Catalan grammar

Catalan grammar, the morphology and syntax of the Catalan language, is similar to the grammar of most other Romance languages. Catalan is a relatively synthetic, fusional language.

The grammar of Catalan is similar to other Romance languages. Features include:

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.[2] 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.).[2]


The tables below summarize the forms of the definite article, its elisions, and its contractions.

Definite article
(elided forms in brackets)
masculine feminine
singular el (l') la (l')
plural els les
Contractions of the definite article
a de per
article el al (a l') del (de l') pel (per l')
els als dels pels

Masculine forms

El pare. L'avi.
"The father." "The grandfather."
El iode. El hiat.
"The iodine." "The hiatus"
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."

Feminine forms

La mare. L'àvia
"The mother." "The grandmother"
La idea. La hipòtesi. La unitat. La humitat.
"The idea." "The hypothesis." "The unit." "The humidity."

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.

Personal article
(elided forms in brackets)
masculine feminine
en (n') na (n')
El Joan. L'Andreu. La Mercè. La Isabel. L'Olga.
En Joan. N'Andreu. Na Mercè. Na Isabel. N'Olga.

Dialectal variation

In Western Catalonia the dialectal versions lo and los are used instead of el and els.[3]

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.

Balearic definite article
masculine feminine
singular es (s') sa (s')
plural es, ets ses


The table below summarize the forms of the indefinite article. Indefinite articles are not elided nor contracted.

Indefinite article
masculine feminine
singular un una
plural uns unes

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.

Four-form adjective
verd ("green")
masculine feminine
singular verd verda
plural verds verdes
Two-form adjective
indiferent ("indifferent")
masculine feminine
singular indiferent
plural indifferents

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.[5] There are only a few exceptions, like minso/minsa ("scarce").[5]

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. [5]

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.[5]


Many not completely predictable morphological alternations may occur between masculine and feminine, like:[5]

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").[6]

Adjectives that end in follow the two-form declension in the singular, but four-form in the plural, so that they actually have three forms:

Adjective in -ç
feliç ("happy")
masculine feminine
singular feliç
plural feliços felices


Main article: Catalan nouns

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:

declension of gat "cat"
masculine feminine
singular gat gata
plural gats gates

Gender inflection

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.[7]

Formation of the feminine form from the masculine
Noi → noia. Avi → àvia.
"Boy - girl." "Grandfather - grandmother."
becomes voiced remains unvoiced
change masculine feminine gloss masculine feminine gloss
⟨-t⟩ → ⟨-d-⟩
/t/ → /ð/
nebot neboda "nephew - niece" t 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"
Germà → germana
"Brother - sister."
Sacerdot → sacerdotessa.
"Priest - priestess."
Formation of the masculine form from the feminine
Bruixot ← bruixa.
"Wizard - witch."

Living beings with indistinct masculine and feminine forms

El rossinyol. El rossinyol mascle. El rossinyol femella.
" The nightingale." "The male nightingale." "The female nightingale"

Objects, abstract concepts

La virilitat (f).
"The manliness."
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."

Number inflection

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.[9]

Pare → pares. Avi → avis.
"Father - fathers." "Grandfather - grandfathers."
Casa → cases (f). Problema → problemes (m).
"House - houses." "Problem - problems"
sound transformation singular
(stem underlined)
(stem underlined)
/ɣ/ ⟨g⟩ → ⟨gu⟩ farga fargues /ˈfarɣə(s)/ "forge(s)"
/k/ ⟨c⟩ → ⟨qu⟩ oca oques /ˈɔkə(s)/ "goose - geese"
/ɣw/ ⟨gu⟩ → ⟨gü⟩ llengua llenes /ˈʎeŋɡwə(s)/ "tongue(s)"
/kw/ ⟨qu⟩ → ⟨qü⟩ pasqua pases /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)"
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."
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."
Pols → pols.
"Dust - dusts."
Calç → calçs /ˈkaɫs/.
"Lime - limes."
Reflex → reflexos /rəˈflɛksus/. Índex → índexs /ˈindəks/.
"Reflection - reflections." "Index - indexes."
Calaix → calaixos.
"Drawer - drawers."
Faig → faigs /ˈfatʃ/. Passeig → Passeigs /pəˈsɛtʃ/.
Faig → fajos /ˈfatʃ - ˈfaʒus/. Mig → mitjos. /ˈmitʃ - ˈmidʒus/.
"Beech - beeches." "Promenade - promenades. Half - halves."
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.

Adjective with 4 forms:
verd "green"
masculine feminine
singular verd verda
plural verds verdes
Adjective with 3 forms:
feliç "happy"
masculine feminine
singular feliç
plural feliços felices
Adjective with 2 forms:
indiferent "indifferent"
masculine feminine
singular indiferent
plural indifferents

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."
Voicing alternations
becomes voiced remains unvoiced
change masculine feminine gloss masculine feminine gloss
⟨-t⟩ → ⟨-d-⟩
/t/ → /ð/
buit buida "empty" lent lenta "slow"
⟨-c⟩ → ⟨-g-⟩
/k/ → /ɣ/
groc groga "yellow" ric rica "rich"
⟨-s⟩ → ⟨-s-⟩
/s/ → /z/
obès obesa "obese" gras grassa "fat"
Pla - plana. Rodó - rodona.
"Flat." "Round."
Blau - blava. Europeu - europea. Viu - viva. Nou - nova.
"Blue." "European." "Alive." "New."
Marked masculine forms ending in -e or -o

If the masculine form ends in -e or -o, the final vowel is substituted with -a. Many of the adjectives ending in -o come from Spanish. [16]

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.

Cap - cap. Fel - fel. Prec - prec.
"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.

Common Catalan irregular adjectives[16]
masculine feminine gloss
oblic obliqua "oblique"
boig boja "insane"
roig roja " red"
lleig lletja "ugly"
mig mitja "half"
nul nul·la "null"
tranquil tranquil·la "quiet"
cru crua "raw"
nu nua "nude"
jueu jueva "Jewish"
mal mala "bad"
paral·lel paral·lela "parallel"
car cara "expensive"
clar clara "clear"
avar avara "avaricious"
rar rara "rare"

Degrees of comparison

Degrees of comparison are expressed with a construction implying the adverb més "more":

Sóc més alt que tu.
"I am taller than you."
Sóc el més alt de tots
"I am the tallest of all".

Absolute superlative

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").

An adverb that modifies an infinitive (verbal noun) generally comes after the infinitive:

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 pronouns

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.

Possessive pronouns [18]
singular plural
masculine feminine masculine feminine
singular first meu meva meus meves
second teu teva teus teves
third seu seva seus seves
plural first nostre nostra nostres
second vostre vostra vostres
third llur llur llurs
El cotxe és meu.
"The car is mine."

The feminine forms meva, teva, and seva may appear dialectally with /w/ instead of /β ~ v/: meua, teua, and seua. Their plural forms follow the same variation (meues, teues, and seues).[18]

Possessive adjectives

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.

Possessive adjectives[19]
singular plural
masculine feminine masculine feminine
singular first mon ma mons mes
second ton ta tons tes
third son sa sons ses
plural first nostre nostra nostres
second vostre vostra vostres
third llur llur llurs

Central Catalan has abandoned almost completely unstressed possessives (mon, etc.) in favour of constructions of article + stressed forms (el meu, etc.), a feature shared with Italian[2] and Portuguese.

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."


Personal pronouns

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). [2] Features include the neuter gender (ho) and the great degree of freedom when combining different unstressed pronouns (65 combinations).[2]

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.[2] 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).[2]

Catalan stressed pronouns
  singular plural
first person jo, mi nosaltres
second person informal tu vosaltres
respectful vós[lower-alpha 1]
formal vostèvostès
third person masculine ell ells
feminine ella elles
  1. Archaic in most dialects.
Catalan unstressed pronouns (only full forms)
singular plural
first person accusative, dative, reflexive em ens
second person et us
third person accusative masculine el els
feminine la les
objective neuter ho
dative li els
reflexive es
adverbial ablative, genitive en
locative hi


Catalan verbs express an action or a state of being of a given subject, and like verbs in most of the Indo-European languages, Catalan verbs undergo inflection according to the following categories:

Finite Catalan verb forms for cantar ("to sing")
only 2nd person singular
mood time simple composite
indicative present cantes has cantat
past imperfect cantaves havies cantat
perfect cantares hagueres cantat
future cantaràs hauràs cantat
subjunctive present cantis hagis cantat
past cantéssis haguéssis cantat
conditional cantaries hauries cantat
imperative canta
Non-finite Catalan verb forms for cantar ("to sing")
simple composite
infinitive cantar haver cantat
gerund cantant havent cantat
participle cantat hagut cantat

Like all the Romance languages, Catalan verbal inflection is more complex than the nominal. Suffixation is omnipresent, while morphological alternations play a secondary role.[2] 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.[2]

The Catalan verbal system is basically common to all Western Romance, except that most dialects have substituted the analytic indicative perfect by a periphrastic form of anar ("to go") + infinitive.[2]

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.[2] 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.[2]



External links

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