Our language is very beautiful, and one of the reasons is euphony in Ukrainian. In this article, find out how to use У vs В, І vs Й, and З vs ЗІ vs ІЗ in Ukrainian.
What is euphony in Ukrainian?
Ukrainian is one of the few languages that have their own natural ways of sounding good. These include a large number of vowels, soft consonants, and simplification of sounds. If you want to sound as beautiful as native speakers, you have to remember the rules of euphony – правила милозвучності.
Милозвучність – “nice sounding” or euphony – means avoiding too many consonants or vowels in a row. So, what are the rules of euphony in Ukrainian?
What do у / в, і / й, з / зі / із mean?
Here is the basic translation of these short words:
- Both у and в mean in, at.
- Both i and й are variants of and.
- З, із, and зі are translated as with or from.
Be aware that these are the basic meanings. They may change depending on the words around them. Well, see for yourself!
Alternation у-в, і-й
Consonant – У / І – consonant
This is clear: to avoid consonants piling up, add a vowel.
- Я ж тільки заглянув у телефон, перевірив інстаграм і фейсбук.
I have just looked at my phone, checked Instagram and Facebook.
Vowel – В / Й – vowel
Obviously, there should not be too many vowels as well.
- На вечерю в Андрія курка й омлет.
Andrew has chicken and an omelet for dinner.
Vowel – У – в, ф, льв, св., тв., зв
All of the abovementioned consonant collocations (льв, св, тв, etc.) sound similar to в; that is why we use у to achieve euphony in Ukrainian.
- Гарно у Франківську!
It is beautiful in Frankivsk!
Vowel – В – consonant (except for в, ф, льв, св., тв., зв)
When there is both a consonant and a vowel, go for в in the sentence.
- Поїхали в Канаду!
Let’s go to Canada!
І – я, ю, є, ї, й
Pay attention: й is one consonant [j], but the letters я, ю, є, ї represent two sounds [ja], [ju], [je], [ji], a consonant and a vowel, at the same time.
- Федір і його дівчина люблять дивитися “Друзів” і їсти.
Fedir and his girlfriend like watching Friends while eating.
І between contrasting concepts
Remember to say і between opposites:
- “Злочин і кара”
Crime and Punishment
- він і вона
he and she
Alterations in words
Warning: this information might blow your mind! The alternation у-в, і-й happens in some words. It does not change their meaning but helps to achieve euphony in Ukrainian. Remember:
- учитель – вчитель
- вже – уже
- учора – вчора
- імовірно – ймовірно
- іти – йти
Moreover, there are words that change meaning depending on the first sound – у or в. Know the difference:
- вправа й управа
exercise and control
- вдача й удача
character and luck
- вступ і уступ
entering and ledge
- вклад і уклад
contribution and structure
Vowel – З – vowel
Just like with В, to avoid vowels piling up, add a consonant.
- Ми повернулися з автомайстерні.
We came from a garage.
Consonant – З – vowel
Even when you have one consonant, still choose З.
- Євген прийшов з Анною.
Yevhen came with Anna.
Vowel – З – consonant
Basically, it is the same rule.
- Ми з тобою – однієї крові.
You and I are the same blood.
Consonant – ІЗ – consonant
Remember to add a vowel in between two consonants.
- Я родом із Китаю.
I am originally from China.
ІЗ in front of с, ш
To avoid too many similar sounds, use ІЗ in front of hissing sounds.
- Пані із собачкою.
A lady with a dog.
- Шарф із шапкою.
A scarf with a hat.
ЗІ in front of consonants з, с, ш, щ + consonant
Using a few similar consonants in a row does not sound very nice. It is a good idea to add a vowel to the mix:
- зі страху
out of fear
- зі студентської бібліотеки
out of a students library
Watch out! There are two expressions to remember:
- зі мною
- зі Львова
Euphony in Ukrainian: rule of thumb
At the end of the day, the remarkably euphonic Ukrainian is not that hard: do not forget to alternate vowel and consonant sounds, and you will be fine (in most cases 🙂 )
To be honest, Ukrainians often break those euphony rules when speaking ― we just go for what sounds best to us at the moment.
How about putting this information to practice and creating a sentence with у/в, і/й, з/зі/із? Share it with us on social media!
Also, you can check the Ukrainian Lessons Podcast episode #57 where Anna is talking about милозвучність – euphony in the Ukrainian language.
Learning Ukrainian and looking for great resources? Check out our list of the 1000 most common words in Ukrainian with interactive flashcards. You can also learn Ukrainian step by step wherever you are with our free Ukrainian Lessons Podcast.