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Romanian Nouns: Gender and Declension Reference Grammar

Gender

On the basis of their grammatical structure, Romanian nouns are divided into three classes (traditionally called genders): masculine, feminine, and neuter. The form of the indefinite article that accompanies a noun and the ending of the noun indicate the gender to which the noun belongs.

Masculine nouns take a consonant plus –u, -e, or –i endings and the plural is marked by a final –i. The indefinite articles for masculine nouns are un for singular and niște for plural. Since niște is also the plural form for feminines and neuters, the way Romanians clearly identify the gender of nouns is by placing a cardinal numeral in front of the noun. (The Romanian cardinal numerals one (un, o) and two (doi, două) agree in gender and number with the noun that follows.) The definite articles are all inflected. Most singular masculine nouns end in –l, plural –i.

Article Masc. Singular Masc. Plural
Indefinite un bărbat
un fiu
un munte
un pui
niște/doi bărbați
niște/doi fii
niște/doi munți
niște/doi pui
Definite bărbat(u)l
fiul
muntele
puiul
bărbații
fiii
munții
puii

Feminine nouns end in –a, -e, -ea, -a. Plurals are marked by –le, -e or –i endings. The indefinite articles for feminine nouns are o for singular and niște for plural. The definite articles are –a for singular and –le for plural.

Article Fem. Singular Fem. Plural
Indefinite o cafea
o fată
o femeie
niște/două cafele
niște/ două fete
niște/ două femei
Definite cafeaua
fata
femeia
cafelele
fetele
femeile

In form, the Neuter appears as masculine singular and feminine plural.

Article Neuter Singular Neuter Plural
Indefinite un autobuz
un hotel
niște/două autobuze
niște/ două hoteluri
Definite autobuzul
hotelul
aubotuzele
hotelurile

Declension

Romanian is an inflected language, with endings on all nouns according to their usage in the sentence. Even though there are five cases (Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative and Vocative), the Nominative and Accusative have identical endings, and so do the Genitive and Dative. Therefore, within each gender, there are two main endings, in singular and plural form. (Vocative is only used with proper names and has been replaced with the Nom.-Acc. form on most occasions.)

Each case would be defined as follows:

Nom.: subject case (person or thing that generates an action):

  • Domnul Spencer lucrează la Departamentul de Stat.
    Mr. Spencer works for the Department of State.
  • Zăpada a acoperit tot orașul peste noapte.
    The snow covered the whole city overnight.

Gen.: possessive case (English “of” and “ s” structures); also limited prepositional case:

  • Capitala Americii este Washington. (possessive)
    The capital of America is Washington.
  • Biroul domnului Popescu este la etajul zece. (possessive)
    Mr. Popescu’s office is on the tenth floor.
  • Nori negri treceau deasupra orașului. –prepositional case
    Black clouds were passing above the city.

Dat.: recipient of message/action case (English “to whom”)

  • Transmite-i, te rog, salutări doamnei Andreescu!
    Please say hello to Mrs. Andreescu!

Acc.: prepositional and direct object case

  • Sâmbătă am fost la film, apoi la restaurant. – prepositional case
    On Saturday we went to the movies, then to a restaurant.
  • Am trecut pe la librărie și mi-am cumpărat o carte interesantă. (direct object)
    I dropped by the bookstore and I bought an interesting book.
  • L-am văzut pe Ion la bibliotecă. (direct object & prepositional case)
    I say John at the library.

Note: In the last example, l ____ pe Ion is the direct object, la bibliotecă is the prepositional case. See ‘Direct Object’, p. 48.

Voc.: order, command

  • Vino aici, fetițo, stai jos!
    Come here, little girl, sit down!

In most cases, however, the Vocative was replaced with more familiar forms:

  • Poftiți, doamnă, serviți-vă! (Nom. indefinite form for Voc.)
    Please, Madam, help yourself!
  • Doamna Ionescu, aș vrea să vă întreb ceva. (Nom. definite form for Voc.)
    Mrs. Ionescu, I’d like to ask you something.

Masculine nouns remain more conservative in the Vocative form:

  • Domnule (Ionescu), vă rog să completați acest formular. (Voc. form)
    Sir (Mr. Ionescu), please fill out this form.

Since dictionaries provide the Nom.-Acc. form, the simplest way to figure out the remaining Gen.-Dat. is by keeping in mind the so called Gen.-Dat. triangle:

Masc. sg. –ui
(bărbatului)
Fem. sg. –ei / -ii
(fetei, femeii)
Masc., Fem. pl. –lor
(bărbaților, fetelor, femeilor)

The form the masculine singular Gen.-Dat., add –ui to the singular definite form:

  • bărbat / bărbatul / bărbatului
  • fiu / fiul / fiului
  • munte / muntele / muntelui

Note: When the –ui ending is preceded by a vowel, as in ‘muntele + ui’, that vowel is dropped while the Gen.-Dat. ending remains intact.

The form the feminine singular Gen.-Dat., add –ei / -ii to the plural indefinite form:

  • fată / fete / fetei
  • femeie / femei / femeii
  • cafea / cafele / cafelei
  • cofetărie / cofetării / cofetăriei

The form the masculine and feminine plural Gen.-Dat., add –lor to the plural indefinite form:

  • bărbat / bărbați / bărbaților
  • fiu / fii / fiilor
  • munte / munți / munților
  • fată / fete / fetelor
  • cafea / cafele / cafelelor
  • cofetărie / cofetării / cofetăriilor

The proper nouns also form their Gen.-Dat. depending on gender. The pattern for masculine nouns is ‘lui + proper noun’:

  • lui Andrei
  • lui Răzvan
  • lui Mihai

Feminine proper nouns, which in Romanian have mostly –a endings, follow the general rule of forming the Gen.-Dat. for feminine nouns:

  • Corina / Corinei
  • Angela / Angelei
  • Dora / Dorei

Feminine nicknames with endings other than –a, and foreign names, follow the masculine pattern:

  • lui Ani
  • lui Cristi
  • lui Ingrid
  • lui Agnes

Learn and practice hundreds of Romanian nouns in context with Clozemaster!


This article is Chapter 3: Nouns of the Foreign Service Institute’s Romanian Reference Grammar, Copyright: Attribution Non-Commercial (BY-NC).

Hoffman CN. Romanian reference grammar. Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State, 1989.

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