Bulgarian Language
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Bulgarian Language


Bulgarska Azbuka.png
Native to Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Kosovo, Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and among emigrant communities worldwide
Region Southeastern Europe
Ethnicity Bulgarians
Native speakers
8[1]-9[2][3][4][5] million (2011)
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by Institute for the Bulgarian language at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences ( ? ? ())
Language codes
Glottolog bulg1262[8]
Linguasphere 53-AAA-hb < 53-AAA-h
Idioma búlgaro1.png
The Bulgarian-speaking world:
  regions where Bulgarian is the language of the majority
  regions where Bulgarian is the language of a significant minority
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For a guide to IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Bulgarian , (Bulgarian: b?lgarski, pronounced ['b?rski]) is an Indo-European language, a member of the Southern branch of the Slavic language family.

Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language (collectively forming the East South Slavic languages), has several characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages: changes include the elimination of case declension, the development of a suffixed definite article (see Balkan language area), and the lack of a verb infinitive, but it retains and has further developed the Proto-Slavic verb system. Various evidential verb forms exist to express unwitnessed, retold, and doubtful action.

With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Bulgarian became one of the official languages of the European Union.[9][10]


One can divide the development of the Bulgarian language into several periods.

  • The Prehistoric period covers the time between the Slavonic migration to the eastern Balkans (c. 7th century CE) and the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius to Great Moravia in the 860s.
  • Old Bulgarian (9th to 11th centuries, also referred to as "Old Church Slavonic") - a literary norm of the early southern dialect of the Common Slavic language from which Bulgarian evolved. Saints Cyril and Methodius and their disciples used this norm when translating the Bible and other liturgical literature from Greek into Slavic.
  • Middle Bulgarian (12th to 15th centuries) - a literary norm that evolved from the earlier Old Bulgarian, after major innovations occurred. A language of rich literary activity, it served as the official administration language of the Second Bulgarian Empire.
  • Modern Bulgarian dates from the 16th century onwards, undergoing general grammar and syntax changes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Present-day written Bulgarian language was standardized on the basis of the 19th-century Bulgarian vernacular. The historical development of the Bulgarian language can be described as a transition from a highly synthetic language (Old Bulgarian) to a typical analytic language (Modern Bulgarian) with Middle Bulgarian as a midpoint in this transition.
The Codex Zographensis is one of the oldest manuscripts in the Old Bulgarian language, dated from the late 10th or early 11th century

Bulgarian was the first "Slavic" language attested in writing. As Slavic linguistic unity lasted into late antiquity, the oldest manuscripts initially referred to this language was as ?, "the Slavic language". In the Middle Bulgarian period this name was gradually replaced by the name ?, the "Bulgarian language". In some cases, the name ? was used not only with regard to the contemporary Middle Bulgarian language of the copyist but also to the period of Old Bulgarian. A most notable example of anachronism is the Service of St. Cyril from Skopje (? ), a 13th-century Middle Bulgarian manuscript from northern Macedonia according to which St. Cyril preached with "Bulgarian" books among the Moravian Slavs. The first mention of the language as the "Bulgarian language" instead of the "Slavonic language" comes in the work of the Greek clergy of the Bulgarian Archbishopric of Ohrid in the 11th century, for example in the Greek hagiography of Saint Clement of Ohrid by Theophylact of Ohrid (late 11th century).

During the Middle Bulgarian period, the language underwent dramatic changes, losing the Slavonic case system, but preserving the rich verb system (while the development was exactly the opposite in other Slavic languages) and developing a definite article. It was influenced by its non-Slavic neighbors in the Balkan language area (mostly grammatically) and later also by Turkish, which was the official language of the Ottoman Empire, in the form of the Ottoman Turkish language, mostly lexically. As a national revival occurred toward the end of the period of Ottoman rule (mostly during the 19th century), a modern Bulgarian literary language gradually emerged that drew heavily on Church Slavonic/Old Bulgarian (and to some extent on literary Russian, which had preserved many lexical items from Church Slavonic) and later reduced the number of Turkish and other Balkan loans. Today one difference between Bulgarian dialects in the country and literary spoken Bulgarian is the significant presence of Old Bulgarian words and even word forms in the latter. Russian loans are distinguished from Old Bulgarian ones on the basis of the presence of specifically Russian phonetic changes, as in (turnover, rev), (incomprehensible), ? (nucleus) and others. As usual in such[which?] cases, many other loans from French, English and the classical languages have subsequently entered the language as well.

Modern Bulgarian was based essentially on the Eastern dialects of the language, but its pronunciation is in many respects a compromise between East and West Bulgarian (see especially the phonetic sections below). Following the efforts of some figures of the National awakening of Bulgaria (most notably Neofit Rilski and Ivan Bogorov),[11] there had been many attempts to codify a standard Bulgarian language; however, there was much argument surrounding the choice of norms. Between 1835 and 1878 more than 25 proposals were put forward and "linguistic chaos" ensued.[12] Eventually the eastern dialects prevailed,[13] and in 1899 the Bulgarian Ministry of Education officially codified[12] a standard Bulgarian language based on the Drinov-Ivanchev orthography.[13]


Map of the Bulgarian dialects within Bulgaria
Bulgarian dialect map-yus.png

The language is mainly split into two broad dialect areas, based on the different reflexes of the Common Slavic yat vowel (?). This split, which occurred at some point during the Middle Ages, led to the development of Bulgaria's:

  • Western dialects (informally called /tvurd govor - "hard speech")
    • the former yat is pronounced "e" in all positions. e.g. (mlekò) - milk, ? (hleb) - bread.[14]
  • Eastern dialects (informally called /mek govor - "soft speech")
    • the former yat alternates between "ya" and "e": it is pronounced "ya" if it is under stress and the next syllable does not contain a front vowel (e or i) - e.g. ? (mlko), ?? (hlyab), and "e" otherwise - e.g. ? (mlekàr) - milkman, ? (hlebàr) - baker. This rule obtains in most Eastern dialects, although some have "ya", or a special "open e" sound, in all positions.

The literary language norm, which is generally based on the Eastern dialects, also has the Eastern alternating reflex of yat. However, it has not incorporated the general Eastern umlaut of all synchronic or even historic "ya" sounds into "e" before front vowels - e.g. (polyana) vs. (poleni) "meadow - meadows" or even ? (zhaba) vs. ? (zhebi) "frog - frogs", even though it co-occurs with the yat alternation in almost all Eastern dialects that have it (except a few dialects along the yat border, e.g. in the Pleven region).[15]

More examples of the yat umlaut in the literary language are:

  • mlyàko (milk) [n.] -> mlekàr (milkman); mlèchen (milky), etc.
  • syàdam (sit) [vb.] -> sedàlka (seat); sedàlishte (seat, e.g. of government), etc.
  • svyat (holy) [adj.] -> svetètz (saint); svetìlishte (sanctuary), etc. (in this example, ya/e comes not from historical yat but from small yus (?), which normally becomes e in Bulgarian, but the word was influenced by Russian and the yat umlaut)

Until 1945, Bulgarian orthography did not reveal this alternation and used the original Old Slavic Cyrillic letter yat (?), which was commonly called ? (dvoyno e) at the time, to express the historical yat vowel or at least root vowels displaying the ya - e alternation. The letter was used in each occurrence of such a root, regardless of the actual pronunciation of the vowel: thus, both mlyako and mlekar were spelled with (?). Among other things, this was seen as a way to "reconcile" the Western and the Eastern dialects and maintain language unity at a time when much of Bulgaria's Western dialect area was controlled by Serbia and Greece, but there were still hopes and occasional attempts to recover it. With the 1945 orthographic reform, this letter was abolished and the present spelling was introduced, reflecting the alternation in pronunciation.

This had implications for some grammatical constructions:

  • The third person plural pronoun and its derivatives. Before 1945 the pronoun "they" was spelled (t?), and its derivatives took this as the root. After the orthographic change, the pronoun and its derivatives were given an equal share of soft and hard spellings:
    • "they" - ?? (te) -> "them" - ??? (tyah);
    • "their(s)" - tehen (masc.); tyahna (fem.); tyahno (neut.); tehni (plur.)
  • adjectives received the same treatment as :
    • "whole" - tsyal -> "the whole...": tseliyat (masc.); tsyalata (fem.); tsyaloto (neut.); tselite (plur.)

Sometimes, with the changes, words began to be spelled as other words with different meanings, e.g.:

  • ? (sv?t) - "world" became ? (svyat), spelt and pronounced the same as ? - "holy".
  • (t?) - "they" became (te),

In spite of the literary norm regarding the yat vowel, many people living in Western Bulgaria, including the capital Sofia, will fail to observe its rules. While the norm requires the realizations vidyal vs. videli (he has seen; they have seen), some natives of Western Bulgaria will preserve their local dialect pronunciation with "e" for all instances of "yat" (e.g. videl, videli). Others, attempting to adhere to the norm, will actually use the "ya" sound even in cases where the standard language has "e" (e.g. vidyal, vidyali). The latter hypercorrection is called ? (svrah-yakane ?"over-ya-ing").

Shift from /j?/ to /?/

Bulgarian is the only Slavic language whose literary standard does not naturally contain the iotated sound /j?/ (or its palatalized variant //, except in non-Slavic foreign-loaned words). The sound is common in all modern Slavic languages (e.g. Czech medv?d /'m?dvj?t/ "bear", Polish pi?? /pt?/ "five", Serbo-Croatian jelen /j?len/ "deer", Ukrainian ?? /nemaj?/[stress?] "there is not...", Macedonian /pi?uva/[stress?] "writing", etc.), as well as some Western Bulgarian dialectal forms - e.g. '? /o'ra/ (standard Bulgarian: /o'ran?/, "ploughing"),[16] however it is not represented in standard Bulgarian speech or writing. Even where /j?/ occurs in other Slavic words, in Standard Bulgarian it is usually transcribed and pronounced as pure /?/ - e.g. Boris Yeltsin is "Eltsin" ( ), Yekaterinburg is "Ekaterinburg" () and Sarajevo is "Saraevo" (?), although - because the sound is contained in a stressed syllable at the beginning of the word - Jelena Jankovi? is "Yelena" - ?.

Relationship to Macedonian

Areas of Eastern South Slavic languages

Until the period immediately following the Second World War, all Bulgarian and the majority of foreign linguists referred to the South Slavic dialect continuum spanning the area of modern Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia and parts of Northern Greece as a group of Bulgarian dialects.[17][18][19][20][21][22] In contrast, Serbian sources tended to label them "south Serbian" dialects.[23][24] Some local naming conventions included bolgarski, bugarski and so forth.[25] The codifiers of the standard Bulgarian language, however, did not wish to make any allowances for a pluricentric "Bulgaro-Macedonian" compromise.[26] After 1944 the People's Republic of Bulgaria and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia began a policy of making Macedonia into the connecting link for the establishment of a new Balkan Federative Republic and stimulating here a development of distinct Slav Macedonian consciousness.[27] With the proclamation of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia as part of the Yugoslav federation, the new authorities also started measures that would overcome the pro-Bulgarian feeling among parts of its population and in 1945 a separate Macedonian language was codified.[28] After 1958, when the pressure from Moscow decreased, Sofia reverted to the view that the Macedonian language did not exist as a separate language. Nowadays, Bulgarian and Greek linguists as well as some linguists from other countries still consider Macedonian dialects as Bulgarian.[29][30] Outside Bulgaria and Greece, Macedonian is generally considered an autonomous language within the South Slavic dialect continuum.[31] Sociolinguists agree that the question whether Macedonian is a dialect of Bulgarian or a language is a political one and cannot be resolved on a purely linguistic basis, because dialect continua do not allow for either/or judgments.[32][33]


Bulgarian cursive alphabet

In 886 AD, the Bulgarian Empire introduced the Glagolitic alphabet which was devised by the Saints Cyril and Methodius in the 850s. The Glagolitic alphabet was gradually superseded in later centuries by the Cyrillic script, developed around the Preslav Literary School, Bulgaria in the beginning of the 10th century.

Several Cyrillic alphabets with 28 to 44 letters were used in the beginning and the middle of the 19th century during the efforts on the codification of Modern Bulgarian until an alphabet with 32 letters, proposed by Marin Drinov, gained prominence in the 1870s. The alphabet of Marin Drinov was used until the orthographic reform of 1945, when the letters ?, ? (called 'yat' or ?/?- 'double e'), and ?, ? (called 'big yus', ? 'big nasal sign', ? 'crossed yer' or ? 'long yer'), were removed from its alphabet, reducing the number of letters to 30.

With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Cyrillic became the third official script of the European Union, following the Latin and Greek scripts.[34]


Bulgarian flag with Yat and Big Yus.svg

Bulgarian possesses a phonology similar to that of the rest of the South Slavic languages, notably lacking Serbo-Croatian's phonemic vowel length and tones and alveo-palatal affricates. The eastern dialects exhibit palatalization of consonants before front vowels (/?/ and /i/) and reduction of vowel phonemes in unstressed position (causing mergers of /?/ and /i/, /?/ and /u/, /a/ and /?/) - both patterns have partial parallels in Russian and lead to a partly similar sound. The western dialects are like Macedonian and Serbo-Croatian in that they do not have allophonic palatalization and have only little vowel reduction.

Bulgarian has six vowel phonemes, but at least eight distinct phones can be distinguished when reduced allophones are taken into consideration.


The parts of speech in Bulgarian are divided in 10 types, which are categorized in two broad classes: mutable and immutable. The difference is that mutable parts of speech vary grammatically, whereas the immutable ones do not change, regardless of their use. The five classes of mutables are: nouns, adjectives, numerals, pronouns and verbs. Syntactically, the first four of these form the group of the noun or the nominal group. The immutables are: adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, particles and interjections. Verbs and adverbs form the group of the verb or the verbal group.

Nominal morphology

Nouns and adjectives have the categories grammatical gender, number, case (only vocative) and definiteness in Bulgarian. Adjectives and adjectival pronouns agree with nouns in number and gender. Pronouns have gender and number and retain (as in nearly all Indo-European languages) a more significant part of the case system.

Nominal inflection


There are three grammatical genders in Bulgarian: masculine, feminine and neuter. The gender of the noun can largely be inferred from its ending: nouns ending in a consonant ("zero ending") are generally masculine (for example, ? /?rat/ 'city', /sin/ 'son', /m/ 'man'; those ending in -?/-? (-a/-ya) (? /'na/ 'woman', /dt?r'ja/ 'daughter', /'ulits?/ 'street') are normally feminine; and nouns ending in -?, -? are almost always neuter (? /d?'t?/[stress?] 'child', /'?z?ro/ 'lake'), as are those rare words (usually loanwords) that end in -?, -?, and -? ( /tso'nami/ 'tsunami', ? /t?'bu/ 'taboo', ? /m?'nju/ 'menu'). Perhaps the most significant exception from the above are the relatively numerous nouns that end in a consonant and yet are feminine: these comprise, firstly, a large group of nouns with zero ending expressing quality, degree or an abstraction, including all nouns ending on -/- -{ost/est} (? /'m?drost/ 'wisdom', /'nizost/ 'vileness', ? /'pr?l?st/ 'loveliness', /'b?l?st/ 'sickness', /lju'b?f/ 'love'), and secondly, a much smaller group of irregular nouns with zero ending which define tangible objects or concepts (? /kr?f/ 'blood', ? /k?st/ 'bone', /'v?tr/ 'evening', /nt/ 'night'). There are also some commonly used words that end in a vowel and yet are masculine 'father', ? 'grandfather', ? / 'uncle', and others.

The plural forms of the nouns do not express their gender as clearly as the singular ones, but may also provide some clues to it: the ending -? (-i) is more likely to be used with a masculine or feminine noun ( /'fakti/ 'facts', ? /'b?l?sti/ 'sicknesses'), while one in -?/-? belongs more often to a neuter noun ( /?z?'ra/ 'lakes'). Also, the plural ending - /ov?/ occurs only in masculine nouns.


Two numbers are distinguished in Bulgarian - singular and plural. A variety of plural suffixes is used, and the choice between them is partly determined by their ending in singular and partly influenced by gender; in addition, irregular declension and alternative plural forms are common. Words ending in -?/-? (which are usually feminine) generally have the plural ending -?, upon dropping of the singular ending. Of nouns ending in a consonant, the feminine ones also use -?, whereas the masculine ones usually have -? for polysyllables and - for monosyllables (however, exceptions are especially common in this group). Nouns ending in -?/-? (most of which are neuter) mostly use the suffixes -?, -? (both of which require the dropping of the singular endings) and -.

With cardinal numbers and related words such as ? ('several'), masculine nouns use a special count form in -?/-?, which stems from the Proto-Slavonic dual: / ('two/three chairs') versus ? ? ('these chairs'); cf. feminine //? ('two/three/these books') and neuter //? ('two/three/these beds'). However, a recently developed language norm requires that count forms should only be used with masculine nouns that do not denote persons. Thus, / ? ('two/three students') is perceived as more correct than / ?, while the distinction is retained in cases such as / ('two/three pencils') versus ? ('these pencils').

? ?

Cases exist only in the personal and some other pronouns (as they do in many other modern Indo-European languages), with nominative, accusative, dative and vocative forms. Vestiges are present in a number of phraseological units and sayings. The major exception are vocative forms, which are still in use for masculine (with the endings -?, -? and -?) and feminine nouns (-[?/?]? and -?) in the singular.

Definiteness (article)

In modern Bulgarian, definiteness is expressed by a definite article which is postfixed to the noun, much like in the Scandinavian languages or Romanian (indefinite?, 'person'; definite?, "the person") or to the first nominal constituent of definite noun phrases (indefinite? , 'a good person'; definite? , "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.[35] Nouns that end in a consonant and are masculine use -/-, when they are grammatical subjects, and -?/-? elsewhere. Nouns that end in a consonant and are feminine, as well as nouns that end in -?/-? (most of which are feminine, too) use -. Nouns that end in -?/-? use -.

The plural definite article is - for all nouns except for those whose plural form ends in -?/-?; these get - instead. When postfixed to adjectives the definite articles are -/-? for masculine gender (again, with the longer form being reserved for grammatical subjects), - for feminine gender, - for neuter gender, and - for plural.

Modern developments
Keyboard Layout Bulgarian Phonetic2.png

In Bulgarian adjective-noun phrases, only the adjective takes a definite article ending -

  • chervenata masa - the red table
  • cherveniyat stol - the red chair

Many of the English loanwords which have been adopted into the language since the end of communism, however, do not readily lend themselves to taking adjectival endings. This has caused an unprecedented shift in the language whereby, in certain cases, the adjective remains uninflected, while the noun following it takes the grammatical ending. Examples include -

  • internet potrebitelite - the internet users [36]
  • web stranitsite - the web pages [37]

This type of combination is sometimes favoured even when the possibility of a traditional phrase structure exists, e.g. -

  • btv novinite - "the btv news"
as opposed to novinite po btv ("the news on btv")

In this case, the brand name "btv" cannot be inflected and, being a brand, remains in Roman script within the sentence.[38]

See Use of Roman script in Bulgarian

Adjective and numeral inflection

Both groups agree in gender and number with the noun they are appended to. They may also take the definite article as explained above.


Pronouns may vary in gender, number, and definiteness, and are the only parts of speech that have retained case inflections. Three cases are exhibited by some groups of pronouns - nominative, accusative and dative. The distinguishable types of pronouns include the following: personal, relative, reflexive, interrogative, negative, indefinitive, summative and possessive.

Verbal morphology and grammar

The Bulgarian verb can take up to 3,000[39][dubious ] distinct forms, as it varies in person, number, voice, aspect, mood, tense and even gender.

Finite verbal forms

Finite verbal forms are simple or compound and agree with subjects in person (first, second and third) and number (singular, plural). In addition to that, past compound forms using participles vary in gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and voice (active and passive) as well as aspect (perfective/aorist and imperfective).


Bulgarian verbs express lexical aspect: perfective verbs signify the completion of the action of the verb and form past perfective (aorist) forms; imperfective ones are neutral with regard to it and form past imperfective forms. Most Bulgarian verbs can be grouped in perfective-imperfective pairs (imperfective/perfective?/ "come", / "arrive"). Perfective verbs can be usually formed from imperfective ones by suffixation or prefixation, but the resultant verb often deviates in meaning from the original. In the pair examples above, aspect is stem-specific and therefore there is no difference in meaning.

In Bulgarian, there is also grammatical aspect. Three grammatical aspects are distinguishable: neutral, perfect and pluperfect. The neutral aspect comprises the three simple tenses and the future tense. The pluperfect is manifest in tenses that use double or triple auxiliary "be" participles like the past pluperfect subjunctive. Perfect constructions use a single auxiliary "be".


The traditional interpretation is that in addition to the four moods (? /n?klo'n?nij?/) shared by most other European languages - indicative (?, /iz'vitno/) imperative ( /pove'litelno/), subjunctive ( /pott?i'nitno/) and conditional (?, /o'svno/) - in Bulgarian there is one more to describe a general category of unwitnessed events - the inferential (? /pr?'isk?zno/) mood. However, most contemporary Bulgarian linguists usually exclude the subjunctive mood and the inferential mood from the list of Bulgarian moods (thus placing the number of Bulgarian moods at a total of 3: indicative, imperative and conditional)[40] and don't consider them to be moods but view them as verbial morphosyntactic constructs or separate gramemes of the verb class. The possible existence of a few other moods has been discussed in the literature. Most Bulgarian school grammars teach the traditional view of 4 Bulgarian moods (as described above, but excluding the subjunctive and including the inferential).


There are three grammatically distinctive positions in time - present, past and future - which combine with aspect and mood to produce a number of formations. Normally, in grammar books these formations are viewed as separate tenses - i. e. "past imperfect" would mean that the verb is in past tense, in the imperfective aspect, and in the indicative mood (since no other mood is shown). There are more than 40 different tenses across Bulgarian's two aspects and five moods.

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 composed of the thematic vowel /?/, /i/ or /a/ and the person/number ending (, pri'stig?m, "I arrive/I am arriving"); only imperfective verbs can stand in the present indicative tense independently;
  • Past imperfect is a simple verb form used to express an action which is contemporaneous or subordinate to other past actions; it is made up of an imperfective or a perfective verbal stem and the person/number ending ( /pri'stix/, ? /pri'sti?n?x/, 'I was arriving');
  • Past aorist is a simple form used to express a temporarily independent, specific past action; it is made up of a perfective or an imperfective verbal stem and the person/number ending (?, /pri'sti?n?x/, 'I arrived', , /'ttox/, 'I read');

In the indicative there are also the following compound tenses:

  • Future tense is a compound form made of the particle /?t?/ and present tense ( /?t? 'ut/, 'I will study'); negation is expressed by the construction ? /'?am? d?/ and present tense (? /'?am? d? 'ut/, or the old-fashioned form , /n? ?t? 'ut/ 'I will not 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; it is made up of the past imperfect of the verb /?t?/ ('will'), the particle /d?/ ('to') and the present tense of the verb (e.g. , /?t?ax d? 'ut/, 'I was going to study');
  • 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; it is made up of the present tense of the verb /s?m/ ('be') and the past participle (e.g. ? /s?m 'ut?i?/, 'I have studied');
  • Past perfect is a compound form used to express an action which was completed in the past and is relative to another past action; it is made up of the past tense of the verb and the past participle (e.g. ? /b?ax 'ut?i?/, 'I had studied');
  • Future perfect is a compound form used to express an action which is to take place in the future before another future action; it is made up of the future tense of the verb and the past participle (e.g. ? /?t? s?m 'ut?i?/, 'I will have studied');
  • 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; it is made up of the past imperfect of , the particle the present tense of the verb and the past participle of the verb (e.g. ?, /?t?ax d? s?m 'ut?i?/, 'I would have studied').

The four perfect constructions above can vary in aspect depending on the aspect of the main-verb participle; they are in fact pairs of imperfective and perfective aspects. Verbs in forms using past participles also vary in voice and gender.

There is only one simple tense in the imperative mood, the present, and there are simple forms only for the second-person singular, -?/-? (-i, -y/i), and plural, -/- (-ete, -yte), e.g. /'ut/ ('to study')?? /o't?i/, sg., /o'tt?/, pl.; /'i?raj?/ 'to play'? /i?'raj/, ? /i?'rajt?/. There are compound imperative forms for all persons and numbers in the present compound imperative ( , da i?'rae/), the present perfect compound imperative ( ? , /d? ? i?'ra?/) and the rarely used present pluperfect compound imperative ( ? , /d? ? bil i?'ra?/).

The conditional mood consists of five compound tenses, most of which are not grammatically distinguishable. The present, future and past conditional use a special past form of the stem - (bi - "be") and the past participle ( ?, /bix 'ut?i?/, 'I would study'). The past future conditional and the past future perfect conditional coincide in form with the respective indicative tenses.

The subjunctive mood is rarely documented as a separate verb form in Bulgarian, (being, morphologically, a sub-instance of the quasi-infinitive construction with the particle and a normal finite verb form), but nevertheless it is used regularly. The most common form, often mistaken for the present tense, is the present subjunctive ([-] ('p?dobr?) d? o'tid?/, 'I had better go'). The difference between the present indicative and the present subjunctive tense is that the subjunctive can be formed by both perfective and imperfective verbs. It has completely replaced the infinitive and the supine from complex expressions (see below). It is also employed to express opinion about possible future events. The past perfect subjunctive ([-] ('p?dobr?) d? b?ax o'til/, 'I'd had better be gone') refers to possible events in the past, which did not take place, and the present pluperfect subjunctive ( /d? s?m bil o'til/), which may be used about both past and future events arousing feelings of incontinence, suspicion, etc. and has no perfect to English translation.

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. All these tenses' forms are gender-specific in the singular. There are also conditional and compound-imperative crossovers. The existence of inferential forms has been attributed to Turkic influences by most Bulgarian linguists.[] Morphologically, they are derived from the perfect.

Non-finite verbal forms

Bulgarian has the following participles:

  • Present active participle (? ) is formed from imperfective stems with the addition of the suffixes -/-/- (, 'reading') and is used only attributively;
  • Present passive participle (? ) is formed by the addition of the suffixes -// (, 'that can be read, readable');
  • Past active aorist participle ( ) is formed by the addition of the suffix -?- to perfective stems (?, '[have] read');
  • Past active imperfect participle ( ? ) is formed by the addition of the suffixes -/-/- to imperfective stems (, '[have been] reading');
  • Past passive aorist participle' ( ) is formed from aorist/perfective stems with the addition of the suffixes -?/-? (??, 'read'; ?, 'killed'); it is used predicatively and attributively;
  • Past passive imperfect participle' ( ? ) is formed from imperfective stems with the addition of the suffix -? (??, '[been] read'; ?, '[been] being killed'); it is used predicatively and attributively;
  • Adverbial participle () is usually formed from imperfective present stems with the suffix -(?) (?, 'while reading'), relates an action contemporaneous with and subordinate to the main verb and is originally a Western Bulgarian form.

The participles are inflected by gender, number, and definiteness, and are coordinated with the subject when forming compound tenses (see tenses above). When used in attributive role the inflection attributes are coordinated with the noun that is being attributed.

Reflexive verbs

Bulgarian uses reflexive verbal forms (i.e. actions which are performed by the agent onto him- or herself) which behave in a similar way as they do in many other Indo-European languages, such as French and Spanish. The reflexive is expressed by the invariable particle se,[note 1] originally a clitic form of the accusative reflexive pronoun. Thus -

  • miya - I wash, miya se - I wash myself, miesh se - you wash yourself
  • pitam - I ask, pitam se - I ask myself, pitash se - you ask yourself

When the action is performed on others, other particles are used, just like in any normal verb, e.g. -

  • miya te - I wash you
  • pitash me - you ask me

Sometimes, the reflexive verb form has a similar but not necessarily identical meaning to the non-reflexive verb -

  • kazvam - I say, kazvam se - my name is (lit. "I call myself")
  • vizhdam - I see, vizhdame se - "we see ourselves" or "we meet each other"

In other cases, the reflexive verb has a completely different meaning from its non-reflexive counterpart -

  • karam - to drive, karam se - to have a row with someone
  • gotvya - to cook, gotvya se - to get ready
  • smeya - to dare, smeya se - to laugh
Indirect actions

When the action is performed on an indirect object, the particles change to si and its derivatives -

  • kazvam si - I say to myself, kazvash si - you say to yourself, kazvam ti - I say to you
  • peya si - I am singing to myself, pee si - she is singing to herself, pee mu - she is singing to him
  • gotvya si - I cook for myself, gotvyat si - they cook for themselves, gotvya im - I cook for them

In some cases, the particle si is ambiguous between the indirect object and the possessive meaning -

  • miya si ratsete - I wash my hands, miya ti ratsete - I wash your hands
  • pitam si priyatelite - I ask my friends, pitam ti priyatelite - I ask your friends
  • iskam si topkata - I want my ball (back)

The difference between transitive and intransitive verbs can lead to significant differences in meaning with minimal change, e.g. -

  • haresvash me - you like me, haresvash mi - I like you (lit. you are pleasing to me)
  • otivam - I am going, otivam si - I am going home

The particle si is often used to indicate a more personal relationship to the action, e.g. -

  • haresvam go - I like him, haresvam si go - no precise translation, roughly translates as "he's really close to my heart"
  • stanahme priyateli - we became friends, stanahme si priyateli - same meaning, but sounds friendlier
  • mislya - I am thinking (usually about something serious), mislya si - same meaning, but usually about something personal and/or trivial


The most productive way to form adverbs is to derive them from the neuter singular form of the corresponding adjective--e.g. (fast), (hard), ? (strange)--but adjectives ending in - use the masculine singular form (i.e. ending in -), instead--e.g. (heroically), (bravely, like a man), ? (skillfully). The same pattern is used to form adverbs from the (adjective-like) ordinal numerals, e.g. (firstly), (secondly), (thirdly), and in some cases from (adjective-like) cardinal numerals, e.g. (twice as/double), (three times as), ? (five times as).

The remaining adverbs are formed in ways that are no longer productive in the language. A small number are original (not derived from other words), for example: (here), (there), (inside), (outside), (very/much) etc. The rest are mostly fossilized case forms, such as:

  • archaic locative forms of some adjectives, e.g. (well), (badly), (too, rather), and nouns ? (up), ? (tomorrow), ? (in the summer);
  • archaic instrumental forms of some adjectives, e.g. (quietly), ? (furtively), (blindly), and nouns, e.g. (during the day), (during the night), (one next to the other), (spiritually), (in figures), (with words); or verbs? (while running), (while lying), (while standing).
  • archaic accusative forms of some nouns (today), (tonight), (in the morning), ?/ (in winter);
  • archaic genitive forms of some nouns? (tonight), (last night), (yesterday);
  • homonymous and etymologically identical to the feminine singular form of the corresponding adjective used with the definite article? (hard), ? (gropingly); the same pattern has been applied to some verbs, e.g. (while running), (while lying), (while standing).
  • derived from cardinal numerals by means of a non-productive suffix: (once), ? (twice), ? (thrice);

Adverbs can sometimes be reduplicated to emphasize the qualitative or quantitative properties of actions, moods or relations as performed by the subject of the sentence: "-" ("rather slowly"), "?-?" ("with great difficulty"), "-" ("quite", "thoroughly").


Bulgarian employs clitic doubling, mostly for emphatic purposes. For example, the following constructions are common in colloquial Bulgarian:

() .
(lit. "I gave it the present to Maria.")
(? ) .
(lit. "I gave her it the present to Maria.")

The phenomenon is practically obligatory in the spoken language in the case of inversion signalling information structure (in writing, clitic doubling may be skipped in such instances, with a somewhat bookish effect):

(?) .
(lit. "The present [to her] it I-gave to Maria.")
? () .
(lit. "To Maria to her [it] I-gave the present.")

Sometimes, the doubling signals syntactic relations, thus:

? ? ? ?.
(lit. "Petar and Ivan them ate the wolves.")
Transl.: "Petar and Ivan were eaten by the wolves".

This is contrasted with:

? ? ? ?.
(lit. "Petar and Ivan ate the wolves")
Transl.: "Petar and Ivan ate the wolves".

In this case, clitic doubling can be a colloquial alternative of the more formal or bookish passive voice, which would be constructed as follows:

? ? ? ? ?.
(lit. "Petar and Ivan were eaten by the wolves.")

Clitic doubling is also fully obligatory, both in the spoken and in the written norm, in clauses including several special expressions that use the short accusative and dative pronouns such as (I feel like playing), ? ? (I am cold), and ? (my arm hurts):

, ? ? .
(lit. "To me to me it-feels-like-sleeping, and to Ivan to him it-feels-like-playing")
Transl.: "I feel like sleeping, and Ivan feels like playing."
? ?, ? ? .
(lit. "To us to us it-is cold, and to you-plur. to you-plur. it-is warm")
Transl.: "We are cold, and you are warm."
? ? ?, ? ? ? ?.
(lit. Ivan him aches the throat, and me me aches the head)
Transl.: Ivan has sore throat, and I have a headache.

Except the above examples, clitic doubling is considered inappropriate in a formal context. Bulgarian grammars usually do not treat this phenomenon extensively.

Other features


Questions in Bulgarian which do not use a question word (such as who? what? etc.) are formed with the particle after the verb; a subject is not necessary, as the verbal conjugation suggests who is performing the action:

  • - 'you are coming'; - 'are you coming?'

While the particle generally goes after the verb, it can go after a noun or adjective if a contrast is needed:

  • ? ? - 'are you coming with us?';
  • ? - 'are you coming with us'?

A verb is not always necessary, e.g. when presenting a choice:

  • - 'him?'; ? - 'the yellow one?'[note 2]

Rhetorical questions can be formed by adding to a question word, thus forming a "double interrogative" -

  • ? - 'Who?'; ! - 'I wonder who(?)'

The same construction + ('no') is an emphasised positive -

  • ? ? - 'Who was there?' - ! - 'Nearly everyone!' (lit. 'I wonder who wasn't there')

Significant verbs

The verb /s?m/[note 3] - 'to be' is also used as an auxiliary for forming the perfect, the passive and the conditional:

  • past tense - /o'dari? s?m/ - 'I have hit'
  • passive - /o'dar?n s?m/ - 'I am hit'
  • past passive - /b?ax o'dar?n/ - 'I was hit'
  • conditional - /bix o'daril/ - 'I would hit'

Two alternate forms of exist:

  • ? /'b?d?/ - interchangeable with in most tenses and moods, but never in the present indicative - e.g. /'isk?m d? 'b?d?/ ('I want to be'), /?t? 'b?d? tuk/ ('I will be here'); in the imperative, only ? is used - /'b?di tuk/ ('be here');
  • /'biv?m/ - slightly archaic, imperfective form of ? - e.g. /'biv za'plan/ ('he used to get threats'); in contemporary usage, it is mostly used in the negative to mean "ought not", e.g. /n? 'biv? d? 'pu?i?/ ('you shouldn't smoke').[note 4]

The impersonal verb (lit. 'it wants')[note 5] is used to for forming the (positive) future tense:

  • /o'tiv?m/ - 'I am going'
  • /?t? o'tiv?m/ - 'I will be going'

The negative future is formed with the invariable construction ? /'?am? d?/ (see ? below):[note 6]

  • /'?am? d? o'tiv?m/ - 'I will not be going'

The past tense of this verb - /?t?ax/ is conjugated to form the past conditional ('would have' - again, with , since it is irrealis):

  • /?t?ax d? o'tid?/ - 'I would have gone;' /?t da otid/ 'you would have gone'

? and

The verbs ? /'im?m/ ('to have') and /'?am?m/ ('to not have'):

  • the third person singular of these two can be used impersonally to mean 'there is/there are' or 'there isn't/aren't any,'[note 7] e.g.
    • /im? 'vr?m?/ ('there is still time' - compare Spanish hay);
    • /'?am? 'niko?o/ ('there is no one there').
  • The impersonal form ? is used in the negative future - (see above).
    • ? used on its own can mean simply 'I won't' - a simple refusal to a suggestion or instruction.

Diminutives and augmentatives


Usually done by adding -, - or -(?). The first two of these change the gender to the neuter:

  • /ko'la/ ('car') -> /ko'lit?k?/ ('baby's buggy')
  • /'k?tk? or /'k?t?/ ('cat') -> /'k?t?nts?/ ('kitten')

Affectionate Form

Sometimes proper nouns and words referring to friends or family members can have a diminutive ending added to show affection. These constructions are all referred to as "na galeno" (lit. "caressing" form):

  • mayka (mother) -> maychitse; tatko (father) -> tatentse

Such words can be used both from parent to child, and vice versa, as can:

  • batko (big brother) -> batentse; priyatel (friend) -> priyatelche.

Personal names are shortened:

  • Georgi -> Gosho/Gotse, Mihail -> Misho, Angel -> Gele/Acho, Ivan -> Vanko, Vasil -> Vasko
  • Anna -> Ani, Irina -> Reni

There is an interesting trend (which is comparatively modern, although it might well have deeper, dormant roots) where the feminine ending "-ka" and the definite suffix "-ta" ("the") are added to male names - note that this is affectionate and not at all insulting (in fact, the endings are not even really considered as being "feminine"):

  • Ivan -> Vànkata, Acho -> Àchkata.

The female equivalent would be to add the neuter ending "-to" to the diminutive form:

  • Nadia -> Nadeto, Sonia -> Soncheto


This is to present words to sound larger - usually by adding "-shte":

  • chovek (person) -> chovechishte (huge person) (note the root change k->ch)

Some words only exist in an augmentative form - e.g.

  • zrelishte "(awesome) spectacle" (from the old Slavic root "to see")
  • svlachishte "landslide" - from svlicham "to drag down"

Conjunctions and particles


In Bulgarian, there are several conjunctions all translating into English as "but", which are all used in distinct situations. They are (no), (amà), ? (a), (amì), and (alà) (and (obache) - "however", identical in use to ).

While there is some overlapping between their uses, in many cases they are specific. For example, ami is used for a choice - ne tova, ami onova - "not this one, but that one" (comp. Spanish sino), while ama is often used to provide extra information or an opinion - kazah go, ama sgreshih - "I said it, but I was wrong". Meanwhile, a provides contrast between two situations, and in some sentences can even be translated as "although", "while" or even "and" - az rabotya, a toy blee - "I'm working, and he's daydreaming".

Very often, different words can be used to alter the emphasis of a sentence - e.g. while "pusha, no ne tryabva" and "pusha, a ne tryabva" both mean "I smoke, but I shouldn't", the first sounds more like a statement of fact ("...but I mustn't"), while the second feels more like a judgement ("...but I oughtn't"). Similarly, az ne iskam, ama toy iska and az ne iskam, a toy iska both mean "I don't want to, but he does", however the first emphasises the fact that he wants to, while the second emphasises the wanting rather than the person.

Ala is interesting in that, while it feels archaic, it is often used in poetry and frequently in children's stories, since it has quite a moral/ominous feel to it.

Some common expressions use these words, and some can be used alone as interjections:

  • da, ama ne (lit. "yes, but no") - means "you're wrong to think so".
  • ama can be tagged onto a sentence to express surprise: ama toy spi! - "he's sleeping!"
  • ! - "you don't say!", "really!"

Vocative particles

Bulgarian has several abstract particles which are used to strengthen a statement. These have no precise translation in English.[note 8] The particles are strictly informal and can even be considered rude by some people and in some situations. They are mostly used at the end of questions or instructions.

  • (be) - the most common particle. It can be used to strengthen a statement or, sometimes, to indicate derision of an opinion, aided by the tone of voice. (Originally purely masculine, it can now be used towards both men and women.)
    • kazhi mi, be - tell me (insistence); taka li, be? - is that so? (derisive); vyarno li, be? - you don't say!.
  • (de) - expresses urgency, sometimes pleading.
    • stavay, de! - come on, get up!
  • (ma) (feminine only) - originally simply the feminine counterpart of be, but today perceived as rude and derisive (compare the similar evolution of the vocative forms of feminine names).
  • (bre, masculine), ? (mari, feminine) - similar to be and ma, but archaic. Although informal, can sometimes be heard being used by older people.

Modal Particles

These are "tagged" on to the beginning or end of a sentence to express the mood of the speaker in relation to the situation. They are mostly interrogative or slightly imperative in nature. There is no change in the grammatical mood when these are used (although they may be expressed through different grammatical moods in other languages).

  • ? (nalì) - is a universal affirmative tag, like "isn't it"/"won't you", etc. (it is invariable, like the French n'est-ce pas). It can be placed almost anywhere in the sentence, and does not always require a verb:
    • shte doydesh, nali? - you are coming, aren't you?; nali iskaha? - didn't they want to?; nali onzi? - that one, right?;
    • it can express quite complex thoughts through simple constructions - nali nyamashe? - "I thought you weren't going to!" or "I thought there weren't any!" (depending on context - the verb nyama presents general negation/lacking, see "nyama", above).
  • ? (dalì) - expresses uncertainty (if in the middle of a clause, can be translated as "whether") - e.g. dali shte doyde? - "do you think he will come?"
  • ? (nimà) - presents disbelief ~"don't tell me that..." - e.g. nima iskash?! - "don't tell me you want to!". It is slightly archaic, but still in use. Can be used on its own as an interjection - nima!
  • ? (danò) - expresses hope - shte doyde - "he will come"; dano doyde - "I hope he comes" (comp. Spanish ojalá). Grammatically, dano is entirely separate from the verb nadyavam se - "to hope".
  • ? (nèka) - means "let('s)" - e.g. neka doyde - "let him come"; when used in the first person, it expresses extreme politeness: neka da otidem... - "let us go" (in colloquial situations, hayde, below, is used instead).
    • neka, as an interjection, can also be used to express judgement or even Schadenfreude - neka mu! - "he deserves it!".

Intentional particles

These express intent or desire, perhaps even pleading. They can be seen as a sort of cohortative side to the language. (Since they can be used by themselves, they could even be considered as verbs in their own right.) They are also highly informal.

  • (hàide) - "come on", "let's"
    • e.g. hayde, po-barzo - "faster!"
  • ? (ya) - "let me" - exclusively when asking someone else for something. It can even be used on its own as a request or instruction (depending on the tone used), indicating that the speaker wants to partake in or try whatever the listener is doing.
    • ya da vidya - let me see; ya? or ya! - "let me.../give me..."
  • (nedèi) (plur. nedèyte) - can be used to issue a negative instruction - e.g. nedey da idvash - "don't come" (nedey + subjunctive). In some dialects, the construction nedey idva (nedey + preterite) is used instead. As an interjection - nedei! - "don't!" (See section on imperative mood).

These particles can be combined with the vocative particles for greater effect, e.g. ya da vidya, be (let me see), or even exclusively in combinations with them, with no other elements, e.g. hayde, de! (come on!); nedey, de! (I told you not to!).

Pronouns of quality

Bulgarian has several pronouns of quality which have no direct parallels in English - kakav (what sort of); takuv (this sort of); onakuv (that sort of - colloq.); nyakakav (some sort of); nikakav (no sort of); vsyakakav (every sort of); and the relative pronoun kakavto (the sort of ... that ... ). The adjective ednakuv ("the same") derives from the same radical.[note 9]

Example phrases include:

  • kakav chovek?! - "what person?!"; kakav chovek e toy? - what sort of person is he?
  • ne poznavam takuv - "I don't know any (people like that)" (lit. "I don't know this sort of (person)")
  • nyakakvi hora - lit. "some type of people", but the understood meaning is "a bunch of people I don't know"
  • vsyakakvi hora - "all sorts of people"
  • kakav iskash? - "which type do you want?"; nikakav! - "I don't want any!"/"none!"

An interesting phenomenon is that these can be strung along one after another in quite long constructions, e.g.

word literal meaning sentence meaning of sentence as a whole
- - edna kola a car
takava this sort of edna takava kola ... this car (that I'm trying to describe)
nikakva no sort of edna takava nikakva kola this worthless car (that I'm trying to describe)
nyakakva some sort of edna takava nyakakva nikakva kola this sort of worthless car (that I'm trying to describe)

An extreme (colloquial) sentence, with almost no physical meaning in it whatsoever - yet which does have perfect meaning to the Bulgarian ear - would be :

  • "kakva e taya takava edna nyakakva nikakva?!"
  • inferred translation - "what kind of no-good person is she?"
  • literal translation: "what kind of - is - this one here (she) - this sort of - one - some sort of - no sort of"

--Note: the subject of the sentence is simply the pronoun "taya" (lit. "this one here"; colloq. "she").

Another interesting phenomenon that is observed in colloquial speech is the use of takova (neuter of takyv) not only as a substitute for an adjective, but also as a substitute for a verb. In that case the base form takova is used as the third person singular in the present indicative and all other forms are formed by analogy to other verbs in the language. Sometimes the "verb" may even acquire a derivational prefix that changes its meaning. Examples:

  • takovah ti shapkata - I did something to your hat (perhaps: I took your hat)
  • takovah si ochilata - I did something to my glasses (perhaps: I lost my glasses)
  • takovah se - I did something to myself (perhaps: I hurt myself)

Another use of takova in colloquial speech is the word takovata, which can be used as a substitution for a noun, but also, if the speaker doesn't remember or is not sure how to say something, they might say takovata and then pause to think about it:

  • i posle toy takovata... - and then he [no translation] ...
  • izyadoh ti takovata - I ate something of yours (perhaps: I ate your dessert). Here the word takovata is used as a substitution for a noun.

Similar "meaningless" expressions are extremely common in spoken Bulgarian, especially when the speaker is finding it difficult to describe something.

Inflection and derivation

Bulgarian has a rich set of inflectional and derivational processes.[] In the simplest terms, this can be seen in the way that most nouns and verbs are formed - namely by adding prefixes and suffixes to a rather limited number of roots, which creates almost a dozen new words, along with a couple of dozen derivatives thereof. Here are some examples using the root word klyuch (?) "key/switch":


klyuch a key
klyuch-at the key
klyuch-alka a lock
klyuch-ar a locksmith
klyuch-ar-i-te the locksmiths


klyuch-ar-ski of a locksmith
klyuch-ar-ski-yat of a locksmith (definite form)
klyuch-ov key (e.g. "a key point")
v-klyuch-en switched on


v-klyuch-a to switch on
pre-v-klyuch-a to switch over (e.g. TV channel)
iz-klyuch-a to switch off
ot-klyuch-a to unlock
za-klyuch-a to lock
pri-klyuch-a to complete

An extreme example using this root might be:

pre-v-klyuch-en-i-te -- the ones that have been switched over ("?")[41]

Adjectives can also take up to three endings that are added to the masculine root, for example:

cherven red (masc.)
cherven-a red (fem.)
cherven-a-ta the red one
cherven-ikav-a-ta the reddish one

Verbs can take several prefixes, thus expressing increasingly complex ideas. For example, the bol- root, which has to do with ailments (bol-ka - pain; bol-est - illness; bol-i - it hurts, etc.), can be used to express various different stages of falling ill:

raz-bol-yahme se we fell ill
po-raz-bol-yahme se we fell slightly ill
iz-po-raz-bol-yahme se we all fell very ill

Similarly, the root kri-, referring to hiding/discovery:

raz-kri-ha se they showed themselves
s-kri-ha se they hid
iz-po-kri-ha se they hid all over the place


  • The commonly cited phenomenon of Bulgarian people shaking their head for "yes" and nodding for "no" is true but, with the influence of Western culture, ever rarer, and almost non-existent among the younger generation.[] (It should be noted, however, that the shaking and nodding are not identical to the Western gestures. The "nod" for no is actually an upward movement of the head rather than a downward one, while the shaking of the head for yes is not completely horizontal, but also has a slight "wavy" aspect to it.)
    • A dental click [?] (similar to the English "tsk") also means "no" (informal), as does ?-? [?] (the only occurrence in Bulgarian of the glottal stop). The two are often said with the upward 'nod'.
  • Bulgarian has an extensive vocabulary covering family relationships. The biggest range of words is for uncles and aunts, e.g. chicho (your father's brother), vuicho (your mother's brother), svako (your aunt's husband); an even larger number of synonyms for these three exists in the various dialects of Bulgarian, including kaleko, lelincho, tetin, etc. The words do not only refer to the closest members of the family (such as brat - brother, but batko/bate - older brother, sestra - sister, but kaka - older sister), but extend to its furthest reaches, e.g. badzhanak from Turkish bacanak (the relationship of the husbands of two sisters to each other) and etarva (the relationships of two brothers' wives to each other). For all in-laws, there are specific names, e.g. a woman's husband's brother is her dever and her husband's sister is her zalva. In the traditional rural extended family before 1900, there existed separate subcategories for different brothers-in-law/sisters-in-law of a woman with regard to their age relative to hers, e.g. instead of simply a dever there could be a braino (older), a draginko (younger), or an ubavenkyo (who is still a child).
  • As with many Slavic languages, the double negative in Bulgarian is grammatically correct, while some forms of it, when used instead of a single negative form, are grammatically incorrect. The following are literal translations of grammatically correct Bulgarian sentences that utilize a double or multiple negation: " ? ? ." (multiple negation without the use of a compound double negative form, i.e. using a listing of several successive single negation words) - "Nobody never nowhere nothing did not do." (translated as "nobody has ever done anything, anywhere"); " ." (double negation without the use of a compound double negative form, i.e. using a listing of several successive single negation words) - I never did not go there ("[I] have never been there"); ? ? ?! - I never no feelings had not have! (I have never had any feelings!). The same applies for Macedonian.


Most of the vocabulary of modern Bulgarian consists of terms inheried from Proto-Slavic and local Bulgarian innovations and formations of those through the mediation of Old and Middle Bulgarian. Thus, the native lexical terms in Bulgarian account for 70% to 80% of the lexicon.

The remaining 25% to 30% are loanwords from a number of languages, as well as derivations of such words. Bulgarian adopted also a few words of Thracian and Bulgar origin. The languages which have contributed most to Bulgarian are Russian, French and to a lesser extent English and Ottoman Turkish. Also Latin and Greek are the source of many words, used mostly in international terminology. Many Latin terms entered the language through Romanian, Aromanian, and Megleno-Romanian during Bulgarian Empires (present-day Bulgaria was part of Roman Empire), loanwords of Greek origin in Bulgarian are a product of the influence of the liturgical language of the Orthodox Church. Many of the numerous loanwords from another Turkic language, Ottoman Turkish (and, via Ottoman Turkish, from Arabic and Persian) which were adopted into Bulgarian during the long period of Ottoman rule, have been replaced with native terms. In addition, both specialized (usually coming from the field of science) and commonplace English words (notably abstract, commodity/service-related or technical terms) have also penetrated Bulgarian since the second half of the 20th century, especially since 1989. A noteworthy portion of this English-derived terminology has attained some unique features in the process of its introduction to native speakers, and this has resulted in peculiar derivations that set the newly formed loanwords apart from the original words (mainly in pronunciation), although many loanwords are completely identical to the source words. A growing number of international neologisms are also being widely adopted, causing controversy between younger generations who, in general, are raised in the era of digital globalization, and the older, more conservative educated purists. Prior to standardization in the 19th century, after a period of Ottoman Turkish as a lingua franca for about 5 centuries, vernacular Bulgarian is estimated to have been consisted of 50% Ottoman vocabulary, which contained predominantly (up to 80%) Arabic and Persian words.[42][43]

Bulgarian lexis according to word origin[44]
directly inherited from Proto-Slavic
later formations
foreign borrowings

Comparison with other Slavic languages

Most Slavic languages demonstrate a higher degree of shared vocabulary with one another than English does with the Germanic family due to the number of Romance loans in English on the one hand, and on the other hand due to the influences on Slavic languages of Russian or Church Slavonic, which was a Southeast Slavic language. The adoption of Church Slavonic morphology and vocabulary was used to enrich other Slavic languages. It is especially pronounced in Russian, which today consists of mixed native and Church Slavonic (South Slavic) vocabulary, analogically to the Romance vocabulary of English, but in Russian the Church Slavonisms are not perceived as foreign due to their Slavic roots.[45] An estimated 55% of Russian, incl. vocabulary, syntactic features, etc. goes back to the Church Slavonic language, known as Old Bulgarian, while 70% of Church Slavonic words are common to all Slavic languages.[46] Some authors argue that the Southeast Slavic language Church Slavonic is the "passkey" to the Russian nation and language.[47]

Bulgarian Macedonian Serb?-Croatian Russian Polish English
? ?/drvo drzewo tree
//? ?/krumpir ziemniak, kartofel potato
/?/ /ma?ka kot cat
?, ?, /pas, ?/ku?e , pies dog
?, ?, ?/ku?a, /dom dom house, home
? ? /stol ? stó? table (furniture)
/ , ?/mlijeko mleko milk
? ? ?/stolica ? krzes?o chair
Bulgarian Macedonian Serb?-Croatian Russian Polish English
? ? ?/imam ? mam I have
, , , ?/?elim, ho?u ?, chc? I want
, , , /vr?im, radim robi? I do
?, ?, /hodam ? chodz? I walk
, , , , , ? ?/govorim mówi? I talk
? ?/nalazim znajduj? I find
, /jedem jem I eat
/pijem pij? I drink


As of the beginning of the 1960s, loanwords amounted to some 25% of the vocabulary of the standard dictionary of Bulgarian. The most important source of loanwords in recent centuries has been Russian. Two other important sources of borrowing were Latin and Greek, each accounting for around a quarter of all borrowings, more specifically, Latin (around 26%)[48] and Greek (around 23%).[48]French vocabulary contribution to the Bulgarian language totals around 15%[48] and Ottoman Turkish (along with Arabic and Persian) totalled around 14%,[48] whereas loanwords from Russian accounted for 10% of the borrowings.[48] Lesser but still significant influence was exerted by Italian (around 4%),[48]German (around 4%)[48] and English (around 2%).[48]

Some very frequent expressions have been borrowed from other languages. Most of them are somewhat informal.

  • (mersí) - Thank you; from French (although this word is probably even more common than native "", it is inappropriate in very official or solemn contexts)
  • (cháo) - Bye; from Italian (the informal counterpart of native "", this word is more common than the native)
  • (súper) - Super; (from Latin, colloquial; note - "Super" remains the same regardless of quantity or gender, although an even more colloquial adjective (súperski) does decline as usual)
  • (álo) - Hello on the phone; from French (unlike the above, this word is stylistically neutral).
Foreign borrowings in Bulgarian (1955-59)[48]
Turkish, Arabic, Persian

Common expressions

  • ? (zdravéy) [informal, singular] - Hello
  • (zdravéyte) [plural or formal] - Hello
  • ? (zdrásti) - Hi
  • ? (dobró útro) - Good morning
  • (dób?r dén) - Good day
  • (dób?r vécher) - Good evening
  • ? (léka nósht) - Good night
  • (dovízhdane) - Good-bye
  • ? (kak se kázvash) [informal] - What is your name?
  • (kóy si ti) [informal, masculine] - Who are you?
  • (koyá si ti) [informal, feminine] - Who are you?
  • ? (kóy ste víe) [formal, masculine]
  • ? (koyá ste víe) [formal, feminine] - Who are you?

(In the above two examples, the formal expression uses a plural verb but a singular pronoun, which allows speakers to distinguish the two grammatical forms.)

  • ? (koí ste víe) [plural form] - Who are you?
  • (kák si) [informal] - How are you?
  • ? (kák ste) [plural or formal] - How are you?
  • (da) - Yes
  • (ne) - No
  • ? (mózhe bi) - Maybe
  • ? (kakvó právish) [informal] - What are you doing?
  • (kakvó právite) [plural or formal] - What are you doing?
  • (dobré s?m) - I'm fine
  • [-] (vsíchko [nay-]húbavo) - All the best
  • (pózdravi) - Regards
  • (blagodary) [formal and informal] - Thank you
  • ? (mólya) - Please
  • ? (mólya) - You're welcome
  • ! (izvinéte) [formal] - Excuse me!
  • ! (izvinyávay) [informal] - Sorry!
  • ! (obícham te) - I love you!
  • ? (kólko e chast) - What's the time?
  • ...? (govórite li...) - Do you speak... ?
... (anglíyski) - English
... (blgarski) - Bulgarian
... (némski) - German
... (pólski) - Polish
... (rúski) - Russian
... (holándski) - Dutch
...? (shvédski) - Swedish
... (grtski) - Greek
...? (srbski) - Serbian
...? (italyánski) - Italian
... (ispánski) - Spanish
...? (frénski) - French
...? (yapónski) - Japanese
... (kitáyski) - Chinese
... (koréyski) - Korean
...? (arábski) - Arabic
  • (shte se vídim skóro) - We'll see each other soon
  • ? (shte se vídim útre) - We'll see each other tomorrow

See also


  1. ^ Unlike in French and Spanish, where se is only used for the 3rd person, and other particles, such as me and te, are used for the 1st and 2nd persons singular, e.g. je me lave/me lavo - I wash myself.
  2. ^ The word ('either') has a similar etymological root + ('and') - e.g. () ? - '(either) the yellow one or the red one.' wiktionary
  3. ^ is pronounced similar to English "sum".
  4. ^ It is a common reply to the question Kak e? /'kak ?/ 'How are things?' (lit. 'how is it?') - /'biv?/ 'alright' (lit. 'it [repetitively] is') or /'kak si/ 'How are you?' -/'biv?m/ 'I'm OK'.
  5. ^ - from the verb - 'to want.' The present tense of this verb in the sense of 'to want' is archaic and only used colloquially. Instead, /'isk?m/ is used.
  6. ^ Formed from the impersonal verb ? (lit. 'it does not have') and the subjunctive particle /d?/ ('that')
  7. ^ They can also be used on their own as a reply, with no object following: - 'there are some'; /'?am?/ - 'there aren't any' - compare German keine.
  8. ^ Perhaps most similar in use is the tag "man", but the Bulgarian particles are more abstract still.
  9. ^ Like the demonstratives, these take the same form as pronouns as they do as adjectives - ie. takuv means both "this kind of..." (adj.) and this kind of person/thing (pron., depending on the context).


  1. ^ "Bulgarian".
  2. ^ "Bulgarian language". The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Columbia University Press.
  3. ^ Rehm, Georg; Uszkoreit, Hans. "The Bulgarian Language in the European Information Society". Springer Science+Business Media.
  4. ^ Strazny, Philipp (2005). Encyclopedia of Linguistics: M-Z (1 ed.). Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 958. ISBN 1579583911.
  5. ^ Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008.
  6. ^ "Národnostní men?iny v ?eské republice a jejich jazyky" [National Minorities in Czech Republic and Their Language] (PDF) (in Czech). Government of Czech Republic. p. 2. Podle ?l. 3 odst. 2 Statutu Rady je jejich po?et 12 a jsou u?ivateli t?chto men?inových jazyk?: ..., srb?tina a ukrajin?tina
  7. ^ "Implementation of the Charter in Hungary". Database for the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Public Foundation for European Comparative Minority Research. Archived from the original on 27 February 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  8. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bulgarian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  9. ^ EUR-Lex (12 December 2006). "Council Regulation (EC) No 1791/2006 of 20 November 2006". Official Journal of the European Union. Europa web portal. Retrieved 2007.
  10. ^ "Languages in Europe - Official EU Languages". EUROPA web portal. Archived from the original on 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  11. ^ Michal Kope?ek. Discourses of collective identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945): texts and commentaries, Volume 1 (Central European University Press, 2006), p. 248
  12. ^ a b Glanville Price. Encyclopedia of the languages of Europe (Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), p.45
  13. ^ a b Victor Roudometof. Collective memory, national identity, and ethnic conflict: Greece, Bulgaria, and the Macedonian question (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002), p. 92
  14. ^ "?, . 2002 (1962) ?. . 101". Promacedonia.org. Retrieved 2010.
  15. ^ "?, . 2002 (1962) ?. . 99". Promacedonia.org. Retrieved 2010.
  16. ^ Bulgarian Dialectology: Western Dialects, Stoyko Stoykov, 1962 (p.144). Retrieved May 2013.
  17. ^ Mazon, Andre. Contes Slaves de la Macédoine Sud-Occidentale: Etude linguistique; textes et traduction; Notes de Folklore, Paris 1923, p. 4.
  18. ^ ?, . , 1968.
  19. ^ Die Slaven in Griechenland von Max Vasmer. Verlag der Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1941. Kap. VI: Allgemeines und sprachliche Stellung der Slaven Griechenlands.
  20. ^ K. Sandfeld, Balkanfilologien (København, 1926, MCMXXVI).
  21. ^ Konstantin Josef Jire?ek, Die Balkanvölker und ihre kulturellen und politischen Bestrebungen, Urania, II, Jg. 13, 27. März 1909, p. 195.
  22. ^ Stefan Verkovi?, ? ; - (, 1889).
  23. ^ James Minahan. One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups, p.438 (Greenwood Press, 2000)
  24. ^ Bernard Comrie. The Slavonic Languages, p.251 (Routledge, 1993).
  25. ^ ?, and , ? , 2003, ?. 28-36 (Shklifov, Blagoy and Ekaterina Shklifova. Bulgarian dialect texts from Aegean Macedonia Sofia 2003, p. 28-33)
  26. ^ Clyne, Michael (1992). Pluricentric Languages: The Codification of Macedonian. Walter de Gruyter. p. 440. ISBN 3110128551.
  27. ^ Cook, Bernard Anthony. Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia, Volume 2. p. 808. ISBN 0-8153-4058-3.
  28. ^ Djoki?, Dejan (2003). Yugoslavism: Histories of a Failed Idea, 1918-1992. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 122. ISBN 1-85065-663-0.
  29. ^ Language profile Macedonian, UCLA International Institute
  30. ^ Poulton, Hugh (2000). Who are the Macedonians?. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 116. ISBN 1-85065-534-0.
  31. ^ Trudgill, Peter (1992). "Ausbau sociolinguistics and the perception of language status in contemporary Europe". International Journal of Applied Linguistics. 2 (2): 167-177. However, outside Greece, where the name of the language has been objected to (see Trudgill forthcoming), and Bulgaria, Macedonian's status as a language is generally accepted.
  32. ^ Chambers, Jack; Trudgill, Peter (1998). Dialectology (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 7. Similarly, Bulgarian politicians often argue that Macedonian is simply a dialect of Bulgarian - which is really a way of saying, of course, that they feel Macedonia ought to be part of Bulgaria. From a purely linguistic point of view, however, such arguments are not resolvable, since dialect continua admit of more-or-less but not either-or judgements.
  33. ^ Danforth, Loring M. (1997). The Macedonian conflict: ethnic nationalism in a transnational world. Princeton University Press. p. 67. ISBN 0691043566. Sociolinguists agree that in such situations the decision as to whether a particular variety of speech constitutes a language or a dialect is always based on political, rather than linguistic criteria (Trudgill 1974:15). A language, in other words, can be defined "as a dialect with an army and a navy" (Nash 1989:6).
  34. ^ Leonard Orban (24 May 2007). "Cyrillic, the third official alphabet of the EU, was created by a truly multilingual European" (PDF). europe.eu. Retrieved 2014.
  35. ^ , (1999) . .73-74.
  36. ^ 89% of internet users refuse to reveal personal details online (in Bulgarian) Dnevnik, 10 July 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012
  37. ^ Deletion of web page chronologies (in Bulgarian) Microsoft (help pages). Retrieved 16 September 2012
  38. ^ btv "btv Reporters". Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  39. ^ The Bulgarian Verb Elementary On-Line Bulgarian Grammar by Katina Bontcheva, retrieved on 21 August 2011
  40. ^ , ? (2007). ?. ? ? ? , pp. 177-180
  41. ^ Opel are challenging their market competition (in Bulgarian) Dnevnik, 1 July 2000. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  42. ^ Bertold Spuler. Persian Historiography & Geography Pustaka Nasional Pte Ltd ISBN 9971774887 p 69
  43. ^ Anscombe, Frederick F. (2014). State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107042162.
  44. ^ Corbett, Professor Greville; Comrie, Professor Bernard (2003). The Slavonic Languages. Routledge. p. 239. ISBN 9781136861444. The relative weight of inherited Proto-Slavonic material can be estimated from Nikolova (1987) - a study of a 100,000-word corpus of conversational Bulgarian. Of the 806 items occurring there more than ten times, approximately 50 per cent may be direct reflexes of Proto Slavonic forms, nearly 30 per cent are later Bulgarian formations and 17 per cent are foreign borrowings
  45. ^ Die slavischen Sprachen / The Slavic Languages. Halbband 2. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. 2014. ISBN 9783110215472.
  46. ^ Bennett, Brian P. (2011). Religion and Language in Post-Soviet Russia. Routledge. ISBN 9781136736131.
  47. ^ Bennett, Brian P. (2011). Religion and Language in Post-Soviet Russia. Routledge. ISBN 9781136736131.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g h i Corbett, Professor Greville; Comrie, Professor Bernard (2003). The Slavonic Languages. Routledge. p. 240. ISBN 9781136861444.


  • Pisani, Vittore (2012). Old Bulgarian Language. Sofia: Bukvitza. ISBN 978-9549285864.
  • Comrie, Bernard; Corbett, Greville G. (1993). The Slavonic Languages. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-04755-2.
  • Klagstad Jr., Harold L. (1958), The Phonemic System of Colloquial Standard Bulgarian, American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages, pp. 42-54
  • Ternes, Elmer; Vladimirova-Buhtz, Tatjana (1999), "Bulgarian", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, pp. 55-57, ISBN 0-521-63751-1
  • ? . (1998) ?. 1.
  • , (2004) ? ? ?
  • ?, ? (1992)
  • , (1999)
  • Vladimir I. Georgiev; et al., eds. (1971-2011), [Bulgarian etymological dictionary], I-VII, ?

External links

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