Lesson 4: The Ukrainian alphabet

How to read Ukrainian Lesson 4

Free Ukrainian Course
How to read Ukrainian

Lesson 4: Rare letters and signs


In this lesson you will learn:

  • The Ukrainian letters Ґ, Ь and the apostrophe ‘
  • Their possible combinations

You are only one step away from knowing how to read the whole Ukrainian alphabet. In this last step we are going to see some interesting letters and a diacritical mark.

New Ukrainian letters

Letters: Ь

ЯКИЙ ЧУДОВИЙ ДЕНЬ!
[ja k y j] [ch u d o v y j] [d e n`]
What a wonderful day!

At the end of the word “день”, you can see a letter that does not have any sound of its own. This letter is called “soft sign” (м’який знак in Ukrainian). As the name of the letter suggests, its purpose is to soften the sound of the previous letter. Usually, the difference between the softened and not-softened sound is very difficult to notice for a foreign ear. With time, you’ll learn to differenciate between “soft” and “hard” sounds.

New Ukrainian letters

Letters: Ґ

This letter resembles the letter Г but has different pronunciation. It is pronounced like the letter “g” in “go”. However, you won’t see this letter too often. It’s used in a very limited amount of words (most of them are quite useless for a foreign speaker). The most “useful” word with the letter Ґ that we could find is the one below. It means “button” (on a shirt, for example).

ҐУДЗИК
[g u d z y k]
button

You have to be careful not to mix up the letters “ґ” (that sounds like “g”) and “г” (that sounds like “g + h”). Although, there are many Ukrainian native speakers who pronounce “ґ” like “г” by mistake (the sound “g+h” is easier for Ukrainians to pronounce).

Reading practice

Reading practice

Let’s see if you can read new letters in other combinations. Listen to the audio and repeat:

ГА ҐА ГЕ ҐЕ ГУ ҐУ

ТЬО ТЬСЯ СЬО ҐЕД ҐАН ҐУД

ЧЕНЬ ТЕЛЬ СЕНЬ ҐЕДЗ ГЕТЬ

ҐУДЗИК ҐЕДЗЬ СІЧЕНЬ ВЧИТЕЛЬ СЬОГОДНІ

Interesting facts about the letter Ґ
The long history of recognition


This letter appeared in the XVI century. Since that time, it would get removed from the Ukrainian alphabet and then included again several times for cultural and political reasons. Finally, in 1990 it got officially recognized and added to the Ukrainian alphabet for good.

New Ukrainian letters

The apostrophe

In Ukrainian, the apostrophe is used to harden the previous sound. You can say that it’s the opposite of the soft sign that we studied earlier. To write the apostrophe we use the symbol . Let’s learn a useful phrase “I don’t eat meat” where we’ll see the pronunciation of .

Я НЕ ЇМ М’ЯСА
[ya] [n e] [yim] [m ya s a]
I don’t eat meat

Pay attention to the word М’ЯСА. The letter Я is pronounced like “ya” in “yard” thanks to the apostrophe. So, basically, what the apostrophe does is to add a very pronounced sound “y” to the next vowel: m-ya-sa instead of the smooth mia-sa. Like we’ve said before, the concepts of “softness” and “hardness” are very complicated to persept. It’ll take time for you to get used to them. The good news is that the native speakers will understand you even of you pronounce these letters wrong.

Reading practice

Reading practice


М’Я Ж’Я Д’Ї З’Ї Р’Я В’Я Б’Є Б’Я

СУЗІР’Я М’ЯЗИ ЗДОРОВ’Я ПІР’Я ІМ’Я ОБ’ЄКТ

Do you want to learn more Ukrainian letters? Well, guess what, there are no more letters to learn! You’ve done a great job and now we know the whole Ukrainian alphabet. Let us say “Thank you” for being such a devoted student.

ДЯКУЄМО!
[d ia k u ye m o]
Thank you!


Do you want to review all the letters that we have learnt? In lesson 5, you’ll find your first dialogue in Ukrainian. Don’t miss it!

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