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An Introduction to the Romanian Language
This is an introduction to the Romanian language. It is based on the book "Parlons Roumain" by Gilbert Fabre (ISBN 9782738407849), and on The Romanian Grammar by Dana Cojocaru, a complete reference to the syntax of the Romanian language.

This summary is incomplete: It focuses on some fundamental things, and leaves out much of the complexity of the language on purpose. By reading this essay, you accept that the author does not accept any responsibility for the completeness or correctness of this summary. If you find an error in this essay, the author would be grateful for a note.

Pronunciation

Most of the letters in the Romanian alphabet are pronounced as in the IPA. Those that are not are listed here:
Letter Pronunciation
ă[ə] (Schwa sound)
â[ɨ] (a dark 'i')
c[k]
c +i[tʃ]
c +e[tʃ]
ch[k]
e[ɛ] (between open and closed 'e')
e[yɛ] (at the beginning of forms of "to be" and "el")
g[g]
g +i[dʒ]
g +e[dʒ]
gh[g]
h[h]
+ i[j] (palatization of the preceding sound, if 'i' appears at the end of a word after a consonant)
î[ɨ] (a dark 'i', identical to 'â', but used at beginning and end of a word)
j[ʒ]
r(rolled r)
s[s]
ș[ʃ]
ț[ts]
x[ks]
z[z]

Vowels have the following "strengths": ă/a/â>o>e>u>i. When two of them meet, the stronger one is pronounced, and the weaker one becomes a semi-vowel.

Phonetic Changes

The ending of a word changes with the declination of the word. This has the an influence on the stem vowel of the word. If the final vowel is more or less closed ('e', 'i', 'a'), then stem vowel also becomes more closed:
Stem vowel Final vowel New stem vowel
-a- -e -e-
masă (=table) mese (=tables)
-a- -i -ă-
barcă (=boat) bărci (=boats)
-ă- -e or -i -e-
număr (=number) numere (=numbers)
cumpăr (=I buy) cumperi (=you buy)
-â- -e or -i -i-
cuvânt (=word) cuvinte (=words)
vând (=I sell) vinzi (=you sell)
-o- -a -u-
torn (=I pour) turna (=I pour)(=to pour)
-ea- -e or -i -e-
fereastra (=window) ferestre (=windows)
seară (=evening) seri (=evenings)
-oa- -i -o-
floare (=flower) flori (=flowers)

If the final vowel is more or less open ('ă', 'e'), then stem vowel also becomes more open:

Stem vowel Final vowel New stem vowel
-ă- -a-
spăl (=I wash) spală (=he washes)
-e- -ea-
aștept (=I wait) așteaptă (=he waits)
-o- -ă or -e -oa-
frumos (=pretty) frumoasă (=pretty(f))
torn (=I pour) să toarne (=to pour(subj))

If the final vowel is 'i', the final consonant gets softened or removed

Final consonant Final vowel New final consonant
-d- -i -z-
stradă (=street) strazi (=streets)
-t- -i -ț-
perete (=wall) pereți (=walls)
-z- -i -j-
grumaz (=neck) grumaji (=necks)
-sc- -i or -e -șt-
românesc (=romanian) românești (=on romanian)
iubesc (=I love) iubești (=you love)
-s- -i -ș-
frumos (=pretty) frumoși (=pretty (pl))
artist (=artist) artiști (=artists)
astru (=star) aștri (=stars)
-l or -n -i (none)
cal (=horse) cai (=horses)
pun (=I put) pui (=you put)

In general, the combination "ă+a" becomes "a":

Nouns

In Romanian, every noun belongs to one of 3 genders: male, female, and neuter. Every noun can be declined orthogonally

Male Nouns

Male nouns form the plural by making the last vowel '-i'. To make the form definite, we append '-ul' (singular) or '-i' (plural). We say "un X" to say "an X", and "doi X" to say "two X".
Indefinite Definite
Singularun pantof (=a shoe)pantoful (=the shoe)
Pluraldoi pantofi (=two shoes)pantofii (=the shoes)
If the noun ends in '-e', the definite singular adds '-le' rather than '-ul'. Hence, the forms are:
Indefinite Definite
Singularun perete (=a wall)peretele (=the wall)
Pluraldoi pereți (=two walls)pereții (=the walls)
The phonetic changes are observed. Examples are: Exceptions are:

Female Nouns

For female nouns, the plural is formed in general by replacing the final vowel by 'i'. The definite form is built by appending '-a' (singular) or '-le' (plural). We say "o X" to say "an X", and "două X" to say "two X"
Indefinite Definite
Singularo ușă (=a door)ușa (=the door)
Pluraldouă uși (=two doors)ușile (=the doors)
Examples are:

If the word ends in '-a' or '-i', the plural is formed by appending by '-le'. The definite form is built by appending '-ua' (singular) or by appending again '-le' (for plural).

Indefinite Definite
Singularo zi (=a day)ziua (=the day)
Pluraldouă zile (=two days)zilele (=the days)
In words ending in '-ea', the 'a' is removed completely. Hence, it's

Some words ending in 'ă' build the plural in '-e':

Indefinite Definite
Singularo casă (=a house)casa (=the house)
Pluraldouă case (=two houses)casele (=the houses)
There are some other forms. One exception is: o mână - două mâini (=hand)

Neuter Nouns

Neuter nouns behave like male nouns in the singular, and like female nouns in the plural. Consequently, we say "un X" and "două X". The plural is formed in general by appending 'uri' (and avoiding a double 'u'):
Indefinite Definite
Singularun tren (=a train)trenul (=the train)
Pluraldouă trenuri (=two trains)trenurile (=the trains)
Examples:

Some neuter nouns form their plural by making the last vowel '-e':

Indefinite Definite
Singularun oraș (=a city)orașul (=the city)
Pluraldouă orașe (=two cities)orașele (=the cities)
Examples are: There are some other plural forms. One exceptions is: un cap, două capete; capul, capetele (=head).

Other casi

A noun (singular or plural, definite or indefinite) can be put into dative form. The dative form is identical to the genitive form. The vocative takes a different form. This summary does not treat any of these forms.

Demonstrative

The demonstrative article is:
Male Neuter Female
Singularcelcelcea
Pluralceicelecele

Adjectives

Like nouns, adjectives have forms for gender (male, female, neuter) and number (plural, singular). An adjective has to be in the same gender and number as the noun that it modifies. There are 3 types of adjectives: 4-form adjectives, 3-form adjectives, and 2-form adjectives.

Declination

4-form Adjectives

The forms are as follows (here for "bun" (=good)):
Male Neuter Female
Singularbun bun bună
Plural buni bune bune
The neuter adjective behaves like male in singular, and like female in plural.

The phonetic changes apply: frumos, frumoasă, frumoși, frumoase (=pretty).

A trailing '-u' of the male singular form vanishes in all the other forms: albastru, albastră, albastri, albastre (=blue).

Some irregular adjectives are: greu, grea, grei, grele (=heavy, difficult); rău, rea, răi, rele (=bad, evil)

3-form Adjectives

Adjectives ending in '-c', '-g', '-esc', and '-iu' take only 3 forms. These are as follows (here for "mic" (=small)):
Male Neuter Female
Singularmic mic mică
Pluralmici mici mici
Adjectives that end in '-u' take the following forms (here fore "roșu" (=red)):
Male Neuter Female
Singularroșu roșu roșie
Plural roșii roșii roșii
Some more forms exist. An irregular exception is: nou, nouă, noi (=new)

2-form Adjectives

Adjectives that end in '-e' take only two forms, one for singular and one for plural (here for "mare" (=big)):
Male Neuter Female
Singularmare mare mare
Plural mari mari mari
Adjectives that end in '-i' also take only two forms, one for female singular, and one for all the others (here for "vechi" (=old)):
Male Neuter Female
Singularvechi vechi veche
Plural vechivechivechi
Some adjectives also take only one form.

Comparatives

Superiority

To say "more ADJ than NOUN", we use "mai ADJ ca NOUN". Examples: It is also possible to use "decât" instead of "ca".

Equality

To say "as ADJ as NOUN", we use "tot așa de ADJ ca NOUN". Examples: It is also possible to use "tot atât de" or "la fel de" instead of "tot așa de", or "si" instead of "ca".

Inferiority

To say "less ADJ than NOUN", we use "mai puțin ADJ ca NOUN". Examples:

Superlatives

To say "the most ADJ NOUN", we use "NOUN cel* mai ADJ". Here, "cel*" adapts to the noun in gender and number, as described previously. Examples: To say "the least", we use "NOUN cel* mai puțin ADJ".

Pronouns

Pronouns, like nouns, can be put into a number (singular and plural), a gender (male, female), and a casus (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative).

Nominative

In nominative (the standard form), the pronouns take the following form:
Singular Plural
1st personeu noi
2nd persontu voi
3rd person maleel ei
3rd person femaleea ele
The third person is exactly like the demonstrative article without the 'c'.

If the pronouns are used with a preposition, "eu" becomes "mine" and "tu" becomes "tine". (The pronoun is technically a stressed accusative, then)

The polite form for addressing strangers is "dumneavoastră". It goes with the second person plural:

Accusative

In accusative, the pronouns take the following forms:
Singular Plural
1st personne
2nd personte
3rd person maleîl îi
3rd person femaleo le
The accusative is used when the pronoun is the direct object of a verb: The accusative is also used when the direct object of the verb is a person. Then the sentence takes the form "PRON VERB pe PERSON", where the pronoun adjusts to the person in gender and number: If the pronoun is followed by forms of "a avea" (=to have), vowels with accents go away:

Dative

In dative, the pronouns take the following forms:
Singular Plural
1st personîmi ne
2nd personîți
3rd person maleîi le
3rd person femaleîi le
The dative is used with the indirect object of a verb: If combined with forms of "a avea" (=to have), vowels with accents go away:

Possessive

Pronouns can also express possession. The basic forms depend on the gender and number of the owner:
Singular Plural
1st personmeu (=my) nostru (=our)
2nd persontău (=your)vostru (=your)
3rd person malelui (=his)lor (=their)
3rd person femaleei (=her)lor (=their)
The owned object takes its definite form, and the possessive pronoun follows. For example, we say: Possessive pronouns work like adjectives and adjust in number and gender to the owned object (unless the owner is third person, in which case there is no adjustment):
Singular Plural
Male-u -i
Neuter-u -e
Female-a -e
The usual phonetic changes are observed, and 'e/ă'+'e'='ele'. So the forms are:

Demonstrative

The most important pronoun is maybe "this":
Singular Plural
Maleăsta ăștia
Neuterăsta astea
Femaleasta astea
Since one refers mostly to "this thing", the most common form is simply "asta" (=this).

Other important pronouns are

Interrogative

The following pronouns are used to ask: Examples are:

Numbers

0-10

The numbers from 0 to 10 are:
  1. unu ("un" before male and neuter nouns, "o" before female nouns)
  2. doi ("două" before female nouns)
  3. trei
  4. patru
  5. cinci
  6. șase
  7. șapte
  8. opt
  9. nouă
  10. zece
"Unu" and "doi" take the gender of the noun they modify. Therefore, one says:

11-19

The numbers 11-19 take the form "X spre zece" , where X is the last digit of the number. This means "X on ten":
  1. unsprezece
  2. doisprezece (or "douăsprezece" before female nouns)
  3. treisprezece
  4. paisprezece
  5. cincisprezece
  6. șaisprezece
  7. șaptesprezece
  8. optsprezece
  9. nouăsprezece

20-99

The numbers of the form "X0" take the form "X zeci". This means "X [times] ten", because "zeci" is the plural form of "zece" (=ten): Since "zece" is female, we say "douăzeci" and not "doizeci".

To form the numbers "XY" with X>1 we say "X zeci și Y":

When combined with a noun, the numbers between 20 and 99 take a supplementary " de ":

100 - 999

One hundred means "o sută". The plural is "sute". We build the numbers 100-999 by first counting the hundreds, and then appending the remainder. If the 10-position is 0, we still add the "și":

1000 - 999,999

One thousand means "o mie", and the plural is "mii". We say the numbers 1000-999,999 by first counting the thousands, and then appending the remainder:

Verbs

Romanian verbs are conjugated along the following dimensions: They can also be conjugated in voice and other dimensions, which this summary does not treat.

Verbs in -a

Verbs that end in '-a' are conjugated as follows (here for "a chema" (=to call))
Singular Plural
1st personeu chem noi chemăm
2nd persontu chemi voi chemați
3rd personel/ea chemăei chemă
The main characteristics of this conjugation is that the 3rd person is the same in singular and plural.

If the verb ends in "-ra" or "-la" (e.g., "a intra" (=to enter)), the first person singular adds an "-u" ("eu intru"), because otherwise the form would be hard to pronounce ("eu intr").

Some verbs insert "-ez-" in all forms except plural first and second person (here for "a lucra" (=to work))

Singular Plural
1st personeu lucrez noi lucrăm
2nd persontu lucrezi voi lucrați
3rd personel/ea lucreazăei lucrează
If the stem ends in '-g' or '-c', we have to insert an 'h' in order to prevent the 'g' from being pronounced as [dʒ]: a parca, eu parchez, tu parchezi,... (=to park, I park, you park,...).

The participle is formed by appending 't': lucrat

Verbs in -ea and -e

Verbs ending in '-ea' and '-e' conjugate as follows (here for "a vedea" (=to see)):
Singular Plural
1st personeu văd noi vedem
2nd persontu vezi voi vedeți
3rd personel/ea vedeei văd

The main characteristic of this conjugation is that the 1st person singular and the 3rd person plural are identical. If the stem of the verb ends in a vowel or in a a consonant combined with 'l' or 'r', then these two forms append an '-u': a scrie, eu scriu (=to write, I write; a umple, eu umplu (=to fill up, I fill up).

Phonetic changes imply that "a potea" (=to be able to) is conjugated as follows: eu pot, tu poți, el poate, noi putem, voi puteți, ei pot

The participle is formed by removing '-ea' or '-e' and appending '-ut': vedut.
Verbs ending in '-c-' or '-g-' form the participle by removing that consonant and the ending vowels, and appending '-s': a aduce, adus; a înțelege, înțeles (=to understand). Some other variants exist.

Verbs in -i

Verbs ending in '-i' conjugate as follows (here for "a dormi" (=to sleep)):
Singular Plural
1st personeu dorm noi dormim
2nd persontu dormi voi dormiți
3rd personel/ea doarmeei dorm
Again, the 1st person singular and the 3rd person plural are identical.

Some verbs insert '-esc-' in all forms except plural first and second person (here for "a dori" (=to wish))

Singular Plural
1st personeu doresc noi dorim
2nd persontu dorești voi doriți
3rd personel/ea doreșteei doresc

The participle is built by appending '-t': dormit, a coborî – coborât;

Irregular verbs

To have

The basic forms of "a avea" (=to have) are
Singular Plural
1st personeu am noi avem
2nd persontu ai voi aveți
3rd personel aei au
These forms mean simply "I have", "you have", etc.

The participle is "avut"

To be

The verb "a fi" (=to be) conjugates as follows:
Singular Plural
1st personeu sunt noi suntem
2nd persontu ești voi sunteți
3rd personel eei sunt
The participle is "fost"

To give, to stay, to take

The verbs "a da" (=to give) and "a sta" (=to stay) conjugate as follows:
Singular Plural
1st personeu dau noi dăm
2nd persontu dai voi dați
3rd personel dăei dau
The verb "a lua" (=to take) conjugates in the same way, just that the initial 'l' becomes an 'i' in all forms except first and second plural: eu iau, tu iei, el ia, noi luăm, voi luați, ei iau.

The participles are regular: dat, stat, luat

To come

The basic forms of "a veni" (=to come) are
Singular Plural
1st personeu vin noi venim
2nd persontu vii voi veniţi
3rd personel vineei vin
These forms mean simply "I have", "you have", etc.

The participle is "venit"

To drink and to want

Fittingly, the verbs "a vrea" (=to want) and "a bea" (=to drink) are conjugated in the same way:
Singular Plural
1st personeu beau noi bem
2nd persontu bei voi beți
3rd personel beaei beau

The participles are: vrut and băut

To eat

The verb "a mânca" (=to eat) conjugates as follows:
Singular Plural
1st personeu mănânc noi mâncăm
2nd persontu mănânci voi mâncați
3rd personel mănâncăei mănânca
As always with verbs in '-a', the third person singular and plural are identical. The participle is "mâncat".

To know

The verb "a ști" (=to know) conjugates as follows:
Singular Plural
1st personeu știu noi știm
2nd persontu știi voi știți
3rd personel știeei știu
As always with verbs in '-i', the first person singular and the third person plural are identical. The participle is "știut".

Composed forms

Perfect

The perfect tense is built combining the participle with the "shortened form" of "a avea", which is equivalent to the indicative form after removing "-ve-":
Singular Plural
1st personam datam dat
2nd person ai datați dat
3rd person a datau dat

Conditional

The conditional form is built combining the infinitive with modified forms of "a avea":
Singular Plural
1st personeu vrea noi am vrea
2nd persontu ai vreavoi ați vrea
3rd personel ar vreaei ar vrea

Future tense

The future tense is built by saying "o să VERB", where the verb is conjugated as usual:

Vocabulary

Prepositions and Conjunctions

Important conjunctions are:

Important prepositions are: