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All About, Lesson 3 - Painless Romanian Grammar
Eric: Hi everyone, and welcome back to RomanianPod101.com. This is All About, Lesson 3 - Painless Romanian Grammar. I’m Eric.
Raluca: And I’m Raluca.
Eric: Oh no, not grammar!
Raluca: I'm sure some listeners are having that very same reaction right about now. But before you throw up your hands in despair, we're here to tell you there's nothing to worry about. We've made Romanian grammar so simple that you'll wonder what the fuss was all about.
Eric: Okay, so let's get started!
Raluca: First, what we want to do is take a look at English. English and Romanian belong to different language families.
Eric: Yes, English is a Germanic language, whereas Romanian is a member of the Romance language family. Nevertheless, these two languages have many common points.
Raluca: You can use these similarities to help you learn faster!
Eric: For one thing, both of them are SVO languages! That means Subject-verb-object. So, in a sentence, the subject always comes first, followed by the verb, and then the object. That's how English sentences are put together, and Romanian is the same.
Raluca: Can you give us an English example?
Eric: For example, "I eat the apple." "I" is the subject, or the one doing the action. "Eat" is the verb, or the action taking place. And lastly, "the apple" is the object that receives the action.
Raluca: SVO…that makes sense.
Eric: "I read the newspaper," "I watch TV"…these are both SVO sentences.
Raluca: And it’s the same in Romanian. Romanian is called an SVO language, but…
Eric: But?
Raluca: Well, our listeners should think of Romanian as having a relatively unstructured word order.
Eric: And why is that?
Raluca: Mainly for reasons of emphasis. The SVO order can be changed according to what we want to emphasize.
Eric: So we would say normally "I eat the apple"…
Raluca: …but we could say "the apple I eat." It sounds a bit strange in English, doesn't it?
Eric: Yeah it does!
Raluca: But still, in Romanian we could say Mărul pe care îl mănânc to focus the attention on the apple without using punctuation!
Eric: Fascinating. And let's not forget one of the most important things, the tense!
Raluca: Yes, the verb plays a key role in Romanian. Now let's go through some to show how the Romanian tense system works.
Eric: What we've decided to do is compare them to English grammar examples so that you can really see the differences.
Raluca: Tense…well, first, what is tense?
Eric: Good question! Tense refers to time – past, present, and future.
Raluca: I think that we could say that the verb is sort of the king of the Romanian sentence.
Eric: Yes, it may be tricky at the beginning, but once you've learned the most commonly used forms it will become natural and easy, mostly due to the possibilities offered by Romanian conjugation. For example….
Raluca: For example, the present indicative "I eat," which in Romanian could be employed in several situations, is sometimes used to mean past and future also!
Eric: Doesn't that seem like it'd be more confusing though?
Raluca: Not at all! As long as you have a verb conjugated, in Romanian the subject can be totally omitted. Isn't it easy?
Eric: Sounds easy. Let's hear some examples. How about the sentence we heard before, "I eat an apple."
Raluca: Mănânc un măr. Mănânc is the verb, of course, and means, "I eat." As you may have noticed, we were able to totally omit the subject "I" from the sentence.
Eric: So that sentence is in the present tense. How can we understand the verb conjugation for every person?
Raluca: Well, Romanian verbs are confusing even for native speakers. Previously in Romanian we had four conjugations. The new Romanian grammar has 11 conjugations.
Eric: Oh wow...that’s a lot. It sounds like it just became more complicated.
Raluca: It seems more complicated because there are more rules to remember, but it’s less confusing.
Eric: So let’s start with the infinitive form.
Raluca: Every verb’s infinitive form has the morpheme a in front.
Eric: can we hear some examples?
Raluca: For example, A mânca, a merge, a citi,
Eric: Which mean “To eat, to walk,” and to “read.” respectively. It’s easy to recognise the infinitive form.
Raluca: That’s right.
Eric: This is especially true for Romance languages, but we also see it in English. For example, "I go" versus "he goes." How about in Romanian?
Raluca: Compared to English, Romanian conjugation involves all the persons.
Eric: Raluca, can we hear some examples? Now, don't worry about trying to catch every word, just listen for the verb at the beginning. It's the same one we mentioned before – "to eat."
Raluca: Mănânc salată.
Eric: "I eat salad."
Raluca: Mănâncă salată.
Eric: "He eats salad."
Raluca: Mâncăm salată.
Eric: "We eat salad." Wow, I think I heard the exact same verb with slightly different endings!
Raluca: That's what Romanian conjugation is about!
Eric: Next let’s talk about singular and plural. In English, we learn that to make a plural, we add "s" to the end of a word, but when you think about it, there are tons of exceptions.
Raluca: Yeah like "wolves" and "teeth." Now, Romanian has two ways to make the plural. The distinction is between masculine, feminine, and neuter words. Feminine nouns ending in -a, -ă, or -e take the –e or -i in their plural form. Masculine nouns end in a consonant, and take either -e, -u, -l, -ă, or -i in their plural form.
Eric: Let’s hear some examples.
Raluca: An example for feminine could be floare, meaning “flower” which becomes flori, “flowers.” For masculine we have copac, meaning “tree,” and the plural is copaci “trees.”
Eric: What about neuter nouns?
Raluca: A neuter noun refers to things that are neither feminine, nor masculine. With Romanian neuter, the singular form of these nouns is masculine and the plural is feminine.
Eric: Is there a rule to recognise these?
Raluca: In most of the cases, the neuter nouns correspond to inanimate objects. But there are no clear rules for recognising them.
Eric: At least we have a basis to start with – they are all inanimate objects. Let’s hear an example.
Raluca: The word for “chair” in Romanian is scaun and the plural form is scaune. We added an -e to the end.
Eric: Ah yeah, I can hear the difference.
Raluca: It’s easy, right?
Eric: I think so! Speaking of something that English doesn't have…how about telling us more about gender?
Raluca: Right. In Romanian, we have three genders. Every noun has to have a gender and its corresponding article.
Eric: I think this gives Romanian an interesting flavor.
Raluca: Yeah, this is really interesting – like, for example, did you know that in Romanian, "the sun" is a masculine noun, "the moon" is feminine and “the universe” is neuter? In other languages, like the ones in the Germanic family, it's precisely the opposite.
Eric: Where does this difference come from?
Raluca: As we mentioned in our previous lessons, ancient Romanian history is the subject of research and an enigma for many historians. Some say the neuter form comes from Latin, while others claim that the Dacians understood Latin without a translator, so the neuter gender comes from Thraco-Dacian.
Eric: Wow. What about foreign words, like "iPod" or "Playstation?"
Raluca: Yes, those are tricky. Foreign words are mostly declined arbitrarily. I have a friend who used to think that "Playstation" was feminine and another one who thought the opposite who was using a masculine article! But most of them are inanimate, and therefore...neuter.
Eric: That's funny! But it's still understandable, right?
Raluca: Of course it is! All right, I think that just about does it for our overview of Romanian grammar!
Eric: We hope this has prepared you for your journey into the Romanian language. Hopefully after this there should be no major surprises!
Raluca: Keep up with RomanianPod101.com for more lessons that will teach you Romanian the easy and fun way.
Eric: Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.