What you should know about Ukrainian to sound like a native speaker

I started learning French when I was about 12 years old. And I wasn’t actually good at it. However, I became older, and a lot of things have changed. I became one of the best students of French at the University. I remember the times when I could spend hours and hours with my French textbook. Crazy, hah? I am sure that every passionated language learner understands me.

Now I speak French fluently. Nevertheless, I still have this feeling that, when I speak this language I can’t express with the exact words what is happening in my head. It makes me kind of a different person rather when I speak my native language. For example, in the Ukrainian language we can transform any word into its diminutive version. This is one of those things that “decorate” the language and let you express yourself differently.

I was wondering about the French language and apparently it doesn’t really exist. Do you see what I mean?

Let’s take a phrase: elle a un joli visage (she has a nice face). We can’t put the word visage into the diminutive form. However, in Ukrainian we can say: у неї гарненьке личико. The word личико comes from лице and means a face. And the word гарненьке comes from гарне or cute in English.

So, for example, when I am in a good mood, walking in a park and I see a cute dog, in Ukrainian I would say: дивись, який гарненький песик! Instead, in French I say: quel joli chien, regarde! The meaning of these sentences is exactly the same, thus there is a small shade in the word песик, that makes this dog smaller and cuter in the Ukrainian language rather than in the French one.

How to create the Diminutive form in Ukrainian?

Theoretically, you could change chien by pitou, but you can’t change the word joli. In Ukrainian you can add the suffix –енький,енька,еньке to any adjective and you will get its diminutive form.

Look, it’s simple: смачний – смачненький (masculine), чорна – чорненька (feminine), велике – величеньке (neutral). Now, try it on your own, it’s fun!

It is time for a small secret. I will tell you an incredible fact about the Ukrainian language. Shhhh!

We can transform even some verbs into the diminutive form: спати – спатоньки (to sleep), їсти – їстоньки (to eat). Isn’t it fantastic?

It happens to me to exaggerate some things… often. So, for example, I see a big cat outside. In Ukrainian I would say здоровенний котяра, but in French I say un gros chat.

Here is a tip! To put any adjective into the augmentative form, you just add the suffix –енний for masculine gender, –енна (feminine), –енне (neutral). Quick example: великий – величенний.

You will definitely ask me: “-But what about the nouns??”. Actually, it is a little bit complicated. As a general rule, we usually add -ик, -очок for masculine nouns. For example, кіт – котик, гриб – грибочок. Or, if you want to put a feminine noun into the diminutive form, just add -очка, –ка, like квітка – квіточка, дівчина – дівчинка… Always pay attention because it can change differently. If, for example, the neutral noun сонце changes into сонечко, but another neutral noun вікно changes into віконце. Remember that Ukrainian has a lot of exceptions.

I hope that you learnt something from my article. I will be very happy if it is so. Also I will be really happy to hear from you. You can write me your stories in the comments below or in the social media.

4 commentaires

  1. I love the diminutive and augmentative form! They are so fun to play around with in Polish (especially since you can give almost every name at least 5 nicknames). I really got close to my Ukrainian friend Julia because when I first met her I called her by her diminutive nickname Julcha (not really sure how you would spell it in English..) and now she calls me Arielka. It’s such a nice way to show affection!

    1. Yes, that’s right. It seems that our languages are lucky to have the diminutive and augmentative forms. Isn’t it great to say Julechka, Julya or, Julcha like you do, rather than just Julia. I find it fascinating! 🙂

  2. Thank you, this is a great article and a great blog! I’m also fascinated by Slavic diminutives and augmentatives – I learnt Serbo-Croatian at university and then fell in love with a Ukrainian, sweet talk in Ukrainian is awesome. It’s not that there are no diminutives elsewhere (the Swiss German we have here quite often makes me squeal with delight, even as a fully grown man and even English has its odd moment) but Ukrainian is so thorough about it, with multiple options as Arielka pointed out. As for the augmentative, I miss it in English as a way to refer to people who are rather extreme, for example a man who is rather macho in Serbian is not just a man (muškarac) but rather a muškarčina and a Serbian who is extremely proud of his nationality is not just a Srbin, but a Srbenda.

    1. Hello Peter! Thanks for your comment and your nice words. I love Ukrainian for its melody and these particularities like diminutive and augmentative. After reading your comment, I am really interested in Serbian, it should be close to Ukrainian. I have to check it!


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