Romanian Language/Grammar

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Romanian grammar

This article on Romanian nouns is related to Romanian grammar and belongs to a series of articles on the Romanian language. It describes the morphology of the noun in this language, and includes details about its declension according to number, case, and application of the definite article, all of which depend on specific gender and plural formation rules.

Gender[edit]

An intrinsic property of Romanian nouns, as in all Romance languages, is their gender. However, while most Romance languages have only two genders, masculine and feminine, Romanian has also a so-called neuter. In Latin, the neuter is a separate gender, requiring all determiners to have three distinct forms, such as the adjective bona, bonus, bonum (meaning good). Comparatively, Romanian neuter is a combination of the other two genders. More specifically, in Romanian, neuter nouns behave in the singular as masculine nouns and in the plural as feminine nouns. As such, all noun determiners and all pronouns only have two possible gender-specific forms instead of three. From this perspective, it's possible to say that in Romanian there are really just two genders, masculine and feminine, and the category labeled as neuter contains nouns whose gender switches with the number.

Depending on gender, otherwise similar nouns will inflect differently. For example, the nouns "câine" (dog, compare Latin canis) and "pâine" (bread, compare Latin panis) have phonetically identical endings in the main form (nominative singular), but the former is a masculine noun, while the latter is feminine. For this reason, when inflected they behave in very different manners:

  • definite article: "câinele" (the dog) - "pâinea" (the bread);
  • plural, with definite article: "câinii" (the dogs) - "pâinile" (the loaves of bread);
  • genitive/dative: "câinelui" (of/to the dog) - "pâinii" (of/to the bread).

Also, the gender of a noun determines the morphology of most determiners, such as articles, adjectives, demonstratives, numerals. The two nouns taken as examples above will give:

  • indefinite article: "un câine" (a dog) - "o pâine" (a loaf of bread);
  • adjective: "câine alb" (white dog) - "pâine albă" (white bread);
  • determinative demonstrative: "acest câine" (this dog) - "această pâine" (this bread);
  • determinative possessive pronoun: "câinele meu" (my dog) - "pâinea mea" (my bread);
  • cardinal numeral: "doi câini" (two dogs) - "două pâini" (two loaves of bread), etc.

While in many cases assigning the correct gender may be facilitated by the noun ending or meaning, the distinction is usually difficult for those learning Romanian as a second language. For natives, the one-two test is practically infallible: Saying "un câine - doi câini" makes it clear, by the form of the determining numerals, that "câine" is masculine. When the numerals take the forms "o ... - două ..." the noun in question is feminine, and finally the forms "un ... - două ..." are indicative of a neuter noun.

Gender assignment: phonetic[edit]

The following phonetic rules can be used, to some degree, to infer the grammatical gender for nouns when these are in their nominative singular form, and without any determiner that could help in recognizing the gender.

  • Nouns ending in a consonant or in vowel or semivowel u are almost always masculine or neuter:
    • masculine: "om" (man, human being), "copil" (child), "bou" (ox, bull);
    • neuter: "ac" (needle), "drum" (road), "ou" (egg), "lucru" (thing, job);
    • feminine proper nouns of foreign origin or diminutives: "Carmen", "Corinuș" (diminutive from "Corina"), "Catrinel", "Lulu."
  • Nouns ending in ă are feminine with very few exceptions:
    • feminine: "fată" (girl), "piatră" (stone), "haină" (coat);
    • masculine: "tată" (father), "popă" (priest);
  • Nouns ending in stressed a (including those ending in stressed ea or ia) are feminine:
    • "sofa" (sofa), "cafea" (coffee), "nuia" (wicker).
  • Nouns ending in e are generally feminine, but many masculine and a few neuter exceptions exist:
    • feminine: "carte" (book), "femeie" (woman), "mare" (sea), "cheie" (key);
    • masculine: "frate" (brother), "iepure" (hare, rabbit), "perete" (wall);
    • neuter: "nume" (name).
  • Nouns ending in i are mostly masculine or neuter, with some feminine exceptions:
    • masculine: "ochi" (eye), "pui" (chicken), "unchi" (uncle);
    • neuter: "unghi" (angle), "ceai" (tea), "cui" (nail), "nai" (Pan's pipe);
    • feminine: "zi" (day), "tanti" (aunt).

These rules can be further refined when the noun is recognized as being derived from other words by use of specific endings, as follows:

  • Masculine nouns:
    • -ist: "chimist" (chemist), "jurnalist" (journalist);
    • -an, -ian: "american" (American), "fizician" (physicist);
    • -or, -tor: "profesor" (teacher, professor), "muncitor" (worker);
    • -ez: "englez" (Englishman), "chinez" (Chinese);
    • -ar: "demnitar" (statesman), "fierar" (blacksmith);
    • others: "geamgiu" (glazier), "paznic" (guard), "frizer" (hairdresser), "român" (Romanian), etc.
  • Neuter nouns:
    • -ism: "capitalism" (capitalism), "arhaism" (archaism);
    • -ment, -mânt: "amuzament" (amusement), "abonament" (subscription), "învățământ" (education) - but "ferment" (ferment) is masculine;
    • -ut, -it, -at, derived from the past participle of verbs: "început" (beginning), "trecut" (past), "sfârșit" (end), "morărit" (milling), "uscat" (land), "oftat" (sigh);
    • -aj: "sondaj" (poll), "garaj" (garage), "afișaj" (display).
  • Feminine nouns:
    • -oare, -toare: "onoare" (honor), "înotătoare" (swimmer) - but "soare" is masculine;
    • -are, -ere, -ire, -âre, derived from the long infinitive of verbs: "salvare" (ambulance), "plăcere" (pleasure), "amintire" (recollection), "hotărâre" (decision);
    • -siune/tiune, abstract nouns: "emisiune" (broadcast, TV show), "versiune" (version), "dimensiune" (dimension), "chestiune" (question);
    • -tate, abstract nouns: "libertate" (liberty, freedom), "greutate" (difficulty), "calitate" (quality), "rapiditate" (quickness);
    • -tudine, abstract nouns: "longitudine" (longitude),"latitudine" (latitude);
    • others: "bucurie" (joy), etc.

Article[edit]

Indefinite article[edit]

Indefinite article endings
Masculine Neuter Feminine Plural
Nominative un un o unii/ele, niște
Accusative un un o unii/ele, niște
Dative unui unui unei unor
Genitive unui unui unei unor