How to Read the Ukrainian Alphabet

How to read Ukrainian Alphabet

If you start learning Ukrainian, the first thing you need to know is to read the alphabet.

What is the Cyrillic script, and where is it used?

The Cyrillic alphabet is a writing system developed in the 9th–10th century. The script resulted from the missionary work of St. Cyril and St. Methodius and aimed to spread Eastern Orthodox Christianity to Slavic people. It is used in more than 50 languages (Ukrainian, Russian, Belarus, Bulgarian, Macedonian etc.)

What do I need to know about the Ukrainian alphabet?

It consists of 33 letters.

Let’s have a look at the picture.

There are 22 consonants, 6 hard vowels, 4 soft vowels, and 1 soft sign.

How to read Ukrainian letters?

True friends (written the same as in Latin alphabet and have close pronunciation):

Aа /a:/ – а́рка (arch) – like in bar.           

The stressed A is slightly longer than unstressed.

Ee /e/ – не́бо (sky) – like in ten. I /i:/ – cік (juice) – like in meet.

Mм /m/ – ма́ти (mother) – like in mother.

М is soft when it is before ь, я, ю, є, і.

Kк /k/ – кіт (cat) – like in key.

Оо /o:/ – сон (dream) – like in port.

Тт /t/ – так (yes) – like in tart.

It is pronounced with less air than the English one.

T is soft when it is before ь, я, ю, є, і.  

Tricky friends (look like ones in the Latin alphabet, but they are different):

Вв /v/ – во́ля (freedom) – like in voice.

Уу /u:/ – уро́к (lesson) – like in moon.

Рр /r/ – рука́ (hand) – like in roof.

It is a rolled r.

P is soft before і, ьо, я, ю.

Сс /s/ – сад (gardent) – like in small.

С is soft before ь, я, ю, є, і.

Хх /kh/ – Ха́рків (Kharkiv) – like in Loch Ness.

Нн /n/ – нуль (zero) like in nose.

Н is soft before ь, я, ю, є, і.

ь – soft sign, doesn’t have any sound, makes the previous consonant soft.

Used in words: тінь (tin’ – shadow), кінь (kin’ – horse) шість (shist’ – six).

New friends (there are no such letters in the Latin alphabet):

Бб /b/ – ба́ба (granny) – like in book.   

Гг /h/ – гу́си (geese) –   like in inhale.

Ґґ /g/ – ґа́нок (porch) – like in get.

Дд /d/ – дід (grandpa) – like in dot.

Д is soft before ь, я, ю, є, і.

Жж /zh/ – жук (bug) – like in pleasure.

Зз /z/ – зуб (tooth) – like in zoo.        

З is soft before ь, я, ю, є, і.

Ии /i, y/ – син (son) – like in bit, little.

Йй /j/ – гай (groove) – like in yes.           

Лл /l/ – ла́мпа (lamp) – like in lamp.

Л is soft before ь, я, ю, є, і.

Пп /p/ – парк (park) – like in park.

Фф /f/ – фо́то (photo) – like in fine.

Цц /ts/ – цар (tsar) – like in tsynami.

Ц is soft before ь, я, ю, є, і.

Чч /ch/ – час (time) – like in chair.

Шш /sh/ – шум (noise) – like in shine.

Щщ /ш+ч/ /shch/ – дощ (rain) – like in rash choice.

Special friends (vowels that consist of two sounds; 4 soft vowels):

Єє /й+е/ /je/ – єно́т (racoon) – like in yes

Її /й+і/ /ji/ – їжа́к (hedgehog) – like in yeast

Юю /й+у/ /ju/ – Ю́ра (Yura) – like in youth

Яя /й+а/ /ja/ – я́блуко (apple) – like in yard.

Here you go, now you know the basics about the Ukrainian alphabet.

Check out our videos where Inna explains each letter: Part I, Part II.

What is your favourite Ukrainian letter?

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