Well, I feel obliged to add some more elixir of youth, so I am about to pour myself a strong coffee, and get stuck into revision on Romanian verbs. I might make it an Irish coffee, because drinking in many languages keeps you youthful too.
Now, exactly how many conjugation groups there are with Romanian verbs is a matter of … well, let’s call it learned speculation. It all depends how you most efficiently categorise the many slightly irregular verbs, and different teachers do it in different ways. For example,
- Romanian, An Essential Grammar by Ramona Gönczöl (published in 2008 by Routledge) says there were traditionally four, but now there are eleven sets of conjugations.
- Conjugarea Verbelor Româneşti by Ana-Maria Barbu (2013, eDidactica) divides the verbs into the following:
- Conjugation I (split into 12 groups)
- Conjugation II-a (split into four groups)
- Conjugation III-a (split into eight groups)
- Conjugation IV-a (split into 13 groups)
When I did my summer language course in Romania in 2013 our excellent teacher tried to keep it simple for us, so rather than go into 11 conjugations, or four conjugations and 37 groups (!!!), I will use my revision notes from the course.
VERB CONJUGATION, PRESENT TENSE
In Romanian, verbs in their infinitive form end in one of three letters – a, e or i – and each one has two possible conjugations so all up you have to learn by heart six sequences of endings for the present tense. (Then I added, somewhat optimistically: Plus, of course, there will be irregular ones). Some examples of infinitives are:
- a lucra, to work; a spune, to say; a vorbi, to speak
These verbs take either the -EZ set of endings or what we might call the ∅ or zero suffix. There are no particular clues as to which verb takes which ending. The -a of the infinitive is dropped to form a stem and the following suffixes are added to it.
PRONOUN EZ ENDINGS ∅ ENDINGS
eu (I) -ez -∅ (no suffix)
tu (you) -ezi -i
el/ea (he/she) -ează -ă
noi (we) -ăm -ăm
voi (you) -aţi -aţi
ei/ele (they) -ează -ă
- Note how with -a verbs the endings for the third persons singular (el/ea) and plural (ei/ele) are the same.
- Where you see the t with a curl under it as in -aţi it is hissed and the i after it is silent (so it sounds a bit like the last bit of “psssst!” in English).
Let’s conjugate a lucra, (to work, which is lucrative for some) and a cânta, to sing. Our stems are lucr- and cânt-
eu (I) lucrez cânt
tu (you) lucrezi cânti
el/ea (he/she) lucrează cântă
noi (we) lucrăm cântăm
voi (you) lucraţi cântaţi
ei/ele (they) lucrează cântă
This group of verbs appears to be much simpler. They all take the ∅ endings except for a scrie (to write) which has a -u component – the u is inserted where normally there is no suffix.
PRONOUN -U ENDINGS ∅ ENDINGS
eu (I) -u -∅ (no suffix)
tu (you) -i -i
el/ea (he/she) -e -e
noi (we) -em -em
voi (you) -eţi -eţi
ei/ele (they) -u -∅ (no suffix)
- Note, with -e verbs,the first person singular and third person plural endings are the same.
Let’s put this into practice now comparing a scrie with the verbs a face, (to do or make), so our stems are scri- and fac-
eu (I) scriu fac
tu (you) scrii faci
el/ea (he/she) scrie face
noi (we) scriem facem
voi (you) scrieţi faceţi
ei/ele (they) scriu fac
These verbs either take the ∅ endings or -esc endings, and again there are no discernible patterns as to which of the two options it might be, you just have to learn by heart which takes what.
PRONOUN -ESC ENDINGS ∅ ENDINGS
eu (I) -esc ∅
tu (you) -eşti -i
el/ea (he/she) -eşte -e
noi (we) -im -im
voi (you) -iţi -iţi
ei/ele (they) -esc ∅
- Note, as with -e verbs, with -i verbs, the first person singular and third person plural endings are the same.
Let’s have a go using a vorbi (to speak) and a fugi, (to run), so our stems are vorb- and fug-
eu (I) vorbesc fug
tu (you) vorbeşti fugi
el/ea (he/she) vorbeşte fuge
noi (we) vorbim fugim
voi (you) vorbiţi fugiţi
ei/ele (they) vorbesc fug
While this may seem a lot to learn, the first and second persons plural (noi şi voi) are very easy to remember.
- With -a verbs, the respective noi and voi endings are -ăm and -aţi
- With -e verbs, the respective noi and voi endings are -em and -eţi
- With -i verbs, the respective noi and voi endings are -im and -iţi
You will notice, too, that the ∅ endings are pretty similar across the -a, -e or -i verbs, apart from the change of vowel.
So, how was that, eh? I bet you feel rejuvenated and mentally alert after digesting all that brain fodder. You may even be craving more Romanian verbs, in which case you’ll find a fi (to be) and a avea (to have) up there in my Verbs drop-down menu.
Noapte bună – good night!