Letters i and y

The vowels i and í can be used in two ways:

  • i, í („mäkké i“)
  • y, ý („ypsilon“)

The letter y is used both in native Slovak words and in foreign loanwords. The vowels i and y have the same pronunciation, which is a rare situation in Slovak, which is otherwise mostly phonetic. There are some homonyms whose only spelling difference is the use of i or y.

  • byť [biť] - to be
  • biť [biť] - to beat

Basic rule: The letter "y" must never follow a soft consonant.

Unmarked consonants can be followed by i or y.

  • vidieť [viďi̯eť] - to see
  • vysoko [visoko] - high

Slovak children learn the exceptions to this rule by heart; that is, words in which the letter y follows an unmarked consonant. These words are called "vybrané slová" ("selected words") in Slovak.

A common error on the use of the letter y is found in plural adjectives:

pekný chlapec /pekni:/

Wrong: pekný chlapci
Right: pekní chlapci /pekni:/

The rules on the use of the letters i and y are described in detail in the section on pronunciation and spelling, found in Lesson 0 of the A1-level course