Do you want to learn the Ukrainian alphabet? Or maybe practice Ukrainian pronunciation? Then the Ukrainian Alphabet guide with videos and examples is for you.

Why does the Ukrainian alphabet look so different? 😳

The Ukrainian алфавіт or абетка (alphabet) is a form of кирилиця Cyrillic script. This may be unusual, for many of our readers’ writing systems derived from the Greek uncial script in the 9th century. The Latin script that we all know also derived from Greek but from another, earlier type – from ancient Rome times, 700 BC. That’s why some Cyrillic (and Ukrainian) letters look like the letters of the Latin alphabet (like English or Spanish) while still having significant differences in writing and pronunciation.

The Ukrainian alphabet consists of 33 letters.

Let’s have a look at each of them with examples! Play the videos, listen carefully and repeat.

А а

A is the first letter of the Ukrainian alphabet and it’s super easy to pronounce.

Either in the stressed or unstressed position, А sounds almost the same.🍍

The stressed A (like the first one in Африка) is just slightly louder. 📢

Notice the difference between saying those in English vs Ukrainian.

 

Б б

Ананас🍍чи Банан?🍌

The second letter in the Ukrainian Alphabet is Б! 🙃

It looks different but has equivalents in many languages. In English, it sounds like the B in Banana. 🍌

Listen to the recording and say those words out loud and soon they’ll start flowing effortlessly. Get your mouth used to Ukrainian! 👄🇺🇦

 

В в

Coming up… the third letter in the Ukrainian Alphabet ― B!

At first, you might confuse it with Б (Банан ― Banana🍌)…

But with some practice you will remember it’s pronounced as the first sound in ВідеоVideo 🎬

 

Г г

Г is our special one. 💙💛

We pronounce it in our own unique way.

Unlike in Russian, Bulgarian, or Serbian, Г in Ukrainian resembles English sound [h], but with more voice in it. 🗣

Listen and compare Гарвард with Harvard! 🎓

You can find more information and practice Г pronunciation in another practical post.

 

Ґ ґ 

Go Ґ!

Ґ is a letter only used in the Ukrainian alphabet. And for this reason… it was banned and forbidden to use during the Soviet times.😳 Poor Ґ!

As a result, Ґ came back to independent Ukraine in way fewer words than before. It is only used in about 30 words, most of which are dialectic.

Here are a few words we often use:

Ґудзик ― a button (clothes)

Ґорґани ― mountain range in the Carpathians

Аґрус ― gooseberry

Ґрати ― bars

Ґрунт ― soil

🗣 Ґ is very easy to pronounce: it’s the [g] in go.

Compare letters / sounds х, г, ґ in Ukrainian here

 

Д д

What’s with all the phonetics?!! 😱

Let me explain.🤓

The Ukrainian letter Д can represent different sounds:

[д] ― hard [d]

[д’] ― soft [d’] (more info below 🧐 )

[дж] ― [dʒ] sound (like in J-eans)

[дз] ― [d͡z] (like saying [d] + [z] really fast)

[дз’] ―[d͡z’] (the soft version of [d͡z])

[дж] and [дз] are sounds on their own.💪

🧐 What’s the difference between hard and soft [д]?

In theory, soft consonants involve your tongue touching the top of your mouth 👅👄, while hard consonants usually do not (the tongue is closer to the teeth 👅🦷).

Try to hear the difference between [д]ерево (hard d) and Ін[д’]ія (soft d), then try to pronounce!

You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get much more practice here

 

Е е

E sounds roughly like the E in English words pet 🐈, bed 🛏 or the first sounds in energy ⚡️

However, when E is not stressed, it’s more weak, therefore it tends to become a little close to И 👫 (don’t worry about that too much).

So how is it going? Can you pronounce Ейфелева вежа 🇫🇷 fast and easy?

 

Є є

Є is one of three Ukrainian letters that can be pronounced in two ways (depending on the position):

  1. Є is pronounced as a [й] + [е] combo at the beginning of words and after vowels or apostrophe signs (’): (’). Think of the first sounds in the word yellow 🌼
  2. Є is pronounced simply as [е] after the consonants without an apostrophe sign (’). There are not many words like these, for example:
  • Ллє – is pouring 💦 (because of Є, Л is pronounced softly)

The letter Є alone forms the word which means “there is / are”:

У вас Є питання? – Do you have any questions? (= Are there questions?) ❓

 

Ж ж

The letter Ж in Ukrainian is looking fancy, isn’t it? 😎

You can hear the /ʒ/ sound it makes in the English words trea/ʒ/ure, u/ʒ/ual, /ʒ/enre.

Also, ж is a part of the complex sound [дж] which is pronounced fast (like in J-eansджинси) 👖

Now, try to write down Ж 📝 

Draw a cross ✖️ and a horizontal in the middle 🙂

 

З з

З itself is easy: Зебра ― Zebra 🦓

But what about кукурудза? 🌽

Here we pronounce д and з together as one sound ― [дз]. Sounds fun! 😅

Also, з and дз can be either hard (like in зебра, зуб, Замбія, кукурудза) or soft (Зібмабве, емодзі 😋).

❗️З is soft when it is followed by such letters: ь, я, ю, є, і.

In theory, soft consonants involve your tongue touching the top of your mouth 👅👄, while hard consonants usually do not (the tongue is closer to the teeth 👅🦷).

You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get much more practice here

 

И и

И can be a tough one! But Ukrainians use it a lot.

For example, we can make the long sound и-и-и-и… 🤔 when we are hesitating or looking for the right words. Have you heard Ukrainians do it? 

И can be difficult to master, that’s why there is a whole episode about the pronunciation of и in the Ukrainian Lessons Podcast.

Check out the ULP Episode #5: Numbers + И Pronunciation

In the episode, I gave 3 techniques of how to get И:

  1. Compare the И sound to the short i in words like a bit, a little. In Ukrainian it is very similar, but a little longer and deeper.
  2. Think about И as the sound between і and у. Say iii and try to switch to ууy ― you will get И somewhere in between.
  3. Put your fingers on your neck, close to your throat. When you say И aloud you should feel your fingers move.

Did something work? Find your favorite way and use it.

Oh, and one last thing. In the unstressed position, и becomes a bit close to е. Feel the difference in дИтИна (a child): 🧒

→ the first и is unstressed (therefore has a bit of е)

→ the second one is stressed (pure и).

 

І і

The Ukrainian “і” is pronounced like the English ee (sweet 🍰)

It’s a very useful word by itself: “і” means “and” in Ukrainian. ➕

Click on the picture to practice your pronunciation and notice the difference between Ukrainian words and their English equivalents.

 

Ї ї

Ї is a fancy letter that always consists of two sounds: [й] + [і] 👬

It sounds similar to the beginning of the word yeast in English.

Make sure to practice those words out loud with our audio 📢

 

Й й

Yes! 🤩 

Й sounds just like the first sound in the word yes 😅

By the way, this sound is a part of some other Ukrainian letters: 🛠

Я ― [йа]

Ю ― [йу]

Є ― [йе]

Ї ― [йі]

 

К к

К is one of those letters you love because they are the same in English 💙

But have you noticed? 😱 Lowercase Ukrainian к doesn’t have a long line like the English k

 

Л л

Л in Ukrainian = L in English.👏

But like some other Ukrainian consonant sounds, Л can be either hard (Латвія 🇱🇻, Лондон 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿) or soft (література 📚, Ліма 🇵🇪).

❗️Л is soft when it is followed by such letters: ь, я, ю, є, і.

In theory, soft consonants involve your tongue touching the top of your mouth 👅👄, while hard consonants usually do not (the tongue is closer to the teeth 👅🦷).

You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get much more practice here

 

М м

You will like М. There is nothing special about it! 🤩

It’s like the М in many other languages:

Мама = Mother, matka, madre…

 

Н н

о Ні!!! 😱 

oh No!!! 😱

Н in Ukrainian is not pronounced as /h/ 😱 It is actually /n/ like in “no”. 

Like some other consonants we’ve already covered, H can be either hard (ножиці ✂️) or soft (ніс 🐽).

❗️Н is soft when it is followed by such letters: ь, я, ю, є, і.

In theory, soft consonants involve your tongue touching the top of your mouth 👅👄, while hard consonants usually do not (the tongue is closer to the teeth 👅🦷).

You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get much more practice here

 

О о

Ого! Wow! 🧐

Although the Ukrainian O looks just like the English O, it doesn’t sound exactly like the О in Office, brOther, or alOne.

We find it much closer to the first sound in AUthor 🖋

Now it’s your turn to practice pronouncing O the Ukrainian way. Click to listen to my voice and repeat. 👄

 

П п

П ― це не Проблема 😃

П is not a Problem 😃

If you just don’t forget that it is pronounced like /p/ in English (but in Ukrainian don’t push it that hard 😂, it’s softer).

What about P in Ukrainian? It’s a rolled /r/ coming up next! 😉

 

Р р

Ok, here is a tough one (Spanish or Polish speakers can celebrate now 🥳)

Р р is not /p/ in /p/roblem, but rather the /r/ in it. 😬

Plus, it’s not just an /r/, it’s a «rolled r». 👅

You might need to practice for a day or two if you can’t pronounce it yet.

Good news is, we have the whole free training about the rolled r in the Ukrainian Lessons Podcast episode #25

С с

Here is a secret – ceкрет 🤫

С in Ukrainian is always pronounced as its name in the English alphabet (/si:/)

Anyone from Стокгольм 🇸🇪, Сідней 🇦🇺, Стумбул 🇹🇷 or…Сатурн? 👽

❗️Like some other consonants we’ve already covered, C can be either hard (сумка 👜) or soft (сіль🧂).

С is soft when it is followed by such letters: ь, я, ю, є, і.

Soft consonants involve your tongue touching the top of your mouth 👅👄, while hard consonants usually do not (the tongue is closer to the teeth 👅🦷).

You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get much more practice here

 

Т т

The Ukrainian T is pronounced similarly to the English /t/, but there is less air coming out with it ❌💨

It’s softer 😌

Just like C, Т can be either hard (телефон📱) or soft (Хорватія 🇭🇷).

❗️Т is soft when it is followed by such letters: ь, я, ю, є, і.

Soft consonants involve your tongue touching the top of your mouth 👅👄, while hard consonants usually do not (the tongue is closer to the teeth 👅🦷).

You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get much more practice here

 

У у

Do you like бУрякbeetrOOt? 😋

Make sure to practice your У pronunciation to say Україна right 😉 🇺🇦

 

Ф ф

The letter Ф is quite new, that’s why it appears only in foreign words. 🌎

It’s that F in proFessionпрофесія 👨‍✈️

 

Х х

Хто це? WHo is this? 😮

This is Х – Ukrainian /h/ 🙃

Хто грає в Хокей? ― Who plays /h/ockey here? 🏒 (listen to the difference in stress)

It can be confusing for foreigners to get the difference between Г and Х.

For such cases we’ve prepared an article with expectations and audio practice 🤓

 

Ц ц

Try to pronounce English the word “lots” fast – and you get the Ukrainian ЦloTS.

Like some other consonants we’ve already covered, Ц can be either hard (цукерка 🍭) or soft (поцілунок 😘).

❗️Ц is soft when it is followed by such letters: ь, я, ю, є, і.

Soft consonants involve your tongue touching the top of your mouth 👅👄, while hard consonants usually do not (the tongue is closer to the teeth 👅🦷).

You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get much more practice here

 

Ч ч

Do you like CHai? I mean Чай?

Зелений 🍵 Чи Чорний ☕️?

5 letters left 😉

 

Ш ш

In Ukrainian, there are plenty of words that come from English.

Like Шорти – Shorts ☀️

Ш = /sh/

 

Щ щ

This is one of my favorite letters 😍 Why?

Тому Що – because I love freSH CHerries 🍒😍😍😍🍒

Щ is pronounced as the ending of freSH and beginning of CHerries 🍒 Try it now:

freSH CHerries = SH + CH = 🇺🇦 Щ

Щ is a letter that represents two district sounds – [шч] 🤓

 

Ь 

Ь is a silent superhero 🤫🦸‍♂️

It doesn’t make any sounds, but it changes others, it makes the sounds before it softer.

We call Ь м‘який знак or знак м‘якшення (soft sign).

Can you hear the softness of Л in сіль🧂 or Бельгія 🇧🇪?

Soft consonants involve your tongue touching the top of your mouth 👅👄, while hard consonants usually do not (the tongue is closer to the teeth 👅🦷).

You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get much more practice here

 

Ю ю

Say Youth 👧 ― and you get Ю!

✔️ In general, Ю = [й] + [у]

It is pronounced that way at the beginning of words and after vowels or apostrophe signs (’):

Юшка ― soup (usually fish or mushroom soup)

  • Юпітер ― Jupiter
  • Комп’ютер ― 🖥

✔️ Ю is pronounced simply as [у] after the consonants without an apostrophe sign (’). For example:

Любов ― love ❤️ (because of Ю, Л is pronounced softly)

 

Я я

Я means I (me) 😅

And it is one of three Ukrainian letters that can be pronounced in two ways (depending on the position):

  1. Я is pronounced as a [й] + [а] combo at the beginning of words and after vowels or apostrophe signs (’). Think of the first sounds in the word “yard” 🏡 Some examples:
  • Яблуко 🍎
  • Японія 🇯🇵 (both я’s are pronounced as [йа])
  1. Я is pronounced simply as [а] after the consonants without an apostrophe sign (’). For example:
  • Дитя – a baby 🧒 (because of Я, Т is pronounced softly)
  • Любляна 🇸🇮 (because of Я, Л is pronounced softly)

Now…

Who read this blog post from the beginning till the end?!! 😃

Say Я! 😎


Are you learning Ukrainian?

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