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I haven't been able to pick up the pattern of when plurals end in -і vs -и. Is there a simple rule, or a complicated one, or is it something I mostly need to learn case-by-case?

The Ukrainian Lessons site says hard consonants get a -и (or a -а if neuter) and soft ones get a -і (or -я) - but it gives груша and море as examples of words ending in soft consonants, and I don't understand why that is. So far my understanding had been that anything with a ь, і, я, ї, є, ю or й was soft, but these don't have any of those - is ш or р inherently soft, or does е soften consonants the same way і does, or what? Or is the explanation on that page just wrong?

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Or is the explanation on that page just wrong?

Maybe more correctly: very simplified, therefore wrong.

Actually, thereʼre exceptions and Ukrainian has three groups:

  • Hard where any word ends with any hard consonant except hissing: ж, ш, ч, дж, щ.

    Exceptions are господь, звір, пазур and снігур (and maybe some others) which are declined as a hard group except plural nominative: звірі, пазурі, снігурі. Some words are similar to previous exception group but have variations, like щур can be щурі or щури.

  • Soft where any word ends with any soft consonant.

    Also any word with a neuter gender ending with -e which historically were mostly -jo. So the mentioned море → моря is here.

  • Мixed which included mentioned hissing sounds. So the mentioned груша → груші is here.


But itʼs not all, because the hardest part for new foreign learners (and can be even debatable for natives) is р which can be hard, soft or mixed due to history where can be from рь.

Thereʼre many recommendations or kinda sorted groups. Knowledge of some Slavic language or other languages can help, for example Ukrainian has доктор and лікар but: Polish doktor, lekarz; Czech doktor, lékař; therefore you almost know it should be доктори but лікарі.

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  • Sounds complicated! The full wikipedia tables are a bit much for me, but hissing sounds being soft and р depending on linguistic history is great information. I do speak Polish (and only recently found out that rz comes from рь and that's why it's different from ż!) so I can use that context, which is very neat, thank you for including it!
    – weronika
    Aug 12 at 14:50

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