a nativlang.com language lesson series
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The number of speakers of Romanian (sometimes spelled Rumanian or Roumanian) is estimated at about 25 million (25,000,000) in Romania (eastern Europe), Moldavia (next to Romania), and as a minority language in Finland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Israel, as well as holding a comparatively small stock of speakers in the United States. It is the only Romance Language still spoken today that has its origins in Eastern Europe.
Romanian, you will notice, has borrowed heavily from Slavic languages. Partly due to this Slavic influence, an English speaker may find some consonant clusters especially unusual. The overwhelming presence of lengthy diphthongs will perhaps add to your troubles (ploaie "rain"). The language is very important to scholars of Romance linguistics because of the broad difference between it and the other Romance Languages and the retention of some features of Latin that have been lost in the other languages.
The pronunciation of Romanian is similar to Italian. Most every letter always always represents the same sound:
|Letra/Letre ~ Letter/Letters||Pronunt¸are ~ Pronunciation||Exemplu ~ Example|
|a||father||a vrea (to want)|
|ă *||cut||să (that, to)|
|â or î (represent same sound)||between cut and sheet; almost as the German "ü", but less forceful.||când (when), a omorî (to kill)|
|b||boy||beau (I drink)|
|c||cash before a/o/u, check before e/i||casă (house), ce (what)|
|ch||cash (always)||a chema (to call)|
|d||dog||de (of, from)|
|e||say (shorter), at the beginning of a word as yesterday.||miercuri (Wednesday), este (is)|
|f||fish||a fi (to be)|
|g||guts before a/o/u, gem before e/i||a găsi (to find), gi (day)|
|gh||guts (always)||ghid (guide)|
|j||pleasure||a juca (to play)|
|n||nice||nu (no, not)|
|o||so (shorter)||pot (I can)|
|r||rolled/trilled, as Spanish or Italian||a razboi (to war)|
|s||safe (always)||sîntem (we are)|
|s¸ *||wash||s¸i (and)|
|t||stake||tot (all, still)|
|t¸ *||cats||t¸ară (we are)|
|v||vase||vine (he comes)|
|z||zap||ziua (the day)|
* These three letters do not exist in common html form for the western fonts. The letter ă can be seen in the image at the top of this page. The "¸" (cedille) falls directly below the "s" and "t", not next to them.
As a general rule, the stress falls one syllable back from the last if the word ends in a vowel, and on the last syllable if it ends in a consonant. If a word ends in an "a", or, if it is an infinitive verb form ("to __" form (ex: to go, to do)) ending in -a, -i or -î, then that vowel takes the stress. In words ending in -i other than infinitives, the last -i silent, but the preceding consonant is "palatalized" (pronounced on the hard palate, ex: taxiuri [taxis], pronounced tahx-yOOr).
Although some dictionaries mark irregular stress with a grave accent mark, especially if it falls on a vowel at the end of a word (ex: a spălŕ = a spăla "to wash"), this is not common practice in writing the language.
Due to restrictions on the Romanian characters in html, you will find many Romanian pages that do not rely on the Eastern European fonts, but use common symbols in the western fonts to denote the Romanian sounds for their convenience. For example, I have noticed both "ă" and "ŕ" used to replace the true Romanian letter (note how, even on this page, "ă" is used). Sometimes the letters "s" and "t" represent the "sh" and "ts" sounds as well. I have even seen them written "sh" and "ts"!
The Romanian noun has either a masculine, feminine, or neuter gender. In the singular, masculine and neuter tend to end in a consonant, and feminine in -ă. Words in -e are mainly feminine, but some are masculine or neuter.
Words in -t¸ie [sometimes -t¸iune]/-sie [sometimes -siune] (related to Spanish -ción/-sión, Portuguese -çăo/-săo, French -tion/-sion, Italian -zione/sione, and Catalan -ció/-sió) are feminine, just as in those languages. Words in -tate and -are are also feminine.
In forming the plural, a masculine noun usually takes -i, a masculine noun ending in -e becomes -i, a feminine noun ending in -ă takes either -e or -i, a feminine noun ending in -e takes -i, and a neuter word ending in a vowel takes -uri. Most neuter words in a consonant also take -uri as well, although some add -e.
If we take the word espulsare, a feminine, singular noun (expulsion; as Spanish expulsión, Portuguese expulsăo, French expulsion, Italian espulsione, and Catalan expulsió), for example, the plural is expulsari.
Here is a chart to help visualize these basic endings:
|Feminine||-ă/-e (also: -ea)||-e/-i (-ea>-ele)|
The Romanian indefinite article (equivalent to a or an in English) varies according to a noun's gender. Un means a/an both for masculine and neuter nouns in the singular, while the feminine relies on o. Thus, un taxi, being neuter, means a taxi, but o mas¸ină, feminine, means a car. The plural of the indefinite article is simply nis¸te (some; nis¸te taxiuri [some taxis], nis¸te mas¸ini [some cars]).
The definite article is attached to the end of the noun, and follows the below chart for gender, plurality, and case* (based on a stem ending at the last consonant and not including any vowels that might end the word):
Definite Article (the)
|Singular||Nominative||Vocative||Accusative (weak)||Accusative (strong)||Genitive||Dative|
|Masculine||-ul (-le if noun ends in "e")||-(nominative+)e||-ul (-le if noun ends in "e")||-(uninflected)||(al/a/ai/ale)* -ului/-elui||-ului/-elui|
|Feminine||-a (-e>-ea; -ie>-ia; -ea>eaua)||-o/-a/-ă||-a (-e>-ea; -ie>-ia; -ea>eaua)||-(uninflected)||(al/a/ai/ale)* -ei/-ii*||-ei/-ii*|
|Plural||Nominative||Vocative||Accusative (weak)||Accusative (strong)||Genitive||Dative|
|Masculine||-ii||-ii (or -ilor)||-ul (-le if noun ends in "e")||-(uninflected)||(al/a/ai/ale)* -ii||-ilor|
|Feminine||-ele/-ile (-ea>-elele)||-ele/-ile (or -elor/-ilor)||-ele/-ile||-(uninflected)||(al/a/ai/ale)* -ei/-ii||-elor/ilor|
|Neuter||-urile/-ele||-urile/-ele (or -urilor/-elor)||-urile/-ele||-(uninflected)||(al/a/ai/ale)* -urile/-ele||-urile/-ele|
* A case is the unit of declension showing the role a noun plays in the sentence. The nominative is the "simple" form of the noun (it carries only the meaning of the so defined noun); in this case, the noun and the definite article. The vocative is used to call out the word (Latin vox "voice"). In Romanian, accusative commonly indicates that the word receives action through a preposition ("weak" means that it follows a weak preposition, such as cu [with]). The genitive denotes possession, and the dative marks an indirect object (where an English speaker would use the prepositions to/for after a verb).
* Al, a, ai, and ale indicate the subject or of which the genitive takes possession (al for masculine and neuter nouns in the singular, a for feminine, singular nouns, ai for masculine, plural nouns, and -ale for both feminine and neuter nouns in the plural). For example, the statement Bagajele sînt ale mele (the luggage is mine) inflects bagajele (the baggages) as a plural, neuter noun in the nominative, so ale which follows describes the luggage.
* One final note on this section: the feminine form of the genitive and dative depends upon the plural of the noun (i.e. if the plural ends in -e, then the genitive and dative end in -ei; if in -i, then the genitive and dative take -ii). In other words, the feminine genitive and dative of the singular is no more than the feminine plural noun with an -i added.
The indefinite article stands alone, but is also inflected:
The Romanian verb is partly recognizable to speakers or students of other Romance Languages, but does have some basic differences. As in any Romance Language, the present indicative tense of the verb occurs in most situations where English would use the present participle (in Romanian, for example, vorbesc means "I speak" or "I am speaking).
Romanian has four basic verb terminations ("infinitive endings": the to __ form of the verb): a -a, a -e, a -i, and a -ea. Although verbs ending in -ui and -î (ex: a locui [to live], a omorî [to kill]) have separate conjugations, they are far less frequent and often labelled "irregular"). Here are the regular present indicative active conjugations for each of the infinitive endings, including sample verbs:
|a -a||a întreba (to ask)||a -e||a spune (to say)||a -i||a vorbi (to speak)||a -ea||a vedea (to see)|
|eu (I)||- /-ez*||întreb||-||spun||-esc||vorbesc||*||vreau|
|voi/Dumneavoastră (all of you)*||-at¸i||întreabat¸i||-et¸i||spunet¸i||-it¸i||vorbit¸i||*||vret¸i|
|ele (they; all females)||-ă/-ează||întreabă||-||spun||-esc||vorbesc||*||vreau|
*Tu is used for familiar/informal, often even vulgar, situations when addressing a single person, dumneata (or, colloquially, mata) for informal ones as well. Voi is the plural of tu, hence it is less formal than Dumneavoastră (abbreviated Dvs.), which is very formal, and can be used either for addressing a person or a group of people on very formal terms.
* Both in infinitives ending in -a and those ending in -i have two common verb conjugations: those with and without the extra "stem" (-ez- for -a, -es¸t- for -i). For verbs ending in -a, the majority follow the same pattern as a întreba (conjugated above in the present indicative), but many take this -ez- infix (ex: studiez "I study" from a studia).
The majority of -i verbs must infix -es¸t- (this becomes -esc when no other vowels follow, a property characteristic of the first person singular and the third person plural of a -i verbs).
*Note that the written language records sound changes that take place in certain situations. "D" before a final, unstressed "i" becomes "z" (hence vezi [you see] from a vedea to see), "t" becomes "t¸", "s" becomes "s¸", and an "n" between the penultimate vowel and the final "i" is absorbed into the diphthong (thus spui [you say]). An -or- or -er become -oar- and -ear-, respectively, before a final "-ă", "-e", or "-ea". In fact, most any soft consonant (or the group -pt-/-mn-/other soft consonant groups) between the letters -o-ă/e/ea or -e-ă/e/ea will produce the same effect of diphthongization (note, for example, the difference between întreb and întreabă).
* A final note on verbs ending with a -ea: this is more often than not an "irregular" conjugation.
Adjectives agree with the noun, and most always follow them: o mas¸ină urîtă (an ugly car). You must be overjoyed to hear that adjectives must only agree in gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter) and plurality (singular or plural), not in case (you would not say, for example, mas¸inii urîtii, rather mas¸inii urîtă [to/for the ugly car]. The masculine and neuter are often the same in the singular, and the neuter and feminine in the plural (therefore most adjectives have four forms). Some, meanwhile, have two or three (these are very scarce, but very useful adjectives ex: sec [dry; m. and n. singular], which becomes seacă [f. singular; see the rules two paragraphs above if you wonder why the "e" has formed a diphthong] and seci [for every gender in the plural]). Adjectives and adverbs usually correspond, as Romanian has no adverbial inflections.
BASIC WORDS AND PHRASES
These phrases reflect the standard language of Bucharest:
Bună ziua! = Goodday!
Ziua! = Hello!
Ce mai faci? = How are you?, How's it going?
Ce mai facet¸i? = How are you? (formal)
Bine. = (I'm) well.
Rău. = Badly.
As¸a s¸i as¸a (3 words). = So-so.
Foarte... = Very...
Cum te numest¸i? = What's your name?
Cum vă numit¸i? = What's your name? (formal)
Dar tu/dumneata? = And you?
Dar Dumneavoastră? = And you? (formal)
Domnule. = Sir, Mr.
Doamnă. = Madam, Mrs.
Domnis¸oară. = Miss.
Bine de cunos¸tiint¸ă. = Pleased to meet you.
Te rog (informal), Vă rog (formal). = Please.
Scuzat¸i. = Excuse me.
Aici este... = Here is...
E... = There is...
E... = There are...
Da. = Yes.
Nu. = No.
Mult¸umesc, grat¸ia. = Thank you.
Placere. = You're welcome.
Ce? = What?
Cine? = Who?
De ce? = Why?
Cât e ceasul? = What time is it?
La revedere! = Goodbye!, See you later!