Bulgarian Grammar
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Bulgarian Grammar
Front page of the 1835 Bulgarian Grammar by Neofit Rilski, the first such grammar published.

Bulgarian grammar is the grammar of the Bulgarian language. Bulgarian is a South Slavic language that evolved from Old Church Slavonic--the written norm for the Slavic languages in the Middle Ages which derived from Proto-Slavic. Bulgarian is also a part of the Balkan sprachbund, which also includes Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Albanian and the Torlakian dialect of Serbian. It shares with them several grammatical innovations that set it apart from most other Slavic languages, even other South Slavic languages. Among these are a sharp reduction in noun inflections--Bulgarian has lost the noun cases but has developed a definite article, which is suffixed at the end of words. In its verbal system, Bulgarian is set apart from most Slavic languages by the loss of the infinitive, the preservation of most of the complexities of the older conjugation system (including the opposition between aorist and imperfect) and the development of a complex evidential system to distinguish between witnessed and several kinds of non-witnessed information.


Bulgarian nouns have the categories grammatical gender, number, case (only vocative) and definiteness. A noun has one of three specific grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and two numbers (singular and plural). The plural is formed by adding to or replacing the singular ending, most commonly in the following ways:

sing. plur.
masc. -conson. +?

+ (monosyl.)

fem. -? / -? -?
neut. -?




With cardinal numbers and some adverbs, masculine nouns use a separate numerical plural form (broyna mnozhestvena forma). It is a remnant of the grammatical dual number, which disappeared from the language in the Middle Ages. The numerical form is used in the masculine whenever there is a precise amount of something, regardless of the actual number, e.g. -

  • ? (stol "chair") -> ? (mnogo stolove "many chairs", general plural) -> ?? / ?? (dva stola / deset stola "two chairs / ten chairs", numerical plural). [note 1][1]

Definiteness is expressed by a definite article which is postfixed to the noun:

masc. fem. neut.
sing. - / - (subj.)

-a / -? (obj.)

- -
plur. - -

When the two are combined, the plural ending comes first: [2]

? [stol]


? [stolat]

(the chair)

? [stolove]


? [stolovete]

(the chairs)

? [masa]


? [masata]

(the table)

? [masi]



(the tables)




(the button)



? [kopchetata]

(the buttons)

Case system

Old Bulgarian had a system of seven cases, but only three remain intact: the accusative, dative, and nominative; and only in personal and some other pronouns.

Though Bulgarian has lost most of its declensions, it retains many remnants of the old, more complex case system. These make up the modern genitive, vocative, and instrumental cases. Being rare, however, they are no longer seen as case endings, but are rather considered to be part of some completely different phenomenon, such as being a subcategory of the definite article or of the plural, as with the genitive below.

  • the accusative and the dative have mostly merged as an oblique case.
    The distinction between the two cases is preserved:
    • in the personal pronouns - their short forms are in common use, and have distinct forms for accusative and dative - e.g. (me "me") vs. (mi "to me"), ? (ya "her") vs. ? (i "to her"). The long form of the dative case is archaic, and accusative constructions with the preposition (na "to") are usually used instead. [note 2]
    • in the masculine interrogative pronoun , /k?j/ ('who') and all of its derivatives - these, however, are only declined when they refer to men[clarification needed]:
      • /k?j/ ('who') - ? /ko'/ ('whom') - ? /ko'mu/ ('to whom' [very rarely used]).[note 3]
      • the words /'?akoj/ ('someone') and /'nikoj/ ('no one') follow the same pattern as ;
      • /'vs?ki/ ('everyone') and ? /druk/ ('someone else') are similar (-; -), but extremely rare.
    • the relative pronouns /'k?jto/ ('who/that'), /ko'to/ ('whom/that') and /ko'muto/ ('to whom/that') - again, only declined when referring to men:
      • ?, ? /t?o'v?k?t, s ko'to ?o'v?rj?/ ('the man that I'm talking to')
      • , ? /'stt, n? 'k?jto s?'dj?/ ('the chair that I'm sitting on')
  • the genitive had become involved in restructuring already in late Proto-Slavic, where it replaced the accusative of animate masculine singulars. This form, in -?, was not adopted in Standard Bulgarian.[3] However, the grammarians who standardised the language in the 19th century specified an identical form as the incomplete definite article suffix (? ?), contrasting with the complete definite article in -; this distinction was artificially invented and did not occur in any Bulgarian dialect of the time.[4] The incomplete definite article is used with definite masculine singular nouns which are not the subject of a sentence, including as objects of verbs and prepositions:
    • ? (stol "a chair") -> ? (stolat "the chair", subject) -> ?? (pod stola "under the chair", object). [1]
Adnominal uses of the genitive have been lost.
  • the vocative
    • for family members - e.g. -> ?? (maika -> maiko - "mother")
    • for masculine names - e.g. -> ?? (Petar -> Petre)
    • in social descriptors - e.g. ? -> ?? (priatel -> priatelyu "friend"), -> ? (uchitel -> uchitelyu "teacher")
    • There is a tendency to avoid them in many personal names, as the use of feminine name forms in -[?/?]o[5] and of the potential vocative forms of foreign names has come to be considered rude or rustic. Thus, means 'hey, Ivan', while the corresponding feminine forms ('hey, Elena'), ('hey, Margarita') are today seen as rude[5] or, at best, unceremonious, and declining foreign names as in * ('hey, John') or *? ('hey, Simon') could only be considered humorous.
    • The tendency to avoid vocative forms for foreign names does not apply to names from Classical Antiquity, with the source languages having the vocative case as well: cf. ' ('Oh Caesar'), ? ('Oh Pericles'), ('Oh Zeus'), etc.
    • Vocative is still in full and regular use for general nouns such as ? (gospodine "mister"), ? (gospozhice "miss"), ? (gospozho "missis"), ? (babo "grandma"), ?? (maiko "mother"), ? (sine "son"). [note 4]
  • the instrumental
    • mostly for set phrases, such as (noshtem "during the night", from nosht "night"); (sbogom "farewell" - lit. "with God", from ? + s + bog); or (begom "while running" from byag - running)


A Bulgarian adjective agrees in gender, number and definiteness with the noun it is appended to and is put usually before it. The comparative and the superlative form are formed analytically.


Bulgarian pronouns vary in gender, number, definiteness and case. The distinguishable types of pronouns include:

  • personal, possessive, interrogative, demonstrative, reflexive, summative, negative, indefinite and relative.


Bulgarian verbs are the most complicated part of Bulgarian grammar. They are inflected for person, number and sometimes gender. They also have lexical aspect (perfective and imperfective), voice, nine tenses, five moods and six non-finite verbal forms. Bulgarian verbs are divided into three conjugations.


The voice in Bulgarian verbs is presented by the ending on the past participle; the auxiliary remains ("to be"):

  • Active - ... - udaril sum... - I have hit...
  • Passive - - udaren sum - I have been hit


Mood in Bulgarian is expressed not through verb endings, but through the auxiliary particles (che) and (da) (which both translate as the relative pronoun that). The verbs remain unchanged.[6] Thus:

  • Indicative - -
    • e.g. ?, - znam, che si tuk - I know that you are here;
  • Subjunctive - -
    • e.g. - iskam da si tuk - I want that you are here, I want you to be here

The inferential is formed in exactly the same way as the perfect, but with the omission of the auxiliary:

  • Perfect - ? - toy e bil - he has been
  • Inferential - - toy bil - he (reportedly) was

The imperative has its own conjugation - usually by adding -? or - (-i or -ay) to the root of the verb:

Word order

Although Bulgarian has almost no noun cases its word order is rather free. It is even freer than the word order of some languages that have cases, for example German. This is due to the agreement between the subject and the verb of a sentence. So in Bulgarian the sentence "I saw Lubomir" can be expressed thus:

  saw-1pSg Lyubomir
? () .
  Lyubomir (him) saw-1pSg

It is clear that the subject is "" ("I") (it has been dropped), because the verb "" is in the first person singular.

Other examples - Ivan greeted the girls:

?  ?.
  Ivan greeted-3pSg girls-the.
? ()  ?.
  Girls-the (them) greeted-3pSg Ivan.
? ? .
  Ivan girls-the greeted-3pSg.
? ? () .
  Girls-the Ivan (them) greeted-3pSg.
 ? ?.
  Greeted-3pSg Ivan girls-the.
 () ? ?.
  Greeted-3pSg (them) girls-the Ivan.

Theoretically all permutations are possible but the last one sounds rather odd.[to whom?]

The girls greeted Ivan:

? ? ?.
  Girls-the greeted-3pPl Ivan.
? () ? ?.
  Ivan (him) greeted-3pPl girls-the.
? ? ?.
  Girls-the Ivan greeted-3pPl.
? ? () ?.
  Ivan girls-the (him) greeted-3pPl.
? ? ?.
  Greeted-3pPl girls-the Ivan.
? () ? ?.
  Greeted-3pPl (him) Ivan girls-the.

The clitic doubling (/) is obligatory only when the subject and the object are both in third person, and they are either both singular or both plural, but when the meaning is clear from the context it can be omitted. Examples:

?   . 
  Ivan him greeted-3pSg Maria.
  Maria greeted Ivan.
 ?  ?. 
  Maria her greeted-3pSg Ivan.
  Ivan greeted Maria.


  Roles-the sound-screened-3pPl artists-the...
  The artists...(their names) sound-screened the roles. (They made the soundtrack for the film.)

In the compound tenses, when a participle is used, and when the subject and the object are of different gender or number, the clitic doubling can also be left out. So the first two of the above examples can be expressed in a compound tense thus:

? () ?  .
  Ivan (him) has greeted-3pSgFem Maria.
  Maria has greeted Ivan.
 (?) ? ? ?.
  Maria (her) has greeted-3pSgMasc Ivan.
  Ivan has greeted Maria.

The above two examples sound a bit odd without the doubling, unless it is a case of topicalization and special stress is put on the first word.



In Bulgarian, the numerals 1 and 2 are inflected for gender.

Furthermore, cardinal numerals take special endings when:

  • referring to men (2-6 and 10, and 20-100) - add "-ma"
    • e.g. 2 chairs - dva stola; 2 brothers - dvama bratya
  • referring to an approximate number (10-100 and, rarely, 5-9) - add "-ina"
    • e.g. dvadeset dushi - 20 people; dvadesetina dushi - about 20 people
  • they are used as common nouns - add the feminine "-ka/-tsa" [7]
No Cardinal numerals numbers relating to men "roundabout" numbers ordinal numbers as a common noun notes / other
1 edìn (masc) - ednà (fem)

ednò (neut) - ednì (plur.) *

pruv / pùrvi (masc), purva (fem), etc. edinìtsa vednazh - once
2 dva (masc) - dve (fem/neut) dvama vtori dvòyka polovin(ka) - half
3 tri trima treti tròyka
4 chètiri chetirima chetvùrti chetvòrka chètvurt(in(k)a) - quarter
5 pet petíma péti petìtsa
6 shest shestima shesti shestìtsa
7 sèdem * sedmi sedmitsa
8 òsem osmi osmitsa
9 dèvet (devetina) deveti devyàtka (devètka)
10 dèset desetima desetina deseti desyàtka (desètka)
11 edinàdeset (edinàyset) (edinadesetìma / edinaysetima) edinadesetìna (edinaysetina) edinàdeseti (edinays(e)ti) edinàdesetka (edinàyska) / edinadesetìtsa (edinays(e)tìtsa) from "edin-na-deset" - "one-on-ten", etc.
12 dvanàdeset (dvanayset) (dvanadesetìma / dvanaysetima) dvanadesetìna (dvanaysetina) dvanàdeseti (dvanays(e)ti) dvanàdesetka (dvanàyska) / dvanadesetìtsa (dvanays(e)tìtsa)
20 dvàdeset (dvàyset) (dvadesetìma / dvaysetima) dvadesetìna (dvaysetina) dvàdeseti (dvaysetima) dvàdesetka (dvàyska) / dvadesetìtsa (dvays(e)tìtsa) "dva-deset" - "twice ten"
21 dvadeset i edno (dvayset i edno) dvadeset i purvi/-a/-o dvadeset (dvayset) i edinitsa
22 dvadeset i dve (dvayset i dve) dvadeset i vtori/-a/-o dvadeset (dvayset) i dvoyka / (dvàys-dvòyka) (...'23' - dvàys-tròyka, etc.)
30 trideset (triyset) trideseti/-a/-o (triys(e)ti/-a/-o) trìdesetka (trìyska) / tridesetitsa (triys(e)titsa)
100 sto stotíma stotína stótni stotìtsa nyàkolkostotin... - several hundred... *
200 dvèsta (okolo 200 - "around 200") (dvestni) - 300 - trìsta
400 chetiristòtin (chetiristòtni) - 500-900 - same pattern
1,000 hilyàda hìlyadni hilyadàrka 2,000 - dve hilyadi, etc.
0 nùla nulev nula nikolko - none


  • In Bulgarian, numerals can be used directly before uncountable nouns - e.g. vod? "water" -> edna voda "a glass of water" (the quantifier 'glass of' is inferred from the context - comp. English 'a beer').
  • The word edni can be translated as "some" - e.g. edni tzigari "some cigarettes" (comp. Spanish unos/unas).
  • When counting, the neuter numbers are taken - edno, dve, tri....
  • Fractions are the same as the ordinal numbers, and are done in the feminine 1/5 - edna peta, 2/5 - dve peti, etc.
  • The words for men can be used by themselves, without a noun following - e.g. simply "vidyah dvama" - I saw two men, or even colloquially "edni dvama..." - these two men...
  • Irregularly, "sedmina" and "osmina" can be used (archaically, poetically) to also mean "7/8 men" rather than "around 7/8".
  • The smaller denomination of the Bulgarian currency - the stotìnka (pl. stotìnki) literally mean "hundredths" (diminutive); 100 stotinki = 1 lev.


  1. ^ See Bulgarian nouns#Count form for more details.
  2. ^ See Bulgarian pronouns#Personal pronouns for more details.
  3. ^ All of these are becoming ever rarer in modern Bulgarian, especially ? and its derivatives. Instead of this, people often say[weasel words] ? /n? ko'/ or even /n? k?j/; the latter even beginning to replace the former, although this usage is currently frowned upon.
  4. ^ See Bulgarian nouns#Usage for more usage notes


  1. ^ a b The forms the words take in the numerical plural and in the incomplete definite are often identical to each other - e.g. dva stola/pod stola, as above, or dva konya/na konya - "two horses/on the horse", but not always - e.g. grad (city) -> dva gràda (two cities), but v gradà (in the city), or svyat (world) -> dva svyàta (two worlds), but na svetà (in the world).
  2. ^ When a noun is accompanied by one or more modifiers and/or determiners, only the first element of the noun phrase takes the definite article suffix - e.g. priyatelite (the friends) -> dobrite priyateli (the good friends) -> moite dobri priyateli (my good friends).
  3. ^ Max Walhström (2015). "The loss of case inflection in Bulgarian and Macedonian" (PDF). Slavica Helsingiensia. 47: 44.
  4. ^ Wahlström, pp. 45--46.
  5. ^ a b ?, ?, 1992. . .61.
  6. ^ In ordinary sentences, the imperfective aspect is most often used for the indicative, and the perfective for the subjunctive, but any combination is possible, with the corresponding change in meaning.
    • e.g. iskam da stanesh (perfective) / iskam da stavash (imperfective) - i want you to get up.
    The latter is more insisting, since the imperfective is the more immediate construction.
  7. ^ Less commonly - "-orka" (e.g. shestorka, sedmorka); or else the masculine "-ak", but only to the numbers 6-8 and 10-100 - shestàk, stotàk, etc.

External links

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