The Ukrainian Language: Consonants


Ukrainian has 22 consonants. Some look like English letters, while others look entirely foreign. As the Ukrainian alphabet is a cyrillic one, and based more on the Greek one than the Latin one, this is to be expected.

Some Ukrainian consonants are pronounced like their English counterparts, others not. Some English digraphs (like “ch”) are represented by single letters in Ukrainian.  And some letters and digraphs (compound letters like “th”) do not exist in Ukrainian at all.  

The simplest group is those that look and sound like their English counterparts.  There are three of them:

К / к     like “k” in “kin”

М / м    like “m” in “man”

Т / т      like “t” in “tall”

The next group is those consonant that have simple equivalents in English. There are twelve of them, and they are pronounced as shown here:

Б      like “b” in “bat”

В      like “v” in “violin”

Г     like “h” in “hat”

Ґ      like “g” in “goose”

Д     like “d” in “deliver”

З      like “z” in “zebra”

Й      like “y” in yellow”

Л      like “l” in “liver”

Н      like “n” in “nowhere”

П      like “p” in poodle”

С      like “s” in “sand”

Ф      like “f” in “fandango”

Another group is those consonants that are represented by two or more letters (e.g. digraphs) in English.  There are five of these, and they are pronounced as shown here:

Ж     like “zh” in “Brezhnev,”  or the “s” in “vision” and the “z” in “azure”

Ц       like the “ts” in “nets” or the “cz” in “czar”

Ч       like the “ch” in “change”      

Ш      like the “sh” in “shutter”

Щ      as “sh” + “ch” in “pushchair”

There are also Ukrainian consonants that don’t have simple equivalents in English.  There are two of them, and their pronunciation is a bit problematic for English speakers.

Р        an “r” sound, but a bit harder and more rolled than an English “r” (although not as rolled as a

          Spanish “rr”).  It’s a bit like pronouncing the spanish “rr” with just a single roll.

Х       this is a variation on an “h” or what I call a “soft h,” and is usually transliterated as a “kh” or a Yiddish

         “ch.”  Try to say “k” without the initial click, just the exhalation that follows.  Or try a less fricative

         pronunciation of “Channukah”

Lastly, there is a Ukrainian digraph which is commonly used, and has a simple English equivalent. 

Дж    like the “j” in “jam”

That covers the 22 Ukrainian consonants.  As I noted before, the Ukrainian language is essentially phonetic, but there is one aspect of it which proves difficult for many English speakers–the softening of some consonant when combined with certain vowels or the softening mark (ь).  That is covered on the next page.

  Vowels        Softening

Back to MAIN Traditional Pysanky page.

Back to MAIN Ukrainian Language page.

Search my site with Google