Ukrainian Alphabet

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The Ukrainian alphabet may look complex at first glance, but it doesn't have to be intimidating. With the right understanding of the rules and relationships between characters and sounds, you can learn the Ukrainian alphabet quickly and easily. Here's a guide to help you get started.

Number of Letters in the Ukrainian Alphabet

The Ukrainian alphabet is made up of 33 letters, including ten vowels, 22 consonants, and a soft sign "Ь." Take a look at the Ukrainian to English alphabet in the table below.

Ukrainian alphabet
LetterPhonetic TranscriptionName of the letter
Є/jɛ/ ye
Ь/`/soft sign
Ю/ju/ yu

There are also two digraphs, which are two letters that represent one sound. We will provide their descriptions below.

Pronunciation of the Ukrainian Alphabet

The pronunciation of the Ukrainian alphabet is fairly simple. Each letter has a specific sound, and it is important to remember that the Ukrainian language does not use silent letters. However, some letters might be challenging for Ukrainian language learners, so we have described the basics and provided some examples below.

Consonant letter “Щ”

The Cyrillic letter "Щ" is used in the Ukrainian alphabet and also appears in other Slavic alphabets. However, its pronunciation differs among these languages.

In Ukrainian, the letter "Щ" represents a long soft "sh" sound. It's phonetically transcribed as /ʃt͡ʃ/. To English speakers, it might sound like a combination of the "sh" in "sheep" and the "ch" in "cheap" spoken rapidly together, but with a softer, more prolonged sound.

Important note: although this letter combines two sounds, /sh/ and /ch/, in Ukrainian, you shouldn't read them separately. Try to pronounce the word "sheep" in English, prolonging a soft /sh/ for a bit to understand the pronunciation of the letter "Щ."

Here are some examples of Ukrainian words with "Щ":

  • "Що"/shcho/ - means "what".
  • "Щасливий"/shchaslyvyi) - means "happy."
  • "Щука" /shchuka/ - means "pike" (a type of fish).
  • "Щедрий" /shchedryi/ - means "generous".

As you can see, the letter "Щ" can appear in various positions in a word, and it is used frequently in the Ukrainian language. Despite its challenging pronunciation for non-native speakers, mastering "Щ" is an essential step towards fluency in Ukrainian.

Letter "Ь" or a Soft Sign

The Ukrainian letter "Ь," also known as the soft sign, does not have a sound of its own and is never pronounced like a standalone letter. Instead, it's used to change the sound of the letter before it, making it more palatalized or softer. Its function is phonetic rather than lexical, meaning it affects pronunciation rather than meaning.

In terms of phonetic transcription, it's represented by the symbol [`] indicating palatalization. Because of its function, the soft sign "Ь" doesn't begin words in the Ukrainian language.

Here are a few examples of Ukrainian words with "Ь":

  • "Тінь"/tin`/ - means "shadow." The "Ь" in this word makes the "N" softer.
  • "Сіль"/sil`/ - means "salt." The "Ь" softens the "L" sound.
  • "День"/den`/ - means "day." Here, the "Ь" softens the "N" sound.

The use of "Ь" is one of the aspects of Ukrainian pronunciation that can be challenging for learners, but with practice, its use can be mastered, greatly improving the authenticity of pronunciation.

Letter "Й"

The letter "Й" in the Ukrainian alphabet is equivalent to the "Y" sound in English, specifically the "Y" sound in "yes" or "yoga." Phonetically, it's transcribed as /j/. The letter is called "йот"/yot/ in Ukrainian. This letter functions as a consonant and is usually used at the beginning of a word or after a vowel.

When it comes to pronunciation rules, "Й" is usually pronounced the same way regardless of its position in a word. However, when "Й" follows a vowel, it can create a diphthong (a complex sound composed of a sequence of two vowels).

Here are some examples of Ukrainian words containing the letter "Й":

  • "Йти"/jty/ - means "to go."
  • "Йод"/jod/ - means "iodine."
  • "Майбутнє"/majbutn'ye/ - means "future."

This letter can be found in many Ukrainian words and is an essential component of the language's phonetic system. Although its pronunciation is straightforward, its correct use can significantly improve the accuracy of Ukrainian pronunciation.

Unique Letters of Ukrainian Alphabet

Learning the Ukrainian alphabet, you will spot some letters that aren't met in any other language. They will help you easily define words that are written in Ukrainian.

Ґ consonant

One of the letters exclusive to the Ukrainian alphabet is “Ґ”, pronounced as “g” like in the words "guilty" or "garden." This character was removed from the alphabet during the Soviet era by USSR but reinstated after Ukraine's independence. Despite its official status, it is still not universally accepted and remains rarely used. It appears in around 30 Ukrainian words, such as "ґанок"/ganók/ meaning porch, or "ґудзик"/gudzyk/ meaning button.

Vowels Є and Ї

​​Another unique letter is “Є” (є), pronounced as /ye/ at the beginning of a word or after a vowel and as /ye/ after a consonant or apostrophe. If there is no rule to use apostrophes before "Є," this letter softens the consonant. For example, the word "синє" for "blue" in Ukrainian should be read as /syn'e/. This character is essential for many common Ukrainian words, such as:

  • "Єдність" /yedn'ist'/ for unity.
  •  "Єхидна" /yehydna/ for hideous.

The letter “Ї” (ї) is indeed unique to the Ukrainian alphabet. It is derived from the Cyrillic letter “І,” which is equivalent to the Latin “I.” The diacritical mark above the base letter, known as a diaeresis or double dot, changes the pronunciation, and this form is exclusive to the Ukrainian alphabet.

Pronunciation-wise, “Ї” is akin to /yi/ when it's at the beginning of a word or after a vowel, an apostrophe. It is crucial to note that “Ї” always designates a separate syllable. Here are some examples with this letter:

  • "Їжа" /yi-zha/ - means "food." 
  • "Їздити" /yi-zdy-ty/ - means "to ride" or "to travel." 
  • "Їхати" /yi-kha-ty/ - means "to go" or "to drive somewhere."

 This letter appears in many Ukrainian words, often at the beginning. 

Digraphs in the Ukrainian Alphabet

The Ukrainian alphabet also includes two digraphs. A digraph is a combination of two letters that represent one sound. In Ukrainian, the two digraphs are "дж" and "дз."

Rules to use digraph "ДЖ"

The combination of the letters "д" and "ж" in Ukrainian text forms the digraph "дж," which represents a single sound - /dʒ/. This sound is akin to the "j" in "jam" or "jungle" in English.

While it's represented as two letters, it's pronounced as one sound, and both letters are always pronounced together. This particular sound is not native to the Ukrainian language and is often used in words of foreign origin or in transliterations.

Here are some examples of Ukrainian words containing the digraph "дж":

  • "Джаз"/dzhaz/ - means "jazz."
  • "Джміль"/dzhmil'/ - means "bumble-bee."
  • "Бджола"/bdzhola/ - means "bee."

Learning to pronounce this sound correctly is important for accurately pronouncing many words of foreign origin in the Ukrainian language.

Rules to use digraph "ДЗ"

The combination of "д" and "з" in the Ukrainian language creates the digraph "дз," representing a single-voiced sound. Phonetically, it's transcribed as /dz/. 

Just like "дж," "дз" is always pronounced as a single sound, despite being represented by two letters. To pronounce it, try to spell /d/ and /z/ all together very quickly.

Here are some examples of Ukrainian words with "дз":

  • "Дзвін" (dzvin) - means "bell" or "ringing."
  • "Дзеркало" (dzerkalo) - means "mirror".
  • "Підземний" (pidzemnyi) - means "underground."

Just like "дж," the digraph "дз" is not considered a separate letter of the Ukrainian alphabet, but it's crucial to understand it for accurate pronunciation. Mastering this digraph will be helpful for anyone learning the language, as it appears in various common words.


Learn the Ukrainian Alphabet with Promova

The Ukrainian alphabet is a variant of the Cyrillic script, consisting of 33 unique letters. It may seem daunting at first, especially if you're more familiar with the Latin-like alphabet, but 

Promova is here to support you every step of the way:

  • learn new words with flashcards;
  • practice words with unique letters through quizzes;
  • study how to pronounce Ukrainian letters in words with listening exercises;
  • practice spelling through word-building exercises.

To help you understand and pronounce these letters correctly, the Promova team offers engaging resources both on the Web and in the app. With consistent practice and immersion in the language, you'll soon find yourself reading Ukrainian texts with ease and confidence.

Remember, learning a new language is a journey, and every journey begins with a single step. So, let's take that first step together with Promova towards a proficient understanding of the Ukrainian language, starting with its unique and rich alphabet.


The Ukrainian alphabet may look intimidating at first glance, but with the right understanding of the rules and relationships between characters and sounds, you can learn them and gain confidence. Take the time to practice the basics, and don't worry if you make mistakes. It's all part of the learning process. With the right foundation, you'll soon be reading and writing in Ukrainian fluently.

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