Ukrainian grammar

Ukrainian grammar

The Ukrainian language possesses an extremely rich grammatical structure inherited from Indo-European:

*Nouns have grammatical gender, number, and are declined for 7 cases;
*Adjectives agree with the noun in case, number, and gender;
*Verbs have 2 aspects, 3 tenses, 3 moods, and 2 voices.

Furthermore, many verbs show traces of Indo-European gradation (ablaut). This often explains the difference between the infinitive and its present root form of the verbs.

The spoken language has been influenced by the literary, but continues to preserve characteristic forms. The dialects show various non-standard grammatical features, some of which are archaisms or descendants of old forms since discarded by the literary language.

Note 1: For an introductory overview, please see the discussion in the Ukrainian language article.

Note 2: In the discussion below, various terms are used in the meaning they have in the standard Ukrainian discussions of historical grammar. In particular, aorist, imperfect, etc. are considered verbal tenses rather than aspects, because ancient examples of them are attested for both perfective and imperfective verbs.

Note 3: Cyrillic letters in this article are romanized using scientific transliteration


The following points of Ukrainian phonology need to considered in order to understand the various changes that occur in the declension of nouns.

Classification of vowels

Two different classification of vowels can be made: a historical perspective and a modern perspective. From a historical perspective, the Ukrainian vowels can be divided into two categories:
# Hard vowels (in Cyrillic: "а, и (from Common Slavic *ы), о," and "у" or transliterated as "a, y (from Common Slavic *y), o," and "u"; )
# Soft vowels (in Cyrillic: "е, і" and "и (from Common Slavic *и)" or transliterated as "e, i" and "y (from Common Slavic *i)"). The iotified vowels are considered to be soft vowelsFrom a modern perspective, the Ukrainian vowels can be divided into two categories:
# Hard Vowels (In Cyrillic: "а, е, и, і, о," and "у" or transliterated as "a, e, y, i, o," and "u"). This category as can be seen from the table is different from the historical hard category
# Iotified Vowel (In Cyrillic: "я, є, ї," and "ю" or transliterated as "ja, je, ji," and "ju"). To this category can also be added the combination of letters "йо" (transliterated as "jo")

Classification of consonants

In Ukrainian, consonants can be categorised as follows:
* Labials (in Cyrillic: "б, в, м, п," and "ф" or transliterated as "b, v, m, p," and "f"): These letters are almost always hard in Ukrainian (there are orthographic exceptions), can never be doubled, nor can they in general be followed by an iotified vowel (exception: in combinations "CL" where "C" is a dental and "L" is a labial, a soft vowel can follow, e.g., svjato/свято).
* Post-alveolar sibilants (in Cyrillic: "ж, ч," and "ш" or transliterated as "ž, č," and "š". The digraph "щ (šč)" should also be included). These letters were in Common Slavic all palatal (soft). In Ukrainian, these harden, leading to the creation of the mixed declension of nouns. None of them can be followed by a soft sign (in Cyrillic: ь; transliterated as apostrophe (’)) or any iotified vowel. All but the digraph can be doubled, in which case they can be followed by a soft vowel, e.g., zbižžja/збіжжя.
* Dentals (in Cyrillic: "д, з, л, н, с, т" and "ц" or transliterated as "d, z, l, n, s, t," and "c"): In Ukrainian, as in Common Slavic, these letters can be both hard and soft. These letters can never (unless they are the last letter in a prefix) be followed by an apostrophe. Furthermore, these letters can be doubled.
* Alveolar (in Cyrillic: "р" or transliterated as "r"): This letter can be either hard or soft. It is always hard at the end of a syllable. Therefore, "r" is always hard at the end of a word and is never followed by a soft sign. "r" can never be doubled, except in foreign words (such as "сюрреалізм").
* Velars (in Cyrillic: "г (ґ), к," and "х" or transliterated as "h (g), k," and "x"): In both Ukrainian and Common Slavic, these letters are always hard. Should they ever be followed by an iotified or soft vowel, then they undergo the first and second palatalisations. Hence, these letters can never be doubled or followed by an apostrophe.

Historical phonological changes

In the Ukrainian language, the following sound changes have occurred between the Common Slavic period and current Ukrainian:

# In a newly closed syllable, that is, a syllable that ends in a consonant, Common Slavic "o" and "e" mutate into "i" if the next vowel in Common Slavic was one of the yers ("ǐ" (ь) or "ǔ" (ъ)).
# Pleophony: The Common Slavic combinations, "ToRT" and "TeRT", where "T" is any consonant and "R" is either "r" or "l" become in Ukrainian
## "TorT" gives "ToroT" (Common Slavic "*borda" gives Ukrainian "boroda")
## "TolT" gives "ToloT" (Common Slavic "*bolto" gives Ukrainian "boloto")
## "TerT" gives "TereT" (Common Slavic "*berza" gives Ukrainian "bereza")
## "TelT" gives "ToloT" (Common Slavic "*melko" gives Ukrainian "moloko")
# The Common Slavic nasal vowel "ę" is reflected as "ja" except after a single labial where it is reflected as "ja" (’я), or after a post-alveolar sibilant where it is reflected as "a." Examples: Common Slavic "*pętĭ" gives in Ukrainian "p"jat"' (п’ять); Common Slavic "*telę" gives in Ukrainian "telja"; and Common Slavic "kyrčę" gives in Ukrainian "kyrča." This Common Slavic nasal vowel is derived from an Indo-European "*-en", "*-em", or one of the sonants "n" and "m".
# The Common Slavic letter, "ě" (ѣ), is reflected in Ukrainian generally as "i" except:
## word-initially, where it is reflected as "ji": Common Slavic "*ěsti" gives the Ukrainian "jisty"
## after the post-alveolar sibilants where it is reflected as "a": Common Slavic "*ležěti" gives the Ukrainian "ležaty"
# Common Slavic "i" and "y" are both reflected in Ukrainian as "y"
# The Common Slavic combination "-CǐjV", where "C" is any consonant and "V" is any vowel, becomes in Ukrainian the following combination "-CCjV", except
## if "C" is labial or 'r' where it becomes "-C"jV"
## if "V" is the Common Slavic "e", then the vowel in Ukrainian mutates to "a", e.g., Common Slavic "*žitĭje" gives the Ukrainian "žyttja"
## if "V" is the Common Slavic "ĭ", then the combination becomes "ej", e.g., genitive plural in Common Slavic "*myšĭjĭ" give in Ukrainian "myšej"
## if one or more consonants precede the 'C' then there is no doubling of the consonants in Ukrainian
# Common Slavic combinations "dl" and "tl" are simplified to "l", for example, Common Slavic "*mydlo" gives Ukrainian "mylo"
# Common Slavic "ǔl" (voiced "l̥") and "ǐl" (voiced "ĺ̥") became "ov", while word final "*lǔ" became "v". For example, Common Slavic "*vĺ̥kǔ" becomes "vovk" in Ukrainian

Current phonological changes

# The first palatalisation concerns the velars and the following vowels: "e," "y" from Common Slavic "i", "a/i" from Common Slavic "ě", that is derived from the Indo-European "ē":
## "h"/"g" before these vowels mutates into "ž"
## "k" before these vowels mutates into "č"
## "x" before these vowels mutates into "š"
# The second palatalisation concerns the velars and the following vowels: "y" from Common Slavic "i" that is derived from an Indo-European diphthong and "a/i" from Common Slavic "ě" that is derived from an Indo-European diphthong:
## "h"/"g" before these vowels mutates into "z"
## "k" before these vowels mutates into "c"
## "x" before these vowels mutates into "s"
# The iotification concerns all consonants and the semi-vowel "j" (й). The following changes occur:
## The labials insert an "l" between the labial and the semivowel: Common Slavic "*zemja" give Ukrainian "zemlja".
## The velars followed by a semivowel mutate as in the first palatalisation. The semivowel is dropped. This change can be traced back to Common Slavic.
## "ktj" becomes "č"
## "tj" becomes "č"
## "dj" becomes "ž", except in verbs where it becomes "dž"
## "sj" becomes "š"
## "stj" and "skj" become "šč" (щ)
## "zdj" and "zhj" become "ždž"
## "zkj" becomes "žč"
## "lj, nj, pj" becomes "l, n, p" (that is, "ль, нь, рь")
# In Ukrainian, when two or more consonants occur word-finally, then a float vowel is inserted under the following conditions [Carlton, T.R. "A Guide to the Declension of Nouns in Ukrainian". Edmonton, Alberta: University of Alberta Press, 1972] . Given a consonantal grouping "C1(ь)C2(ь)", where "C" is any Ukrainian consonant. The fill vowel is inserted between the two consonants and after the "ь". A fill vowel is only inserted if "C2" is one of the following consonants: "k, v, l, m, r," and "c". In this case:
## If "C1" is one of the following "h, k," or "x", then the fill vowel is always "o"
## If "C2" is "k" or "v", then the fill vowel is "o". No fill vowel is inserted if the "v" is derived from a voiced "l", for example, "vovk"
## If "C2" is "l, m, r," or "c", then the fill vowel is "e"
## The only known exception is "vid’m", which should take a fill vowel, but does not
## The combinations, "-stv" and "-s’k" are not broken up
## If the "C1" is "j" (й), then the above rules can apply. However, both forms (with and without the fill vowel) often exist




The nominal declension has seven cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, and vocative), in two numbers (singular and plural), and absolutely obeying grammatical gender (masculine, feminine and neuter). Adjectives, pronouns, and the first two cardinal numbers have gender specific forms.

A third number, the dual, also existed in Old East Slavic, but except for its use in the nominative and accusative cases with the numbers two, three and four, eg. dvi hryvni/дві гривні vs. dvoje hryven' /двоє гривень, (recategorised today as a nominative plural), it has been lost. Other traces of the dual can be found when referring to objects of which there are commonly two: eyes, shoulders, ears, "e.g." "plečyma". Occasionally, dual forms can distinguish between meanings.

In Ukrainian, there are 4 declension types. The first declension is used for most feminine nouns. The second declension is used for most masculine and neuter nouns. The third declension is used for feminine nouns ending in ь or a post-alveolar sibilant. The fourth declension is used for neuter nouns ending in я/а (Common Slavic "*ę").Most of the types consist of 3 different subgroups: hard, mixed, and soft. The soft subgroup consists of nouns whose roots end in a soft letter (followed by iotified vowel or soft vowel). The mixed subgroup consists of the nouns whose roots end in a post-alveolar sibilant or occasionally "r". The hard group consists of all other nouns.

If the hard group endings are taken as the basis, then the following rules can be used to derived the corresponding mixed and soft endings:
*Mixed subgroup
*# All "o" following a post-alveolar sibilant change to "e".
*# All "и" following a post-alveolar sibilant change to "i".
*Soft subgroup: Whenever a soft sign or the semi-vowel encounters the vowel of the ending, the following changes occur (These are mainly orthographic changes, but same can be traced to similar changes in Common Slavic):
*# "ьа" and "йа" gives "я"
*# "ьо" gives "е"
*# "йе" gives "є"
*# "ьи" gives "і"
*# "йи" gives "ї"
*# "ьу" and "йу" gives "ю"
*# "ьі" gives "і"
*# "йі" gives "ї"

Nouns ending in a consonant are marked in the following tables with -0- (thus no ending).

First declension

This declension consists of nouns which end in "а" or "я". It consists primarily of feminine nouns, but a few nouns with these ending referring to professions can be either masculine or feminine. In these cases, the genitive plural is often formed by adding "-ів". Nouns referring to people can also take this ending.

*(1) As necessary, the second palatalisation occurs, except for the "*ĭjе" nouns.
*(2) The double consonant is made single if the "ь" is used. However, if a post-alveolar sibilant is the last consonant, then no "ь" is used, but a single consonant is also written. Finally, for a labial final consonant, the ending is "-'їв". Finally, monosyllabic nouns take the ending "-ів". If two or more consonants appear word finally, then it is possible that a fill vowel must be inserted.

Third declension

This declension consists solely of feminine nouns that end in a consonant. This declension has only 2 subgroups: a mixed and soft group.

Demonstrative pronouns

The demonstrative pronoun, той, is declined as follows.

The third person plural possessive pronoun, їхній, is declined as a normal soft adjective.

Interrogative pronouns

The interrogative pronouns, хто and що, are declined as follows.

*(1) Any soft signs are dropped if they occur word finally in the original cardinal number.
*(2) This is a dual construction.
*(3) This is a plural nominative construction.
*(4) This is the genitive plural construction (All hundreds after 500 are so created.).

In general, the following rules are used to determine agreement between the cardinal number and a noun. In the nominative case, the nouns agree with the last number in any compound number. Nouns which must agree with a number ending in 2, 3, or 4 are in the nominative plural, but retain the stress of the dual, that is the genitive singular. Nouns, which must agree with a number ending in 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, and all the teens are in the genitive plural. In any other case, the nouns and numbers are in the same case.


Grammatical conjugation is subject to three persons in two numbers and three simple tenses (present/future, future, and past), with periphrastic forms for the future and Conditional, as well as imperative forms and present/past participles, distinguished by adjectival and adverbial usage. There are two voices, active and middle/passive, which is constructed by the addition of a reflexive suffix -ся/сь to the active form. An interesting feature is that the past tense is actually made to agree in gender with the subject, for it is the participle in an originally periphrastic perfect tense formed with the present of быть IPA|/bɨtʲ/,"to be." Verbal inflection today is considerably simpler than in Common Slavic. The ancient aorist, imperfect, and (periphrastic) pluperfect tenses have been lost. The loss of three of the former six tenses has been offset by the reliance, as in other Slavic languages, on verbal aspect. Most verbs come in pairs, one with imperfective or continuous connotation, the other with perfective or completed, usually formed with a (prepositional) prefix, but occasionally using a different root.

The present tense of the verb бути, "to be", today normally has the form, "є" used for all persons and numbers. Previously and occasionally in liturgical settings, aspects of the full conjugation, can be found. The paradigm shows as well as anything else the Indo-European affinity of Ukrainian:

All Class 4 verbs undergo iotification in the first person singular. Thus, there is really only one ending, which due to orthographic reasons is given 2 different forms. Verbs ending in a vowel take the endings in the second column. In the third person plural, verbs ending in a labial insert an "л" before the ending, "-ять". The ending "-ать" is used after the sibilants "ж, ш, щ", or "ч".


This will translate as "will eat" with the appropriate personal pronoun.

Imperative active mood

The imperative mood is used to give commands. It exists in only the present tense in Ukrainian. There are no forms for the 1st person singular. In Ukrainian, the imperative mood is formed from the stem of the verb plus the following endings (The example is based on Ukrainian "пити"):

The first set of endings is to be used for stems that end in a dentals ("з, д, т, с, н," and "л"). The second set of ending is used for stems that end in a vowel. The third set of endings is used for stems that end in labials or post-alveolar sibilants ("б, в, м, п, ф, ш, щ, ч, ж," and "р"). The fourth set of endings is used with verbs whose unaffixed form (no prefixes or suffixes) have the stress on the ending in the first person singular of the present tense. Thus for example, "бери" and "вибери".

Finally note that all verbs with stems that end in "к" and "г" undergo the first palatalisation. Class 3 verbs with stems in "к", "г", and "с" undergo iotification (as do their present conjugation).

Conditional active mood

The conditional mood is used to state hypothetical states, wishes, and desires. It has 2 tenses in Ukrainian: a present and a past.

Present tense

The present conditional is formed in Ukrainian from the participle "би", which is derived from the archaic aorist conjugation of the verb, "бути", and the active past participle I, which is the same as the past indicative participle. Thus, there is agreement between the subject and the participle. An example of this construction would be "я би хотів..." (I would like...).

Past tense

The past conditional is formed in Ukrainian from the participle "би" followed by the active past participle I form of the verb "бути" ("був, була, було, були") and then the active past participle I of the verb. Both participles must agree with the subject. An example of this construction would be "як я би був знав..." (had I (had) known...).

Passive voice

The passive voice has 2 different functions. It can either show that the subject had something done to itself or that something indeteminate occurred to the subject.In Ukrainian, the passive voice is formed as follows:
# Use of a reflexive verb: "митися" (to wash oneself or in French "se laver")
#Use of the verb "to be" and the past passive participle: "Він був вбитий" (He was killed).
# An impersonal use of the third person plural past active participle I: "Його вбили" (He was killed).
# The following construction: "Було" + neuter singular of past passive participle: "Місто було захоплене" (The town was captured.)

Participles and verbal nouns

In Ukrainian, there exist traces of all five Common Slavic participles.

Present active participle

This participle is formed by taking the third person plural form, dropping the "ть", and adding "чи(й)". Most commonly this participle is used as gerund with the form "чи" with a meaning approaching the equivalent English construction with "-ing". Occasionally, it is used as an adjective. It this case its form is "чий". Examples of this particple are "несучи", "знаючи", and "хвалячи".

Present passive participle

This participle does not exist in Ukrainian as a separate form. However, it is commonly encountered as an adjective in "-мий". Common examples of this participle are "відомий" and "знайомий".

Past active participle I

This participle is encountered in forming the past tense in Ukrainian. Occasionally, it is found as an adjective for intransitive verbs. It is formed by taking the infinitive stem and adding the ending "-в, -ла, -ло," and "-ли" to form the past tense participle (in reality the indefinite form of the adjective) and the ending "-лий" to form the regular adjective. An example of the adjectival form is "почорнілий".

Past active participle II

This participle is most commonly encondered as a gerund, while it is only used occasionally as an adjective. It is formed by taking the masculine past participle I and adding the ending "-ши(й)". An example of the gerund is "знавши", while a common (dialectical) adjective would the word "бувший".

Past passive participle

This participle is the only participle that is is commonly used as an adjective. It has 2 different methods of formation. Take the infinitive stem, add "а/е", and then either add "-тий" or "-ний". Class 4 verbs undergo iotification. There does not seem to be any difference between the 2 methods of forming the participles. This participle can roughly be translated using the English past participle. Examples of this participle are "жатий", "посланий", "печений", and "лишений".

Verbal noun

The verbal noun is created by taking the past passive participle, dropping "ий", doubling the consonant if permitted by the rules under "-ĭjV", and adding a "я". This will be a neuter noun declined like all neuter nouns in "*ĭjе". It should be noted that if the "-е-" of the past passive participle is stressed then the "е" will mutate into an "і". Examples include "питання" from "питати" and "носіння" from "носити".

The verbal noun in Ukrainian is derived from the Common Slavic verbal noun, where it was formed by adding "*-ĭjе" to the past passive participle without the "*ŭ" ending. Thus, in Ukrainian, the consonant is doubled if possible.

Word formation

Ukrainian has on hand a set of prefixes, prepositional and adverbial in nature, as well as diminutive, augmentative, and frequentative suffixes and infixes. All of these can be stacked one upon the other, to produce multiple derivatives of a given word. Participles and other inflexional forms may also have a special connotation.

Fundamental sentence structure


The common Ukrainain coordinations are:
* і (and)
* та (and, but)
* а (whereas)
* але (but)


Common Ukrainian subordinations are:

* як (how, if)
* коли (when)
* якщо (if)


The basic word order, both in conversation and the written language, is subject-verb-object. However, because the relations are marked by inflexion, considerable latitude in word order is allowed, and all the permutations can be used. The word order expresses the logical stress, and the degree of definiteness.


Unlike English, Latin, and various other languages, Ukrainian allows multiple negatives, as in “nixto nikoly nikomu ničoho ne proščaje” (‘no-one ever forgives anyone anything’, literally ‘no-one never to no-one nothing does not forgive’).

Objects of a negated verb are placed in the genitive case, where they would be accusative if the verb were not negated.

Inflectional usage


The use of cases in Ukrainian can be very complicated. In general, the nominative, genitive, accusative, and vocative cases can be used without a preposition. On the other hand, the locative and instrumental cases are used primarily with a preposition. Furthermore, and much like in Latin, different prepositions can be followed by nouns in different cases, resulting in different meanings.

Tense and aspect

Ukrainian verbs can have one of two aspects: imperfective and perfective. The imperfective form denotes an action that is taking place in the present, is ongoing, is repetitive, or is habitual. The perfective form indicates an action that is completed, is the result of an action, is the beginning of an action, or is shorter or longer than usual. For example, "spaty" (спати) is imperfective, while "pospaty" (поспати) is perfective.

ee also

* Ukrainian language

Translation of words

Note: All Common Slavic words quoted are translated faithfully by their Ukrainian forms.Abbreviations used:
* m: masculine noun
* f: feminine noun
* nt: neuter noun
* n: noun declined like an adjective, with different forms for each gender
* v: verb
* adj: adjective
* adv: adverb
* ger: gerund
* pr: pronoun
* co: conjunction

* бабин (babyn): (adj) belonging to a grandmother (masculine nominative form)
* бабина (babyna): (adj) belonging to a grandmother (feminine nominative form)
* береза (bereza): (f) birch
* бити (byty): (v) to hit
* болото (boloto): (nt) mud, swamp
* борода (boroda): (f) beard
* брати (braty): (nt) to take
* братів (brativ): (adj) belonging to a brother (masculine nominative form)
* братова (bratova): (adj) belong to a brother (feminine nominative form)
* бувший (buvšyj): (adj) (dialectical) former, ex- (that which once was)
* бути (buty): (v) to be
* ваш (vaš): (adj) yours (pl)
* вернути (vernuty): (v) to return something
* вертіти (vertity): (v) to turn about repeatedly
* вибрати (vybraty): (v) to choose, elect
* відомий (vidomyj): (adj) well-known
* відьм (vid'm): (f) witches (genitive plural)
* вовк (vovk): (m) wolf
* гарний (harnyj): (adj) nice
* гарно (harno): (adv) nicely
* говорити (hovoryty): (v) to speak
* гривня (hryvnia): (f) Ukrainian currency
* двигнути (dvyhnyty): (v) to exert
* думати (dumaty): (v) to think
* жатий (žatyj): (adj) harvested
* жовтіти (žovtity): (v) to turn yellow
* збіжжя (zbižžja): (nt) bread, grain
* земля (zemlja): (f) earth
* знати (znaty): (v) to know
* знайомий (znajomyj): (adj) friendly (known); (n) friend
* знавши (znavšy): (ger) having known
* знаючи (znajučy): (ger) knowing
* ім'я (im"ja): (nt) name
* їсти (jisty): (v) to eat
* їхній (jixnij): (adj) theirs
* купувати (kupuvaty): (v) to buy
* курча (kurča): (nt) baby chicken
* лежати (ležaty): (v) to lie in some given place
* лити (lyty): (v) to pour
* лишений (lyšenyj): (adj) left
* мати (maty): (v) to have
* мило (mylo): (nt) soap
* мій (mij): (adj) mine
* молоко (moloko): (nt) milk
* молоти (moloty): (v) to grind
* наш (naš): (adj) ours
* ніч (nič): (f) night
* насіння (nasinnja) (nt) grain
* нести (necty): (v) to carry
* несучи(й) (nesučy(j)): (ger) carrying; (adj) that which is being carried
* носити (nosyty): (v) to carry
* носіння (nosinnja): (nt) act of carrying
* орати (oraty): (v) to plow
* пекти (pekty): (v) to bake
* печений (pečehyj): (adj) baked
* питати (pytaty): (v) to ask
* питання (pytannja): (nt) question
* пити (pyty): (v) to drink
* плечима (plečyma): (nt) shoulders (instrumental plural form)
* плисти (plysty): (v) to float
* повинен (povynen): (adj) required to be done (often translated using the verb, should) (masculine nominative form)
* повинна (povynna): (adj) required to be done (feminine nominative form)
* полоти (poloty): (v) to weed
* посланий (poslanyj): (adj) sent
* попросити (poprosyty): (v) to ask for something
* поспати (pospaty): (v) to nap
* почати (počaty): (v) to start
* почорнілий (počorhilyj): (adj) having been blackened
* рвати (rvaty): (v) to rip
* свято (svjato): (nt) holiday
* сіяти (sijaty): (v) to plant / seed
* спати (spaty): (v) to sleep
* твій (tvij): (adj) yours (sing.)
* теля (telja): (nt) baby lamb
* умерти (umerty): (v) to die (animate)
* хвалити (xvalyty): (v) to praise
* хвалячи (xvaljačy): (ger) praising
* хотіти (xotity): (v) to want, desire
* хто (xto): (pr) who
* чий (čyj): (adj) whose
* читати (čytaty): (v) to read
* що (ščo): (pr) what
* як (jak): (co) when
* якщо (jakščo): (co) if



* "Український правопис" 4th edition Kiev, 1993.
* De Bray, R. G. A. "Introduction to Slavonic Languages". London, 1951.

External links

* Guide to Ukrainian grammar (not always on line)

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