Explaining some of the, ahem, logic behind basic Romanian grammar is a daunting task (see “The quirks of Romania (and Romanian, for example)”. But it’s a beautiful language, so let’s grapple with this great grammatical beast and tame it. Let’s show it who’s the boss. Heads down now, concentrate, OK?
Romanian has three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, but what makes it complicated is the fact that the neuters have what nowadays might be called gender identity issues, as will be explained below.
Masculine nouns: These can be natural masculines (words donating male beings or professions, etc) or simply grammatical ones. Masculine nouns can end in:
- a variety of consonants (e.g. bărbat – man, portocal – orange tree);
- in a –u preceded by a either consonant or vowel (codru – forest, fiu – son, erou – hero, etc),
- in an –e (rege – king);
- or an -i (pui – chicken).
- Very rarely will a masculine noun end in –ă but notable exceptions are tată, popă and papă – father, priest and pope, respectively.
Neuter nouns: these behave like masculine nouns in the singular but feminine in the plural. Thus in the singular they have the same endings as the masculines above – consonant, -u, – ău, -eu, -iu, -ou, -e and -i, but also so words ending in -o as in radio. Neuter nouns are usually inanimate (but inanimate things are not necessarily neuter!). Some examples of neuter words are: timbru – stamp, muzeu – museum, tricou – T-shirt, nume – name, ceai – tea, scaun – chair, and caiet – notebook.
Feminine nouns: These, of course, denote female beings and professions as well as a variety of others. Feminine nouns often end in
- –ă (fată – girl, casă – house)
- –a without the accent (sarma – stuffed cabbage leaf),
- -e (scrisoare – letter),
- –ie (femeie – woman, familie – family),
- –ea or –ia (cafea– coffee, nuia – stick)
- –i (zi – day).
- the months of the year, numbers, letters of the alphabet, many trees, some plants and flowers, the names of most mountains and of some cities (including Bucureşti) are masculine.
- Most sports, some abstract nouns, materials and matters and general objects are neuter.
- The names of days, times of the day and seasons are feminine, as are most countries and continents, most fruits, and most names of the arts and sciences. But some flowers, plants, general objects and cities and regions can be feminine.