Bulgarian Grammar

Bulgarian is a Slavic language, and many believe it to be quite hard to learn. However, like many other languages, it is not as hard as it may seem. It does have its peculiarities that can be a bit difficult for speakers of other languages to grasp, but there is nothing about Bulgarian that you cannot master with a little bit of patience and ample practice. This article will give you an overview of the key notions in Bulgarian grammar to give you an idea of what you should focus on learning.

Nouns

Bulgarian nouns have the grammatical categories 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.

го̀ст - го̀сти (guests)

дърво - дърва (trees)

With cardinal numbers and some adverbs, masculine nouns use a separate numerical plural form. 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.

Articles

In modern Bulgarian, definiteness is expressed by a definite article which is post-fixed to the noun, much like in the Scandinavian languages or Romanian, or to the first nominal constituent of a definite noun phrases:

  • indefinite: човек - person
  • definite: човекът - the person
  • indefinite: добър човек - a good person
  • definite: добрият човек - the good person

There are four singular definite articles. Again, the choice between them is largely determined by the noun's ending in the singular.

Adjectives

A Bulgarian adjective agrees in gender, number and definiteness with the noun it is appended to and is put usually used in front of the noun.

хубав ресторант - nice restaurant (masculine)

хубава градина - nice garden (feminine)

хубаво село - nice village (neuter)

The comparative and the superlative form are formed analytically.

хубав - по-хубав - най-хубав (nice, nicer, the nicest, masculine)

Adverbs

Adverbs in Bulgarian are often formed from adjectives, by adding the ending -o. Another less frequently ending is -e.

бърз - бързо (quick, quickly)

добър - добре (good, well)

There are also adverbs that are not formed from adjectives, like вън (outside), днес (today), etc.

Bulgarian adverbs are pretty flexible when it comes to sentence structure, they can be placed almost anywhere in the sentence.

Pronouns

In the Bulgarian language, there are personal (аз, ти), possessive (мой, твой), interrogative (кой, кого), demonstrative (този, онзи), reflexive (себе си, се), summative (всеки), negative (никой, ничий), indefinite (някой, нечий) and relative (който, чийто) pronouns.

Bulgarian pronouns vary in gender, number, definiteness, and case. They, more than any other part of speech, have preserved the proto-Slavic case system.

Three cases are exhibited by some groups of pronouns – nominative, accusative and dative.

Verbs

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.

Aspect

Bulgarian verbs express lexical aspect: perfective verbs signify the completion of the action of the verb and form past perfective forms; imperfective ones are neutral with regard to it and form past imperfective forms.

Perfective verbs can usually be formed from imperfective ones by suffixation or prefixation, but the resultant verb often deviates in meaning from the original.

In Bulgarian, there is also grammatical aspect. Three grammatical aspects are distinguishable: neutral, perfect and pluperfect.

Tense

There are three grammatically distinctive positions in time – present, past, and future – which combine with aspect and mood to produce a number of formations.

In the indicative mood, there are three simple tenses:

  • Present tense is a temporally unmarked simple form made up of the verbal stem and a complex suffix
  • Past imperfect is a simple verb form used to express an action which is contemporaneous or subordinate to other past actions
  • Past aorist is a simple form used to express a temporarily independent, specific past action

In the indicative there are also the following compound tenses:

  • Future tense is a compound form made up by particle ще and present tense (ще уча, 'I will study')
  • Past future tense is a compound form used to express an action which was to be completed in the past but was future as regards another past action
  • Present perfect is a compound form used to express an action which was completed in the past but is relevant for or related to the present
  • Past perfect is a compound form used to express an action which was completed in the past and is relative to another past action
  • Future perfect is a compound form used to express an action which is to take place in the future before another future action
  • Past future perfect is a compound form used to express a past action which is future with respect to a past action which itself is prior to another past action

There is only one simple tense in the imperative mood, the present. There are compound imperative forms for all persons and numbers in the present compound imperative, the present perfect compound imperative, and the rarely used present pluperfect compound imperative.

The conditional mood consists of five compound tenses, most of which are not grammatically distinguishable.

The subjunctive mood is rarely documented as a separate verb form in Bulgarian, but nevertheless, it is used regularly. The most common form, often mistaken for the present tense, is the present subjunctive.

The inferential mood has five pure tenses. Two of them are simple – past aorist inferential and past imperfect inferential – and are formed by the past participles of perfective and imperfective verbs, respectively. There are also three compound tenses – past future inferential, past future perfect inferential and past perfect inferential.

Prepositions

Some common Bulgarian prepositions are: до, в, около, и, без, между, за, по, вместо, срещу, от, заради, въпреки, през.

Final words

This is a very brief overview of Bulgarian grammar. To truly master it, you will need to study each of the parts of speech in much more detail. However, this overview will hopefully give you a general idea of the Bulgarian grammatical system and of the main points you should consider when learning.


Bulgarian Vocabulary Books

Learn Bulgarian - Quick / Easy / Efficient

Learn Bulgarian - Quick / Easy / Efficient

This vocabulary book is a curated Bulgarian word frequency list with 2000 of the most common Bulgarian words and phrases. Following the Pareto principle (80/20 rule), this book is built to streamline the learning process by concentrating on the core words and sentence structures. The result is a unique book ideal for driven learners and language hackers.
Bulgarian Vocabulary Book

Bulgarian Vocabulary Book

This Bulgarian vocabulary book contains more than 3000 words and phrases and is organized by topic to make it easier for you to pick what to learn first. It is well suited for learners of all levels who are looking for an extensive resource to improve their vocabulary or are interested in learning vocabularies in one particular area of interest.

Bulgarian Flashcards

Bulgarian Quizlet Flashcards

Bulgarian Quizlet Flashcards

These Bulgarian flashcard sets contain 1300 of the most important Bulgarian vocabularies sorted by topic. Each set represents one topic which allows you to dive deeper into areas depending on your priorities and interests.

Free Learning Resources