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Explaining Romanian Grammar in the Christmas Story, Part 8

Up until this point, we have talked about the grammar from chapter one of Matthew beginning at verse 18 to the end of the chapter. As far as the story there, Mary came up pregnant, and Joseph knew it wasn’t his. He was going to break up with her privately, but an angel of God came to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid to marry Mary. The angel said that the child was from the Holy Spirit and that Joseph should call the baby “Jesus.” After that, Joseph goes ahead and marries Mary, then Matthew explains that the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 7:14 prophesied that a virgin would be pregnant and give birth to a son, and he would be called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” The unique thing was that Isaiah prophesied in 740 B, C., and Matthew was written some time between 50-70 A. D., and Christ was born about 33 A. D. It was a whopper of a prophecy!! Prophecies like this prove that God is real, the Bible is real, and that Jesus is the son of God because there are over 100 of them from the Old Testament that Jesus fulfilled. After that, Matthew said that Joseph didn’t sleep with Mary until the baby was born which means that Mary was not “forever a virgin” as some people like to teach. When the baby was born, Joseph did as he was instructed by the angel and called the baby Jesus.

Photo by Jonathan Meyer on Pexels.com

After that, we went on into chapter 2. The wise men came from the east because they had seen a big star, knew it means something special had happened, and followed the star. These men were Zoroasters from India who believed in God. They weren’t Jews, but they were looking for the one who was born to be king of the Jews. It is important to note that who the Romanian calls “Emperor Herod,” we call “King Herod” in English. I already explained that he was an extremely bad guy. He killed even family members to get into the kingship and then to hold on to it. He had bought his position from Mark Antony of Rome, yes, the same man who was known for spending time with Cleopatra of Egypt. Herod bribed his way into his kingship. In other accounts of this story in the Bible says Mary and Joseph had gone to Bethlehem for a great registration where people had to register in their home towns for paying taxes. There are only twice in history when this ever happened, and this and the name of the King is one of the ways that Bible scholars date the life of Christ in the Bible, how they figured out when he lived. Now, we are ready for Matthew 2:3. As far as a review of the grammar, as I will be explaining all the grammar in each verse, you will get a review as well as new information as I explain.

S-au tulburat. (They were upset.)Photo by Rômulo Carolino on Pexels.com

Matei 2: 3: Cand a auzit imparatul Herod acest lucru, s-a tulberat mult; si tot Ierusalem s-a tulberat impreauna cu el.

Imparatul Herod s-a tulburat. (King Herod was upset.)Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Cand a auzit imparatul Herod acest lucru, – “When Emperor Herod heart this thing.” This is a “when” clause. A clause has a subject and a verb that are not the main subject and verb of the sentence. This is unlike a phrase that doesn’t have a subject and a verb. A “when” clause is a dependent clause. That means that is is not the main part of the sentence, and it can’t be a sentence alone because of the “cand” (when).

The “a” in “cand” should have an inverted “v” over it, and it is pronounced way down in your throat. It is not a sound that is in English. To make it, make the sound in your throat and kind of grunt. “Cand” means “when.” “A auzit” means “he heard.” The pronoun “he” is embedded into “a auzit,” and you know that because of the “a” before “auzit.” When you see “a” and the “t,” on the end, it means that it is third person singular past tense. The pronoun could be “el” (he or it) or “ea” (she or it), but since “Imparatul Herod” is a man, we know that the subject is “el” (he). Yes, “imparatul Herod” is the subject, and it comes after the verb, “a auzit.”

In Romanian, there are a couple of specific places you could find the subject, before or after the verb. In Romanian, they don’t have the rule that the subject comes before the verb like in English. Their rule is, “Put the word first that you consider more important,” so often the subject comes after the verb because, in that case, it means the person speaking thinks what was done is more important than who did it. You know Imparatul Herod is a subject and not a direct object because if it were the direct object, it would have “pe” before it. “Pe” comes before direct objects that are people in Romanian.

“Acest” means “this,” and it is masculine and singular. In English, we only that “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those.” However, in Romanian. they also have masculine and feminine forms of each of those demonstrative pronouns. Yes, “acest” (this” is a demonstrative pronoun which means it points to something or someone. It “demonstrates.” “Acest” is masculine and singular.

“Lucru” means “thing,” but it could also mean either “work” (the noun) or “to work” (the verb). Here, “lucru” is a noun, and it also has a masculine and feminine in both singular and plural forms. There are an extreme amount of forms of this word. “Acest” and “lucru” match in number and gender. They are both singular and masculine.

s-a tulberat mult; – “he became very upset;”. This is the main part of the sentence, the independent clause. It has a subject and a verb without a word that subordinates it like “when” subordinated the dependent “when” clause. This part of the sentence could be a sentence by itself.

“S-a” is a contraction. I comes from “se” and “a.” Romanian has a tendency not to use two small words with vowels in them, but to make them into contractions. “Se” means “himself” or “herself.” “A” is the first part of the verb, “a tulberat.” “A tulberat” is third person singular past tense. You know that because of the “a” before “tulberat” and the “t” on the end of “tulberat.” This means the pronouns “he, she, or it” could be embedded in “a tulberat.” Since we are talking about “Imparatul Herod” and know he is a man, that means that the pronoun embedded is “el” (he). “Mult” means “a lot” or “very.” “Mult” is an adverb telling about “a tulberat.”

This part of the sentence ends with a semi-colon (;). This means that the sentence we just talked about and the sentence that comes next are so close in meaning that you could have put them in the same sentence, so the writer almost did. What is on either side of a semi colon must be a complete sentence. The first letter of the next sentence will not begin with a capital letter.

Tot Ierusalem s-a tulburat (All Jerusalem became upset.)Photo by BECCA SIEGEL on Pexels.com

si tot Ierusalem s-a tulberat cu el – “and all Jerusalem became upset with him.” “Si” should have a comma connected to the bottom of the “s.” “S” with a comma connected to the bottom is pronounced “sh.” The word “si” is pronounced like the English word “she,” and means “and.” “Tot” means “all.” There are many forms of this word too, masculine, feminine, singular and plural. This one is masculine and singular because there are no “a’s” in it and there are no “e’s” or “i’s” on the end. “Ierusalem” is “Jerusalem.” Often, where there is a “j” in English, in Romanian, there will be an “I.” “Ierusalem is pronounced “yehroosahlehm.” I explained “s-a tulberat” already if you look back in this blog. The pronoun embedded here is still “el,” but this time, it means “it” because it is referring to Ierusalem.” “Cu” is pronounced “koo,” and means “with.” “El” is a subject and an object pronoun which means it can mean “he” or “him.” Here, it is an object pronoun because it is the object of “cu,” a preposition, and “cu el” is a prepositional phrase. This means that, here, “el” means “him.”

Let’s put this verse all together:When Emperor Herod heard this thing, he was very upset; and all Jerusalem was upset with him.

A adunat pe carturarii norodului. (He gathered the scribes of the people.)Photo by Victoria Borodinova on Pexels.com

Verse 4:A adunat pe toti preotii ce mai de seama si pe carturarii norodului si a cautat se afle de la ei unde trebuia sa se nasca Hristostul.”

A adunat – “He gathered.” This verb, again, is in the past tense because of the “a” before it and the “t” on the end of “adunat.” There is a third person singular pronoun embedded in “a aduntat”” because of the “a.” We know that it is “he” because we have been talking about “Imparatul Herod.” “A adunat” comes from “aduna” (to gather). You might be interested to know that when the church in Romania comes together to worship, they call it “adunarea” (the gathering). In this sentence, the embedded “he” is the subject.

pe toti preotii ce mai de seama – “all the high priests.” “Pe” at the beginning of this phrase tells you that “toti preotii ce mai de seama” is the direct object because “pe” is used before the direct object that is a person or people. In other places “pe” means “on,” but not here. “Toti” means “all.” I already told you that “tot” means “all,” and I told you that word had a lot of different forms. This form, “toti” should have a comma attached to the bottom of the second “t” which makes it pronounced “ts.” The “i” on the end of “toti” is pronounced like the English “ee,” but it is barely voiced and barely audible. “Toti” is masculine and plural whereas just “tot” was masculine and singular, so that “i” on the end makes it plural.

“Toti” must be plural because “preotii” is plural. “Preotii” means “the priests.” Just “preot” means “priest.” One “i” on the end means “the,” and the other one means “s” making it plural.

“Ce” at the beginning of a sentence means “what.” If you say “de ce?” it means “why?” If the sentence is more of an interjection like, “How wonderful!” (ce minunat!), they also translate it as “how.” If you want to point something out as special, you can also say “ce mai mult de oameni” meaning “most of the people.” “Cel” and “cei” are also forms of this word. “Cel mai mare” means “the one that is the largest.” “Cei pe care vin” means “those who come.” This “ce” in this sentence points to the priests. In this sentence, this “ce” is a demonstrative pronoun that begins an adjective phrase telling about the priest. In Romanian, usually the adjective comes after the noun. At times, I actually translate “the” into Romanian as “ce,” “cei” or “cel” to put more emphasis on it. Romanian has several word endings that mean “the,” but at times, I want to make it a special “the,” so I use “ce,” “cei,” or “cel.”

Astazi, metropoli e preot mai de seama. dar bible spune ca Iesu e preot mai de seama nostri. (Today, the pope is the high priest, but the Bible says that Jesus is our high preist.)Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“mai de seama” is a phrase that would literally mean “more remarkable” or “more notable.” The “de seama” means remarkable or notable. “Mai” means “more.” However, it must have “mult” with it to be “more” alone. “I want more” would be “vreau mai mult.” However, “mai” can be used as a comparative: “Mai tare” means “stronger.” “Mai mare” means “bigger.” “Mai minunta” means “more wonderful,” and “mai de seama” means “more remarkable” or “more notable.” This means these priests were the more notable priests, the ones that in English, we call “the high priests.”

si carturarii norodului – “And the scribes of the people.” “Si” needs to have a comma attached to the bottom of the “s.” This gives the “s” an “sh” sound. The word “si” is pronounced like our English “she” and means “and.” I have actually never seen the word “carturarii,” and it is not in the dictionary. In the English Bible, it says “teachers” here, but I know this word doesn’t mean “teachers.” I looked it up in the Spanish Bible, and in Spanish, the word they use translated into English means “scribes.” A scribe was someone know used to sit all day long copying books by hand. They would have had a lot of knowledge. In Romanian, the word for “book” is “carte,” and in Spanish, the word for “letter” is “carta.” That tells me that “carturarii” is probably “scribes.” There are two “ii’s” on the end of “carturarii” which means “carturarii” is plural and in English should have the word “the” in front of it. It would make sense to call a scribe because they see lots of books and learn from copying them all day. It also makes sense that in English, they translated this word at teachers because the scribes would have had lots of knowledge.

I have also never seen the word “norodului,” and it is also not in the dictionary. In English, they use the word “law” here, but in Spanish, they use the word “pueblo” which means “village” or “people.” In Korean, they use the word 백성 (bekseong) which means “people.” It looks to me like “norodul” means “the people.” That “lui” on the end of “norodului” is a possessive like apostrophe “s” in English. However, the word order is very different from English or even Spanish. In Spanish, we have “Los escribes del pueblo” which is “the scribes of the people.” “Del” means “de” “el,” which means “of” “the.” We have the same word order unless in English we want to say “the people’s scribes” which means the same thing. In Romanian, the “lui” is on the end of “norodului” like the apostrophe “s” is on the end in English, but in English, “people’s” comes before “scribes,” and in Romanian “scribes” (norod) comes after “carturarii,” (the scribes). The “ul” in the middle of the word “norodului” is a masculine “the.” I would actually have used the word “poporul” for “the people” rather than use “norodul” because you heard “poporul” much more often than “norodul.”

si a cautat se afle – “and he searched for them to find.” I have already explained “si” which in this blog. If you want the explanation for it, look above. “Si” means “and.” “A cautat” is “he looked for” or “he searched for.” “A cautat” is past tense because it has the “a” before “cautat” and the “t” on th end of “cautat.” That “a” tells you that “a cautat” is third person singular. This means that “he, she, or it” is embedded into “a cautat.” We already know the subject of this sentence is “he” referring to Herod, so I went with “he.” To say “to find” in a Romanian sentence, you would say, “sa afla.” However, this is another form of “sa afla” which is “se afle.” Normally, I would say this form, “se afle,” is just future tense third person plural. That means that “they”or “them” is embedded into “se afle,” but if you translate this as “they will find” in English, it doesn’t make any sense, so I left it with the infinitive “to find” because we can use the infinitive form at times to make it future, not always, but sometimes.

de la ei – “from them.” “De” can mean “of” or “from.” This “de” is just like the “de” in Spanish with the same meaning and pronunciation.” “La” means “to” or “at,” but in Spanish, it means “the,” so don’t too excited if you know Spanish because “la” never means “the” in Romanian. This means that “de la” means “from at” which is never how we would say it in English. We would simply say “from.” “Ei” means “them” or “they,” and in this case, it means “”them” because “ei” is the object of the preposition “de.” “They” is the subject pr0onoun in English, and “them” is the object form in English, so “ei,” here, is translated “they.” I learned to pronounce “ei” as “yey.” However, I have heard that in other parts of Romania, it may be pronounced “ey.”

Unde sa fi-e nascut Hristostul? (Where will the Christ be born.?)Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

unde trebuia sa se nasca Hristosul – “where the Christ should be born.” “Unde” always means “where” in Romanian. Here it is used as a relative pronoun that begins a relative clause. This relative clause is used as a direct object clause here because it answers the question “what?” “What did they want to find out?” “Where the Christ should be born.” This makes this relative clause a direct object clause.

“Trebuia” or “trebuie” means “must,” “have to,” or “should.” My Romanian teacher had a really hard time with trying to explain to me how to use this this word. He said there was disagreement on how the word should be used. He said some people conjugated it, and others just used “trebuie” every time saying it should not be conjugated. I looked it up in the online Romanian dictionary, and they must have had trouble with it too because there is no record of it. I think it is probably a word that was conjugated at one time, but the meanings of the conjugations seemed irrelevant, so they stopped worrying about it, but some had heard the old conjugations, so still use them, but can’t explain them. Another form I have heard of this word is “trebuit.” “El a trebuit” is “he had to.” “Trebuia” is ” will have to.” “El trebuie” means “he has to.” Everywhere I put “has to,” “will have to, ” or “had to” can also be translated at “should” or “must.” We don’t conjugate “should” in English. We use it just as it is not matter if we are using past, present, or future tense. so in a way, we have done the same as the Romanians in English. This is a special kind of verb called a “modal.” In Romanian or English either one, we use this modal with the main verb, and we conjugate the main verb. In English, we understand the conjugation from the main verb, and in Romanian, some use “trebuie” the same way and decide the tense from the main verb, but others conjugate it. It is conjugated into future tense here: “trebuia.” “Trebuie” or the other renditions are always used with another verb with “sa” between “trebuie” and the verb.”

Some examples of how to use “trebuie”: “Eu trebuie sa merg” or “Eu trebuie sa mearga.” = “I have to go.” “El a trebuit sa mearga” means “he had to go.” “Tu trebuia sa mearaga.” = “You must go.” “Trebuia!” = “you should!” or “you must!” “El trebuia sa mearga.” = “He will have to go.” “Trebuiti sa mergeti”or “trebuie sa mergeti” means “you guys have to go.” “M-am trebuit” means “I had to.” “M-am trebuit sa merg” means “I had to go.” The “sa” makes “sa merg” into an infinitive, and it could also be said “m-am trebuit sa mearga.” Romanian grammar can get really crazy at times. I learned all these from listening because no Romanian could really explain to me how to use them. I just listened and copied what the said in the right place.

“sa se nasca” means is a reflexive verb in the infinitive form. The “se” makes it reflexive, and means, in this case, “himself.” If you only had “sa nasca,” it would be “to be born.” The English grammar is hard here too because “born” isn’t a verb. It is the past participle of “bore” used as an adjective or passive voice.

If it is passive voice, it means that something is done to you by someone else. Here are some examples: “He is loved by his mother.” In a passive voice sentence, the subject doesn’t do the action of the verb like in an active voice sentence. to say “He is loved by his mother” in active voice, we say, “His mother loves him.” It means the same thing, but the emphasis is put on “he” in the passive voice sentence, and on “his mother” in the active voice sentence. Another example: “The cake was eaten by me.” The “cake” is the subject, but the cake can’t eat anything. However, usually, the subject does the action of the verb. To change it to active voice, we say, “I ate the cake.” This sentence means the same thing, but in this one, the subject actually does the actin of the verb. If we want to know who does the action of the verb in a passive voice sentence, we have to look at the prepositional phrase, at the object of “by.” When my teacher taught me to recognize passive voice sentences, she taught me to look for “by,” and that usually works, but sometimes the prepositional phrase is left out. “The cake was eaten.” Is still a passive voice sentence, but it doesn’t tell you who did the eating. People use this form when they don’t know who did it or don’t want to tell you who did it. “Jesus was born” is a passive voice sentence. We all know it was his mother who bore him, so we leave “by his mother” off the end, and more emphasis is put on the fact that he was born. If I say “I was born on June 8th,” it could be said “My mother bore me on June 8th.”


“sa se nasca” seems to be just as complicated at the Enlgish word for “to be born.” It technically translates as “for him to be born himself. usually “sa” means “to,” but even in English, “to”‘ doesn’t always mean “to,” but “in order to” or “for.”

“Hristosul” means “the Christ.” This is the subject, but it is the last word in the sentence. This is because the author of the sentence was putting more emphasis on when Christ would be born than on “Christ.” In Romanian, they put the words they consider the most important first in the sentence.”Hristos” means “Christ.” The “ul” on the end is a masculine “the” that is placed before the noun in English, but after in Romanian.

Let’s put this verse all together: “He gathered all the high priest and the scribes of the people and searched to find from them where the Christ should be born.

Gramatica romaneaca poate fi treznit! (Romanian grammar can be crazy!)Photo by David Garrison on Pexels.com

I must say, “I am tired.” Just explaining the grammar in two verses in Romanian was crazy today because it got so complicated that even Romanian grammarians have trouble explaining some of today’s grammar. My Romanian teacher has a masters in grammar, and he had trouble explaining some of the grammar today to me. I saw that someone had posted on the internet once that Romanian was the hardest of the Latin languages. I was amazed because it only took me six months to begin speaking Romanian. I thought surely they were wrong. However, after having to explain some of the nuances in the grammar today, I am beginning to think that perhaps they were right. My kids all learned to speak Romanian without studying it, and I studied only a short time until I could speak. Kids have a talent to learn by listening and repeating like we learn as babies. However, it takes a baby almost two years to learn to speak and sometimes even more time. I learned a lot of Romanian just by listening and repeating like a baby does. Most adults have forgotten how to do it, but somehow, maybe because I have always been around foreign languages, I never lost the talent of learning a language by listening. As adults, we seem to need to know the grammar before a language makes sense to us, and it can take us a long time to learn to speak a language even if we understand the grammar because we forgot how to learn by listening.

Profetele din Vechul Testamentul au stiut ca Iesu va fie nascut. (The prophets from the Old Testament knew that Jesus would be born.) Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

At this point in the story of Jesus’ birth, the Emperor or King (Herod) is trying to figure out where the prophets said the messiah would be born. Next time, we will find out what the prophets said because this blog got very long and complicated. You probably need a break as I do.


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