What is the difference between Russian and Ukrainian?

Published on 15/08/2022

Russian and Ukrainian are part of the East Slavic language family, and although they have things in common there are many differences between the two languages. If we hear Ukrainian and Russian languages, they may sound similar, but they are not.

The different development of the Russian and Ukrainian cultures means that there are significant differences in their language systems. Russia, on the one hand, was constructed around Moscow, so its vocabulary was mixed with Turkish and Finno-Ugric words. Meanwhile, Ukraine was established by the union of ethnic groups from southern Russia, which is why Ukrainian preserved many Old Russian characteristics.

Índice de contenidos

Index of contents

Index du contenu


  1. Major differences
    1. The alphabet
    2. Grammar
    3. Vocabulary
    4. Pronunciation
    5. How to learn them

1. Major differences

The main difference between these two languages is that Ukrainian is the official language of only one country (Ukraine), while Russian is the official language of five countries (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).

Ukrainians understand Russian easily while Russians find it difficult to understand Ukrainian. For this reason, Ukrainians speak both Russian and Ukrainian. Other differences can be found in aspects such as:

1.1 The alphabet

Although the alphabet of both languages is apparently the same, they are not. Both have 33 letters, but Russian has 21 consonants and Ukrainian has 22. In addition to this, there are letters in Russian that do not exist in Ukrainian and vice versa.

1.2. Grammar

The grammatical constructions in Ukrainian is similar to European languages, while the Russian grammar is totally different.

The verb conjugations of the two languages are also different. Russian has no past perfect tense and has only two future forms (one imperfective and one perfective) while Ukrainian has three future forms (one perfective and two imperfective).

Ukrainian has seven grammatical cases (nominative, prepositional, accusative, genitive, instrumental, dative and the vocative) while Russian has only six, all but the vocative.

1.3 Vocabulary

Most Russian words come from Old East Slavic while Ukrainian words are closer to Polish. There are other Russian words, which are closer to French because of Peter the Great's influence on the language. At that time, French the Russian aristocracy spoke mostly , especially in St. Petersburg, although it was an unofficial language.

1.4 Pronunciation

There are also differences in the way the two languages are pronounced: while Ukrainian is pronounced as written, Russian is not. In addition, Russian sounds harsher, while Ukrainian is soft. Linguists have defined Ukrainian as a musical language, similar to Italian.

The Ukrainian language has many consonants that are pronounced softly and Russian consonants have a hard pronunciation. In general, the number of consonants in Russian is lower than in Ukrainian.

Although Ukrainian and Russian share letters, they are not pronounced the same way. That’s why they do not have the same tone when pronounced. For example, the letter “E” in Russian sounds like (ye) and in Ukrainian it sounds like (e).

1.5 How to learn them

The Ukrainian language is easier to learn than Russian, as Russian has more complex grammar.

Learning Ukrainian also makes it easier to learn other Eastern European languages, as it is closer to Czech, Slovak, and Polish. Whereas, if you learn Russian, you can understand fewer languages naturally.

Therefore, there are many many differences between the two languages. When you only hear the two languages they may sound similar, but they are not. It would be like comparing Portuguese with Spanish or apples with pears.

Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.


Submitted by Tetia on Thu, 06/01/2023 - 16:58
Tetia's picture
Everything is wrong. This is all Moscow propaganda. There was no Eastern Slavic language, but there was a Church Slavic language, i.e. Old Bulgarian. Before the introduction of Christianity, Kyiv spoke the Old Ukrainian language and after the introduction of Christianity, Kyiv spoke that way (this is evidenced by the inscriptions on the walls of the Saint Sophia Cathedral). Volodymyr the Great introduced Christianity and introduced the written, literary Old Bulgarian language - this is what you call the Eastern Slavic language - Putin would like your post! But according to your logic, what happens? Before the introduction of Christianity, people on our land did not have a language? Is the Ukrainian language Polish or what? We have similarities with Polish because of our neighborhood, but just as our language has Polonisms, so the Polish language has Ukrainianisms, and don't write that our language was created by Poles - it's all a Moscow lie! I am currently editing an English-language wikipedia related to the topic of Ukraine and its history - there are too many lies! In fact, Principality of Rus (and this is exclusively the principalities of Kyiv, Pereyasliv and Chernihiv) is Ukrainian territory, spoke Old Ukrainian, and monks in monasteries wrote Church Slavonic, and people wrote Ukrainian words in Cyrillic - go to the church of Saint Sophia and read the Ukrainian words on the walls of the church. The Russian language arose on the basis of the Moscow izvod of Church Slavonic, because there was also a Kyiv izvod - these are all the dialects of Church Slavonic that existed on the territory of present-day Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian arose on the basis of the Old Ukrainian language, and Russian on the basis of Old Bulgarian. Russian is most similar to Bulgarian, and anyone who speaks Russian fluently can understand this. Download the Bulgarian language dictionary and read the words - through the word you will see the Russian word!
Submitted by Fiona Paterson on Sun, 07/23/2023 - 10:49
Fiona Paterson's picture
I've only skimmed this article, but I can tell you that it's rubbish. Ukrainian grammar is not "similar to other European languages while Russian is totally different", despite what the author says: they are both Slavic languages, so they both have grammatical systems that are similar to other Slavic languages such as Polish and Czech. Ukrainian grammar is more complex than Russian - just for a start, as the author herself says, Ukrainian has seven cases while Russian has six (although the missing seventh case does get used in colloquial language) and three ways of expressing the future while Russian has only two. It's also wrong to say that "Most Russian words come from Old East Slavic while Ukrainian words are closer to Polish" because Ukrainian has East and West Slavic (and other) influences that give it a vast number of synonyms, one of the things that make it harder to learn. Utter rot.

Add new comment