Is there a difference between Russian and Ukrainian language?

If you have a romantic relationship with a charming Ukrainian lady, perhaps you’d like to learn the language she speaks, or at least to understand some common phrases. Ukrainian and Russian are beautiful languages, and learning them is a lot of fun, but before you take a course or visit some classes, you should learn more about the language situation in Ukraine. Let’s have a closer look at it and find out whether there is any difference between Russian and Ukrainian language.

Table of content:

  1. What languages are spoken in Ukraine?
  2. Differences and similarities between the two languages
  3. Letters
  4. Vocabularies
  5. Writing
  6. Grammatical structure
  7. Pronunciation
  8. What language should you learn?

What languages are spoken in Ukraine?

Generally speaking, every single Ukrainian person is raised more or less bilingual. Both Russian and Ukrainian languages are spoken in Ukraine. However, some regions of the country are predominantly Russian speaking whereas others are represented by Ukrainian speaking population.

Simply put, they speak Russian in the eastern part of the country – Lugansk, Nikopol, Donetsk, Kharkov. These regions are geographically closer to Russia, that’s why it comes as no surprise that people prefer speaking this language. So if one thinks of dating Ukrainian ladies from this region, learning Russian will be of more use.

In the west, on the contrary, people are extremely patriotic, and they take pride in speaking their mother tongue. In Lviv, Ternopil, ivno-Frankivsk you’ll hardly hear any Russian on the city streets, in public transport, or anywhere else – everyone prefers speaking Ukrainian.

South is predominantly Russian speaking, too. In Odessa, Kherson and Nikolaev you’ll be comfortable speaking only Russian. In rural areas of this part of the country lots of people speak so called “surzhik” – a rather interesting mix of Ukrainian and Russian.

In Kiev and central part of Ukraine they speak both languages – it’s just a matter of personal choice. As you walk along the streets or travel by metro, you can hear both Ukrainian and Russian conversations.

Differences and similarities between the two languages

Russian and Ukrainian belong to Eastern Slavic group of languages and use Cyrillic alphabet, so there are bound to be similarities. However, there is also a significant difference between Russian and Ukrainian language. Generally speaking, if a Russian speaking person was never exposed to the Ukrainian language, it will be rather difficult for them to understand it. It’s like an English speaking person wouldn’t understand someone who addresses them in Fench or German. Let’s discuss some of the major differences.


The alphabets of these two languages bear a lot of similarities. The majority of letters are written and pronounced the same way. However, the Ukrainian alphabet contains letters І і, Ї ї, Ґ ґ and Є є, and they are not there in the Russian alphabet. There are also letters in the Russian alphabet which do not exist in the Ukrainian – these include ы, ъ (the hard sign), and Ё ё.

One would say these differences are rather negligible and hardly matter, but let’s not forget that there are languages in Romano-Germanic group with exact same alphabets but absolutely different rules of pronunciation.


When it comes to lexicon, these languages share about 50% of similar words. Some of the statements are exactly the same in Ukrainian and Russian whereas others are significantly different.

Here are a few examples:

  • How are you? Ukrainian: Як справи? Russian: Как дела?
  • Thank you. Ukrainian: Дякую. Russian: Спасибо.
  • Good morning. Ukrainian: Доброго ранку. Russian: Доброе утро.

There are also words that sound exactly the same but have dramatically different meanings, so they could be confusing and misleading to someone who’s not fluent. Both languages boast a rich vocabulary and linguistic perfection in the way it’s used.


The written pattern of the two languages is basically the same, apart from some very insignificant differences. Cyrillic calligraphy allows a person from Russia to read something written in Ukrainian and understand it to a great extent.

Grammatical structure

Speaking of grammar, both languages are rather flexible where the structure of a sentence is concerned. For example, there is only one way to say “The sun is shining brightly” in English.

  • In Ukrainian you may say: Яскраво сяє сонце. Сяє яскраво сонце. Сонце яскраво сяє.
  • Same way in Russian: Солнце светит ярко. Ярко солнце светит. Светит ярко солнце.

However, there are lots of differences where formation of words is concerned. For example, there are more suffixes in the Ukrainian language to create verb forms. There are also seven cases of nouns on Ukrainian and only six in Russian. Also, they use the sign ‘ (apostrophe) in Ukrainian instead of a hard sign.


Pronunciation rules differ in Eastern Slavic languages. To a foreigner they may sound the same or pretty similar at the very least, but it’s not so. The way the words are pronounced makes a significant difference between Russian and Ukrainian language.

For example, there are softer consonant in Ukrainian, and they tend to pronounce all the vowels clearly in stressed and unstressed positions. In Russian, on the contrary, they pronounce “o” like “a” when it’s unstressed. Also, there is no equivalent in the Russian language for the Ukrainian fricative consonant Г г.

Speaking of pronunciation, Ukrainian is more phonetic than Russian – its words are written the same way as pronounced. Also, the Ukrainian language is extremely melodious and a real pleasure to listen to. They say it’s the second melodious language in the world after Italian, and when you listen to beautiful Ukrainian folksongs you have no doubts it’s true.

What language should you learn?

Well, it depends on a number of factors. If your woman speaks Ukrainian in day to day life and you want to be a good husband, you’d better go for Ukrainian. In this case you should be absolutely sure that you have serious intentions for this girl and there is a chance for a happy future together. However, if you’re planning to continue your searches on international dating sites, it’s recommended to give priority to the Russian language.


Russian is spoken not only in Russia, but also in Ukraine, Belarus and a number of other post soviet countries, including Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan and so on. It will open more opportunities to you as you travel to these countries in searches of your perfect match or simply as a tourist. Over time you’ll be able to pick up a great deal of Ukrainian as well if you stick around with your girlfriend.

You can take some classes in your home town or study languages over Skype – these days everything is at your fingertips. Make sure you learn a language from a native speaker who has an experience of teaching Russian or Ukrainian to foreign students. Whatever results you achieve, your gorgeous Ukrainian lady and her relatives will appreciate your efforts.

And of course, practise your language skills with your girlfriend as much as possible – it will be a lot of fun! It will also bring an element of “real life” to your long distance relationship and help you keep the fire burning. You can try writing to her in Russian or Ukrainian, as well as talk on Skype.

These were only some observations about the difference between Russian and Ukrainian language. No matter whether you’ll marry a Ukrainian girl or not, speaking one of the Slavic languages is a very useful and impressive skill. For one thing, you’ll be able to read the works of world’s most sophisticated and interesting authors. Also, it will give you additional advantages in a professional field.

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