Romanian Verbs: Part 2


Yes! Did you think because it was Friday I wouldn’t write a lengthy analysis of verbs in Romanian? :P

To recap, please read part 1. In fact, if you’re just a beginner and learning Romanian, read no further because part 1 will get you by in almost all situations.

Only if you’re truly interested in understanding and conjugating verbs should you read what follows!

 

Imperfect

The first tense to talk about is referred to as the “Imperfect” at this link for the verb “vorbi” or “to talk/speak”.

The imperfect is a past tense that implies a sort of “fixed” past. In other words, it remained in the past in a definite, solid way.

Example: Ieri eu vorbeam cu Maria.

From part 1 though you saw the “past perfect” which would simply be:

Ieri eu am vorbit cu Maria

What’s the difference? Well the first one is “Yesterday I spoke” while the second one is technically “Yesterday I had spoken”.

Nonetheless, Romanians tend to use the second form (eu am vorbit) about 90% of the time and the imperfect only about 10% of the time.

To Talk/Speak Vorbi
eu vorbeam
tu vorbeai
el/ea vorbea
noi vorbeam
voi vorbeati
ei/ele vorbeau

.
Since you see once again the I/we forms are the same, this needs clarification.

Since the past perfect (eu am vorbit) forms are much easier to use, you can rely on them exclusively and always be understood.

Again there is also a second past perfect tense (eu vorbisem) that is only used in Oltenia and again, you can be understood relying solely on the easier past tense form (eu am vorbit).

 

Conditional Present

This one can be a little tricky for (native) English speakers.

Nonetheless, in English it would generally be any time the phrase “would like” is used in conjunction with a verb – ie “If John comes, I would like to go to the party”. That right there is the conditional tense.

To Talk/Speak Vorbi
eu as vorbi
tu ai vorbi
el/ea ar vorbi
noi am vorbi
voi ati vorbi
ei/ele ar vorbi

.
Therefore roughly speaking, Eu as vorbi cu Maria means “I would like to speak to Maria”.

This tense is fairly easy to conjugate and is especially used in polite situations. Imagine if you are in a restaurant, about to order some food. Instead of saying “I want “(doresc) you would use the conditional tense (asi dori) to say “I would like”.

 

Conditional Perfect

Used extremely rarely, this is equivalent to saying “would be” + the verb’s participle. In the case of vorbi or “to talk/speak”, the conditional perfect tense would become “would be spoken”.

 

Imperative

This is the tense you use when addressing someone directly and issuing a command.

If you were facing a prisoner and commanding him, “Speak!” this would be the imperative tense (think of the similar word “emperor” if it helps you to remember it).

The good news is that there are only two forms, tu (familiar) you and voi (formal/plural) you.

The formal/plural version is always the same as the present tense for “voi”. Therefore “voi vorbiti” is “you (formal/plural) speak” and “voi vorbiti!” is the way you command someone formal/plural to speak. Easy, peezy.

The tu form in some verbs is the same as he/she/it present tense and sometimes the tu present tense. How do you know which one it will be? You don’t. For vorbi, it happens to be the he/she/it form, so tu vorbesti is you speak but vorbeste! is how I order tu to speak.

Note: One common verb, veni (to come), has an unusual tu form in the imperative:

Vino! is how you say “you come (here)!” while “you are coming” is simply “tu vii”.

The voi version is the same in both imperative and present tenses (veniti).

 

Subjunctive

Many English speakers have no idea there is a subjunctive tense in English. Well, there is. And because it is so poorly understood in English, it’s difficult to explain how to use it in Romanian.

The good news is understanding it is super easy because it is virtually identical to the present tense:

Present Subjunctive
eu vorbesc vorbesc
tu vorbesti vorbesti
el/ea vorbeste vorbeasca
noi vorbim vorbim
voi vorbiti vorbiti
ei/ele vorbesc vorbeasca

.
So you can see it only varies in the he/she/it and the they forms, so many times you’re reading/hearing the subjunctive tense and you don’t even know it.

The most common use in Romanian of the subjunctive (besides the future tense) is when you’re stringing two verbs together with “sa” in between them.

Kurzii refuza sa vorbeasca

This means “The Kurds refuse to speak”. In English this is done by “present tense verb1 + infinitive verb2″ while in Romanian this is “present tense + sa + present subjunctive”.

Again, for me singularly, it would be “Eu refuz sa vorbesc” for “I refuse to speak” which seems like the present tense (twice) but the second one is actually the subjunctive, it’s just written identically.

Note: Romanian syntax allows for the subjunctive verb to be split from the original present tense verb.

Cum invata copiii sa vorbeasca?

Literally “How learn the children to speak?” where the subjunctive form (vorbeasca) is separated from the verb “invata” (to learn) by the “receiving” noun in the sentence, copiii (the children).

 

Other Tenses

I would say that the “past subjunctive”, the “simple perfect” and Future III” are used so infrequently that they are not worth learning unless you want to start writing poetry.

The one labeled “Future II popular” is used in Romanian except it’s only for some unusual cases. It’s also fairly easy to understand because the bits are once we’ve seen before.

Eu am sa fi vorbit means something like “I should be spoken” referring to the future. So I guess you could say “Maine discursul are sa fi vorbit” to say “Tomorrow the discussion should be spoken” but it’s only for certain situations.

Maine tema are sa fi completat means “Tomorrow the homework should be completed”.

And that’s really about it! Once you get the hang of all of these tenses, you can conjugate Romanian verbs on the fly with ease.

Looking over at the DEX entry for the same verb (vorbi) and click on “conjugari”, you’ll see it has the tenses arranged (and named) a little differently.

Several tenses are “missing”, including the easy past, because it’s assumed you know that you add (eu am) plus the participle (vorbit), which is given to you.

The “conjunctive present” is super handy though because it shows you the easy future tense (eu + o sa + vorbesc) plus it’s identical with the (present) subjunctive tense.

The “perfect simplu” and the “mai mult ca perfect” you can essentially ignore, including some of the regional variants listed in blue.

 

Long Infinitive

When a verb in Romanian becomes a noun, this is known as the “long infinitive”. In English it’s usually formed by adding +ing, which can be confusing.

Therefore “to speak” is vorbi but “speaking” the noun is vorbire. Therefore “vorbire in public” is “public speaking”.

Note: the “long infinitive” for the verb “to be” is fire (being) and has a number of other, special uses.

 

Gerund

This one is also tough for (native) English speakers because it is also the +ing form in English. The problem is that many times, in the present tense, English speakers use the gerund when in Romanian it would be the (ordinary) present tense.

Example: “He is speaking” in Romanian is el vorbeste, simply “he speaks”.

But there is a gerund form in Romanian, in this verb’s case being vorbind.

So when do you use it? Well either when a verb is ongoing, especially when it continues onto other verbs (as in an adverbial phrase), or else sometimes in the abstract sense. It’s hard to nail down an exact time of when you use it and when you don’t.

I guess the easiest “rule of thumb” is that if using the present tense seems incredibly awkward, then and only then use the gerund.

AND NOW YOU KNOW! ROMANESTE ARE SA FI VORBIT!

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5 Responses »

  1. Hi

    I am writing this to let you know that your past tense is not 100% accurate.
    There are 4 types of past tens in Romanian: Imperfect, Simple Perfect, Compound Perfect and More Than Perfect.

    Imperfect is used for action in the past which was going on at a certain time, usually correlated with another action, which usually interrupts the first (but this is not a rule of thumb, it’s just easier to think of it like that). It is mostly similar to past continuous, and it’s not usually clear if the action is or is not still going on in the present
    For example:
    RO: Ieri (eu) vorbeam cu Maria când m-ai sunat
    EN: Yesterday I was talking with Maria when you called me

    Compound Perfect is used for action in the past that are known to have ended. Similar to past tense, or present perfect:
    RO: Ieri am vorbit cu Maria
    EN: Yesterday I spoke / have spoken to Maria

    Simple Perfect is the same as compound perfect, and is traditionally used in Oltenia
    RO: Ieri făcui duş
    EN: Yesterday I took a shower
    Because „vorbi” ends in „i” it’s harder to exemplify here. I’ll use „urca” (to climb instead)
    Eu urcai în maşină (I climbed in the car)
    Tu urcaşi în maşină (You climbed in the car)
    El/Ea urcă în maşină (the accent is on „ă”, not on „u”)
    Noi urcarăm în maşină
    Voi urcarăţi în maşină
    Ei/Ele urcară în maşină

    More Than Perfect is used for an action in the past that has finished before another action. Similar to past perfect. This is used everywhere, but doesn’t come often into speech
    RO: Când m-ai sunat, eu vorbisem (deja) cu Maria.
    EN: When you called, I had (already) spoken to Maria.

    90% of the cases you only use compound perfect (except when you are in Oltenia and everyone uses simple perfect)
    Of course, they can sometimes be mixed (more than perfect used as compound perfect)

  2. I like the way you managed this. Apart from the observation I post on the first section regarding Perfectul Simplu, I have only one left: More Than Perfect (Mai mult ca perfectul) is rarely used, but is not a tense used exclusively in Oltenia. It is only used rarely in spoken Romanian.

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