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Catalan II Tutorial: Basic Phrases, Vocabulary and Grammar
Written by Jonathan Maynard
21. Simple Conjuctions & Prepositions (Conjuncions i preposicions bàsiques)
in, at, to
until, up to/til
by, through, for
for, in order to
the home/business of
*The English 'but' can actually be translated as either "però" or "sinó" depending on the context of the sentence. The difference between "però" and "sinó" will
be explained in a later tutorial but for now the learner should be aware that "però" is the more common of the two.
**For those who know French, "ca" (which is an abbreviation for "casa") is essentially the equivalent of "chez." However, when referring to a person's home using
a personal pronoun, Catalan has the fixed expressions of: "casa meva" (my house), "casa teva" (your house), etc.).
Other prepositions and conjunctions (especially those denoting location or those used to link clauses in compound sentences) will be covered in a later tutorial.
The "b" in amb is only pronounced when followed by a word beginning with a vowel or h.
22. Contractions between articles and prepositions (Contraccions entre articles i preposicions)
a + el = al*
a + els = als
de + el = del
de + els = dels
per + el = pel
per + els = pels
ca + el = cal
ca + els = cals
Vaig a cals Martorell. I'm going to the Martorell's (house). El CD més últim dels Beatles va sortir el 1970. The Beatles' last CD came out in 1970. Van al col·legi. They go to middle/junior high school. Vam anar pel carrer. We went through the street. Va arribar amb retard a cal metge. She arrived late to the doctor's office.
*Given that unstressed e's and a's in the Central variant of Catalan are both pronounced as the neutral vowel that has the English sound "uh," "el" and "al" are
essentially pronounced the same way. The same of course goes for the plural forms "els" and "als."
For composed prepositions such as "per a," the suitable contractions would naturally be with the last part of the preposition (e.g. "per al" and "per als").
Contractions do NOT occur when elision takes places (i.e. de l'home and NOT del home).
23. To Do/Make (Fer)
"Fer" is a very common verb in Catalan and is used in countless phrases and idioms. The following is a short list:
fer servir - to use
fer saber alguna cosa a algú - to let someone know something
fer de - to be (insert name of a job)
fer broma - to joke
fer-li il·lusió - to be excited to
fer el paper de - to play the role of (in a movie/TV show/play)
fer plans - to make plans
fer el llit - to make the bed
fer amistat amb - to make friends with
si fa (o) no fa - more or less
Em fa molta il·lusió anar a París aquest estiu! I'm so excited to go to Paris this summer! Fem de secretaris. We're secretaries. L'habitació fa 17.2 metres quadrats, si fa no fa. The bedroom measures 17.2 square meters, more or less. Segur que faràs amistat amb molts nois i noies a la teva nova escola! Surely you'll make friends with lots of boys and
girls at your new school!
24. Work and School (La feina i l'escola)
l'home de negocis / l'empresari
la dona de negocis / l'empresària
el forner / el flequer
la fornera / la flequera
l'electricista / el lampista
l'electricista / la lampista
el dependent / el venedor
la dependenta / la venedora
el lampista / el llauner
la lampista / la llaunera
l'agent de policia
l'agent de policia
blue-collar worker / laborer
postal worker / mail carrier
l'escriptor / l'autor
teacher (primary school)
student (primary school) / pupil
School Subjects (Les assignatures)
les llengües estrangeres
les belles arts
l'educació (f.) física
el castellà (l'espanyol)
el grec antic
As in other Romance languages, Catalan does not require an article before professions in the statement: (noun) + to be + name of profession, unless the profession
is modified by an adjective.
Sóc professor. I'm a professor
És una professora de francès impressionant. She's an amazing French professor.
A few common expressions exist to ask someone both what his or her profession is and what he or she is doing at the moment to earn income.
A què et dediques? (sing. inf.) What's your profession? A què es dedica? (sing. formal)
De què fas? (sing. inf.) What's your (current) job? De què fa? (sing. formal)
Em dedico a la fotografia, però faig de cambrer de moment. I'm a photographer/I majored in photography, but I'm working as a waiter at the moment.
25. Forming the plural of nouns (La formació del plural dels substantius)
A.) Generally speaking, if a noun ends in a consonant other than "ç", "s", "x", or an unstressed vowel other than "a", then the plural of the noun is made by simply
una crisi (a crisis) --> crisis (crises)
un home (a man) --> homes (men)
un parisenc (a Parisian man) --> parisencs (Parisian men/Parisians)
un ou (an egg) --> ous (eggs)
un gat (a cat) --> gats
un moto (a motorcycle) --> motos (motorcycles)
NB: Nouns in this category that specifically end in an unstressed "en" require an accent on the penultimate vowel in the plural: un examen (exam) --> exàmens (exams),
un origen (an origin) --> orígens (origins)
B.) If a noun ends in an unstressed "a", this "a" is replaced with a "es" in the plural.
una idea (an idea) --> idees (ideas)
un problema (a problem) --> problemes (problems)
This change from "a" to "e" dictates certain spelling changes to retain the same consonant pronunciations in the plural from that are found in the singular form:
a.) ç --> c [e.g. una plaça (a town square) --> places (town squares)]
b.) c --> qu [e.g. una beca (a scholarship) --> beques (scholarships)]
c.) (t)j --> (t)g [e.g. una platja (a beach) --> platges (beaches), un taronja (an orange) --> taronges (oranges)]
d.) g --> gu [e.g. una botiga (a shop) --> botigues (shops)]
e.) gu --> gü [e.g. una llengua (a language/a tongue) --> llengües (languages/tongues)]
f.) qu --> qü [e.g. Pasqua (Easter) --> Pasqües (Easters)]
NB: This "e" in the ending "-es" is always pronounced as the neutral vowel, sounding something like "uh" to English speakers.
C.) If a noun ends in a stressed vowel, add "-ns" to form the plural and remove the accent on the stressed vowel if there is one (which there is in many cases).
un cinturó (a belt) --> cinturons (belts)
un do (a gift/talent) --> dons (gifts/talents)
una mà (a hand) --> mans (hands)
NB: If the accented vowel is an "i" and is preceded by another vowel, a diaresis mark (i.e. two dots above a vowel to retain its pronunciation which would be
otherwise lost due to it being part of a diphthong) is required [e.g. un veí (a neighbor) --> veïns (neighbors)].
There are some exceptions to rule C.) which only need be learned as the learner encounters them in speaking and/or writing Catalan. The most common would be:
un papà (a dad) --> papàs (dads)
una mamà (a mom) --> mamàs (moms)
un sofà (a sofa/couch) --> sofàs (sofas, couches)
un bebè (a baby) --> bebès (babies)
D.) Nouns ending in "-s", "-ç", or "-x"
a.) If a feminine noun ends in "-s", nothing is changed or added to the noun to form the plural.
una ics (an x) --> ics (x's)
b.) If a feminine noun ends in "-ç" or "-x", then an "s" is added but is silent.
una falç (a sicle) --> falçs (sicles)
c.) Rules a.) and b.) also apply to masculine nouns in which the final syllable contains "-ç", "-x", or "-s" BUT is an UNSTRESSED syllable
un atles (an atlas) --> atles (atlases)
un apèndix (an appendix) --> apèndixs (appendices)
d.) If a masculine noun ends a stressed vowel plus "s", the ending "-os" is added. Any accent on the stressed vowel is dropped.
un braç (an arm) --> braços (arms)
un curs (a course) --> cursos (courses)
un despatx (an office) --> despatxos (offices)
un país (a country) --> països (countries)
un gimnàs (a gymnasium) --> gimnasos (gymnasiums)
NB: A number of nouns in this class that have a preceding vowel "a", "i", "u", or "o" double their final "-s" to retain its voiceless sound.
un os (a bone) --> ossos (bones)
un ós (a bear) --> óssos (bears)
un passadís (a corridor) --> passadissos (corridors)
However, arguably the most common nouns in this group do not double their final "s", thus having it change from a voiceless "s" [s] to a voiced [z]. Another
pronunciation note to remember is that the "o" in the "-os" ending is obviously unstressed and thus has a [u] sound.
E.) Masculine nouns ending in "-sc", "-st", "-xt", or "-ig"
a.) For masculine nouns ending in "-sc", "-st", or "-xt" add either "-s" or "-os" to the end. Either option is feasible, though in the case of certain words,
adding just "-s" is preferable.
un basc (a Basque man) --> bascs OR bascos (Basque men/Basques)
un gust (a taste/flavor) --> gusts OR gustos (tastes/flavors)
un text (a text of literature) --> texts OR textos (texts of literture)
b.) Masculine nouns ending in "-ig" essentially follow the same rule as a.) but the tendency to just add "-s", as noted above, is most prevalent in this subclass.
Another aspect that must be noted is that with the ending "-os", the "-ig" can change to either "j" or "tj" depending on the word.
un boig (a madman) --> bojos OR boigs (madmen)
un desig (a desire) --> desigs OR desitjos (desires)
un passeig (a stroll/boulevard) --> passeigs OR passejos (strolls/boulevards)
Generally speaking, an unstressed "o" is a very uncommon ending in Catalan for any word other than a 1st person singular present indicative of a regular verb (e.g. parlo "I speak"). This is perhaps one of the most significant differences between Spanish and Catalan vocabulary. Similarly, an unstressed "a" followed by an "s", "-as", is
an even less common ending and is usually only found in words of foreign origin.
26. Adjectives I - Endings (Adjectius I - Terminacions)
Catalan adjectives, which agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify can be divided into two basic classes: those in the first class are 'Adjectives of two endings',
meaning they have one ending for when they modify a masculine singular noun and a different ending for when they modify a feminine singular noun. 'Adjectives of one ending,' by
contrast, have the same ending whether they're modifying a masculine singular noun or a feminine singular noun. All adjectives, regardless of which class they belong to, do
show agreement in number and even some 'Adjectives of one ending' have a separate plural form for when modifying masculine plural nouns and another form for when modifying
feminine plural nouns (something which all 'Adjectives of two endings' naturally have). However, for certain adjectives that are merely nouns acting as adjectives, in
particular certain colors like 'marró' "brown" or 'taronja' "orange," there is no agreement whatsoever, be it gender or number agreement (e.g. un edifici taronja "an orange building," una casa taronja "an orange house," cotxes taronja "orange cars", sabates taronja "orange shoes").
'Adjectives of 2 endings'
Examples: "tall, high" alt - alta - alts - altes ; "thin" prim - prima - prims - primes
a.) In a number of cases, accents are usually dropped or added to the feminine forms, to retain the stress on the same syllable that it falls on in the masculine forms.
Though the t -> d change is rather common (most especially in the case of "-ar" verb past participles acting as adjectives, which will be covered later), there are
certain endings (involving "t") that do not reflect this: -et, -ot, unstressed -it, and a number of -ut, -it, and -at adjectives.
Adjectives ending in a stressed -it, unstressed -ut, or -at or are exceptions to the original rule and must be learned individually, unlike adjectives ending
in -et, -ot, and unstressed -it which are not actually exceptions in themselves but in fact form their own rule to begin with, for they all follow the t -> ta rule
Similarly, there are some specific exceptions to the c -> g rule as well: -aic, unstressed -ac, unstressed -ic, and unstressed -oc
Some other exceptions to the c -> g rule are: "lean" flac, "opaque" opac, "dry" sec, "stammering" quec, and "obstinate" rebec. Others include a few nationality adjectives
which will be covered in a later tutorial. In all, the -ic/-ica group is quite large with the only exceptions being "Arabic" aràbic and "faded" mústic.
The number of l -> l·l adjectives is quite small (with "tranquil" arguably being the most common example), as most adjectives ending in l are in the 'Adjectives of 1 ending' class.
c.) Final vowels that change: e -> a, o -> a, eu -> ea, u -> v, and òleg -> òloga
Examples: "other" altre - altra - altres - altres ; "pretty, nice" maco - maca - macos - maques ; "European" europeu - europea - europeus - europees ; "new" nou - nova - nous - noves ; "homologous" homòleg - homòloga - homòlegs - homòlogues
Adjectives that end in an "e" that changes to "a" in the feminine only have one ending for both masculine and feminine plural forms: -es.
Adjectives ending in "-o" and "-òleg" are very few in number, with "sacrilegious" sacríleg - sacrílega being an exception. Also few in number are those adjectives which
are e -> a adjectives which generally seem to occur when the adjective ends in two consonants plus an "e" (e.g. "correct" correcte, "poor" pobre, etc.). One exception to the
eu -> ea group is "Jewish" jueu - jueva - jueus - jueves.
Though the overwhelming majority of -iu adjectives follow the u -> v pattern, a few notable ones do not and instead simply add an "a" after the "u" to form the feminine
form: "native" nadiu - nadiua - nadius - nadiues, "icy" geliu, "solitary" soliu, and "dainty" joliu.
d.) Just as with nouns of the same ending, adjectives ending in a stressed vowel add an -n- before adding the regular endings. Additionally, they get rid of any accents. However,
an accented i (i.e. "í") preceded by another vowel becomes an i with a dieresis (i.e. "ï")
e.) For 'Adjectives of 2 endings' ending in -s, -ç, -x, -ix, -tx, -sc, -st, -xt, and -ig, the singular endings remain the same, but the plural endings for the masculine plural
and feminine plural forms are -os and -es, respectively. Specifically, in the case of adjectives ending in -sc, -st, -xt, and -ig, there is a choice in the masculine plural between
-s and -os, just as with nouns of the same ending. Also like nouns of the same ending, -ig adjectives change to either -j- or -tj- in their feminine forms and the only way to know
which form to use is to memorize them individually.
Adjectives whose masculine singular ending is -às or -ís double their final -s before applying the proper endings for the other forms. Furthermore, a few other adjectives ending in
-s also follow this pattern of double the final -s in other forms. The most common example would be "fat" gras.
Naturally, there are exceptions for each of these adjective endings and some ("bad" mal/mala, for example) will be covered in later tutorials.
Though most adjectives ending in -or are 'Adjectives of 2 endings' (-or/-ora), those that end in -erior like "superior" superior and "previous" anterior, and those ending in
a form of -color are equally invariable (e.g. "multicolor" multicolor - multicolors ; "of one color" unicolor - unicolors ; but NOT "colorless" incolor - incolora - incolors - incolores).
b.) Adjectives ending in -aç, -iç, and -oç do not follow the same rule as other adjectives ending in -ç. Instead, these three particular endings are invariable and thus are 'Adjectives of
1 ending.' However, what sets them apart from other 'Adjectives of 1 ending' is that they show gender agreement in their plural forms
There will be no separate section in the Catalan tutorials discussing the feminine forms of nouns describing people and animals, for the majority of them follow the same rules for forming
feminine as adjectives with corresponding endings. Additionally, the most notable exceptions will be covered in various other sections in the tutorials (such as the section concerning the
names of professions).
From now on, the fem. sg., and, if need be, mas. pl. and fem. pl. endings of adjectives presented in other sections (like the one following this one) will be shown in parentheses directly after
the adjective. If the adjective is an 'Adjective of 1 ending' then a number 1 will be given in parentheses instead (as well as "-os" and "-es", if necessary). Similarly, for nouns concerning people
or animals, irregular feminine, and even plural, forms will be given in parenthesis. Also included in the endings given in parentheses will be consonants that change in other forms (Though this is
not true of the animals listed in the "Family and domestic animals" section of Catalan I, some of those animals may be listed again in further sections, this time including their feminine endings.)
Examples: "bitter" agre(-a) BUT "young" jove(1) ; "barefoot" descalç(-a/-os/-ces) BUT "effective" eficaç(1,-os/-es); "Danish" danès(-esa) ; "healthy" sa(-na)
27. Adjectives II - Common adjectives to describe people or things (Adjectius II - Adjectius comuns per descriure persones o coses)
*"Baix" means short in terms of height and "curt" means short in terms of length. Similarly, "vell" is generally used for people and "antic" for things.
Some adjectives have more euphemistic versions when referring to people. For example, instead of saying someone is "una persona vella," Catalans would tend to say that such an
individual is "una persona gran." Similarly, a person who is short may technically be "baix(-a)," but Catalans tend to use the more polite diminutive "baixet(-a)" to express
such a characteristic.
More complicated topics such as the placent of adjectives (which is generally after the noun, but has important exceptions) and multiple adjectives modifying the same noun will
be covered in subsequent tutorials.
28. The Adjectives III - Translating "good", "bad", "well", and "badly" (Adjectius III - Com traduir "good", "bad", "well", and "badly")
Translating the adjectives "good" and "bad" and the adverbs "well" and "badly" from English into Catalan may be somewhat tricky, as each term takes a form in Catalan bases not only
on gender and number agreement (in the case of the adjectives) but also on their position in the sentence.
The Adverbs "Well" - Bé/Ben & "Badly" - Malament/Mal
The forms bé and malament are only found after verbs and are used to modify the verbs they follow.
Estàs bé? Are you well?
Canten molt malament. They sing very badly.
The forms ben and mal, on the other hand, precede the words they modify, namely past participles.
Una hamburguesa mal cuita et farà malalt. A badly cooked hamburger will make you sick.
Hi ha aqüeductes romans ben conservats a prop de Barcelona. There are well-preserved Roman aqueducts near Barcelona.
The Adjectives "Good" - Bo(-na)/Bon(-a) & "Bad" Dolent(-a)/Mal(-a)
Like bé and malament, bo(-na) and dolent(-a) only ever follow whatever it is they are modifying (which would be nouns, in their particular case).
L'escudella que fa la meva iaia és molt bona! The traditional Catalan soup that my grandma makes is very good!
Em sembla que les cloïsses tenen un gust molt dolent. I think clams have a very bad taste.
However, if these adjectives are found before the noun they are modifying, they take the forms bon(-a) and mal(-a) to mean "good" and "bad," respectively.
La Laia sempre pensa en bones idees per fer publicitats. Laia always thinks of good ideas for making ad(vertizement)s.
De vegades sembla que el meu germà sempre estigui de mal humor. Sometimes, it seems like my brother is always in a bad mood.
Recap: Adverb following a verb: "well" bé ; "badly" malament
Adverb preceding a past participle: "well" ben ; "badly" mal
Adjective following a noun: "good" bo - bona - bons - bones ; "bad" dolent - dolenta - dolents - dolentes
Adjective preceding a noun: "good" bon - bona - bons - bones ; "bad" mal - mala - mals - males
It must also be noted that when these terms are used in exclamations (e.g. the exclamative "que" + adj./adv.), the shorter versions (i.e. bé, bo, etc.) are used.
Example: Que bé! How great/wonderful!
29. Indefinite Pronouns, Adverbs, and Adjectives (Pronoms, adverbis i adjectius indefinits)
no one/nobody, anyone/anybody
each one, every one
a/en algun lloc
*"Ningú," "res," "enlloc," and "cap" are most commonly found in their negative forms: "no one," "nothing," "nowhere," and "no (insert noun)," respectively. However,
they can be used in a question or after "si" ('if') in a non-negative sense to mean "anyone," "anything," "somewhere," and "any" when the speaker truly has no particular
person, thing, or place in mind. The negative meanings of these words will be seen and covered again in a later tutorial.
Qualsevol is singular and qualssevol is plural. Functioning as either an adjective or a pronoun, a more accurate, though longer, translation of qualsevol would be
something like "any _____ whatsoever" when used as an adjective, and "anything whatsoever" when used as a pronoun.
As adjectives, qualsevol is invariable with respect to gender but changes according to number, whilst cap always remains invariable regardless of its usage or what it's
30. Conjugating Regular Verbs (La conjugació dels verbs regulars)
Catalan verbs are classified into one of three conjugations based on the ending of their infinitive. A Catalan infinitive will always end in -ar, -er/-re (the two endings -er
and -re share the same conjugation), or -ir. In this regard, one could say that the only technically irregular verb in Catalan, as far as infinitive forms are concerned anyway,
is "dur" which is the only Catalan verb not ending in one of the aforementioned endings. Conjugation endings are added to the stem of the verb which is rendered by simply removing
its two-letter infinitive ending. For -ir verbs, there are two separate sets of endings based on whether or not verb is inchoative. If a verb is inchoative, then you must the
infix -eix- before taking the regular -ir endings.
Example of verbs in Present Indicative tense
*An "e" is added after the -eix- and before the normal -s ending of the 2nd person singular in order to ease pronunciation.
We could say that 85% of all Catalan verbs are -ar verbs. This includes the majority of the newer verbs entering the language in the past century or so due to such phenomena
as technological advancements (e.g. telefonar "to (tele)phone/call"). The only two irregular -ar verbs are two of the commonest verbs: anar and estar.
Though comprising only 5% of all Catalan verbs, -er/-re verbs are almost always irregular, with some examples like "creure" and "ser" being common everyday verbs.
Verbs whose infinitives end in -ir make up the remaining 10% of Catalan verbs and, as demonstrated above, take different endings depending on whether or not they are inchoative.
Inchoative verbs are much more common than non-inchoative -ir verbs, but a number of notable non-inchoative verbs (e.g. dormir "to sleep") are common in everyday usage. Furthermore,
the -eix- infix of inchoative verbs is only applied in the present indicative and present subjunctive tenses, and only to the 1st singular, 2nd singular, and 3rd singular and
plural persons. Other than those tenses and persons, a inchoative verb is essentially conjugated just like a non-inchoative verb. Non-inchoative verbs can also be referred to as "pure" -ir verbs.
Commonest non-inchoative/pure -ir verbs: adormir-se "to fall asleep," collir* "to pick (up)/gather/harvest," dormir "to sleep," fugir "to flee/escape," obrir "to open," morir "to die," omplir "to fill (out)," ressentir-se "to feel the effects of/resent," sentir "to feel/hear/be sorry," sortir "to go out/leave/come out."
*The verbs whose forms are derived from collir (e.g escollir "to choose," etc.) are also non-inchoative.
In the case of the verbs collir, sortir, and the derivative verbs of collir, the "o" changes to "u" in all but the 1st and 2nd plural persons.