Fun With Adjectives


Hey, who wants to have fun explaining a lot of technical stuff about adjectives in the Romanian language? Just me? Ah well, that’s okay.

In English, the adjective comes before the noun.

Ex: A green car.

In most Latin based languages, including Romanian, the adjective comes after the noun.

Ex: O mașina verde.

That being said, the adjective can come before the noun in Romanian to indicate a strong emphasis.

Ex: Verde mașina! (wow, what a green car!)

Adjectives also have to match both the gender and number (singular/plural) of the noun.

Ex: O mașina frumoasa (A beautiful car) – female singular
Ex: Doua mașini frumoase (Two beautiful cars) – female plural
Ex: O mașina noua (A new car) – female singular
Ex: Doua mașini noi (Two new cars) – female plural

While many adjectives have four forms, masculine and female, singular and plural, some of them only have two forms – singular and plural and no differentiation for gender.

Ex: verde/verzi (the color green)

Other adjectives have a female and male version in the singular but only one form for both genders in the plural.

Ex: nou/noua/noi (new)

Note: Sometimes in Romanian the plural female version is still noua.

Yet other adjectives have just one form regardless of gender or number.

Ex: maro (the color brown)

If two adjectives are used consecutively, they are separated by și, the word for “and”.

Ex: O mașina verde și frumoasa.

If three or more adjectives are used consecutively, they are all separated with și, unlike English which uses commas in a complicated way (different for USEnglish and UKEnglish). Obviously in common speech this is sometimes truncated.

Ex: O mașina noua și verde și maro și frumoasa.

Where Romanian differs from other Latin-based languages is when it comes sentence order concerning possessive pronouns, which I covered (in part) here.

Note: as with adjectives, pronouns have to match gender and number of the noun.

Ex: mașina mea verde (my green car)
Ex: mașinile mele verzi (my green cars)
Ex: mașina mea verde și maro și frumoasa (my beautiful brown and green car)
Ex: mașinile mele verzi și maro și frumoase (my beautiful brown and green cars)

As you can see, the pronoun (mea/mele) comes before the adjective(s), not after it.

However if there is an adjective describing the pronoun then the sentence order gets even more mixed up. The entire clause of “adjective + pronoun” comes before the main noun in the sentence, not after it.

Ex: noua mea mașina verde și maro și frumoasa (my beautiful new brown and green car)
Ex: noile mele mașini verzi și maro și frumoase (my beautiful new brown and green cars)

Note: The adjective must always follow standard declensions when appropriate (subject/object cases).

The adjective noua is describing the pronoun mea because the car is new to me, therefore this part comes before the main noun.

The adjectives verde, maro and frumoasa are only describing the car itself and thus come after the noun.

See? Couldn’t be simpler. To construct a sentence with adjectives in Romanian, all you have to do is:

  • Know the gender, case and number of the main noun
  • Know the 1-4 forms for each adjective plus the appropriate case
  • Use the correct adjective(s) after the main noun, separating each one with și
  • Know the gender/number for any pronouns to match the main noun
  • Place an isolated pronoun after the main noun but before the adjective(s) describing the main noun
  • Place the adjective before the pronoun it describes and place the pronoun before the main noun, followed by the adjectives describing the main noun (but not the pronoun)

Really sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about :P

11 Comments Add yours

  1. http://e英語.com/ Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time :-)

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  2. shamtest says:

    I can’t seem to access this page from my iphone!!!!

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  3. Mihaela says:

    Radu & Zergu are right, there is no “și” between all those adjectives.
    Also, in standard Romanian, there is no plural female “noua” and I have never heard this version in spoken Romanian (not even in Cluj, where I used to live for a while). There might be people who use it but that does not mean that we should follow them. If I were to teach English, I would not teach the expression “he do”, although many people don’t use the “-s” for the third person singular.

    You say:
    “The entire clause of “adjective + pronoun” comes before the main noun in the sentence, not after it.”
    I might imply that when I use an adjective and a pronoun, the only construction possible is “adjective + pronoun.” But most of Romanians would use the construction “pronoun + adjective”: “mașina mea nouă, verde, maro și frumoasă.”
    Note: usually, there is no comma between the possessive pronoun and the first adjective.
    Of course, you can also say “noua mea mașină, verde, maro și frumoasă ” (the specific construction “adjective + pronoun”) but than you emphasize the adjective “noua,” therefore having a car is less important than the fact that the car is new.
    Actually, the article is the one that tells you which word is more important:
    “mașina mea nouă” = the NOUN has the enclitic (definite) article “a”;
    “noua mea mașină” = the ADJECTIVE has the enclitic (definite) article “a”; note the inversion “noua mea” (adjective + pronoun), instead of “mea nouă” (pronoun + adjective);
    You can also say:
    “a mea nouă mașină” = the article goes with the possessive PRONOUN (you emphasize the fact that the car is yours); this time, the (possesive) article “a” is proclitic.

    Personally, I don’t know any equivalent in English of all these three expressions. I asked people around and there might be a possibility to catch these nuances in spoken English by stressing the emphasized word:
    mașina mea nouă = my new CAR
    noua mea mașină = my NEW car
    a mea nouă mașină = MY new car

    Definitions:
    enclitic = a clitic that is attached to the end of another word
    proclitic = a clitic that is attached to the beginning of another word
    clitic = an unstressed word, typically a function word, that is incapable of standing on its own and attaches in pronunciation to a stressed word, with which it forms a single accentual unit.

    One more detail: “mașina mea nouă, verde, maro și frumoasă” sounds a little odd, because the car cannot be green and brown in the same time. If you want to say that the color is a combination of green and brown, than you would rather say “verde-maro”, with a hyphen. If you want to say that the car has some parts green and some parts brown, that you would probably like to say “verde cu maro” (green with brown), which is not the best way to express your thoughts in that specific sentence, but is better than “verde si maro.”

    Finally, I would like to tell you that you are doing a great job. Felicitări!

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    1. Mihaela says:

      There are even other expressions (which I cannot accurately translate in English), with the following constructions:
      “a mea mașină nouă” (of mine new car) = possessive article + possessive pronoun + noun + adjective
      “noua mașină a mea” (the new car of mine) = adjective + definite enclitic article + noun + possessive article + possessive noun
      As I said before, the first expression is the most common so there is no need to learn all the other combinations, unless you are interested in Romanian literature (where you can find all the combinations possible).

      The mighty advantage of a highly inflected language! :)

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    2. Jen says:

      I am very glad I’m a native speaker and I don’t need to think about these things.

      (Sam, I would’ve given up if I were you and I heard/read these explanations :P)

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  4. sara says:

    nope, not just you! and noile? haven’t heard that one yet… it’s plural with the definite article then?

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    1. Mihaela says:

      @ sara
      yes, it’s a definite article, so there will be two different plurals, for feminine (with feminine article) and masculine (with masculine article), depending on which word you would like to emphesize:
      fem. – mașinile noi (the new CARS) = noile mașini (the NEW cars)
      masc. – prietenii noi (the new FRIENDS) = noii prieteni (the NEW friends)

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  5. Radu says:

    Fun article, Sam, but I have one observation to make: technically, when one is listing adjectives, one does not need to use “si” in between them. A comma is just fine and the “si” goes before the last one (Masina mea e verde, frumoasa si noua).

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    1. Ayceman says:

      Noting, however, that the Oxford comma is incorrect, so it’s “noun adjective1, adjective2 și adjective3”, meaning that there is no comma before “și (and)”.

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    2. Zergu says:

      Seconded. Adding those „și” between the first adjectives it’s only used when you want to emphasize each of the adjectives or when you talk in an inormal manner and add up to the previous sentence which you previously thought to be over. But really, using so many „și”-s is really irritating and gives the signal that you’re either non-native or uneducated (you’ve talked about this in the past).

      @Sam: I also want to add to that a comment about this statement: “Note: Sometimes in Romanian the plural female version is still noua.”. I might be missing something, but I see no basis for this claim. Do you have any examples of such plural? You might be confusing some informal speaking or I might be missing something.

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