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21 Essential Phrases You'll Need in Ukraine

The monument to the founders of Kiev
The monument to the founders of Kiev | © EvaMospan / Pixabay
The Ukrainian language is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful languages. Learning a few useful phrases when planning a trip to Ukraine will make your mind more open and the trip easier. Therefore, we’ve prepared a list of 21 essential phrases you’ll definitely need.

Greetings and essentials

Доброго ранку / Добридень / Добрий вечір (do-bro-ho ran-ku / do-bry-den’ / do-bryi ve-chir) – Good morning / Good afternoon / Good evening

Ukrainian people are very friendly and welcoming. Thus, greetings constitute a significant part of everyday life. There are more than 10 options for starting a conversation, but “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good evening” are the most preferred ones. Make sure you use one of them when entering a shop, restaurant, bank or when you are asking someone a question.

Дякую (dya-ku-yu) – Thank you

Ukrainians like to thank people for things. So, do not hesitate if you feel like it is appropriate to thank a waiter, a seller or anyone else for good service. You won’t offend anyone.

Так / Ні (tak / nie) Yes / No

Tak and nie are perhaps the easiest Ukrainian words for foreigners. They mean “yes” and “no” in English, respectively.

Ukrainians are very welcoming and love to talk to visitors. Learning a few phrases will make it easy to make new friends. © ms_lalique / Pixabay

Вибачте (vy-bach-te) / Перепрошую (pe-re-pro-shu-yu) – Excuse me / Sorry

Vybachte in English means “excuse me” and is usually used to apologize for hurting someone or doing something wrong. Meanwhile, pereproshyuy is an alternative to a greeting. For example, if you’d like to ask what time it is, you should say pereproshyuy.

Я не розумію (ya ne ro-zu-miyu) – I don’t understand

Local people can talk really fast, but don’t despair. The younger generations and employees at institutions are required to know English. Just say the phrase above and they’ll find someone to help you.

До побачення (do po-ba-che-nya) Goodbye

When leaving a place, it is polite to say, do pobachenya. You’ll definitely be understood and appreciated.

Directions

Праворуч / Ліворуч (pra-vo-ruch / li-vo-ruch) Right / Left

If you are traveling to a large Ukrainian city like Kiev (the capital), Kharkov, Lviv, or Odessa, don’t worry, all the shops and food venues have free WiFi and you can use Google or other map apps. However, if you plan to explore the Ukrainian wilderness or the country’s rural towns and villages, you’ll need to know basic directions. So, for “right” locals say pravoruch, and for “left,” livoruch. Simple as that.

Центр міста (tsentr mis-ta) City center

Usually, most of the attractions, restaurants, bars, and other venues are located in the city center. That’s why the words tsentr mista will be really useful for you when telling a driver where to go or navigating back from outside the city.

Ukrainian village © SofiLayla / Pixabay

At the restaurant or bar

Я голодний / Я голодна (ya ho-lo-dnyi / ya ho-lo-dna) – I’m hungry (male conjugation / female conjugation)

The Ukrainian language is quite complicated, and it has male and female conjugations in most cases. The phrase “I’m hungry” is no exception. Remember to use the right form, but locals will still understand you if you say it wrong.

Вода (vo-da) – Water

Getting a glass of water in Ukraine is tricky. Almost every venue lacks tap water, as it is too polluted to drink. So, when asking for water, be ready to pay $1-2 per bottle.

Українська кухня (uk-ra-in-ska ku-khnya)Ukrainian cuisine

The rich flavors of Ukrainian cuisine are becoming more and more popular all over the world. Therefore, it is a total must to try such dishes as borscht, salo (pork fat), syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes), or banush (well-smoked corn grits).

Смачно (sma-chno) Delicious

Not sure how to say that you’ve enjoyed your meal? Just say smachno, which means “delicious” or “tasty” in Ukrainian.

At the market

Скільки коштує? (skil‘-ky kosh-tuye)How much is this?

When you’re asking for a price, you can say “how much.” These words have already become legendary in Ukraine. In case you aren’t understood, ask skil’ky koshtuye?.

Дуже дорого (du-zhe do-ro-ho) Too expensive

Ukrainian markets are unique phenomena. At a single market, you can find everything from food to industrial goods. Having spotted a foreigner, local sellers will try to raise their prices, knowing that most visitors won’t know the difference. However, you’ll know what to say: duzhe doroho.

Є сало? (ye sa-lo) Do you have salo (pork fat)?

Salo or pork fat is the most popular dish in Ukraine. It can be served raw, baked, fried, or even frozen. Moreover, it is really delicious; you just need to know how to eat it properly. Not surprisingly, tourists love it so much, they bring it home as a souvenir from Ukraine.

Woman in Market Carves Salo (Pork Fat) © Adam Jones / Flickr

Numbers:

Нуль (nul’) – 0

Один (odyn) – 1

Два (dva) – 2

Три (try) – 3

Чотири (cho-ty-ry) – 4

П’ять (piyat’) – 5

Шість (shist’) – 6

Сім (sim) – 7

Вісім (visim) – 8

Дев’ять (deviyat’) – 9

Десять (desyat’) – 10

Making friends

Мене звати (me-ne zva-ty) My name is…

Local people love making friends. In turn, don’t be shy to greet someone. Then introduce yourself by saying your name. You’ll be surprised how friendly Ukrainians are.

Ти красива / Ти красивий (ty kra-sy-va / ty kra-sy-vyi) – You are beautiful / handsome

There are a lot of stereotypes about Ukraine. One of them is that Ukrainian women are very beautiful, which is true. Therefore, if you like someone or want to pay a compliment, say ty krasyva. The male conjugation is ty krasyvyi.

For everything else…

Розмовляєте англійською? (roz-mov-lya-ete ang-lii-skoyu) – Do you speak English?

It may be difficult for you to explain something with such a tiny vocabulary. To make the conversation easier, ask if a person speaks English.

Відчинено / Зачинено (vid-chy-ne-no / za-chy-ne-no) Open / Closed

If you see these signs, vidchyneno or zachyneno, they mean that the venue or institution is open or closed. The working hours are usually written somewhere on the door.

Вхід / Вихід (vhid / vy-hid) Entrance / Exit

Whether you are entering a metro station, shopping center, or underground passage, pay attention to the “entrance” and “exit” signs.