The Definite Articles of Bulgarian
06.06.2012 § 9 Comments
Never mind five names for “uncle”, the definite article in Bulgarian is a truly cross-eye-inducing grammar nugget.
The definite article in English is easy: “the“. That’s it. The tub, the king’s wizards, the pretty pony. Not so in Bulgarian.
First off, the definite article is a suffix in Bulgarian, not a separate word. The definitive of “жена” (“woman”) is “жената“.
However, because it’s a word suffix, the definite article is also affected by the gender and ending of the word, and is different for different ones.
- Feminine nouns that end in consonants: -та (e.g. blood: кръв -> кръвта)
- Nouns that end in -а or -я: -та (e.g. woman: женá -> женáта)
- Nouns that end in -е or -о: -то (e.g. sky: небé -> небéто)
- Masculine nouns that end in consonants: -ът if defining the subject of an action and -а otherwise (e.g. man: мъж -> мъжът)
- Plural nouns ending in -a or -я: -та (e.g. fields: полéта -> полéтата)
- All other plural nouns: -те (e.g. cities: градовé -> градовéте)
Rule #4 needs a bit more explanation. For masculine nouns, the suffix -ът is only used if the noun is the grammatical subject of the clause. In all other cases (object, indirect object, etc.) -a is used.
Example: In the sentence “The man ate the bagel”, “man” is the subject and “bagel” is the object, meaning that the word for “man” (мъж) would be defined with -ът, while the word for “bagel” (геврек) would be defined with -а: Мъжът изяде геврека.
Unfortunately, there are exceptions to rule 4. Fortunately, they are well-defined and easy to remember. There are ten masculine nouns that do not use the suffixes -ът and -а. Instead, they use -ят and -я. These words are:
- цар (tzar)
- ден (day)
- зет (son-in-law)
- път (road)
- кон (horse)
- сън (sleep)
- крал (king)
- лакът (elbow)
- нокът (nail/talon)
- огън (fire)
Cross-eyed yet? We’re almost done.
What happens if you try to define an adjective-noun pair?
In that case the suffix is added to the first adjective and not to the noun, and the following suffixes are used:
- –ят and –я for masculine gender (E.g. “the good man ate the nice bagel”: добрият мъж изяде хубавия геврек)
- –та for feminine gender (E.g. “the good book”: добрáта книга)
- –то for neuter gender (E.g. “the good child”: добрóто дете)
- –те for plural (E.g. “the good people”: добрите хора)
*This post is dedicated to italkyoutalklanguages, a translator living in Japan who’s taking her first steps learning Bulgarian while writing a fun and insightful language blog that you should definitely go and check out!*