Definite and indefinite articles in the main Romance languages

Hello Romance language lovers, here is another revision sheet (I use the tag “revision” for this series), culled and simplified from previous posts. The info has also been put into each language’s Grammar section on the main menu.


indefinite articles

  • un is used with masculine nouns (un livre = a book)
  • une is used with feminine nouns (une plume = a pen)

definite articles

  • le is used with masculine nouns (le père = the father)
  • la is used with feminine nouns (la mère = the mother)
  • l’ is used in front of a vowel (l’enfant = the child)
  • les is used with plurals (les parents = the parents)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in French, go here.




  • um is used with masculine singular nouns (um copo = a cup, glass or tumbler)
  • uma is used with feminine singular nouns (uma cidade = a city)
  • uns is used with masculine plural nouns (uns copos = some cups)
  • umas is used with feminine plural nouns (umas cidades = some cities


  • o is used with masculine singular  nouns (o livro = the book)
  • os is used with masculine plural nouns (os livros = the books
  • a is used with feminine singular nouns (a caneta = the pen)
  • as is used with feminine plural nouns (as canetas = the pens).

NOTE: there is no change with articles in front of a noun beginning with a vowel

  • o amigo = the (male) friend; uma amiga = a female friend

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Portuguese, go here.




  • un is used with masculine singular nouns (un camino = a path)
  • una is used with feminine singular nouns (una ciudad = a city)
  • unos is used with masculine plural nouns (unos caminos = some paths)
  • unas is used with feminine plural nouns (unas ciudades = some cities)


  • el is used with masculine singular nouns (el camino = the path)
  • la is used with feminine singular nouns (la ciudad = the city)
  • los is used with masculine plural nouns (los caminos = the paths)
  • las is used with feminine plural nouns (las ciudades = the cities)

NOTE: Feminine nouns that start with ha or a stressed a take the masculine article in the singular but the feminine in the plural:

  • un arma, el arma, las armas (an arm, the arm/arms, in a military sense)
  • un hacha, el hacha, las hachas (an axe, the axe/axes)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Spanish, go here.




  • un is used with most masculine nouns (un ragazzo = a boy)
  • uno goes with masculine nouns starting with z or s+consonant (uno zio = an uncle, uno sbaglio = a mistake)
  • una goes with feminine nouns starting with a consonant (una ragazza = a girl)
  • un’ goes with feminine nouns starting with a vowel (un’automobile = a car)


  • il is used with most masculine nouns (il ragazzo = the boy)
  • lo is used with masculine nouns beginning with or s+consonant (lo zio = the uncle, lo sbaglio = the mistake)
  • la is used with feminine nouns (la ragazza = the girl)
  • l’ is used instead of lo or la in front of vowels (l’animale = the animal)


  • i goes with most masculine nouns starting with consonants (i ragazzi = the boys)
  • gli is used before any masculine nouns beginning with a vowel, z or  s+consonant (gli amici = the friends, gli zii = the uncles, gli studenti = the students).
  • le is used with feminine nouns, even if they begin with a vowel (le amiche = the female friends, le madri = the mothers).

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Italian, go here and here.



Romanian has masculine, feminine and neuter nouns. Neuter nouns behave like masculine nouns in the singular, but feminine nouns in the plural. The formation of plurals in Romanian is not as simple as in the other Romance languages, there are a number of options depending on whether the noun ends in particular vowels or consonants. Spelling and phonetic changes can occur.


  • un is used with masculine singular nouns (un băiat = a boy)
  • un is used with neuter singular nouns (un timbru = a postage stamp)
  • o is used with feminine singular nouns (o casă = a house)
  • nişte is used with plurals (nişte băieţi = some friends, nişte case = some houses)


The definite article is a suffix (attached to the end of the noun), and again the suffixes can vary depending on what vowels or consonants the noun ends in. And because it is a suffix, the plural forms of nouns taking a definite article will be different to the plural forms used with the indefinite nişte above. Here are some typical examples.

Masculine nouns: the singular suffix is typically –l, –ul or –le, and in the plural it’s i

  • băiat (boy), băiatul (the boy), băieţii (the boys)
  • membru (member), membrul (the member), membrii (the members)
  • unchi (uncle), unchiul (the uncle), unchii (the uncles)
  • munte (mountain), muntele (the mountain), munţii

Feminine nouns: the singular suffix is –a or –ua and in the plural it’s –le

  • fată (girl), fata (the girl), fetele (the girls)
  • blană (fur), blana (the fur), blănurile (the furs)
  • cafea (coffee), cafeaua (the coffee), cafelele (the coffees)

Neuter nouns: the singular suffix is typically –l, –ul or –le, and in the plural it’s always –le.

  • ou (egg), oul (the egg), ouăle (the eggs)
  • vin (wine), vinul (the wine), vinurile (the wines)
  •  tricou (T-Shirt), tricoul (the T-shirt), tricourile (the T-shirts)

For more on nouns and how to use articles in Romanian, go here and here.


Do your head in with the rudiments of Romanian


(Photo credit: Lel4nd)

Some time ago, on August 18th to be precise, I attempted to explain some of the, ahem, logic behind basic Romanian grammar in a post entitled “The quirks of Romania (and Romanian)”. Since then, I have been avoiding the topic. Understandably so. I mean, if I am lucky, I will have 40 more years left to live, and to explain Romanian grammar properly you need at least 400 years, I think. But, you know, there comes a time when a man has gotta do what a man has gotta do, so here goes. Let’s grapple with this great grammatical beast and tame it. Let’s show it who’s the boss. We are! Heads down now, concentrate now, OK?

First I recommend that you read the aforementioned “quirks” on this link here to get some idea of what you are letting yourself in for.

(I am giving you some time and space to do that.)

Now let’s go into specifics. Romanian has three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter.

Masculine nouns: These can be natural masculines (words donating male beings or professions, etc) or simply grammatical ones. Masculine nouns can end in: a variety of consonants (e.g. bărbat – man, portocal – orange tree); in a –u preceded by a either  consonant or vowel (codru – forest, fiu – son, erou – hero, etc), in an –e (rege – king); or an -i (pui – chicken). Very rarely will a masculine noun end in –ă but notable exceptions are tată, popă and papă – father, priest and pope, respectively.

Neuter nouns: these behave like masculine nouns in the singular but feminine in the plural. Thus in the singular they have the same endings as the masculines above – consonant, -u, – ău, -eu, -iu, -ou, -e and -i, but also so words ending in -o as in radio. Neuter nouns are usually inanimate (but inanimate things are not necessarily neuter!). Some examples of neuter words are: timbru – stamp, muzeu – museum, tricou – T-shirt, nume – name, ceai – tea, scaun – chair, and caiet – notebook.

Feminine nouns: These, of course, denote female beings and professions as well as a variety of others. Feminine nouns often end in –ă (fată – girl, casă – house), or in –a without the accent (sarma – stuffed cabbage leaf), in -e (scrisoare – letter), –ie (femeie – woman, familie – family), in –ea or –ia (cafea– coffee, nuia – stick) or in –i (zi = day).

Tetrapanax papyrifer 101010-0604

Some plants can be masculine in Romanian, some feminine. So now you know! (Photo credit: Tony Rodd)

Generally speaking, the months of the year, numbers, letters of the alphabet, many trees, some plants and flowers, the names of most mountains and of some cities (including Bucureşti) are masculine. Most sports, some abstract nouns, materials and matters and general objects are neuter. The names of days, times of the day and seasons are feminine, as are most countries and continents, most fruits, and most names of the arts and sciences. But some flowers, plants, general objects and cities and regions can be feminine.

The indefinite articles in Romanian are un for masculine and neuter words and o for feminine ones (un prieten – a male friend, o prietenă – female friend). As you can see from this, turning a masculine being or profession into the feminine form usually involves adding an ă or replacing a masculine ending such as u with an ă (un membru, o membră – a male and female member, respectively). But sometimes there are other, more complicated female endings, usually including an in them. For example, regionalities and nationalities and suchlike ending in –ian or –ean  will add -că (un belgian, o belgiancă, un ardelean, o ardeleancă – someone from Belgium and from Transylvania, respectively, and note Romanian does not use capital letters here). For other nationalities, often the female addition will be –oaică – hence un englez, an Englisman, becomes o englezoiacă. Romanian will sometimes throw in some sly changes in the middle of the word too, hence un francez, a  Frenchman, becomes the wonderful-sounding o franţuzoaică. You try saying that when you are drunk 🙂 Another common female ending is –iţă after male professions ending in -or/-ar/-er/-ăr (un doctor, o doctoriţă) but –tor male endings change to –toare (un muncitor – male worker, o muncitoare – female worker). Finally, you will also come across the –easă ending (un bucătar – a male cook, o bucătăreasă – a female cook).

All clear? Good!

OK, now let’s go on to the plural forms, still sticking with indefinites (e.g. boys, some boys) rather than the definite (the boys) because in Romanian the definite article is a suffix, at the word ending, and not a prefix in front, so it will have to be dealt with separately.

The masculine plural form is the easiest because it usually ends in –i. That is, consonants add an i (vecin – neighbour, vecini – neighbours), while masculine words ending in -e, -u, -l or replace those endings with an i (leu – lion, lei – lions, and these are also the singular and plural for the Romanian currency; copil – child, copii – children, etc). But masculine singular words that end in –i are usually unchanged in the plural, hence pui -chicken, pui – chickens.

The feminine plural form is more complicated and unfortunately there are no precise rules governing the changes, so they have to be learned by heart. Feminine words ending in –ă can change that ending to –e (casă, case – house, houses), or to -i, often with vowel or consonant changes in the preceding bits (sală, săli – room, rooms; stradă, străzi – street, streets), or to –uri (marfă, mărfuri – product, goods). Some feminine words ending in -e, though, change it to an i in the plural (păine, păini – bread, loaves of bread). When a feminine word ends in –ie, the change depends on whether it is immediately preceded by a vowel or consonant. If it’s a vowel, the –ie is reduced to -i (femeie, femei – woman, women), but if it’s preceded by a consonant than the –ie becomes –ii (familie, familii -family, families). Nouns ending in –a or –ea usually change these to –ale or –ele in the plural (sarma, sarmale – stuffed cabbage roll/rolls; cafea, cafele – coffee, coffees).

The neuter plural, alas, as with the feminine plural, can have different endings and there are no precise rules as to why they do so. But basically it will usually be an –e or –uri ending on one form or another, either an addition or a replacement. When a neuter singular ends in a consonant or an -i, usually one of the two above-mentioned forms will be added (oraş, oraşe – town, towns; joc, jocuri – game, games; tramvai, tramvaie – tram, trams; taxi, taxiuri – taxi, taxis). Singular neuters ending in –u change the ending to either –or –uri (teatru, teatre – theatre, theatres; râurâuri – river, rivers). But some nouns ending in –iu change this to –ii (studiu, studii – study, studies) and some –e words don’t change (nume, nume – name, names).

It all sounds very complicated and I guess in this form it is. But I did find, though, in my three weeks in the country earlier this year, and through listening to Romanian media music before and since, that you soon somehow develop an instinct for what sound or word ending is suitable. So persevere. And if you are not sure of a word, but are familiar with another Romance language, then just say the equivalent word in that Romance language. I found that often my Portuguese disguised as Romanian made me sound quite knowledgeable. You can fool some of the people some of the time. 

I’ll give you a break now and will continue with the topic some time in the next 40 or 400 years, OK?

Vital words for survival in Romania

Soft ice cream

Of all the words I learnt while doing my summer language course in Romania recently, this one was by far the most important: îngheţată. It means ice-cream. The past summer in Europe was very hot at times, and when you are on the go, an ice-cream cone for 2 or 3 lei (that’s the plural of the local currency, the leu) is a quick refresher. On the streets of Sibiu, there were lots of ice-cream machines in the squares and pedestrian alleyways, staffed by bored-looking teenagers. A local explained to me that Romanians had only recently discovered these machines, most of which were from Italy. It seems, though, that Romania hasn’t yet discovered milkshakes. Come on, Romanians, get with it! There is a fortune to be made selling milkshakes during a hot summer. Just get the îngheţată and add lapte (milk). Sometimes ice-cream cones cannot quench a thirst.

Îngheţată is a funny word, quite unlike its equivalents in the other Romance languages covered in this blog; In French, ice-cream is glace, in Italian it is gelato, in Spanish it’s helado, and in Portuguese it is gelado, although in Brazil they tend to use sorvete (prounced ‘sorvetchy’) which is possibly related to sorbet. The Romanian word comes from the verb a îngheţa, meaning to freeze, and îngheţat and îngheţată are the masculine and feminine singular forms of the adjective frozenA îngheţa de frig means, literally, to freeze of cold; in other words, to freeze to death. Cheerful stuff, hey!

Coffee with Sugar

Coffee with sugar. (Photo credit: JB London)

If, like me, you are a coffee drinker, two other important words are fără and zahăr, meaning, repectively, without and sugar. This is because a lot of the coffee in convenience stores and suchlike in Romania is available only from self-service machines, and if you like your coffee sweet, you don’t want to press the fără zahăr button. Your coffee will be yuk! Zahăr extra is more my style. Obviously you get proper coffee at cafes and the more sophisticated outlets, but the machine coffee wasn’t too bad, although I suspect that the fact that I always opted for zahăr extra helped disguise the taste. (The best coffee I have ever had, incidentally, was in Portugal. And I am not talking about one particular cup at a particular cafe, I mean consistently good coffee everywhere.)

Peeping tomI suppose one other important thing to know when you are new to Romania and looking for a toilet is that bărbaţi means men and femei means women. You might expect “men” to be rather like the French hommes or Portuguese homens, and there is a possibility, I suppose, that a women might think that bărbaţi is for, um, barbie girls or something and she will just barge into the gents, so be warned. It is not intuitive. Romanian does have the word om, for man, person or, more colloquially, a guy, and oameni, for people, but doesn’t use those words on toilet doors. Another related word is omenire, meaning mankind. I rather like the word bărbaţi, it sounds masculine and conjures up images of barbers, barbershops, beards and barbarians. I quite like being un bărbat. There is a nice adjective, too, bărbărtesc, meaning manly. The feminine form of this, by the way, in case you want to describe a manly woman, is bărbărtească. Of course, if the toilet uses matchstick men and women signs rather than words then you don’t have to worry about anything unless your eyesight is not particularly good. Talking of signs, I love the one of the Peeping Tom. It is typical bărbărtesc behaviour, don’t you think? 🙂

For immediate results, wait

Sala_de_asteptareOne Romanian word that soon became a favourite among my classmates doing a summer language course in Sibu, Transylvania, was “imediat“. Look it up in a Romanian-English dictionary and you will find that it is both an adjective meaning “immediate”, and an adverb meaning “immediately”. In Romanian, as a general rule, each syllable is given equal stress, so when someone says “imediat” it does sound punchy and emphatic, like they mean it. I can imagine a Romanian sergeant-major bellowing out that word to a terrified subordinate, whereas I can’t really picture an English sergeant-major yelling “immediately”, to the same effect. The English word seems a little lame next to its Romanian counterpart.

However, in practice, as we discovered, “imediat” can have many subtle meanings, depending on the situation. Let’s look at its application in Romanian restaurants, for example.

  • Ask for a menu, and when the waiter (chelner) or waitress (chelneriţă) says “imediat“, this means they will bring it in about five minutes.
  • Having finally been given the menu, you study it and make your choice. Then comes the game of spot the chelner or chelneriţă. They seem to have vanished! Finally one appears in the distance. You wave energetically to indicate that you are ready to give your order. The chelner/ chelneriţă nods and says “imediat” and scurries off to another table. This means they will come back to take your order in about 10 minutes.
  • You are in a hurry and need to eat something quickly. You ask the chelner/ chelneriţă how long it will take to bring a salată or salad. The answer is “imediat“. This means it will take about 15 minutes. Yes, that’s right, 15 minutes to shred some lettuce and chuck some tomatoes and cucumber and maybe some cheese on top of it.
  • Now you are in a real hurry. You have wolfed down your salată and want to pay the notă de plată (bill). You play spot the chelneriţă once again. There she is, scurrying to every other table but yours! You wave once, you wave twice, but she is as blind as un liliac (a bat). Eventually you accost her. You’ve gotta go, you need the bill. Yes, yes, she understands, imediat! This means she will rush over with your bill in about eight minutes.

cartoon-chefI might be exaggerating, I might not. In Romania, like everywhere else, in some places you get great service, in others you don’t. Sibiu is one of Romania’s top tourist destinations, in summer it holds many festivals and more often than not it is packed. In the fortnight I was there, there was a huge international folkloric dance festival and a gothic rock festival, and the place was teeming with tourists. Every night the restaurants and cafes were crowded, and the poor staff were rushed off their feet. Well, most of them, not all. I remember waiting in one restaurant (I was the customer, not a staff member on duty!) for what seemed like an awfully long time for the food to arrive. Our table had a good view of the kitchen and we could see the solitary bucătar (cook) or bucătar-şef (chef) in action. We soon understood why things were a little bit slow. Every now and then when the chelneriţă came in with an order, the bucătar would down tools and gave her a good snog. That’s right, he dropped his tongs and gave her tongue! He lowered his splatter guard and splattered her! He couldn’t keep his oven mitts off her! Still, they do say that food made with love is the tastiest, and that all things come to those who wait…  

To wait in Romanian, you should know, since you might be doing a lot of it, is a aştepta, and a aştepta cu nerăbdare means to look forward to, as in I can hardly wait… although literally it means “to wait with impatience” (răbdare is patience, and răbdător is the adjective meaning patient). From this you should guess that the sala de aşteptare sign at the top of the post is the hospital/doctor waiting room.

To hurry or hurry up is a se grăbi, and if you want to say ‘I am in a hurry’ it is Mă grăbesc. (An easy way to remember this, perhaps, is when you are in a hurry you just grab a bite to eat.)

The moral of the story, I think, is never be in a hurry or impatient in Romania, or anywhere else for that matter. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the moment. And the next moment. The many moments. Say to yourself, Nu pot să mă plăngI can’t complain.

Here’s a song for you. It is has got nothing to do with Romance languages, it just came to mind while I was writing this post.

Pa pa (bye bye)

The quirks of Romania (and Romanian)

Romanian language

Romanian language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My educational holiday in Romania (a two-week language course in Sibiu and a week of travelling elsewhere in the country) has, alas, come to an end. I had envisaged that while I was doing the course I would update this blog frequently, outlining everything I had learnt about the language, but it was not easy. For one thing, the course was intense, and the language is complicated. Furthermore, writing on my slow and simple travelling laptop is very time-consuming, so I just did my revision on pen and paper. Plus, the internet/wi-fi services in some of the places I was staying was not the best. 

In one hotel, the situation was quite comical: the wi-fi would would not work in the rooms but if you were lucky it was available in the corridors. However, the lights in the corridor were switched off permanently and only flashed for some seconds when the sensors detected someone moving nearby. So you would take a seat in the corridor with your computer, write a sentence or two, be plunged into darkness, get up and wave your arms and wiggle your body for the sensors to get another 20-30 seconds of light, and so it would continue. I did a lot of dancing in the hallways. People gave me odd looks.  

Here are some oddities of the Romanian language that make it a challenge to master, but an enjoyable one.:

  1. Romanian has masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, and the neuter ones act like masculine words in the singular and feminine words in the plural. And many nouns that you would expect to be neuter are not, there is no real rule or logic about which ones are or aren’t, so you just have to learn them by heart. For example, căpşună (meaning “strawberry”) is feminine, măr (“apple”) is neuter, and strugure (“grape”) is masculine.
  2. While the indefinite article goes in front of the noun (un băiat = a boy, un frate = a brother, o fată = a girl), the definite article is attached at the end as a suffix, and the suffixes vary depending on the gender or the whether the word is masculine, feminine or neuter and whether the word ends in a consonant or vowel etc etc. Hence băiatul = the boy, fratele = the brother, fata (without an accent on the last a) = the girl.
  3. Because of the above, there are also two plurals that you have to learn, an indefinite one and a definite one. For example, (nişte) baieţi = (some) boys, but baieţii = the boys; nişte fete = some girls, fetele = the girls. Getting confused? Don’t worry, it’s normal!
  4. Romanian verbs in the infinitive form end in a, e or i, but for each – in the present tense at least – there are two possible conjugations, and again often there is no real rule or logic to which set of endings a verb might take, so you just have to learn them off by heart. Plus there will be lots of irregulars and exceptions!
  5. Adjectives in most Romance languages normally agree in number and gender with the word they are modifying; that is, normally one of four forms will have to be used -either masculine singular or plural, or feminine singular or plural. This is often the case in Romanian too (but bear in mind that neuter words take the masculine adjective in the singular but the feminine adjective in the plural). So, for example, the four options for white are alb (masc sing), albă (fem sing), albi (masc pl), albe (fem pl). But, just to make things complicated, there are some adjectives that take only three forms, the plural being the same for both genders usually (mic, mică, mici = small), some that take only two forms, usually just a singular and a plural (mare, mari = big) and some that have only one invariable form, such as maro (“brown”) and eficace (“efficient”).
  6. Romanian makes greater use of the dative and genetive. Don’t ask me to explain this now. My head will spin and so will yours. I need a coffee!

Until next time, la revedere (goodbye).

Polish rules for now, but watch out for Bulgarian and Romanian

Polish shop, Lea Bridge Road E10

Polish shop, Lea Bridge Road E10 (Photo credit: sludgegulper)

There were interesting stories in the newspapers this week about language trends in Britain as revealed in the census undertaken in 2011. It turns out that, after English and Welsh, the language that is most widely spoken (or has the most number of native speakers) is Polish. Its 546,000 speakers make up 1 per cent of the UK population. This came as quite a surprise to me but since I have visited Britain only once in the past 20-odd years (in 2011) I am not really in a position to have picked up on its social trends.

I was pleased to see that all My Five Romances were reasonably high on the list: French had 147,000, Portuguese 133,000, Spanish 120,000, Italian 92,000 and Romanian 68,000.

However, it is possible that Romanian might shoot up the rankings, for the another big story of the week is that some Tory ministers and MPs in the British government fear there will soon be an immigration Armageddon, as one columnist put it, because soon Bulgarians and Romanians will be allowed to live and work in the UK without restriction. All hell will break loose! The ministers proposed producing adverts that would highlight England’s ugliness and discourage Romanians and Bulgarians from arriving. Now witty would-be advertising types are suggesting ideas for the campaign, and Romanians have come up with their own counter-campaigns. It’s tit for tat in the satirical stakes. I can’t wait to see all the videos on Youtube.

(It strikes me as a bit rich for MPs in the country that colonised half the world and set up the British Empire to suggest that there should curbs on immigration, but that’s another story).

The predominance of Polish in the UK made me wonder what were the “second languages” not just of other countries but of other cities. I should imagine that Spanish would easily be the second language of the United States, and of all the Californian cities, but perhaps not of Boston and New York. What are the second languages of Brazil and France, or of Buenos Aires, Bucharest, Rome and Lisbon?

And can you guess what, after English, are the languages most spoken in Australia?

Here is the answer from the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

In 2011, 81% of Australians aged 5 years and over, spoke only English at home while 2% didn’t speak English at all. The most common languages spoken at home (other than English) were Mandarin (1.7%), Italian (1.5%), Arabic (1.4%), Cantonese (1.3%) and Greek (1.3%).

Anyway, if the Romanians are not welcome in Britain perhaps they could come to Australia because, when I last looked, there is not even one Romanian restaurant in Sydney. I haven’t scouted around for a Bulgarian one, but will do so. Anyway, I think it is great that languages are cropping up all over the place. Who wants to live in a monocultural country? Long live multiculturalism, I say.


Being Romanian gets the knees up and tongues wagging

Romanian dance

A Romanian dance …  the message on the second line of the blue banner from the Timisoara Municipality is “Together with you”. (Photo credit: cosmin_tartan)

Being Romanian means you have to look good in tights and enjoy a good knees-up from time to time. And your whites have to come out spotless in the wash, judging by the photo above. I think most people with a good knowledge of history would know that Romanians had to endure a lot of suffering under Nicolae Ceausescu‘s regime, but what are Romanians like nowadays? According to my Romanian/English Dictionary & Phrasebook, written by Mihai Miroiu (Hippocrene Books, 2009 edition) “Romanians are frank and open, gregarious and receptive, with a mild temperament. Optimism, humor, healthy laughter and zestful irony are among their characteristic features, as well as friendliness and hospitality.

It continues: “Romanians are sensitive to beauty and incline towards lyricism… Romanians can be described as individualists. One facet of this individualism is their tendency to call almost everything into question. This leads to original and creative thought, but it can also be a source of conflict. Conversation among friends may sound brusque and aggressive to foreigners, as if participants were trying to assert their viewpoint for the pure please of it. As a population, Romanians enjoy discussion immensely, spending hours – usually round a table – debating everything…”

So, Romanians are gregarious and garrulous, and if you want to talk the talk with them (preferably round a table) you will have to learn the lingo. Here is a fi, the verb to be:

eu sunt                      (I am)
tu eşti                         (you are)
el / ea este                (he / she is)
noi suntem                (we are)
voi sunteţi                 (you are, plural)
ei / ele sunt               (they are, masc / fem)

As one of my Romanian followers has pointed out in replies to some of my previous posts (Being Spanish and Hey you! Which ‘you’ should you use?”), you can see the all forms and times of the verb to be in Romanian here:

Note also this: “In Romanian we have the informal Tu and the formal Dumneavoastră which is a short form of now disappeared Domnia Voastră (Your Excellency). In Romanian, Domn means Mister or gentleman but in the old language the meaning was Prince or Lord, the word originating from the Latin Dominus (Lord).”

I have found a link to a YouTube posting that covers the verbs to be and to have (a avea) in Romanian, which will be useful as in the next couple of posts we will revise the subject pronouns and the verbs “to be” in all five languages, then look at “to have” in all five languages. This is from the Rolang School. (Note how the “e” in Romanian seems to have more of a “y” sound than in the other languages.)

For those who want to jump ahead and learn a bit more about the basics of Romanian here is another useful link.

Enjoy being Romanian 🙂

Be a happy champion in 2013

Fireworks Over Sydney Harbor Bridge, Australia

Fireworks Over Sydney Harbor Bridge, Australia (Photo credit: DakotaPrarieNova)

Happy new year from me and My Five Romances in Sydney, Australia (hence the choice of pic). I hope you haven’t got a hangover – une gueule de bois if you are French, uma ressaca in Portuguese, una resaca if you are Spanish, postumi di una sbornia if you are Italian and o mahmureală if you have been imbibing too much in Romania.

So, how does one wish everyone a happy new year in my five Romance languages? The French might say Je vous souhaite une bonne année, the Portuguese Desejo a vocês um feliz ano novo, in Spanish you could try Les deseo un feliz año nuevo, the Italians might say Vi auguro un felice anno nuovo and the Romanians Iti doresc un an nou fericit. Or you could just use body language … grin a lot, pat everyone on the back, hug them, kiss them … body language can be a romance language too, you know 🙂

I have a hunch that 2013 will be a good year, better than its predecessors. It’s going to be great! I wanted to find an uplifting piece of music that would set the tone for the year ahead, and have opted for one by a Romanian band called Voltaj (yup, you guessed it, the Romanian word for “voltage“). Although it’s a stirring kind of anthem aimed specifically at Romanians, I like the sentiments – no more settling for second place, it’s time to step up to the winner’s podium, everyone can be a champion. The song is entitled MSD2 which, guessing by the translation of the lyrics, is short for mai sus de 2, or “above 2“.

This is taken from a YouTube posting by “SkadiSubs” and the lyrics in Romanian and English can also be found in the “info” section there. It’s very catchy, enjoy.

Being Italian … is your ego under control?

Italian Slushies

Italian Slushies (Photo credit: razvan.orendovici)

I have some fond memories of Italians in their native land, even though I don’t know much about them, apart from what one sees in the media and on film and so on. It has been a long time since I was in Italy. When I was nine my father took us on a great holiday, cruising on an Italian vessel, “M/V Africa”, from Beira in Mozambique round the Horn of Africa and up into the Mediterranean until we disembarked in Trieste. The ship, being part of the Lloyd Triestino Line ( was manned mostly by Italians and while on the journey I had my first crush as a child on one of the crew! But alas my feelings were not returned, haha. I was spurned for another twice or three times my age, can you believe it! 🙂

The only other time I was in Italy after that was another family holiday and this time I was in my mid-teens. On our last day, we had checked out of our hotel and were getting into a taxi when the hotel manager came running towards us. “Quick, quick, get in, hurry” my dad said, trying to bundle us into the cab and urging the driver to speed off for the airport. “He probably wants more money. Pretend not to notice him.” But it was too late. The manager caught up with us. “Your passports,” he said, waving them in the air. “You forgot your passports!” The moral of the story, I think, is to trust an Italian, and never trust my father :).

We have large Italian communities in Australia and it is always nice to go to the Italian districts for a coffee or gelato and to sample the atmosphere. If you are being a typical Italian male in Sydney then most probably you will drive down Norton Street in your souped up Alfa Romeo with a Tiziano Ferro song blazing at full blast on your sound system. As you drive along you will check out all the talent walking down the street and cast admiring glances at your own and your car’s reflection in the shop windows. 🙂 I was flicking through Lonely Planet’s Italian phrase book and it had a section on pick-up lines – Ti posso portare a fari un giro (in moto)Can I take you for a ride (on my bike) – and how to reject unwanted advances, my favourite one being Il tuo ego è fuori controlloYour ego is out of control.

So, down to business. The bad news is that Italian also has two “to be” verbs, essere and stare. According to the above mentioned phrase book, the former is generally used to describe ongoing characteristics (like ser in Spanish and Portuguese) and the latter describes temporary states or locations (like estar in Spanish and Portuguese). Here is how they are conjugated

Subject pronoun      essere / stare          English translation

io                                   sono / sto               I am

tu                                   sei / stai                   you are (informal)

Lei  (capitalised)            è / sta                     you are (formal)

lui / lei                             è / sta                     he / she / it is

noi                               siamo / stiamo          we are

voi                                siete / state               you are (plural)

loro                               sono / stanno            they are

See the posting from December 21, 2012 (Hey you! Which ‘you’ should you use?) and the replies for explanations on when to use tu and Lei. It is pretty much the same as in French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Now for some music. Who is Tiziano Ferro, you may ask? He is an Italian singer who has also sung in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English, so if you are interested in Romance languages you should investigate him (not sure about his Romanian repertoire, though). I first heard of him when I spotted his song Alucinado on MTV in Argentina, taken from the Spanish version of his debut album Rojo Relativo (the Italian version is Rosso Relativo, and the equivalent song title on it is Imbranato.) According to my dictionaries, alucinar is an intransitive Spanish verb meaning to hallucinate, but when used in the transitive it can mean to deceive or to fascinate. But imbranato in Italian is an adjective meaning clumsy or awkward, or as a noun a clumsy person. Rojo / rosso means red and I think the album title must be a play on “red hot” (rojovivo in Spanish), so I guess it means the more modest and self-effacing “relatively hot”. But I could be wrong. Anyway, here are the links to the songs in Italian, Spanish and French, and it is the chorus that is the making of the song, really, in my opinion.

Which do you prefer, the Italian, Spanish or French version …. is one language more musical than the other?

Here you will find the Italian lyrics with the English, Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian translations (among others) alongside:

In researching this I have just found out Tiziano recently revealed he is gay so maybe those macho Italian boys won’t be playing his music so loudly while cruising down Norton Street after all.