не спить.
  • A is an X, and B is an Y : Вікторія — викладач, а я ні.
  • A does/can do X, and B does/can do Y : Вона спить, а він читає.


It's another euphony thing. We have 2 words two say in. All the rules for і/й apply here. Just substitute i for у and й for в and you have rules for в/у

But that's not all, we came even further and decided why not do this в/у thing in prefix. And there you have it.

Most (there are some exceptions) words in Ukrainian that start with в+consonant have their у+consonant counterpart (for the sake of euphony): вчитель-учитель, вже-уже, вночі-уночі, впасти-упасти.

You should try to avoid congestion of consonants and use у-versions after a consonant and at the beginning of a sentence. But this rule is sometimes neglected and because of that в-versions of some words became much more common.

Bear in mind, that й is such a wonderful soft consonant that you can have another 2 consonants next to it and raptor won't get sad.

I want to give credit to Shady_arc and mizail whose materials (in one way or another) I used while writing this fundamental work.

Be sure to post any further questions below and I'll try to do my best to satisfy your interest.

June 8, 2015



Thanks. I don't know how frequently the frequently asked questions are asked, but it might be worth considering making this post sticky.


Don't have power to do that :(


Neither do I, but there are people who do.


Чудова робота!


Come to think of it, you can use «а» in "And you?"-style questions in Ukrainian. At least, I've seen it a few times.



"А ти?" - And what about you?
"І ти?" - And you are also (doing this thing)? (Et tu, Brute?)


Regarding the apostrophe, I can't seem to get one anywhere on my Windows Ukrainian keyboard layout and often have to switch back into English to type it or my response is counted as misspelled and wrong... I read about solutions in Ukrainian forums but they were mostly for Word and other MS Office programmes...any suggestions?


Try to hit the key "` ~" (before key "1", over the key "Tab")


Unfortunately Windows 7 Ukrainian Keyboard has ё there just like in Russian.


You should use Ukrainian Enhanced layout, that one has the apostrophe


Дякую, так працює :)


Дякую! I wrote that using the enhanced keyboard layout--which has an apostrophe!! ' ' ' ' !!!


Mirka, I’d like to express my gratitude for both your F.A.Q. and your generous participation in the discussions of those particular topics which have anticipated most of my puzzlements and questions. Thank you! Дякую! Спасибо!


You say "Та is a special word that can mean either and or but". Does it mean that word "але" can be interchanged with "та" or they have different meanings?


It can. Але is a usual word for "but", та is what you can use if you feel like doing it :)


Why is there no Words section for Ukrainian (https://www.duolingo.com/words)? I have it for other languages but not for Ukrainian?


Words get added later...many of the other languages still do not have them


I learned a little bit of Russian before, so I was somehow used to the general cyrillic alphabet; but what I just don't get is the difference between и and і in the Ukrainian version? When do I use which? How can I remember the words with и/і correctly? Is there a trick? Please enlighten me!


This was my problem too. But I became used to. Russian ы is like Ukrainian и. и sounds sometimes like an e . An i is always "bright". like that....


Thank you, that is helpful!


Ukr. и and Rus. ы indicate different sounds, so if you are studying both, note the difference ( though it may be hard for non-native speakers to hear).


By the way, I've just noticed that the link to "мята" redirects you to the word "м'яч". Can you edit it?


Is there an easy way to remember the letters and pronunciations?


There's a couple of mistakes though, it's жирафа (not жираф), єті (not йєті, but pronunciation is the same) and щ should be pronounces as шч, not just soft ш


The most easy way is to create a song to remember it


тчис ис челпфул, бут лонг. Тры цомпермисинг то тче инфо неедед. sorry i might have pressed the wrong keys.


We live this way in the Cyrillic world, always with two keyboard layouts... :)


In the spoken examples . . . мяч and м’яч мята and м’ята пять and п'ять I hear no difference in the sound of the vowels. I hear a pause between the consonant and vowel sounds, but the vowels sound identical to me.


You just need to train your hearing of Ukrainian language more and more. We, native speakers of Ukrainian and Russian, are hearing these differences very clear. Good luck.


It is more about difference in the consonant before enlisted vowels. If there is no apostrophe, the consonant is soft. I think after apostrophe enlisted vowels have more distinct й sound.


Hi! Do you know where can I download an ukrainian keyboard? Thanks!


This is helpful. Thank you


Awe thanks, this could help me since I am studying Ukrainian xD


Hello everyone, I´m a native Ukrainian speaker, created an Instagram account Ukrainian Online https://www.instagram.com/ukrainian_online/ for all who are interested in learning Ukrainian. I think it might be helpful for some of you


Ааааа ... наші українці! Дуже добре знайти наших людей. Наші слов'янські люди. Дуже дякую!


This is very helpful. I had started to surmise what the apostrophe was used for. Now it all makes sense. :)


this really help me surely your learning Ukrainian too?


This is great, дякую! I'm learning Ukrainian after studying Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian for five years and Russian for two, so I have the general Slavic language elements down - it's just the intricacies of the Ukrainian language that puzzle me.


Thank you for your very illuminating discussion! I just gave you six lingots.


Dear Vinnfred: Do you know why the Ukrainian lesson questions are showing up only in the Latin alphabet letters? I am answering in Cyrillic, and it accepts them. Дякую, Фред


there is a button on the top left that you can click to change from Latin to Cyrillic


thank u! a friend challenged me to try ukrainian since its so similar to russian and so far its been rewarding


Euphony is one of my favourite features of Ukrainian. Чергування у-в/і-й - одна з моїх улюблених особливостей української.


This was extremely helpful! Many thanks!


Is the transliteration for "й" "y" or "yu"? I'm confused how it's different from "И".


й stands for "y" as in "yes".


Thank you for this! It's been very helpful. Question - I've noticed that when I'm looking up verb conjugations online, there will sometimes be multiple forms written for a given subject. For example, "ми хочем, хочемо" or "ви хочете, хочте" - I'm just wondering why there are two and what the difference is. Thanks in advance!


As from my Ukrainian Boyfriend; ви is personal and Tи is polite, Mn is "we" vs "you" with the others


Thanks for the reply! I think I understand the pronouns, but am a little confused about the verb itself, sorry if I was unclear. Do хочем and хочемо mean the same thing?


"хочемо", "хочете" are standard grammatically correct versions. "хочем" and "хочте" are used in colloquial language and can be often seen on social media, for example.


Ah ok, thank you! I appreciate the help.


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