When you’re an English speaker learning Romanian, two of the first words that you’ll learn are the equivalents for “yes” and “no.” These are “da” and “nu” respectively, and you might think that’s the end of the story.
But Romanian is a unique language that has preserved a lot of Latin grammar, and that includes a more nuanced way to affirm or contradict a statement. This includes a little snippet of a word, ba, which is used when your yes/no answer contradicts the question. The only modern English equivalent to “ba” is the phrase “on the contrary”.
In other words:
- If you’re answering a “simple” question, da/nu will suffice; but
- If you’re contradicting the question with your da/nu answer, you need to append the word “ba” in front of your answer.
Therefore, if someone asks, “Are you 18 years old?”, and you are 16 years old, then your answer is “nu” (no).
But if someone says, “You’re 18 years old, right?” and you are 16 years old, then you’ll contradict them by saying ba nu (on the contrary, no I am not).
Likewise, if someone asks, “Are you working at the post office?” and you are indeed working for the post office, then your answer is “da” (yes).
But if someone says, “You’re not still working at the post office, are you?” then you would respond “ba da” (on the contrary, yes I am).
Here’s a video that has nothing to do with Romanian, but will definitely help you remember what you learned today :)
Bonus points: In archaic English, there was a similar method of answering yes/no questions. “Simple” yes/no questions were answered by yea/nay while answers that contradicted the question used yes/no.
Today, yea/nay is only officially used when voting in the United States Congress, but not in Britain or anywhere else, and it no longer means that you’re contradicting the question. Crazy Americans :)
AND NOW YOU KNOW!