Whew mercy, that’s a handful isn’t it? Just the title alone gives me the shivers. What am I talking about?
I’m talking about phrases like Mi-e foame (I am hungry) versus Eu sunt mai român decât tine (I am more Romanian than you).
Please understand that what follows isn’t comprehensive, that is to say, it doesn’t cover all situations of similar usage (the dative case involving pronouns) nor is it restrictive. That is to say, there are (often) other ways to say the same thing.
In English, when one is describing a state of being (or how they are feeling), the construction is very simple: I am hungry, I am tired, I am afraid, etcetera.
Spanish and Italian (and other Latin-based languages) use a different but similarly simple form: Yo tengo hambre (I have hunger), Io ho fame (I have hunger), Yo tengo sueno (I have tiredness), etcetera.
Romanian uses a unique style which goes like this (in the present tense): dative pronoun, the verb “to be” in the singular third person, then the noun form of the adjective.
This is rather simple to “conjugate” because the only thing that changes is the pronoun.
mi-e foame – I am hungry
ți-e foame – you are hungry
mi-e sete – I am thirsty
ți-e sete – you are thirsty
mi-e frica – I am afraid
The personal pronouns used for other forms are likewise standard. I haven’t written about them yet but here they are:
îi e foame – she/he/it is hungry
ne e foame – we are hungry
vă e foame – you (plural/formal) are hungry
le e foame – they are hungry
I should warn you that some of the above forms are quite rare because it strikes a Romanian as very presumptious indeed to describe a state of being for someone else.
Saying “we are hungry” is a little peculiar because how can you know what someone else is feeling? Technically though you could say “Ne e foame?” to mean “Are we hungry (or what)?” For this reason, even the tu form is usually phrased as a question – ți-e foame? (are you hungry?) and rarely as a statement.
You’ll notice that “mi-e foame” literally translates as “(to me) it is hunger” as the dative case means the pronoun is receiving the action.
In the case of “Eu sunt mai român decât tine” the pronoun (eu) is the one doing the action. “Mi-e foame” is constructed so that I (mi) am receiving the action.
What about the simple past tense?
mi-a fost foame – I was hungry
ți-a fost foame – You were hungry
ne a fost foame – We were hungry
This is pronoun + past tense of third person singular “to have” (the a) plus the participle of “to be” (fost) + hunger.
In other words it’s “To me + (what I) had + (it) was + hunger”.
Future tense (technically the conditional tense):
mi-ar fi foame – I will be hungry
ți-ar fi foame – You will be hungry
ni-ar fi foame – We will be hungry
In other words, again it’s “to me/you/us + (what I/you/we) will have + (it) will be + hunger”
The present tense is the most common so this is the only one you need to worry about mastering.
A few more examples:
Mi-e somn – I am tired
Mi-e frig – I am cold
Mi-e cald – I am hot
Mi-e frica – I am afraid
Mi-e bine – I am well/feeling good
Mi-e rău – I am sick/unwell/feeling bad
Mi-e ruşine – I am embarrassed/ashamed
Mi-e dor de tine – I miss you
The last one – dor – is a little tricky for English speakers because it’s used as a noun instead of as a verb. In other words, a person doesn’t miss someone (or something) but rather experiences “the missing” of them.
Mi-e dor de tine literally means “to me (it) is the missing of you”.
Mi-a fost dor de tine literally means “to me (what I) had, (it) was the missing of you”.
Mi-ar fi dor de tine – literally means “to me (what I) will have, (it) will be the missing of you”.
Again, these constructions are not restrictive. “Mi-e somn” means “I am tired” but a Romanian could equally say “Eu sunt epuizat” to mean roughly the same thing (I’m exhausted).
Likewise “mi-e foame” means “I am hungry” but one could also say “Eu sunt infometat” to mean roughly the same thing (literally “I am hungered/starving”).
The forms above are used (generally) any time you are describing your own state of being, as in how you are feeling. Sometimes though the standard way to express a state of being is not this way:
Eu sunt fericit – I am happy (not mi-e fericire)
Eu sunt mandru – I am proud (not mi-e mandrie)
Eu sunt ingrijorat – I am worried (not mi-e ingrijire)
In some cases, it can go either way to add nuances. Eu sunt bine (I am doing well) is probably used more often than Mi-e bine (I am feeling well) but both forms have a similar meaning.
How do you know which one to use? Only through practice, I’m afraid.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!