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 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 beautifully 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 into 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 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
Teacher: Is it з, із or зі? – Me:
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: just 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 in 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 in the comments!
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 1000 most common words in Ukrainian with interactive flashcards.
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