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G1.6 Romanian gender and number

A Romanian noun can have one of the three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter, and can be either singular or plural.
The neuter is the third gender however it uses the forms of the masculine singular and feminine plural.

This lesson will guide you on how to find out the gender of a noun, and it will also help you understand the rules for building the plural.

Let’s have a look at a few examples:

o profesoară (a female teacher) două profesoare (two female teachers) un profesor (a male teacher) doi profesori (two male teachers) un bec (a light bulb) două becuri (two light bulbs)
o femeie (a woman) două femei (two women) un bărbat (a man) doi bărbați (two men) un pahar (a glass) două pahare (two glasses)
o bunică (a grandmother) două bunici (two grandmothers) un artist (a male artist) doi artiști (two male artists) un studiu (a study) două studii (two studies)

"O" is the indefinite article that accompanies the singular feminine Romanian nouns, while "un" is used in front of masculine Romanian singular nouns. We will write a dedicated lesson on Romanian articles.

How to find out the gender of a Romanian noun?

There are many rules on how to determine which gender a Romanian noun belongs to. We’ll present here the easy rules, for all the other cases you are advised to learn the gender by heart from the dictionary.

A few very easy rules to remember are the following ones:

1.Most inanimate Romanian nouns that end in a consonant are neuter.Plants are in Romanian animate nouns (unlike Slavic languages).

2.The nouns ending in a consonant are either masculine or neuter, they cannot be feminine. It is false to assume that the reverse rule would be true, because a noun ending in a vowel can be feminine, neuter or masculine.

3.Romanian women first names always end in a vowel (except a few borrowings from other languages).

We recommend that you learn the gender of Romanian nouns by heart, out of a dictionary or while reading/studying Romanian.
If you are interested in knowing all the intricacies of the many rules determining the gender of a Romanian noun, or how to decline the plural then please see our next page.

English compared to Romanian

English does not use grammatical gender for its nouns, but uses the natural gender such as: "wife", "husband", "dear", "stag". Romanian nouns follow the natural gender rule : "soţ" (husband) being masculine, and "soţie" (wife) feminine noun.
However all other Romanian nouns have a gender as opposed to English where there is no natural gender, or it cannot be inferred from the noun.

For example, in English "a lamp" is neither feminine, nor masculine, whereas in Romanian, "lampă" is feminine and follows the rules of feminine nouns.
Moreover English does not make a gender distinction in some cases: e.g. "a teacher" can be a male or a female teacher. Romanian has two different nouns one for a male teacher: "profesor" and another one for a female teacher: "profesoară". In Romanian there are also a few nouns that can refer to both female and masculine genders, but they are not part of the usual vocabulary and they refer mostly to non-human beings e.g. gândac (bug), elefant (elephant).


Determination of gender

The rules I teach for determining gender are strangely of my own devising! I say strangely because no text book seems to give even the most rudimentary guidance, saying you must just learn the gender! Very much summarised as an example are my rules for the masculine.

1) masculine are all obviously male beings, human or otherwise,whatever the ending, even if that ending is clearly feminine.
2) trees are masculine except when the ending is obviously feminine
3) many parts of the body that perform a function or otherwise do something and are not simply a container, are masculine. In a sense this conforms to rule 1 above, with organs for example seen as animate beings. Organs and body parts which are obviously feminine are feminine. Indeed one might argue that the word for sun, soare, which despite its feminine looking ending, is masculine, conforms to this idea of animate things being masculine!

Determination of Romanian nouns gender

Hi Iulian,

I share your thoughts, I read many books on Romanian grammar and I had to come up by myself, with the conclusion of the rule number 1 that most inanimate nouns (thus objects, not living creatures) are neuter in Romanian. This is rule is in no text book.

Happy to help

Inanimate nouns (thus objects, not living creatures) are neuter?

You said that inanimate nouns (thus objects, not living creatures) are neuter in Romanian.
But seems it's not really correct.
It comes to my mind the word "masa" means "table", it's an inanimate noun, not living at all, but it's feminine noun: "o masa, doua mese".
I'm not Romanian and am not sure if we can say "most of inanimate nouns are neuter..."

Hi Dinu

You are right, indeed, I've added in the above text the precision below:

Of the Romanian inanimate nouns e.g. objects, the ones that end in a consonant are neuter. For example: un pat (a bed) două paturi (two beds), un pahar (a glass), două pahare (two glasses), un cer (a sky) două ceruri (two skys), un cerc (a circle) două cercuri (two circles).

On the next pages you'll find the rules for feminine nouns and the most clear one is that if a Romanian noun ends in "ă" then it is a feminine noun, and this is valid for both animate and inanimate nouns: o masă (a table) două mese (two tables), o fată (a girl) două fete (two girls).

Happy to help

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