Romanian Verbs: Part 1


Yes! After all the confusing grammatical rules on nouns and declinations and the dash mark and everything else, now time for something thankfully a lot simpler: verbs.

Probably the most difficult language to learn in terms of verb conjugation is Italian, especially with their “passato remote” (distant past) tense. Compare the conjugation for Italian parlare (to talk) to the Romanian conjugation for vorbi. Quite a difference eh?

The good news in Romanian is that you don’t even need to learn some of those verb tenses. The “Past Perfect” for example is only used in Oltenia, for example. So let’s start with the basics.

Present Tense

Who Vorbi (To Talk)
eu (I) vorbesc
tu (you familiar) vorbesti
el/ea (he/she) vorbeste
noi (we) vorbim
voi (you plural) vorbiti
ei/ele (they) vorbesc

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Notice anything interesting? The form for “they talk” and “I talk” is exactly the same. Yes it is! Therefore if you’re using this verb and it’s unclear who is talking, you might have to specify with a pronoun first.

Example: Vorbesc foarte tare.

This means either I am talking loudly or they are. Therefore you’d need to clarify with a pronoun.

Example: Ele vorbesc foarte tare.

But what about the past tense? You have two choices. One is super simple, which assumes you know what the “past participle” is. If you look up at the top of the linked webpage, you’ll see the participle listed in the top right-hand corner. In English this is usually the verb form that ends in “-ed” as in this case, “talked”.

Simple Past Perfect

Who Vorbi (To Talk)
eu (I) am vorbit
tu (you familiar) ai vorbit
el/ea (he/she) a vorbit
noi (we) am vorbit
voi (you plural) ati vorbit
ei/ele (they) au vorbit

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This time you’ll see the “we” form is the same as the “I” form. Therefore you’d need to clarify with a pronoun in some case.

Example: Am vorbit cu el.

This means someone has spoken with him. But whom?

Example: Eu am vorbit cu el (I talked with him).

Example: Noi am vorbit cu el (We talked with him).

See how easy that was? For all verbs, you can do a simple past tense by adding am/ai/a/am/ati/au plus the (unchanging) participle.

So let’s imagine you hear a verb and you have no idea what it means – slefui. You learn that the past participle is “slefuit”.

How do you conjugate this verb in the simple past tense?

Who Slefui (To Grind)
eu (I) am slefuit
tu (you familiar) ai slefuit
el/ea (he/she) a slefuit
noi (we) am slefuit
voi (you plural) ati slefuit
ei/ele (they) au slefuit

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Now (in your head) imagine making the past forms of these verbs:

Citi (to read) – Participle: citit
Munci (to work) – Participle: muncit
Folosi (to use) – Participle: folosit

See? Super easy.

Now let’s move to the future tense, which is ALSO super easy to do, especially the one called “Future 1” or “Simple Future” on the website.

Simple Future

Who Vorbi (To Talk)
eu (I) voi vorbi
tu (you familiar) vei vorbi
el/ea (he/she) va vorbi
noi (we) vom vorbi
voi (you plural) veti vorbi
ei/ele (they) vor vorbi

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See? Incredibly easy. Once you remember all the voi/vei/va forms, you’re set for life because they never change!

Let’s practice:

Vorbi (to talk) – I will talk = voi vorbi
Citi (to read) – You (familiar) will read = vei citi
Munci (to work) – We will work = vom munci
Folosi (to use) – They will use = vor folosi

Truly couldn’t be simpler!

Note: According to Romanian pronunciation rules, the last “i” in any word is always silent. However the i actually is said out loud for infinitive verb forms.

In simpler language, this means for the simpler future tense and all those vorbi/folosi etcetera the last “i” is pronounced.

tu vorbesti – (you familiar talk/speak) – last i is silent.
tu vei vorbi – (you familiar will talk/speak) – last i is NOT silent

Now let’s mix and match and see how well you got this down! Highlight the blank portion with your mouse if you get stuck.

English Romanian
I worked Eu am muncit
We worked Noi am muncit
I will work Voi munci
He speaks El vorbeste
He spoke El a vorbit
He will speak El va vorbi

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Really it’s that easy. But wait, there’s a second commonly used future tense, called “popular” on the website. What’s this?

Both future tenses are almost identical in meaning. And the good news is that it’s super easy because it’s almost identical with the present tense.

Popular Future Tense

Who Vorbi (Present) Who Vorbi (Future)
eu (I) vorbesc eu (I) o sa vorbesc
tu (you familiar) vorbesti tu (you familiar) o sa vorbesti
el/ea (he/she) vorbeste el/ea (he/she) o sa vorbeasca
noi (we) vorbim noi (we) o sa vorbim
voi (you plural) vorbiti voi (you plural) o sa vorbiti
ei/ele (they) vorbesc ei/ele (they) o sa vorbeasca

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You might notice there that he talks = el vorbeste but he will talk becomes el o sa vorbeasca. Yep, a different ending, which is also the same one for “they” in the future tense.  This is actually the subjunctive form (more on that in a later post).

A little tricky but the good news is this “o sa + subjunctive form” is the same for all verbs in the “popular” future tense.

Let’s mix and match!  Highlight the blank portion with your mouse if you get stuck.

Who (Present) Who (Popular Future)
eu (I) talk (vorbesc) eu (I) will talk (o sa vorbesc)
tu (you familiar) read (citesti) tu (you familiar) will read (o sa citesti)
el/ea (he/she) speaks (vorbeste) el/ea (he/she) will speak (o sa vorbeasca)
noi (we) work (muncim) noi (we) will work (o sa vorbim)
voi (you plural) read (cititi) voi (you plural) will read (o sa cititi)
ei/ele (they) speak (vorbesc) ei/ele (they) will speak (o sa vorbeasca)
Who (Past) Who (Simple Future)
eu (I) talked (am vorbit) eu (I) will talk (voi vorbi)
tu (you familiar) read (ai citit) tu (you familiar) will read (vei citi)
el/ea (he/she) spoke (a vorbit) el/ea (he/she) will speak (va vorbi)
noi (we) worked (am muncit) noi (we) will work (vom munci)
voi (you plural) read (ati citi) voi (you plural) will read (veti citi)
ei/ele (they) spoke (au vorbit) ei/ele (they) will speak (vor vorbi)

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If you look at the list of conjugations on the webpage, you will almost never need the “Simple Perfect” all of the other future tenses (2 and 3) and the subjunctive tenses (which you’ll notice are identical with the popular future).

In fact, if you just learn the forms above, present, past perfect and the two future tenses, you’re ready to go in about 99% of situations.

Present Tense Eu vorbesc
Past Tense Eu + am + vorbit (participle)
Future Tense Eu + voi + vorbi (infinitive)
Future Popular Eu + o sa + vorbesc (subjunctive)

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The conditional tenses are useful but I’ll get to those (and the imperative) another time. And also get into the imperfect tense, another kind of past tense.

Romanian verbs generally come in one of two flavors, what I call “esc” and “ez”. All of the verbs we’ve been using today have been of the “esc” variety, that is to say, the present tense form for “I” ends in “-esc”.

Let’s look at one of those “ez” verbs now, the verb “fuma” meaning “to smoke”.

Who Fuma (To Smoke)
eu (I) fumez
tu (you familiar) fumezi
el/ea (he/she) fumeaza
noi (we) fumam
voi (you plural) fumati
ei/ele (they) fumeaza

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See? Not so difficult and almost identical with “esc” verbs. The past tense and the two future tenses are formed exactly the same way as in “esc” verbs per the chart.

Therefore:

He smokes = el fumeaza
He smoked = el a fumat
He will smoke = el va fuma

-OR-

He will smoke = el o sa fumeze

Couldn’t be simpler!

Now a final table listing a critical verb: fi (to be).

Who (Present) Who (Past)
eu (I) sunt eu (I) am fost
tu (you familiar) esti tu (you familiar) ai fost
el/ea (he/she) este el/ea (he/she) a fost
noi (we) suntem noi (we) am fost
voi (you plural) sunteti voi (you plural) ati fost
ei/ele (they) sunt ei/ele (they) au fost
Who (Future) Who (Popular Future)
eu (I) voi fi eu (I) o sa fiu
tu (you familiar) vei fi tu (you familiar) o sa fii
el/ea (he/she) va fi el/ea (he/she) o sa fie
noi (we) vom fi noi (we) o sa fim
voi (you plural) veti fi voi (you plural) o sa fiti
ei/ele (they) vor fi ei/ele (they) o sa fie

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Note: Again, remembering that the last “i” in infinite verb forms IS pronounced, both “fi” and “fii” are pronounced the same way (fee).

And now you know how to say…

INTR-O BUNA ZI VOI FI IN ROMANIA!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Giles says:

    Without the diacritics it’s not much use. It’s like a Romanian lesson for people who can already speak Romanian.

    Like

  2. Michael Bujor Morrison says:

    Interesting, but unfortunately contains many factual errors. When you are speaking of the past tense (in Romanian “Perfect Compus”) this is called the compound past or present perfect tense. In addition, although the simple past (in Romanian “Perfect Simplu”) is only used in the spoken language of Oltenia, it is necessary to have knowledge of it, in order to access Romanian literature.
    Furthermore, the Romanian verb conjugation system is vastly more complicated than Italian. According to the latest Romanian Grammar published by the Romanian Academy in 2006, Romanian has 11 conjugations. Even if for simplicity’s sake we reduce this to the traditional 4, there are as always many exceptions and spelling mutations (vowel/consonant shifts) through out the conjugations that one must learn,
    The past participles of many verbs are not predictable and there are many irregular verbs one must learn separately. In order to read a Romanian text or participate in a conversation, we should have knowledge of all the major tenses (several more than you have mentioned here).

    I admire your blog and what you are trying to do, but it would be better if you had a more sound knowledge of the facts. Also, while it is great that you are being encouraging to people learning the language, there is a reason that Romanian is the most difficult of the Romance languages to master and this should be confronted head on. Unlike Spanish or even Italian where it is possible to gain a conversational level quite easily, Romanian requires hard work and dedication particularly in the beginning stages.

    Good Luck!

    Like

  3. Marian says:

    Apart from the fact that Perfectul Simplu is used daily in Oltenia, it is extremely important if you want to read in Romanian, because it is the mainly form used to translate the action verbs in narratives. For “He said” 99% of translations in fiction are “El spuse”, not “El a spus”, This happens because Perfectul Simplu stands for actions just completed, as you keep reading.

    Like

  4. Alexandra says:

    That is not Simple Past Perfect. I think correct term is Perfect (ro. Perfect Compus). Perfect Simple (ro. Perfect Simplu) is mainly used in Oltenia, though is considered official verbal tense and sounds something like this: eu vorbi, tu vorbişi, el/ea vorbi, noi vorbirăm, voi vorbirăţi, ei/ele vorbiră. Romanian Perfect Simple is used as recent past, usually translated as English Present Perfect.

    P.S. I like your blog

    Like

    1. Sam R. says:

      The problem is that romanian names for the tenses and English ones aren’t the same. In this post I was going by what dictionare.com was using.

      Like

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