|The Catalan / Valencian cultural domain|
Logo of the Institut d'Estudis Catalans
The grammar of Catalan is similar to other Romance languages. Features include:
- Use of definite and indefinite articles.
- Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and articles are inflected for gender (masculine and feminine), and number (singular and plural).
- Highly inflected verbs, for person, number, tense, aspect, and mood (including a subjunctive).
- Lack of modal auxiliaries.
- Word order is freer than English.
Some distinctive features of Catalan among Romance languages include the general lack of masculine markers (like Italian -o), a trait shared with French and Occitan; and the fact that the preterite tense of verbs is usually formed with a periphrasis consisting of the verb "to go" plus infinitive.
Catalan has two types of article, definite and indefinite. They are declined for gender and number, and must agree with the noun they qualify. As with other Romance languages, Catalan articles are subject to complex elision and contraction processes.
The inflection of articles is complex, especially because of the high number of elisions, but is similar to the neighboring languages. Catalan has more contractions of preposition + article than Spanish, like dels ("of + the [plural]"), but not as many as Italian (which has sul, col, nel, etc.).
The tables below summarize the forms of the definite article, its elisions, and its contractions.
|singular||el (l')||la (l')|
|article||el||al (a l')||del (de l')||pel (per l')|
- The masculine singular form is el. It becomes elided to l' when followed by a vowel or h.
- El pare. L'avi.
- "The father." "The grandfather."
- El iode. El hiat.
- "The iodine." "The hiatus"
- The masculine plural form is els. Both el and els become combined with the prepositions a "to", de "of", and per "for". Creating the contractions al, als, del, dels, pel, pels.
- Ho dic al pare.
- "I say it to the father." ("I say it to my father")
- Això és del noi.
- "This is of the boy." ("This belongs to the boy")
- Corria pels camins.
- "I ran through the paths." ("I ran along the paths")
- Porta-ho a l'avi.
- "Bring this to the grandfather."
- Baixa de l'arbre.
- "Get down from the tree."
- La mare. L'àvia
- "The mother." "The grandmother"
- La idea. La hipòtesi. La unitat. La humitat.
- "The idea." "The hypothesis." "The unit." "The humidity."
- La is not elided with the words una "one (hour)", host "hueste", and ira "wrath"; as well as with words beginning with the Greek prefix a-, like asimetria "asymetry".
- The feminine plural form is les. Feminine articles are not contracted with prepositions.
Articles for personal names
Forenames and surnames must carry a definite article. In addition to the ordinary singular forms, alternative forms derived from the Latin vocative domine can be used. The elision rules are the same for el and la.
|en (n')||na (n')|
- El Joan. L'Andreu. La Mercè. La Isabel. L'Olga.
- En Joan. N'Andreu. Na Mercè. Na Isabel. N'Olga.
In some regions, especially in the Balearic islands, the definite article derives from the Latin determiner ipse. These forms are referred to as articles salats. Similar forms are found in Sardinian and some varieties of Occitan.
|singular||es (s')||sa (s')|
The table below summarize the forms of the indefinite article. Indefinite articles are not elided nor contracted.
Overview of gender and number inflection
Most adjectives, and a fair number of nouns, inflect for gender. This usually follows a regular pattern of endings. The two main patterns are generally referred to as "four-form" and "two-form" adjectives. Four-form adjectives have distinct masculine and feminine forms, whereas two-form adjectives have the same form for both masculine and feminine. They are derived from the Latin first/second, and the third declension respectively. Many nouns follow the four-form inflection, but some may follow the two-form inflection. Some are irregular in some way.
Like in French, but unlike Portuguese, Spanish or Italian, the Latin/Romance final -o and -e have disappeared. Thus, the alternance of -o/-a in the four-form words has been substituted by -/-a. There are only a few exceptions, like minso/minsa ("scarce").
Among nouns, Catalan has few suppletive couplets, like Italian and Spanish, and unlike French. Thus, Catalan has noi/noia ("boy"/"girl") and gall/gallina ("cock"/"chicken"), whereas French has garçon/fille and coq/poule.
There is a tendency to inflect adjectives as four-form instead of two-form, something that is prevalent in Occitan and standard in French. Thus, alongside traditional two-form bullent/bullent ("boiling"), one can also find four-form bullent/bullenta.
- Affrication: boig/boja ("insane") vs. lleig/lletja ("ugly")
- Loss of n: pla/plana ("flat") vs. segon/segona ("second")
- Final obstruent devoicing: sentit/sentida ("felt") vs. dit/dita ("said") vs. fred/freda ("cold")
In words that end in a sibilant sound, the masculine plural ending is -os instead of just -s. Feminines still have -es or, if they follow the two-form declension, no ending at all. Compare: el pols/els polsos ("the pulse"/"the pulses") vs. la pols/les pols ("the dust"/"the dusts").
Adjectives that end in -ç follow the two-form declension in the singular, but four-form in the plural, so that they actually have three forms:
Catalan nouns are inflected for gender (masculine or feminine), and number (singular or plural). There is no case inflection. Articles and adjectives agree in gender and number with the noun they refer to.
Usually, masculine nouns are unmarked, feminine nouns carry the suffix -a; and the plural is marked with the suffix -s, which makes the feminine ending turn into -e-. Thus, the most common declension paradigm for Catalan names is the one that follows:
The grammatical gender of a Catalan noun does not necessarily correspond with the real-life object's biological sex (or lack thereof). Nouns denoting a person, such as home "man" or dona "woman", generally agree with the natural gender of what is described. However, Catalan assigns gender to nouns without natural gender in arbitrary fashion. For example, the word tamboret ("stool") is masculine, while the word cadira ("chair") is feminine.
Living beings with distinct masculine and feminine forms
Living beings of the same species usually are designed by two nouns: one of masculine grammatical gender for biologically male individuals, and one of feminine grammatical gender for biologically female individuals. Both names, masculine and feminine, are usually only differentiated by their ending; sometimes the second is derived from the first or vice versa. Rarely, both come from different roots.
Formation of the feminine form from the masculine
- Noi → noia. Avi → àvia.
- "Boy - girl." "Grandfather - grandmother."
- If the masculine form ends in -t, -p, -f, -s, the addition of the feminine suffix -a may cause these consonants to become voiced to -d-, -b-, -v-, -s-; or not. There are no rules to deduce the change.
becomes voiced remains unvoiced change masculine feminine gloss masculine feminine gloss ⟨-t⟩ → ⟨-d-⟩
/t/ → /ð/
nebot neboda "nephew - niece" nét neta "grandson - granddaughter" ⟨-p⟩ → ⟨-b-⟩
/p/ → /β/
llop lloba "wolf" ⟨-f⟩ → ⟨-v-⟩
/f/ → /v~β/
serf serva "serf" ⟨-s⟩ → ⟨-s-⟩
/s/ → /z/
espòs esposa "husband - wife" gos gossa "dog - bitch"
- If the masculine form ends in a stressed vowel, the feminine is created by appending the suffix -na.
- Germà → germana
- "Brother - sister."
- Sometimes the feminine form is created by appending the suffix -essa to the unmarked masculine form.
- Sacerdot → sacerdotessa.
- "Priest - priestess."
Formation of the masculine form from the feminine
- Bruixot ← bruixa.
- "Wizard - witch."
Living beings with indistinct masculine and feminine forms
- Sometimes a single noun is used to designate both masculine and feminine beings. To specify the biological gender of the being, the adjectives mascle "male", and femella "female" are used.
- El rossinyol. El rossinyol mascle. El rossinyol femella.
- " The nightingale." "The male nightingale." "The female nightingale"
Objects, abstract concepts
- Since objects and abstract concepts have no biological gender, all of them only have one form. The gender of inanimate nouns is assigned arbitrarily. Sometimes the choice may seem contradictory.
- La virilitat (f).
- "The manliness."
- Sometimes synonymous words may have different genders.
- El televisor (m) - la televisió (f). L'argent (m) - la plata (f)
- "The TV." "The silver."
Homophonous words with different genders
- El clau (m) - la clau (f)
- "The nail - the key."
Like all the Western Romance languages, the formation of the plural involves the addition of the suffix -s to the singular. However, the stem may undergo some changes. The number inflection of adjectives follows the same rules.
- Pare → pares. Avi → avis.
- "Father - fathers." "Grandfather - grandfathers."
- If the singular ends in -a, the plural is usually formed with -es. Most of these nouns are feminine, but some are masculine.
- Casa → cases (f). Problema → problemes (m).
- "House - houses." "Problem - problems"
sound transformation singular
gloss /ɣ/ ⟨g⟩ → ⟨gu⟩ farga fargues /ˈfarɣə(s)/ "forge(s)" /k/ ⟨c⟩ → ⟨qu⟩ oca oques /ˈɔkə(s)/ "goose - geese" /ɣw/ ⟨gu⟩ → ⟨gü⟩ llengua llengües /ˈʎeŋɡwə(s)/ "tongue(s)" /kw/ ⟨qu⟩ → ⟨qü⟩ pasqua pasqües /ˈpaskwə(s)/ "Easter(s)" /s/ ⟨ç⟩ → ⟨c⟩ plaça places /ˈpɫasə(s)/ "square(s)" /ʒ/ ⟨j⟩ → ⟨g⟩ pluja pluges /ˈpɫuʒə(s)/ "rain(s)" /dʒ/ platja platges /ˈpɫadʒə(s)/ "beach(es)"
- If the singular form ends in a stressed vowel, the plural is usually created by appending the suffix -ns.
- Pa → pans (m). Capità → capitans (m). Acció → accions (f).
- "Bread - breads." "Captain - captains." "Action - actions."
- Sofà → sofàs. Bambú → bambús.
- "Sofa - sofas." "Bamboo - bamboos."
- Home → homes or hòmens. Orfe → orfes or òrfens
- "Man - men." "Orphan - orphans."
- Many masculine nouns ending in -s, ç form their plural with -os. -s- becomes voiced in the plural, but -ç- remains unvoiced.
- Gas → gasos /ˈgas - ˈgazus/. Braç → braços /ˈbɾas - ˈbɾasus/.
- "Gas - gases." "Arm - arms."
- Most polysyllabic masculine words ending in -às, -ís, ús.
- Fracàs → fracassos. Pastís → pastissos. Barnús → barnussos
- "Failure - failures." "Cake - cakes." "Bathrobe - bathrobes"
- Most masculine words ending in -os, -ós, òs.
- Gos → gossos. Arròs → arrossos. Ós → óssos.
- "Dog - dogs." "Rice - rices." "Bear - bears."
- Llapis → llapis. Òmnibus - òmnibus
- "Pencil - pencils." "Omnibus - omnibuses."
- Feminine nouns ending in an s-like sound (-s, -ç, -x, -z) have a plural that is pronounced the same as the singular. If the noun ends in -s, no ending is added. Otherwise, an unpronounced -s is added.
- Pols → pols.
- "Dust - dusts."
- Calç → calçs /ˈkaɫs/.
- "Lime - limes."
- Nouns ending in -x pronounced /ks/ form plurals according to word stress. If the noun is stressed on the last syllable, the plural suffix is -os. Otherwise, the ending is -s and the plural form is homophonous with the singular.
- Reflex → reflexos /rəˈflɛksus/. Índex → índexs /ˈindəks/.
- "Reflection - reflections." "Index - indexes."
- Nouns ending in -x pronounced /ʃ/ form their plural with -os.
- Calaix → calaixos.
- "Drawer - drawers."
- Nouns ending in -ig (/tʃ/) can form their plural in two ways, both acceptable:
- Adding -s. Both forms will be homophonous. This is the preferred form in normative grammars, not so in general spoken use.
- Faig → faigs /ˈfatʃ/. Passeig → Passeigs /pəˈsɛtʃ/.
- Replacing -ig with jos or tjos. There are no rules to deduce which is to be used.
- Faig → fajos /ˈfatʃ - ˈfaʒus/. Mig → mitjos. /ˈmitʃ - ˈmidʒus/.
- "Beech - beeches." "Promenade - promenades. Half - halves."
- Nouns ending in -sc, -st, -xt can form their plural in two ways, both acceptable: Adding -s (preferred), or adding -os.
- Bosc → boscs or boscos. Gust → gusts or gustos. Pretext → pretexts or pretextos
- "Forest - forests." "Taste - tastes." "Pretext - pretexts."
- Host → hosts.
- "Hueste - huestes."
A Catalan adjective must agree in gender and number with the noun it accompanies. Most adjectives are placed after the nouns. Adjectives can be divided into three declension paradigms. The number inflection rules are the same as the nouns.
Catalan adjectives can be divided in three groups according to the distinct forms it has.
Formation of the feminine singular from the masculine singular
In adjectives with distinct feminine singular form, the masculine is usually unmarked for gender, and ends in a consonant. The feminine singular form of regular adjectives can be created from the masculine singular.
Unmarked masculine forms
- Sec - seca. Fred - freda. Continu - contínua.
- "Dry." "Cold." "Continuous."
- If the masculine form ends in -t, -c, -s, the addition of the feminine suffix -a may cause these consonants to become voiced to -d-, -g-, -s-; or not. There are no rules governing this change.
|becomes voiced||remains unvoiced|
| ⟨-t⟩ → ⟨-d-⟩|
/t/ → /ð/
| ⟨-c⟩ → ⟨-g-⟩|
/k/ → /ɣ/
| ⟨-s⟩ → ⟨-s-⟩|
/s/ → /z/
- If the masculine form ends in a stressed vowel, the feminine is created by appending the suffix -na.; except nu "nude" and cru "raw".
- Pla - plana. Rodó - rodona.
- "Flat." "Round."
- If the masculine form ends in -au, -eu, -iu, and -ou; the feminine is formed with -ava, -ea, -iva, and -ova.
- Blau - blava. Europeu - europea. Viu - viva. Nou - nova.
- "Blue." "European." "Alive." "New."
Marked masculine forms ending in -e or -o
- Ample - ampla. Maco - maca (Cf. Sp. "majo").
- "Wide." "Nice."
Adjectives with indistinct masculine and feminine forms
Some adjectives may have the same form in the masculine singular and feminine singular.
- Capaç - capaç. Feliç - feliç. Precoç - precoç.
- "Capable." "Happy." "Precocious."
- Central -central. Rebel - rebel. Hostil - hostil. Mòbil - mòbil.
- "Central." "Rebel." "Hostile." "Mobile."
- Vulgar - Vulgar
Irregular feminine forms
Some femine adjectives are formed irregularly and do not adhere to the aforementioned formation rules.
Degrees of comparison
Degrees of comparison are expressed with a construction implying the adverb més "more":
- Més ... que ("more ... than")
- Sóc més alt que tu.
- "I am taller than you."
- El més ... de ("the most ... of")
- Sóc el més alt de tots
- "I am the tallest of all".
Like many other Romance languages, Catalan adjectives have an absolute superlative form, expressed with the suffix -íssim, placed between the stem and the gender / number suffix.
- Aquest home es altíssim.
- "This man is very very tall."
- Aquestes dones són altíssimes.
- "These women are very very tall."
Catalan adverbs, like their English counterparts, are used to modify adjectives, other adverbs, and verbs or clauses. They do not display any inflection; that is, their form does not change to reflect their precise role, nor any characteristics of what they modify.
In Catalan, as in English, most adverbs are derived from adjectives. In most cases, this is done by adding the suffix -ment ("-ly") to the adjective's feminine singular form. For example, the feminine singular form of lent ("slow") is lenta, so the corresponding adverb is lentament ("slowly").
As in English, however, the adjective stem is sometimes modified to accommodate the suffix:
And, as in English, many common adverbs are not derived from adjectives at all:
- així ("thus", "so").
- ahir ("yester day").
The placement of Catalan adverbs is almost the same as the placement of English adverbs.
An adverb that modifies an adjective or adverb comes before that adjective or adverb:
- completament cert ("completely true").
- massa ben fet ("too well done").
- caminar lentament ("to walk slowly").
An adverb that modifies a main verb or clause comes either after the verb, or before the clause:
- Lentament ell comença a caminar or Ell comença lentament a caminar ("Slowly, he begins to walk" or "He begins slowly to walk").
Note that, unlike in English, this is true even of negative adverbs:
- Mai jo no he fet això or Jo no he mai fet això ("Never have I done that" or "I have never done that").
Possessive adjectives are inflected for person and number of the possessor, and for gender and number of the possession. The table below summarizes all the possible forms.
- El cotxe és meu.
- "The car is mine."
Possessive adjectives are, like the possessive pronouns, inflected for person and number of the possessor, and for gender and number of the possession. The table below summarizes all the possible forms. Notice how the plural possessor forms are identical to the possessive pronoun forms.
- Unstressed forms are rarely used in the spoken language, and are only retained for family relatives and set phrases.
- Ton pare. Son avi.
- "Your father." "His / her grandfather."
- En ma vida.
- "In my whole life."
- Mon cotxe. (literary, archaic)
- El meu cotxe. (more common)
- "My car."
The morphology of Catalan personal pronouns is complex, specially in unstressed forms, which are numerous (13 distinct forms, compared to 11 in Spanish or 9 in Italian; French has such a different system that comparisons are not factible). Features include the neuter gender (ho) and the great degree of freedom when combining different unstressed pronouns (65 combinations).
This flexibility allows Catalan to use extraposition extensively, much more than French or Spanish. Thus, Catalan can have m'hi recomanaren ("they recommended me to him"), whereas in French one must say ils m'ont recommendé à lui, and in Spanish me recomendaron a él. This allows the placement of almost any nominal term as a sentence topic, without having to use so often the passive voice (as in French or English), or identifying the direct object with a preposition (as in Spanish).
|first person||jo, mi||nosaltres|
|first person||accusative, dative, reflexive||em||ens|
- Tense: past, present, future.
- Number: singular or plural.
- Person: first, second or third.
- Mood: indicative, subjunctive, or imperative.
- Aspect: Perfective aspect or imperfective aspect (distinguished only in the past tense as preterite or imperfect).
- Voice: active or passive.
Like all the Romance languages, Catalan verbal inflection is more complex than the nominal. Suffixation is omnipresent, while morphological alternations play a secondary role. Vowel alternances are active, as well as infixation and suppletion. However, these are not as productive as in Spanish, and are mostly restricted to irregular verbs.
Catalan verbs are traditionally divided into three conjugations, with vowel themes -a-, -e-, -i-, the last two being split into two subtypes. However, this division is mostly theoretical. Only the first conjugation is nowadays productive (with about 3500 common verbs), while the third (the subtype of servir, with about 700 common verbs) is semiproductive. The verbs of the second conjugation are fewer than 100, and it is not possible to create new ones, except by compounding.
- Swan 2001, p. 97–98.
- Enciclopèdia Catalana, p. 631.
- Fabra 1933, p. 27.
- Fabra 1933, p. 28.
- Enciclopèdia Catalana, p. 630.
- Enciclopèdia Catalana, p. 630–631.
- Fabra 1933, p. 29.
- Fabra 1933, p. 30.
- Fabra 1933, p. 38.
- Fabra 1933, p. 31.
- Fabra 1933, p. 32.
- Fabra 1933, p. 32–33.
- Fabra 1933, p. 33.
- Fabra 1933, p. 34.
- Fabra 1933, p. 34–36.
- Fabra 1933, p. 36.
- Fabra 1933, p. 37.
- Fabra 1933, p. 56.
- Fabra 1933, p. 57.
- Fabra, Pompeu (1933) . Gramàtica Catalana (PDF) (in Catalan) (7th ed.). Barcelona: Institut d'Estudis Catalans. ISBN 84-7283-290-2. [Facsimile published in 1995]
- Ferrater; et al. (1973). "Català". Enciclpèdia Catalana Volum 4 (in Catalan) (1977, corrected ed.). Barcelona: Enciclopèdia Catalana, S.A. pp. 628–639. ISBN 84-85-194-04-7.
- Badia i Margarit, Antoni M. (1995). Gramàtica de la llengua catalana: Descriptiva, normativa, diatòpica, diastràtica (in Catalan). Barcelona: Proa.
- Freysselinard, Eric (2002). Grammaire et vocabulaire du catalan (in French). Paris: Ophrys. ISBN 2-7080-1037-9.
- Swan, Michael (2001). Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and Other Problems, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press.
- Pellicer, Joan E.; Ferran, Francesc (1998). Gramática de uso de la lengua catalana (in Spanish). Barcelona: MIL999. ISBN 84-930236-0-4.
- Yates, Alan (1993). Teach Yourself Catalan. NTC/Contemporary Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8442-3755-8.
- Wheeler, Max; Yates, Alan; Dols, Nicolau (1999). Catalan: A Comprehensive Grammar. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-20777-0.