As a Slavic language, Ukrainian is quite heavily inflected, with multiple noun cases and verb forms. However, there is nothing in Ukrainian grammar that you cannot master if you practice enough – and have a little patience.
This article will give you an overview over the key aspects of Ukrainian grammar to give you an idea of what you should focus on learning.
The nouns in Ukrainian have 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 also have gender-specific forms and have to agree with the noun they modify.
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.
There are no articles in the Ukrainian language.
Ukrainian adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in gender, number, and case.
In Ukrainian, there exist a small number of adjectives, primarily possessives, which exist in the masculine in the so-called short form. This “short” form is a relic of the indefinite declension of adjectives in Common Slavic.
Common examples of this anomalous declension are бабин (masculine) compared to бабина (feminine); братів (masculine) compared to братова (feminine); and повинен (masculine) compared to повинна. This short form only exists in the masculine nominative form. All other forms are regular.
In Ukrainian, adjectives also have comparative and superlative forms.
The comparative form is created by dropping ий and adding the ending -(і)ший. The resulting form is declined like a regular hard stem adjective.
The superlative form is created by prefixing най- to the comparative form. Words associated with religion often prefix пре- (very) to the comparative form.
As is common, some adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms.
In Ukrainian, adverbs are formed by taking the stem of the adjective (that is dropping the −а from the feminine nominative singular form; forms ending in −я are replaced by −ьа (after consonants) or −йа (after vowels), before dropping the −а.) and adding the ending
- -о, is the general ending,
- -е, can be used for some stems that are hard (no ь or й at the end), for example, добре from добрий. This is very common for the comparative form of the adjective.
For example, гарний gives гарно. The comparative and superlative forms of an adverb are formed by taking the corresponding form of the adjective and replacing −ий by -е, for example, гарніше from гарніший.
Adverbs can also be derived from the locative or instrumental singular of a noun, for example, ввечері (from в plus the locative of вечера), нагорі (from на plus the locative of гора).
In Ukrainian, there are personal (я, ти), demonstrative (той, те), possessive (мiй, моя), interrogative (хто, що), and other pronouns.
Like nouns, personal pronouns in Ukrainian decline for the same seven cases, gender, and number.
Ukrainian verbs conjugate for 3 tenses: past, present, future; 3 persons: first, second, third; and 2 numbers, singular, and plural. Ukrainian verbs come in aspect pairs: perfective, and imperfective.
Ukrainian had 2 voices: the active voice and the passive voice. The active voice is the only voice with a complete set of conjugations. The active voice, in general, shows a direct effect of the verb on its subject. The passive voice has 2 different functions. It shows either that the subject has had something done to itself or that something indeterminate has occurred to the subject.
There are 3 moods in Ukrainian. The indicative mood is used to describe events, which have occurred, are occurring, or will occur. In Ukrainian, the indicative mood contains the present, future, and past tenses.
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.
The conditional mood is used to state hypothetical states, wishes, and desires. It has 2 tenses in Ukrainian: a present and a past.
The basic word order in Ukrainian, both in conversation and the written language, is subject–verb–object. However, because the relations are marked by inflection, 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 “ніхто нікому ніколи нічого не прощає” (‘no-one ever forgives anyone anything’, literally ‘no-one never to no-one nothing does not forgive’). Single negatives are often grammatically incorrect because when negation is used in complex sentences every part that could be grammatically negated should be negative.
Ukrainian prepositions usually require a particular case to be used after them. For instance, preposition з can be used with the nouns in the Genitive or the Instrumental case. The preposition до is always used with the Genitive case (до тата, до Львова) and it indicates the object in the direction of which the movement is directed.
Here are some of the most common Ukrainian prepositions and the cases they are used with:
- Без (without), біля (near), від (from), для (for), до (to), з-за (із-за) (out of), з-під (from under), проти (against), серед (among) – with the Genitive case only;
- Про (about), по (on), під (under), через (through), у (in, at), в (in, at, into, to) – with the Accusative case;
- Над (over), під (under), перед (in front of), поза (behind) – with the Accusative and the Instrumental case;
- На (on), о (об) (at), по (on, along, around) – with the Accusative and the Locative case.
This is a very brief overview of Ukrainian grammar. To truly master it, you will need to study each of the parts of speech in much more detail. However, this overview will hopefully give you a general idea of the Ukrainian grammatical system and of the main points you should consider when learning.