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Romanian grammar is the body of rules that describe the structure of expressions in the Romanian language. Standard Romanian (i.e. the Daco-Romanian language within Eastern Romance) shares largely the same grammar and most of the vocabulary and phonological processes with the other three surviving varieties of Eastern Romance, viz. Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian.
As a Romance language, Romanian shares many characteristics with its more distant relatives: Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese etc. However, Romanian has preserved certain features of Latin grammar that have been lost elsewhere. That could be explained by a host of arguments such as: relative isolation in the Balkans, possible pre-existence of identical grammatical structures in the Dacian, or other substratum (as opposed to the Germanic and Celtic substrata that the other Romance languages developed in contact with), and existence of similar elements in the neighboring languages. One Latin element that has survived in Romanian while having disappeared from other Romance languages is the morphological case differentiation in nouns, albeit reduced to only three forms (nominative/accusative, genitive/dative, and vocative) from the original six or seven. Another might be the retention of the neuter gender in nouns, although in synchronic terms, Romanian neuter nouns can also be analysed as "ambigeneric", i.e. as being masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural (see below) and even in diachronic terms certain linguists have argued that this pattern was in a sense "re-invented" rather than a "direct" continuation of the Latin neuter.
Romanian is attested from the 16th century. The first Romanian grammar was Elementa linguae daco-romanae sive valachicae by Samuil Micu and Gheorghe Șincai, published in 1780. Many modern writings on Romanian grammar, in particular most of those published by the Romanian Academy (Academia Română), are prescriptive; the rules regarding plural formation, verb conjugation, word spelling and meanings, etc. are revised periodically to include new tendencies in the language.
Romanian nouns are categorized into three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter, the last behaving like the masculine in the singular and the feminine in the plural, unlike the neuter in Latin which had distinct forms. Nouns which in their dictionary form (singular, nominative, with no article) end in a consonant or the vowel/semivowel -u are mostly masculine or neuter; if they end in -ă or -a they are usually feminine. In the plural, the ending -i corresponds generally to masculine nouns, whereas feminine and neuter nouns often end in -e. As there are many exceptions to these rules, each noun must be learned together with its gender.
For nouns designating people the grammatical gender can only be masculine or feminine, and is strictly determined by the biological sex, no matter the phonetics of the noun. For example nouns like tată (father) and popă (priest) are masculine as they refer to male people, although phonetically they are similar to typical feminine nouns.
For native speakers, the general rule for determining a noun's gender relies on the "one-two" test, which consists in inflecting the noun to both the singular and the plural, together with the numbers one and two. Depending on the gender, the numbers will have different forms for each of the three genders: masculine nouns will be un-doi; feminine nouns, o-două; neuter nouns, un-două.
Romanian numbers generally have a single form regardless of the gender of the determined noun. Exceptions are the numbers un/o (one) doi/două (two) and all the numbers made up of two or more digits when the last digit is 1 or 2; these have masculine and feminine forms. Unlike languages such as Russian, in Romanian there is no gender-neutral form for numbers, adjectives or other noun determiners.
Romanian has two numbers: singular and plural. Morphologically the plural form is built by adding specific endings to the singular form. For example, nominative nouns without the definite article form the plural by adding one of the endings -i, -uri, -e, or -le. The plural formation mechanism, often involving other changes in the word structure, is an intrinsic property of each noun and has to be learned together with it.
Romanian has inherited from Latin five cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative. Morphologically, the nominative and the accusative are identical in nouns; similarly, the genitive and the dative share the same form (these pairs are distinct in the personal pronouns, however). The vocative is less used as it is normally restricted to nouns designating people or things which are commonly addressed directly. Additionally, nouns in the vocative often borrow the nominative form even when there is a distinct vocative form available.
The genitive-dative form can be derived from the nominative. If the noun is determined by a determiner other than the definite article (an indefinite article, a demonstrative, an indefinite quantifier), then the genitive-dative affixes are applied to this determiner, not to the noun, for example un băiat - unui băiat (a boy - of/to a boy); for feminine nouns the form used in the singular is most often identical to the plural, for example o carte - unei cărți - două cărți (a book - of/to a book - two books). Similarly, if the noun is determined by the definite article (an enclitic in Romanian, see that section), the genitive-dative mark is added at the end of the noun together with the article, for example băiatul - băiatului (the boy - of/to the boy), cartea - cărții (the book - of/to the book). Masculine proper names designating people form the genitive-dative by placing the article lui before the noun: lui Brâncuși (of/to Brâncuși); the same applies to feminine names only when they don't have a typically feminine ending: lui Carmen.
In usual genitival phrases such as numele trandafirului (the name of the rose), the genitive is only recognized by the specific ending (-lui in this example) and no other words are necessary. However, in other situations, usually if the noun modified by the genitive attribute is indefinite, the genitival article is required, as for example in câteva opere ale scriitorului (some of the writer's works).
Romanian dative phrases exhibit clitic doubling similar to that in Spanish, in which the noun in the dative is doubled by a pronoun. The position of this pronoun in the sentence depends on the mood and tense of the verb. For example, in the sentence Le dau un cadou părinților (I give a present to [my] parents), the pronoun le doubles the noun părinților without bringing any additional information.
As specified above, the vocative case in Romanian has a special form for most nouns. The tendency in contemporary Romanian is to use the nominative forms, however. The traditional vocative is retained in speech, however, especially in informal speech, or by people living in the countryside. It is seen as a mark of unrefined speech by the majority of city-dwellers, who refrain from its usage. The forms of the vocative are as follows. (Note that the vocative does not have both definite and indefinite forms. The following rules are to be applied for the indefinite form of the nouns):
Here are some examples of nouns completely inflected.
|With a definite article|
|Without a definite article|
An often cited peculiarity of Romanian, which it shares with Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-Romanian, is that, unlike all other Romance languages, the definite articles are attached to the end of the noun as enclitics (as in Bulgarian, Macedonian, Albanian, and North Germanic languages) instead of being placed in front. These enclitic definite articles are believed to have been formed, as in other Romance languages, from Latin demonstrative pronouns. The table below shows the generally accepted etymology of the Romanian definite article.
|Lat. acc. illum|
→ Rom. -lu → -l, -le
|Lat. nom. illī|
→ Rom. -l'i → -i
|Lat. acc. illam|
→ Rom. -euă → -eau → -a
|Lat. nom. illae|
→ Rom. -le
|Lat. dat. illui|
→ Rom. -lui
|Lat. gen. illōrum|
→ Rom. -lor
|L. dat. illī, influenced by cui|
→ Rom. -ei
|L. gen. illōrum (gender distinction lost)|
→ Rom. -lor
The Romanian indefinite article, unlike the definite article, is placed before the noun, and has likewise derived from Latin:
|Lat. acc. ūnum|
→ Rom. un
|Lat. nescio quid|
→ Rom. niște
|Lat. acc. ūnam|
→ Rom. o
|Lat. nescio quid|
→ Rom. niște
|Lat. dat. ūnī, infl. by cui|
→ Rom. unui
|Lat. gen. ūnōrum|
→ Rom. unor
|Lat. gen./dat. ūnae, infl. by cui|
→ Rom. unei
|Lat. gen. ūnōrum (gender distinction lost)|
→ Rom. unor
(The Latin phrase nescio quid means "I don't know what".)
Nouns in the vocative case cannot be determined by an indefinite article.
Examples of indefinite article usage:
When a noun is determined by an adjective, the normal word order is noun + adjective, and the article (definite or indefinite) is appended to the noun. However, the word order adjective + noun is also possible (and mostly used for emphasis on the adjective), in which pattern the article and any case marker that may be present is applied to the adjective instead. Examples follow.
There are situations in Romanian when the noun in the genitive requires the presence of the so-called genitival (or possessive) article (see for example the section "Genitive" in "Romanian nouns"), somewhat similar to the English preposition of, for example in a map of China. In Romanian this becomes o hartă a Chinei, where "a" is the genitival article. The table below shows how the genitival articles depend on gender and number.
The genitival article also has genitive/dative forms, which are used only with a possessive pronoun. They are: alui (m. sg.), alei (f. sg.), and alor (pl., both genders). These forms are rarely used—especially the singular ones—and the sentences are usually rephrased to avoid them.
Romanian adjectives determine the quality of things. They can only fulfill the syntactical functions of attribute and of adjectival complement, which in Romanian is called nume predicativ (nominal predicative).
Adjectives in Romanian inflect for number and gender (but not case). There are adjectives that have distinct forms for all combinations, others that don't distinguish gender, and a few that don't distinguish either gender or number.
The adjective frumos (beautiful) has two endings, and four inflected forms. (see above table)
The adjective verde (green) on the other hand, has one ending and two inflected forms.
The foreign borrowed adjective oranj (orange) is called invariable, as it has only one ending, and one inflected form. Adjectives that do not have only one inflected form (and thus one ending) are called variable.
Syntactical functions of the adjective can be:
An adjective also can have degrees of comparison.
Personal pronouns come in four different cases, depending on their usage in the phrase.
There are eight personal pronouns (pronume personale) in Romanian:
The pronouns above are those in the nominative case. They are usually omitted in Romanian unless required to disambiguate the meaning of a sentence. Usually, the verb ending provides information about the subject. The feminine forms of plural pronouns are only used for groups of persons or items of exclusively female gender. If the group contains elements of both genders, the masculine form is used. Pronouns in the vocative case in Romanian, which is used for exclamations, or summoning, also take the forms of the nominative case.
|First person||(pe) mine||mă||(pe) noi||ne|
|Second person||(pe) tine||te||(pe) voi||vă|
|Third person||Masc.||(pe) el||îl||(pe) ei||îi|
|Fem.||(pe) ea||o||(pe) ele||le|
The stressed form of the pronoun is used (in phrases that are not inverted) after the verb, while the unstressed form is employed before the verb. Romanian requires both forms of a pronoun to be present in a sentence, if a relative clause is employed, which also reverses the order of the forms (stressed before unstressed). Otherwise, the stressed form is usually left out, the only exception being its usage for adding emphasis to the pronoun.
|Possessor||Singular||First person||al meu||a mea||al meu||ai mei||ale mele||ale mele|
|Second person||al tău||a ta||al tău||ai tăi||ale tale||ale tale|
|Third person||Masc.||al lui||a lui||al lui||ai lui||ale lui||ale lui|
|Fem.||al ei||a ei||al ei||ai ei||ale ei||ale ei|
|Plural||First person||al nostru||a noastră||al nostru||ai noștri||ale noastre||ale noastre|
|Second person||al vostru||a voastră||al vostru||ai voștri||ale voastre||ale voastre|
|Third person||al lor||a lor||al lor||ai lor||ale lor||ale lor|
Notice particularly the retention of the genitive inflection in the third person: the pronoun, like Latin eius, eorum, inflects according to the possessor, not the possessed.
These are the forms of the reflexive pronouns (pronume reflexive):
|First person||pe mine / mă||pe noi / ne||mie / îmi||nouă / ne|
|Second person||pe tine / te||pe voi / vă||ție / îți||vouă / vă|
|Third person||pe sine / se||sieși / își|
The above reflexive pronouns are in the accusative and dative cases, and in both stressed / unstressed forms. As is made clear, the reflexive pronouns are identical to the personal pronouns, with the exception of the 3rd person, which has entirely new forms. The genitival forms of the reflexive pronouns are the same for the 1st and 2nd persons, but also differ in the 3rd person singular, which is al său. This is a direct continuation of Latin usage; Latin suus was used only when the possessor was the subject of the sentence.
The polite pronouns (pronumele de politețe) are a way of addressing someone formally. They are normally used for interaction with strangers, or by children talking to adults whom they don't know well, or to teachers as a sign of respect. When used in the plural, the second person pronoun is a polite one, for use in formal occasions, or among unacquainted adults, whereas its singular forms are less polite, their use having become pejorative in modern use (see below).
The polite pronouns were derived from old Romanian phrases used for addressing the sovereign, such as Domnia Ta, Domnia Voastră, Domnia Lui ("Your Majesty", "Your Majesty (plural)", "His Majesty", literally "Your Reign", etc.). By means of vowel elision, domnia became shortened to dumnea.
The polite pronouns all have the same forms in all cases (the only exception being dumneata, with the genitive/dative form of dumitale), and they exist only in the second and third person, due to their not being used to refer to oneself:
There are a lot of demonstrative pronouns (pronume demonstrative) in Romanian. They are classified as: pronume de apropiere, pronume de depărtare, pronume de diferențiere, pronume de identitate, which mean, respectively, pronouns of proximity, pronouns of remoteness, pronouns of differentiation, and pronouns of identity.
These pronouns describe objects which are either close to the speaker, or farther away from the speaker:
|Pronoun of Proximity||Pronoun of Remoteness|
These pronouns describe objects which are either different from an aforementioned object, or one and the same:
|Pronoun of Differentiation||Pronoun of Identity|
Pronumele relative și interogative, these two types of pronouns are identical in form, but differ in usage. The relative pronouns are used to connect relative clauses to their main clause, whereas interrogative pronouns are used to form questions. The interrogative pronouns are usually written out with a question mark after them, to differentiate them from their relative counterparts.
The most common relative/interrogative pronouns are
|Relative Pronoun||cine||(a/al/ai/ale) cui||care||pe care||ce||(a/al/ai/ale) cărui(a)/cărei(a)/căror(a)|
|English translation||who||(whose), to whom||which||which/whom||which/whom||(whose), to whom|
Pronumele negative și nehotărâte, these two types of pronouns are used to express negation, as well as indefinite concepts. There are many indefinite pronouns, but only a limited number of negative pronouns.
The most common indefinite pronouns are:
|English translation||much||all||one||other||so much/as much||a little||enough|
The most common negative pronouns are:
|English translation||nobody||nothing||none||to none (of none)|
As in all Romance languages, Romanian verbs are inflected according to person, number, tense, mood, voice. The usual word order in sentences is SVO (Subject - Verb - Object). Romanian verbs are traditionally categorized into four large conjugation groups depending on the ending in the infinitive mood. The actual conjugation patterns for each group are multiple.
In Romanian, adverbs usually determine verbs (but could also modify a clause or an entire sentence) by adding a qualitative description to the action. Romanian adverbs are invariant and are identical in shape (being both homophones and homographs) to the corresponding adjective in its masculine singular form. A remarkable counterexample for this is the adjective-adverb pair bun-bine ("good" (masculine singular) - "well").
Some examples are
The preposition before a noun determines which case the noun must take.
No prepositions take nouns in the nominative case.
The only prepositions that demand the Dative Case, are: grație, datorită, mulțumită, conform, contrar, potrivit, aidoma, asemenea
Other prepositions require the genitive case of nouns. Note that some prepositions of this sort have evolved from phrases with feminine nouns and, as a consequence, require a feminine possessive form when the object is a pronoun; e.g., împotriva mea (against me).
In Romanian there are many interjections, and they are commonly used. Those that denote sounds made by animals or objects are called onomatopee, a form similar to the English language onomatopoeia. Below, some interjections and their approximative equivalent in English are shown.
Within a sentence, interjections can function as attributes, verbal equivalents, or they can be used as filler, which has no syntactical function at all.
Romanian has terminology and rules for phrase syntax, which describes the way simple sentences relate to one another within a single complex sentence. There are many functions a simple sentence may take, their number usually being determined by the number of predicates. It is also noteworthy that Romanian terminology for the terms simple sentence, complex sentence, and phrase is somewhat counterintuitive. The Romanian term propoziție means as much as simple sentence (or clause). To describe a complex sentence (or compound sentence), Romanian uses the word frază, which can cause confusion with the English word phrase, which describes not a complex sentence, but a grouping of words. In consequence, Romanian doesn't have terms for the English noun phrase, or verb phrase, preferring the more commonly understood term predicate for the latter. The former has no formal equivalent in Romanian.
Simple sentences can be of two types: main clauses and subordinate clauses
The main clause, within a complex sentence, does not rely on another sentence to be fully understood. In other words, it has stand-alone meaning. The following example has the verb phrase underlined.
Even though this sentence is long, it is still composed of a single simple sentence, which is a main clause.
A subordinate clause cannot have stand-alone meaning. It relies on a main clause to give it meaning. It usually determines or defines an element of another clause, be it a main clause, or a subordinate one. The following example has the verb phrase underlined, and the element of relation, which is to say, the relative pronoun used to link the two sentences, is bold. The sentences are also separated and numbered.
There are also subordinate clauses other than the relative clause, which is an attributive clause, since it determines a noun, pronoun or numeral, and not a verb phrase. Here is a list of examples illustrating some of the remaining cases:
Direct Object Clause (propoziție subordonată completivă directă):
Indirect Object Clause (propoziție subordonată completivă indirectă):
Subject Clause (propoziție subordonată subiectivă):
Local Circumstantial Object Clause (propoziție subordonată completivă circumstanțială de loc):
Some conjunctions are called coordinating because they do not define the type of clause introduced. Rather, they coordinate an existing clause with another, making the new clause of the same type as the other one. The coordinating conjunctions are of four types (note that the list is not exhaustive):
An example of two main clauses (1, 2) linked together by a coordinative conjunction (bold) is:
Two subordinate clauses (2, 3) can also be joined to the same end:
The same effect of two main clauses (1, 2) being tied together can also be achieved via juxtaposition of the sentences using a comma: