Do you want to learn the Ukrainian alphabet? Or practice Ukrainian pronunciation? Then the Ukrainian alphabet guide with videos and examples is just right for you!
Our full video on Youtube 👇
Recently we’ve put up a video all about the Ukrainian alphabet on our Youtube channel. Check it out if you haven’t already!
Why does the Ukrainian alphabet look so different? 😳
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.
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. in Ukrainian.
Ананас 🍍 чи Банан? 🍌
The second letter in the Ukrainian Alphabet is Б! 🙃
It may look unfamiliar, but Б has equivalents in many languages. In English, it sounds like the B in Banana 🍌
Listen to the recording and say those words out loud. Soon they’ll start flowing effortlessly! 👄🇺🇦
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 Відео – Video 🎬
Г is our special one 💙💛
We pronounce it in our own unique way. Unlike in Russian, Bulgarian, or Serbian, Г in Ukrainian resembles the English sound [h] but with more voice in it 🗣
Listen and compare Гарвард with Harvard! 🎓
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 ― a mountain range in the Carpathians
- Аґрус ― gooseberry
- Ґрати ― bars
- Ґрунт ― soil
🗣 Ґ is very easy to pronounce: it’s the [g] in go.
What’s with all the phonetics?!! 😱
Let me explain 🤓 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 each a sound of their own (not two sounds, even if there are two letters) 💪
🧐 What’s the difference between the 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 them!
You can also listen to the episode of Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about soft consonants in Ukrainian and get more practice there!
E sounds roughly like the E in the English words pet 🐈, bed 🛏 , or the first sounds in energy ⚡️
However, when E is not stressed, it is more weak; therefore, it tends to sound a little closer to И 👫 (but don’t worry about that too much).
Ukrainians use Е a lot. For example, we can make the long sound е-е-е-е… 🤔 when we are hesitating or looking for the right words. Have you heard anyone do it?
So how is it going? Can you pronounce Ейфелева вежа fast and easy? 😉🇫🇷
Є is one of the three Ukrainian letters that can be pronounced in two ways (depending on the position):
- 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 🌼
- Є is pronounced simply as [е] after the consonants without an apostrophe sign (’). However, Є causes the consonant before it to soften (remember the soft Д). 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 any questions?) ❓
The letter Ж is looking fancy in Ukrainian, isn’t it? 😎
You can hear the /ʒ/ sound that 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-eans – джинси, we discussed it earlier) 👖
Now, try to write down Ж 📝
Draw a cross ✖️ and a horizontal line in the middle 🙂
З itself is easy: зебра ― zebra 🦓
But what about кукурудза? 🌽
Here we pronounce д and з together as one sound ― [дз]. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? 😄
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.
И can be a tough one!
It can be difficult to master, so there is a whole episode of the Ukrainian Lessons Podcast about the pronunciation of И.
Check out the ULP Episode #5: Numbers + И Pronunciation
In the episode, we gave three techniques of how to get the right pronunciation of И:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 sounds a bit like е)
→ the second one is stressed (pure и).
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 is a fancy letter that always consists of two sounds: [й] + [і] 👬
It sounds similar to the beginning of the word yeast in English.
Ukrainians sometimes quote Іван Малкович and say that we have to берегти крихітну свічечку букви ї – preserve the tiny candlelight of the letter ї 💌 That is because this letter is one of those uniquely Ukrainian ones in the alphabet.
Make sure to practice the words out loud with our audio 📢👆
Й sounds just like the first sound in the word yes 🙂
🛠 By the way, this sound is part of some other Ukrainian letters:
- Я ― [йа]
- Ю ― [йу]
- Є ― [йе]
- Ї ― [йі]
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 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.
You will like М. There is nothing special about it! 🤩
It’s like the М in many other languages:
Мама = Mother, matka, madre…
❗️ М is soft when it is followed by such letters: ь, я, ю, є, і.
о Ні!!! 😱
oh No!!! 😱
Н in Ukrainian is not pronounced as /h/ 😱 It’s actually like /n/, as 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.
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 – and then repeat!
П ― це не Проблема 😃
П is not a Problem 😃
If you don’t forget that it is pronounced like /p/ in English (but don’t push it that hard in Ukrainian 😂, it’s softer).
But what about P in Ukrainian? It’s a rolled /r/ coming up next! 😉
Ok, here is a tough one (Spanish or Polish speakers can celebrate now 🥳).
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 Ukrainian Lessons Podcast episode #25
Here’s a secret – ceкрет 🤫
С in Ukrainian is always pronounced as its name in the English alphabet (/si:/ – /s/)
Anyone from Стокгольм 🇸🇪, Сідней 🇦🇺, Стамбул 🇹🇷 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.
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.
Do you like буряк – beetrOOt? 😋
Make sure to practice your У pronunciation to say Україна right 😉 🇺🇦
The letter Ф is relatively newer to the alphabet, that’s why it appears only in foreign words 🌎
It’s that F in proFession – професія 👨✈️
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 this article with expectations and audio practice 🤓
Try to pronounce the English word “lots” fast, and you’ll get the Ukrainian Ц – loTS.
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.
Do you like CHai? I mean Чай?
Зелений 🍵 Чи Чорний ☕️?
P.S. Heads up, only five letters left 😉
Ш = /sh/
In Ukrainian, there are plenty of words that come from English.
Like Шорти – Shorts ☀️
This is one of my favorite letters 😍 Why?
Тому Що – because I love freSH CHerries 🍒
Щ is pronounced as the ending of freSH and the beginning of CHerries together 🍒 Try it now:
freSH CHerries = SH + CH = 🇺🇦 Щ
Щ is a letter that represents two distinct sounds – [шч] 🤓
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 🇧🇪?
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 means I (me) 😅
And it is one of three Ukrainian letters that can be pronounced in two ways (depending on the position):
- 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]).
- 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)
Who read this blog post from the beginning till the end?!! 😃
Say Я! 😎
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