Introduction to Modern Provençal
This is an introduction to the modern Provençal language and its grammar for English speakers. See the Modern Provençal page for more resources.
Table of contents
- Before we get started
- Hello, Provençal!
- Nouns and grammatical gender
- To have (aguer)
- To be or not to be (èstre)
- There is or there are (i a)
- To go (anar)
- Classification of verbs
- Pronouns and politeness
- Infinitives and chains
- Other tenses
- Assorted matters
Before we get started
Provençal is a language spoken by a minority of people in southeast France, namely the historical region of Provence. It is a branch of modern Occitan whose roots go back to the language of the troubadours and trobairitz : composers and performers of lyric poetry in medieval Occitania.
Due to a history of policies by the French government meant to suppress regional minority languages, the various branches of Occitan are now only spoken by a few hundred thousand people, mainly among the older generations, and could be in danger of dying out if it is not revived.
I first became interested in the language while researching the south of France for a novel I'm writing, but I found resources scarce and of limited clarity—often due to the profusion of dialects—so I decided to research and compile my own notes in English to help me learn, and hopefully help others outside France discover this language as well.
I am not a native speaker or any authority on Provence or the Provençal language. I'm compiling these notes from different and often limited sources as a way to teach myself, and while I've made every effort to be as accurate and in-depth as possible, errors are bound to happen.
If you have any comments or corrections, please contact me.
Dialects and writing systems
Depending on who you ask, Provençal is either a dialect of modern Occitan or a separate language in its own right. While I am of the view that it is technically a dialect, I often find it natural to refer to it colloquially as a language.
There are six generally recognized main dialects of Occitan: Gascon, Limousin, Auvergnat, Languedocian, Vivaro-Alpine, and Provençal, although in reality the lines are fuzzy at best. More rarely, Catalan is sometimes considered part of the Occitan family or vice versa, though they are usually recognized as separate but closely related languages.
Provençal itself is usually divided into three major sub-dialects: Rhodanian around the lower Rhône river, Maritime around Marseille, and Niçard within the historical County of Nice.
In addition, two writing systems (called norms) are in common use: Mistralian norm, first developed around 1853–54 by Joseph Roumanille and Frédéric Mistral with the goal of making Provençal spelling more consistent with French spelling; and Classical norm, developed as a pan-Occitan standard around 1935 by Louis Alibert. While both norms can be used with any dialect of Occitan, Mistralian norm is almost exclusively associated with Provençal.
Since this diversity can create more confusion than clarity when you're just starting out, I've made the choice to stick as strictly as possible to the Rhodanian sub-dialect and the Classical norm. Rhodanian is the dialect most relevant to my novel and therefore to my personal interests, and I personally find the Classical norm clearer to read. I also think the Classical norm helps to underscore that Provençal, and Occitan as a whole, is "its own language" and doesn't have to cozy up to French to be accessible.
Unfortunately, limiting yourself to one sub-dialect and norm can also create confusion when you encounter a variety of sources. To balance this, I'll be including a number of footnotes on some of the differences you may encounter, but I will try to keep them relatively limited and as separate from the rest of the text as possible.
Quora dins mei sièis ans, un còp, veguère un imatge espectaclós, dins un libre que parlava de la Seuva Verge e que son títol èra: "Istòrias Viscudas". Aquò mostrava una sèrp boà que s'empassava un fèr. Vaquí la còpia dau dessenh.
Quouro dins mi sièis an, un cop, veguère un image espetaclous, dins un libre que parlavo de la Séuvo Vierge e que soun titre èro: "Histoires Vécues". Acò moustravo uno serp boa que s'empassavo un feran. Vaqui la còpi dóu dessin.
Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.
Dins aqueu libre, i disián: "Lei sèrps boàs s'empassan la preda en entier, sensa la mastegar. Puei, se pòdon plus bolegar e dòrmon sièis mes de temps per digerir."
Dins aquéu libre, ié disien: "Li serp boa s'empasson sa predo en entié, sènso la mastega. Pièi, se podon plus boulega e dormon sièis mes de tèms pèr digeri."
In the book it said: "Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion."
Autanben chifrère fòrça sus leis aventuras de la jungla e capitère, ieu pereu, amb un gredon de color, de faire mon premier dessenh. Mon dessenh numerò un. Èra coma aquò:
Autambèn chifrère forço sus lis aventuro de la jounglo e capitère, iéu peréu, em'un craioun de coulour, de faire moun proumié dessin. Moun dessin numerò 1. Èro coume acò:
I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing. My Drawing Number One. It looked something like this:
Faguère veire mon cap d'òbra en de grandei personas e i demandère se mon dessenh i portavan paur: "Perqué me portariáu paur un capèu?"
Faguère vèire moun cap d'obro en de gràndi persouno e ié demandère se moun dessin ié pourtavo pòu: "Perdequé me pourtarié pòu un capèu?"
I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them. But they answered: "Frighten? Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?"
Mon dessenh retrasiá pas un capèu. Retrasiá una sèrp boà que digerissiá un elefant. Autanben dessenhère lo dedins de la sèrp boà, afin que lei grandei personas posquèsson comprene. I fau sempre d'explicar. Mon dessenh numerò dos èra coma aquò:
Moun dessin retrasié pas un capèu. Retrasié uno serp boa que digerissié un elefant. Autambèn dessinère lou dedins de la serp boa, afin que li gràndi persouno pousquèsson coumprene. Ié fau sèmpre d'esplico. Moun dessin numerò 2 èro coume acò:
My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of a boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained. My Drawing Number Two looked like this:
Lei grandei personas m'aconselhèron alora de laissar de caire lei dessenhs de sèrps boàs dubèrtas o barradas, e de m'entrevar puslèu de geografia, d'istòria, de chifras e de gramatica. Vai ansin qu'abandonère, à sièis ans tot bèu just, una ufanosa vida de pintre. M'aviáu maucorat lo manca de succès de mon dessenh numerò un e de mon dessenh numerò dos. Lei gràndei personas comprenon jamai ren soletas, e nos alassa, nautrei leis enfants, de totjorn i donar d'explicar.
Li gràndi persouno m'acounseièron alor de leissa de caire li dessin de serp boa duberto o barrado, e de m'entreva pulèu de geougrafìo, d'istòri, de chifro e de gramatico. Vai ansin qu'abandounère, à sièis an tout bèu just, uno ufanouso vido de pintre. M'avié maucoura lou manco de sucès de moun dessin numerò 1 e de moun dessin numerò 2. Li gràndi persouno coumprenon jamai rèn souleto, e nous alasso, nàutri lis enfant, de toujour ié douna d'esplico.
The grown-ups' response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
Provençal uses the same letters as English, except k, w, and y, along with the cedilla (ç), acute accent (á, é, í, ó, ú), grave accent (à, è, ò), and trema (ï, ü).
A digraph is a pair of letters that denotes a single sound. Provençal uses 10 digraphs: ch, lh, nh, gu, qu, rr, ss, tg, tj, and tz. Note in particular that the letter u in the digraphs gu and qu is not a vowel sound. See notes on pronunciation below. A few additional digraphs appear in a limited context (gn) or only rarely in loan words (sh). The letter h only appears as part of a digraph and never on its own.
A diphthong is the combination of two vowel sounds within the same syllable. In Provençal, one of these vowels will be a semivowel, which takes on some of the qualities of a consonant. For example, the y in the English word yes is a semivowel. A diphthong in which the semivowel comes before the vowel is called a false diphthong. Provençal has 13 diphthongs, five with i as the semivowel (ai, èi, ei, òi, oi) and eight with u as the semivowel (au, èu, eu, iu, òu, ou, ue, uò), of which the last two are false diphthongs.
Two letters that might otherwise be confused for a diphthong (or, more rarely, a digraph) but need to be pronounced separately are marked with a trema above the second letter in the pair: in the word saïn, the two vowels must be pronounced separately, not as a diphthong. More rarely, the trema is used to distinguish the two digraphs gu and qu from cases where the u must be pronounced as a vowel (lingüistic, eqüator), although not all writers do this.
The notes on pronunciation below are intended more as a reference than a guide, since the best way to actually learn pronunciation is usually to listen to and speak the words yourself. Unfortunately, I can't provide audio samples at the moment. Also, be aware that many subtle differences and details may not be reflected here.
All phonetic transcriptions use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
Each word has a syllable that receives more emphasis or prominence than the others. If a word has an accent mark, stress is always on the marked syllable: cafè, aquí.
Unmarked words receive stress on the last syllable if:
- The word ends in a consonant, other than the cases mentioned below: occitan.
- The word ends in a diphthong, other than the cases mentioned below: provençau, verai.
Unmarked words receive stress on the second-to-last syllable if:
- The word ends in a vowel other than a diphthong: poma.
- The word ends in a vowel + -s: virus.
- The word is a third-person plural verb ending in a vowel + -n: parlan.
- The word is a plural noun, pronoun, or adjective ending in -ei: aquelei.
In most dialects, most consonants are silent at the end of words: istoric [istuˈɾi], drech [dʁe], forn [fuʁ]. Notice in the last two examples how ch is silent because it's a digraph, while the r in rn is not because rn is not a digraph but two individual consonants, and only the last is silent.
However, when the word is linked in some sense with the next word (for example an adjective and a noun, or a pronoun and a verb), and the second word begins with a vowel, the consonant is usually pronounced, even if it wouldn't be otherwise. For example, cinc pomas is pronounced [sĩŋ ˈpumɔ], but cinc orses is pronounced [sĩŋk‿ˈuʁse]. This is called liaison.
Vocalization is the phenomenon where a consonant takes on some of the qualities of a vowel sound, becoming a semivowel. In Provençal, the letter l (and to a lesser degree the digraph lh) has undergone vocalization when it appears after a vowel at the end of words. As a result, it is now almost always written as a u to reflect this pronunciation. For example, we write bèu instead of bèl in modern Provençal. However, in liaison, the l reappears and regains its original pronunciation: bèl ostau.
|b||b||[p]||At the end of words.||Some loanwords and names.|
|Before d, n, s, t, v.|
|[w]||Occasionally, for example: absolut may be pronounced [asuˈly] or [owsuˈly].|
|c||c||silent||At the end of words.|
|After s and before e, è, i.|
|Before t except after e, è.|
|[j]||Before n, t and after e, è. For example: lectura [lejˈtyɾɔ], insècte [ĩnˈsɛjte], and tecnic [tejˈni]|
|c, cc||[s]||Before e, è, i.|
|ç||silent||At the end of words.|
|After a diphthong.|
|ch||silent||At the end of words.|
|[t͡s]||Elsewhere.||Some parts of Rhodanian.|
|d||d||silent||At the end of words.|
|In front of m, v.|
|g||g||silent||In front of d, m, n.|
|[w]||Occasionally, for example: dògma [ˈdɔwmɔ].|
|[d͡ʒ]||In front of e, è, i.|
|gn||[ɲ]||In certain words (for example: digne, ignorar, signar), gn functions as a digraph with this pronunciation, while it normally functions as two separate consonants where the g is either silent or vocalized (see above).|
|lh||silent||Sometimes, at the end of words.|
|[ŋ]||At the end of words, including before a silent consonant.|
|n||n||silent||Before s + a consonant, for example: inspirar [ispiˈɾa].|
|At the end of words.||After a consonant.|
|[ŋ]||After a vowel.|
|Word-internally.||In front of g, c, qu.|
|[m]||In front of b, p.|
|nh||[ŋ]||At the end of words.|
|p||p||silent||At the end of words.|
|Before s, t.|
|[w]||Occasionally, for example: adoptar [adowˈta].|
|q||q||[k]||The letter q is almost exclusively found in the digraph qu, except in rare loanwords such as Qatar. It is used before e, è, i, where c would have an [s] sound.|
|r||r||silent||Before s, ç, ce, cè, ci, with some exceptions. For example, in the word fòrça the r is silent when it's an adverb but audible when it's a noun.|
|At the end of certain words:||Infinitives of verbs.|
|Most words ending in -ar. Exceptions include amar (adjective) and some monosyllablic words like car, clar, par, mar, rar, Var.|
|The endings -ier and -ador, -edor, -idor.|
|[ɾ]||Between vowels.||Most dialects, with the notable exception of west-Rhodanian.|
|s||s||silent||At the end of certain words:||Plural nouns and adjectives.|
|After a diphthong.|
|After m, n, p.|
|The adverbs ges, pas, plus, pus, and sus.|
|sh||[ʃ]||The digraph sh is rare and only appears in a few loanwords.|
|t||t||silent||At the end of words.|
|Before l, m, n, with some exceptions such as Atlantic, etnic.|
|tg||[d͡ʒ]||In front of e, è, i.|
|tz||[s]||At the end of words.|
|x||x||[js] or [jz]||Between two vowels, with some exceptions.|
|[s] or [z]||Elsewhere.|
Vowels and diphthongs
All vowels, when followed by m or n, are nasalized to varying degrees, meaning they are pronounced with air passing through the nose and mouth at the same time. However, unlike French, the consonant is still audible: vin [vĩŋ], fum [fỹŋ], cantar [kãnˈta].
|a||a||[a]||Before stressed syllable.|
|a, à||[a]||In stressed syllable.|
|[æ]||Some speakers of Rhodanian.|
|a||[ɔ]||Last syllable, unstressed.|
|[a]||Some speakers, notably around Nîmes and Montpellier.|
|silent||Some speakers, mainly east of the Rhône, don't pronounce the a in the ending -ia.|
|á||[e]||Last syllable, stressed.|
|[ij] or [i]||Unstressed.||Rhodanian in particular.|
|[ej]||Other dialects in general.|
|[uw] or [u]||Unstressed.||Rhodanian in particular.|
|[ow]||Other dialects in general.|
|[y] or [œ]||Before b, p, f, v, m.||Occasionally.|
|e||[a]||Before the stressed syllable when followed by r + a consonant.||Most of Provence.|
|[i]||Before lh or nh.|
|Endings -tge and -che.||Maritime.|
|[i]||The plural ending -ei(s) of articles, adjectives, and pronouns.|
|[yw] or [œw]||Sometimes. See also the vowel u below for the use of [œ].|
|[œ]||In particular after a consonant + r or l.|
|[ɥe] or [ɥœ]||Other dialects.|
|i||[j]||Before or after a vowel. See also diphthongs, in particular ei and iu.|
|[jew]||Occasionally, particularly in Arles and Marseille.|
|o||[ow]||First syllable, unstressed.|
|[wɔ], [we] or [wa]||Often, but irregularly, among non-Rhodanian speakers.|
|uò||[jɔ]||Rhodanian. Other dialects have replaced this diphthong with ue.|
|[œ]||Occasionally found between Arles and Avignon, as well as between Martigues, Gardanne, and Bandol.|
Let's go ahead and introduce ourselves to the language.
We use adieu to greet a single person when that person is a friend, family, child, or otherwise someone we're on informal terms with. To greet more than one person, or a single person formally or politely, we may use adieussiatz, or we can say bonjorn ("good day", "good morning") and bonsera ("good evening").
Adieu can also be used as a parting ("bye"), or we can say bòna jornada ("have a nice day"), bòna matinada ("have a good morning"), bòna après-dinnada ("have a great afternoon"), bòna nuech ("goodnight"). Notice that bonjorn and bòna jornada both literally mean "good day", but the first is used as a greeting while the other is a parting.
We may also say a reveire or a la revista ("till we meet again"); a ben lèu or simply a lèu ("see you soon"); or a pus tard ("see you later").
When greeting people formally or politely, it's normal to say mossur ("Mr." or "Sir"), Madama ("Ma'am" or "Ms."), or Misé ("Miss"), often with the person's last name or title if it is known. You may also encounter mèstre and mestressa, less formal but still polite forms of address, usually used with the person's first name.
- Bonjorn, Mossur.
- Good morning, sir.
- Bonsera, Madama Presidenta.
- Good evening, Madam President.
- Adieussiatz, Misé Matieu.
- Hello, Miss Matieu.
- Adieu, mèstre Jaque.
- Hello, Mr. Jack.
When asking for something, it's polite to say se vos plai or saretz brave (saretz brava when speaking to a woman or girl). Both of these mean "please", or literally "if it pleases you" and "will you be good" respectively. The informal versions are se te plai and saràs brave, again used when speaking to a single person only.
To respond to people, we may want to say mercé ("thank you"); grandmercé or gramací ("thank you very much"); de ren ("you're welcome"); d'acòrd ("okay"); de tot segur, de segur, or plan segur ("of course"); or belèu ("perhaps").
When meeting someone, we may say benvenguda ("welcome") and encantat ("pleased to meet you," if you're a man) or encantada (if you're a woman). And to ask how someone is doing, we can use coma vai? or coma anam? (informal) and coma siatz? or coma anatz? (formal, or when asking more than one person), and we can answer with vai plan ("I'm doing well") or pòu anar ("I'm doing okay.")
Nouns and grammatical gender
In Provençal, all nouns are either masculine or feminine. For example: arange ("orange"), jorn ("day"), chivau ("horse"), and aucèu ("bird") are all masculine while poma ("apple"), nuech ("night"), vaca ("cow"), and abelha ("bee") are feminine.
Masculine nouns use the indefinite article un ("a/an") while feminine nouns use una: we say un arange ("an orange") and una poma ("an apple"), never
una arange or un poma, because arange is masculine and poma is feminine.
Masculine nouns use the definite article lo ("the") while feminine nouns use la: we say lo chivau ("the horse") and la vaca ("the cow"). However, they both become l' in front of a vowel: l'aucèu ("the bird") and l'abelha ("the bee"), never
lo aucèu or la abelha.
|Before a ...||Masculine||Feminine||English|
It is important to distinguish between the gender of the noun itself (its grammatical gender) and the gender or sex, if any, of that which the noun refers to, such as a person or an animal (the semantic gender or sex). While the gender of nouns such as òme ("man") and femna ("woman") are what you would expect (masculine and feminine repectively), most nouns aren't as obvious. While you can find certain rules of thumb, there is no completely reliable rule for what gender a noun is; ultimately, you will just have to learn them all by heart.
Some nouns are semantically gender neutral or agnostic: un enfant ("a child") may refer to un dròlle ("a boy") or una dròlla ("a girl") or something else, or perhaps we don't know the child's gender from context, but the grammatical gender of the word enfant is always masculine regardless: we never say
una enfant even if the child is known to be a girl.
Other nouns have different masculine and feminine forms, for example cat (masculine, meaning "cat") and cata (feminine, also "cat"). In this case, the masculine form is used both when we don't know or don't specify the cat's sex and when the cat is known to be male, while the feminine form is used only when the cat is explicitly female.
Such a distinction isn't always made: rata ("mouse") is grammatically feminine but the mouse itself may be of any sex, or we may not know its sex. Despite what you might expect, the word rat is not the masculine form of rata but in fact means "rat" whatever the rat's sex may be. The synonym garri ("rat", masculine) is more common, however.
A few words like torista can be either masculine or feminine without changing their form: un torista refers to a tourist, either explicitly male or gender agnostic/neutral, while una torista is explicitly a female tourist.
Nouns gain an -s in the plural and use the definite article lei (leis in front of a vowel) regardless of grammatical gender:
- Lei cats e lei ratas.
- The cats and the mice.
- Lei pomas o lei peras?
- The apples or the pears?
- Leis aucèus e leis abelhas.
- The birds and the bees.
Words already ending in -s, -ç, or -tz remain unchanged in the plural.
- Lo mes, lei mes.
- The month, the months.
- Lo braç, lei braç.
- The arm, the arms.
- Lo potz, lei potz.
- The well, the wells.
Some nouns are used exclusively in the singular: la frucha ("the fruit", when talking about fruit in a general, collective sense such as "I like fruit") and never
lei fruchas. A single fruit is un fruch and more than one fruit is lei fruchs ("the fruits"). Other nouns are used exclusively in the plural: lei tenèbras ("the darkness"), and sometimes the singular and plural have different meanings: un escalier (a single step on a stair) but leis escaliers ("the stairs").
The partitive article
The partitive article de (d' in front of a vowel) is used to express an indefinite or partial amount of something. Where the indefinite articles un and una refer to a single but non-specific item, the partitive article on its own refers either to several items, where both the items and their exact number are unspecified, or to some indefinite amount of an uncountable thing, like water. It can often be translated as "some", and in the negative as "(not) any".
- Un gau e de polets.
- A rooster and some chickens.
- Un ciune e d'anets.
- A swan and some ducks.
- Una ensalada e d'aiga.
- A salad and some water.
- De bonhetas e de café, pas de lach.
- Some dougnuts and some coffee, not any milk.
However, in English we often drop the partitive ("doughnuts and coffee, no milk"), but in Provençal it is always required.
Above we just talked about "some" amount without reference to a larger whole or to a particular source. To talk about some part of a larger whole ("half of", "one of"), or a non-specific amount of something from a specific source ("some water from the well"), we combine the partitive article with the definite articles. In this case, de + lo becomes dau, except in front of a vowel, and de + lei(s) becomes dei(s).
Here we only look at examples of the first kind: parts of a larger whole. We'll return to the topic of specific sources in the section on Attribution below.
- La mitat de l'arange.
- Half of the orange.
- La màger part dau sucre.
- Most of the sugar.
- D'aucas e un deis anets.
- Some geese and one of the ducks.
In English, we distinguish between "this thing" (the thing is in some sense close to the speaker) and "that thing" (the thing is in some sense further away from the speaker). Same with the plural "these things" (close) and "those things" (distant).
In Provençal, these demonstratives depend on distance from the speaker exactly like in English, but also on the gender of the noun they modify.
|Before a …||Masculine||Feminine||English|
- Pas aqueste coissin mai aqueu coissin.
- Not this cushion but that cushion.
- Dins aqueste aubre?
Òc, e tanben aqueu boisson.
- Dins aqueste aubre?
Òc, e mai aqueu boisson.
- In this tree?
Yes, and also that bush.
- Sus aquesta planeta?
Non, sus aquela luna.
- On this planet?
No, on that moon.
- Amb aquesteis espècias o aqueleis èrbas?
- With these spices or those herbs?
Note in the last example that the word ambé ("with") becomes amb in front of a vowel.
Attribution and location
In English we use the possessive 's to say things like "the girl's soup" and compound nouns to say things like "vegetable soup", hence we can say "the girl's vegetable soup", but in Provençal it's a little different: la sopa d'èrbas de la dròlla (literally "the soup of vegetables of the girl").
The preposition de should not be confused with the partitive article, which we discussed above. Here, it is used to express a relationship between things, such as belonging ("the girl's soup"), composition ("soup made from vegetables"), property, association, origin, and other such relationships. In the examples below, the partitive article has been highlighted to illustrate the difference. As the examples shows, the distinction can be difficult or even ambiguous: "slices of cheese" (partitive) or "cheese slices" (not partitive), and is "a glass of water" a reference to the amount of water (partitive) or describing the contents of the glass (not partitive)?
- Lei respònsas d'aquestei questions o d'aquelei questions?
- The answers to these questions or those questions?
- Una d'aquelei pomas d'amor.
- One of those tomatoes.
- Un veire d'aiga ambé de suc de citron.
- A glass of water with (some) lemon juice.
- Un tròç de pan ambé de talhons de fromatge.
- A piece of bread with (some) cheese slices.
- Una tassa de tè de China.
- A cup of Chinese tea.
- Literally: A cup of tea from China.
- Una caissa de botelhas de bièrra d'Alemanha.
- A box of bottles of German beer.
- Una dogena de botelhas de vin de França.
- A dozen bottles of French wine.
Remember that we use the partitive plus definite article to talk about parts of a larger, specific whole, but we also use it when we're talking about an indefinite amount from a specific source. We say d'aiga ("some water") but de l'aiga d'aqueu potz ("some water from that well"). This is notable because it's different from French, where we use the partitive plus definite article in both cases (de l'eau and de l'eau de ce puits.)
Sometimes we have to use the preposition a instead of de. For example, la pintura a l'òli ("the oil paint" or "the oil painting"). Like de, the preposition a indicates a relationship or attribute, generally to do with a location, direction, origin, or time:
- Cada trin a París.
- Every train to Paris.
- La fenèstra a (man) senèstra e la pòrta a (man) drecha.
- The window on the left (hand) and the door on the right (hand).
- Una acampada a miegjorn.
- A meeting at noon.
- Pas pron de cambras a l'ostalariá.
- Not enough rooms at the hotel.
- La fèsta a la fin de l'an.
- The party at the end of the year.
- Coma una falena a la flama.
- Like a moth to the flame.
- L'autobus a Ais de Provença.
- The bus to Aix-en-Provence.
When the word a is followed by a vowel, as in the last example, it is pronounced with an n in between, which is sometimes reflected in writing (l'autobus an Ais or l'autobus a-n-Ais).
As we saw with the partitive article, the prepositions de and a contract when they are followed by the definite masculine article (except in front of a vowel) or the plural articles.
|de||dau||de la||de l'||dei||deis|
|a||au||a la||a l'||ai||ais|
- La camisa dau dròlle.
- The boy's shirt.
- La barba de l'òme.
- The man's beard.
- Totei leis uòus de l'aucèu.
- All of the bird's eggs.
- Fòrça parpalhons dins lei flors dei femnas.
- Many butterflies in the women's flowers.
- A lot of butterflies in the women's flowers.
- Tot lo mèu deis abelhas.
- All of the bees' honey.
- Tròp de jorns au mes de mai.
- Too many days in the month of May.
- Un glacet au chocolat, un glacet ai fragas, e un glacet ais aubricòts.
- A chocolate ice cream, a strawberry ice cream, and an apricot ice cream.
- Tròp de glacet?
- Too much ice cream?
Something or other
In the examples above we saw how to say totei lei causas ("all the things"). Inclusivity is great, unless it's something like tota la pollucion ("all of the pollution") or tot l'alcòl ("all of the alcohol"). We don't want that. If we drink, we should drink in moderation.
|Masculine||Feminine||Before consonant||Before vowel|
- Quauque alcòl mai pas tròp.
- Some alcohol but not too much.
- Quauquei bevendas de còps.
- Quauquei bevendas quauque còp.
- Some drinks sometimes.
- Quauqu'un en quauque luòc.
- Someone somewhere.
- Literally: Someone in some place.
- Un certan nombre de pebrons.
- A certain number of chilis.
- Una certana quantitat de café.
- A certain quantity of coffee.
- La meteissa quantitat de sau e de pebre.
- The same amount of salt and pepper.
While both the partitive article and quauque refer to an indefinte amount, and can be translated as "some", quauque is more emphatic.
Now you may be guessing that you could say
quauqua causa ("something"), but it wouldn't be Provençal if it didn't keep you on your toes:
- Quicòm o quicòm d'autre.
- Something or something else.
The table on the right lists all the basic numbers. Notice how 1 and 2 are the only ordinal numbers to depend on the gender of what we're counting.
- Un mòt e una letra.
- One word and one letter.
- Dos nombres e doas chifras.
- Two numbers and two numerals.
- Tres libres e tres paginas.
- Three books and three pages.
For the numbers 17, 18, 19 and 21 to 29, an e ("and") is inserted between the two numbers: dètz-e-sèt (17, "ten-and-seven"), dètz-e-uech (18), dètz-e-nòu (19), vint-e-un (21), vint-e-dos (22), etc.
Between 31 and 39, the numbers are constructed same as in English: trenta un (31), trenta dos (32), trenta tres (33) and so on. Same for the forties, fifties, etc: quaranta un (41), cinquanta dos (52), seissanta tres (63), etc.
The hundreds and thousands are counted the same as in English, except that "one" is left out: cent ("one hundred"), dos cents ("two hundred"), tres cents ("three hundred"); mila ("one thousand"), dos mila ("two thousand"), tres mila ("three thousand"). Notice also how cent gains a plural -s while mila does not.
In English we count millions, billions, trillions, etc., but in Provençal it's milion, miliard, bilion, biliard, trilion, triliard, etc.: un milion ("one million"), dos milions ("two million"), tres milions ("three million"); un miliard ("one billion"), dos bilions ("two trillion"), tres biliards ("three quadrillion").
When talking about millions, billions, or even larger numbers of something, we have to use the partitive article: we say setanta personas ("seventy people") and mila personas ("a thousand people") but un milion de personas ("a million people") and un miliard d'ans ("a billion years").
The ordinal numbers are used to express a relative position in a sequence: first, second, third, and so on. With the exception of premier(a) ("first") and segond(a) ("second"), ordinal numbers are formed from the cardinal numbers by adding the ending -en(a), so for example tresen(a) ("third", from tres) and quatren(a) ("fourth", from quatre). In some cases, such as cinc (5) which becomes cinquen(a) ("fifth"), the stem changes as well.
The ordinal numbers must agree in gender with the noun they modify or refer to: lo tresen and la tresena both mean "the third (one)" but refer to someone or something that is respectively masculine and feminine.
- Lo quatren capèu e la quatrena rauba.
- The fourth hat and the fourth dress.
- Lo tresen gorilla e la tresena monina.
- The third gorilla and the third monkey.
Although it's rare for the noun to be plural, it can happen when talking about them as a group or when the noun is a collective noun, such as braias ("pants") which is always plural. In these cases, the ordinal must also be plural:
- Lei tresenas braias.
- The third (pair of) pants.
- Lei setens fius.
- The seventh sons [each one of them is the seventh son of his respective parents].
- Lei tregenas chifras.
- The thirteenth digits [each thirteenth digit in a set of sequences].
When talking about (relatively) large quantities, we don't always know or care about the exact number and might say something like "about a hundred" (could be 95 or maybe 107), or "hundreds" (could be 200 or 900 or perhaps 578).
In Provençal, we use a form similar to the ordinal numbers, by adding the ending -enau (masculine) or -ena (feminine) to the cardinal number, for example un centenau or una centena ("about a hundred") and centenaus or centenas ("hundreds").
Notice that the feminine form is identical to the feminine ordinal number; when we use the definite article (la seissantena), we're talking about the ordinal ("the 60th"), but when we use the indefinate article (una seissantena) we're talking about an approximate amount ("about sixty").
Also notice that, even though we're talking about many things, the form -ena(u) is singular and uses the singular articles un and una: we're talking about a single group or collection of something, though it contains many of them.
Finally, as we saw above with very large amounts of something, when talking about an inexact number of something, we have to use the partitive article.
- Una dogena de cebas per sopar.
- About twelve onions for dinner.
- About a dozen onions for dinner.
- Un vintenau de pichòts dins la sala de classa.
- About twenty children in the classroom.
- Una desena de dessenhs de fedas.
- About ten drawings of sheep.
- Centenas d'aranhas dins lei cauçaduras.
- Hundreds of spiders in the shoes.
Adjectives generally appear after the noun they describe, unlike in English: la taula redona ("the round table"), un òme urós ("a happy man"), lo tapis roge ("the red carpet").
Adjectives must also agree with the number and gender of the noun they describe. Consider the adjective ocupat ("busy"): un vibre ocupat ("a busy beaver"), una abelha ocupada ("a busy bee"), dos òmes ocupats ("two busy men"), and doas femnas ocupadas ("two busy women").
A few adjectives are invariant, meaning they do not change form depending on the gender and number of the noun. For example, the colors brown and orange: una aranha marron ("a brown spider") and cinc fruchs arange ("five orange fruits").
And while adjectives usually appear after the noun, there are sometimes exceptions. Provençal is often influenced by French, meaning that, as a rule of thumb, adjectives describing Beauty, Age, Number, Goodness, or Size (BANGS) may appear before the noun:
- Un polit jardin.
- A pretty garden (Beauty).
- Un vièlh cat.
- An old cat (Age).
- Lo premier mot.
- The first word (Number).
- Un bòn moment.
- A good time (Goodness).
- Lo pichòt det.
- The little finger (Size).
This rule is sometimes broken for emphasis, insistence, or poetic effect: una polida femna ("a pretty woman", describing beauty), una femna polida ("a pretty woman", emphasis or insistence on her beauty). In some cases, such as when talking about the beauty of a woman, the more poetic form may even be preferred.
In some cases, the position of the adjective can also change the meaning of the sentence: un grand òme ("a great man"), un òme grand ("a tall man"), un bèl ostau ("a beautiful house"), un ostau bèu ("a great house").
Augmentatives and diminutives
We know that we can use adjectives to say things like lo pichòt cat ("the little cat", "the kitten") and lo grand chin ("the big dog"), but in Provençal it is often more common to use a suffix to form such diminutives and augmentatives: lo caton ("the kitten") and lo chinàs ("the big dog"). This doesn't only work for nouns; we can also augment or diminish adjectives: lo grandàs chin ("the very big dog", "the huge dog").
The augmentative suffix -às (feminine -assa) often has a pejorative or derogatory sense: it is not just a big dog, it's also a bit dumb or mean. A big meanie, or a big dummy. It can also have the sense of -ish or "kinda", as in blancàs ("whiteish", "kinda white"). Other augmentative suffixes derived from -às include aràs, -atàs, and -inàs. These often have a double sense: blanquinàs ("dirty white") and docinàs ("very sweet" to the point of being "sickly sweet").
There are a number of diminutive suffixes, including: -et, -on, òt, -in, and -òu (feminine -eta, -ona, òta, -ina, and -òla). Some of these can also have other senses, depending on the word, and the suffix -et has lost its diminutive sense in some words, for example alhet ("garlic") and caulet ("cabbage"). Other suffixes derived from these include -olet, -onet, -airon, -eiron, -aton, -eton, -ilhon, and -isson.
- Lo grand marrit lop e lei tres pichòts pòrcs.
- The big bad wolf and the three little pigs.
- Lo lobatàs e lei tres pòrcons.
- The (big bad) wolf and the three piglets.
- Lo pichòt prince o lo princilhon.
- The little prince or the little prince.
Comparatives and superlatives
When we compare things, we can say that something is more than, same as, or less than something else.
- Una baga pus doça que leis autrei.
- Una baga mai doça que leis autrei.
- A berry sweeter than the others.
- Una banana (ai)tant doça coma l'autra.
- una banana doça coma l'autra.
- A banana as sweet as the other.
- Un age mens doça que leis autrei.
- Un age pas tant doça coma leis autrei.
- A grape less sweet than the others.
- A grape not as sweet as the others.
In the first case, a few words have their own special comparatives: melhor ("better", comparative of bòn), pièger ("worse", comparative of marrit), màger ("bigger", comparative of grand), and mendre ("smaller" or "lesser", comparative of pichòt).
- Un melhor cònte de fadas.
- A better fairytale.
- Un pièger mau de tèsta.
- A worse headache.
- Un màger vèrme.
- A bigger worm.
- Un mendre òme.
- A lesser man.
When there is simply no comparison, we use the superlative: the best, the biggest, the most something. Or the least.
- La pus cara veitura.
- La mai cara veitura.
- The most expensive car.
- Lo mens car telefòn.
- The least expensive phone.
The superlative may also follow the noun, in which case don't repeat the article like you do in French: lei colanas mai caras ("the most expensive necklaces") not
lei colanas lei mai caras.
Use fòrça to talk about something being "really" something, without comparing it to anything. A really big thing, a really great person. Other words and phrases serve the same purpose, such as ben, coma tot, mai que mai, and que non sai.
- Un fòrça grand pijon.
- A really big pigeon.
- Un tigre ben fatigat.
- A really tired tiger.
- Un lion afamat coma tot.
- A really hungry lion.
- Un motò mai que mai rapid.
- A really fast motorcycle.
- Una femna ocupada que non sai.
- A really busy woman.
Another way to achieve this effect is to double the adjective: un chin brave brave ("a really good dog"), una gròssa gròssa rata ("a really fat mouse").
To have (aguer)
The verb aguer means "to have".
In English we say "I have", "you have", "he/she/it has", "we have", "you have", and "they have": the verb "to have" only changes in the third-person singular but otherwise stays the same in present tense. Verbs in English don't change much in general.
In Provençal, verbs change a lot more. This has the side effect that we rarely need the subject pronouns ("I", "you", "he", "she", "it", "we", and "they"). In fact, they are only used when an emphasis or distinction must be made, otherwise they are simply left out.
|I have||you have||he/she/it has||we have||you have||they have|
- Ai una guitarra electric.
- I have an electric guitar.
- Clara a un peis.
- Clara has a fish.
- Lo rainard e lo lop an totei dos un coniu.
- The fox and the wolf both have a rabbit.
Notice how there is no pronoun in the first example because the "I" is implied by the form of the verb. Notice also how singular and plural "you" are different, unlike in English where it's the same whether you're referring to a single "you" or multiple "you" (unless you speak a dialect where "y'all", "all y'all", "youse" or other such phrases are used for the plural). Consider:
- Marià, as un fiu.
- Maria, you have a son.
- Isabèla e Romieg, avètz una filha.
- Isabelle and Remy, you have a daughter.
Be careful not to confuse the third-person singular form of aguer with the article a from the section above on attribution & location.
- L'artista a la pintura a l'òli.
- The artist has the oil painting.
Simple yes-no questions are made from statements by simply changing the tone of voice. In English we ask, "Do you have a minute?" but in Provençal you just say "You have a minute?" in an interrogative (rising) tone of voice:
- As una minuta?
- Do you have a minute?
- Avèm lei claus?
- Do we have the keys?
To ask other types of questions, we need to use question words such as: que and qué ("what"); quau ("who"); quet, queta, quetei, and queteis ("which"); quant ("how many" or "how much"); coma ("how"); and perqué ("why").
- Qu'avètz dins la boita?
- What do you have in the box?
- De qué an tant?
- What do they have so much of?
- Literally: Of what do they have so much?
- Quau a tròp de temps?
- Who has too much time?
- A quau as la letra?
- Whose letter do you have?
- Literally: To who do you have the letter?
- Quet país, queta vila, quetei carrieras, queteis ostaus?
- Which country, which city, which streets, which houses?
- Quant as de tatoatges?
- How many tattoos do you have?
- Coma a Jan lo temps?
- How does John have the time?
Perqué an tant de bescuechs?
Per qu'an un papagai, evidentament.
Why do they have so many crackers?
Because they have a parrot, obviously.
To be or not to be (èstre)
… that is the question. The verb èstre means "to be".
|I am||you are||he/she/it is||we are||you are||they are|
- Siáu la maire de Vincènç.
- I am Vincent's mother.
- Siás la filha de Jaque?
- Are you Jack's daughter?
- Siam de França.
- We are from France.
- Siatz aicí.
- You are here.
- Non, son de Grand Bretanha.
- No, they are from Great Britain.
While èstre means "to be", the English verb "to be" is not always translated as èstre. In some cases, the verb aguer must be used instead:
- Ai paur de sèrps.
- I am afraid of snakes.
- Literally: I have fear of snakes.
- Avèm caud, mai an freg.
- We are warm, but they are cold.
- Marià a fam.
- Maria is hungry.
- Clara a set.
- Clara is thirsty.
- As rason, ai tòrt.
- You are right, I am wrong.
To negate a sentence just add pas after the verb:
- Èstre o èstre pas.
- To be or not to be.
Other negatives include ges ("not at all" or a synonym for pas); ren ("nothing"); jamai ("never"); plus ("no more", "no longer", "not anymore"); gaire ("barely"); degun ("no one", "not anyone"); and enluòc ("nowhere", "not anywhere").
- Ai ges de vin.
- I have no wine (at all).
- Lei refugiats an ren.
- The refugees have nothing.
- The refugees don't have anything.
- Ren es jamai gratuit.
- Nothing is ever free.
- Avèm plus lo libre.
- We no longer have the book.
- Es gaire un mormolh.
- It is barely a murmur.
- Degun es a la pòrta.
- No one is at the door.
- L'aranha es enluòc.
- The spider is nowhere.
The word que can be used as a pseudo-negative, in the sense of "only" or "just". Together with ren, it means "nothing but" or "nothing other than".
- Lo brau a qu'una bana.
- The bull has only one horn.
- The bull has but one horn.
- Lei moninas an ren que de bananas.
- The monkies have nothing but bananas.
To say "neither A nor B", use pas A ni B:
- L'animau es pas un chin ni un cat ni una vaca.
- The animal is neither a dog nor a cat nor a cow.
We've seen that the word òc means "yes", but Provençal actually has two ways of saying yes: the word si is used instead of òc when contradicting a negative statement or question.
- Alan es lo paire?
- Is Allan the father?
- Es pas verai, es?
Si, qu'es verai.
- It's not true, is it?
Yes, it's true.
- Siáu pas copable!
- I am not guilty!
Yes (you are)!
There is or there are (i a)
Another situation where aguer is used where English would use "to be" is when we say "there is" or "there are":
- I a una mosca dins la sopa.
- There is a fly in the soup.
- I a pas de café.
- There is no coffee.
- I a pas de gents aquí mai i a fòrça fantaumas.
- There are no people here but there are a lot of ghosts.
The i in i a is an adverbial pronoun (the equivalent of french y) which can be thought of as "there", refering to a place. In the first sentence above, think of someone pointing at their soup and saying, "Look there, it has a fly in it". Literally, the sentence says, "There [it] has a fly in the soup", which sounds completely wrong in English, but don't think too much about it and just remember that i a means "there is" or "there are".
We also frequently use i a for talking about the weather:
- I a de soleu.
- It is sunny.
- Literally: there is sun.
- I a de plueja ara.
- It is raining now.
- I a de vent uei.
- It is windy today
To go (anar)
The verb anar means "to go".
|I go||you go||he/she/it goes||we go||you go||they go|
- Vau a la polícia.
- I am going to the police.
- Van au parque.
- They go to the park.
- Anam a la glèisa.
- We go to church.
- L'enfant vai a l'escòla.
- The child goes to school.
In English we often drop the article in cases like the last two examples (we say "go to church" and "go to school", not "go to the church" and "go to the school"), but in Provençal the article is required in these cases.
Instead of saying "I am going to the beach", we can say "I am going there" or even just "I'm going" if it's undestood where I'm going. In Provençal we are required to include the "there".
- Vau a la plaja.
- I am going to the beach.
- I vau.
- I am going (there).
The pronoun i doesn't always have an easy translation in English, but as we saw in the previous section it can often be thought of as "there". The last example can thus be read "there I go".
Classification of verbs
The infinitive of a verb is its "canonical" or unconjugated form. For example, èstre ("to be") and aguer ("to have") are both infinitives while siatz and avèm are conjugated forms of these. Infinitives have a stem and an ending. For example, the verb cantar ("to sing") has the stem cant- and the ending -ar.
Verbs are divided into four groups:
- The two auxilliary verbs aguer and èstre. These are highly irregular verbs which serve special grammatical roles and are therefore in a group of their own.
- Group 1 are those verbs whose infinitives end in -ar, with the exception of those mentioned below in group 3. This is the largest and most regular of the groups.
- Group 2 are those verbs whose infinitives end in -ir, with the exception of those mentioned below in group 3. This is the second-largest group, and verbs in this group are also for the most part regular.
Group 3, which contains most of the irregular verbs, are:
- All the verbs ending in -re or -er such as batre ("to fight") and poder ("to be able to").
- The verb prene ("to take"), and any verbs derived from it such as aprene ("to learn") and comprene ("to understand").
- The semi-auxilliary verb anar.
- The second infinitive form far of the verb faire ("to do").
- The verbs tenir ("to take") and venir ("to come"), as well as any verbs derived from these, such as mantenir ("to maintain") and prevenir ("to prevent").
Verbs in this group include: ajudar ("to help"), amar ("to love"), apelar ("to call"), assajar ("to try"), cantar ("to sing"), començar ("to begin"), cosinar ("to cook"), dançar ("to dance"), donar ("to give"), esperar ("to hope"), explicar ("to explain"), manjar ("to eat"), parlar ("to talk"), pensar ("to think"), restar ("to stay"), and trabalhar ("to work").
In the present tense, they change endings as shown in the table, while the stem rarely changes.
cantar ("to sing")
|I sing||you sing||he/she/it sings||we sing||you sing||they sing|
- Cantam una cançon de Provença.
- We sing a song about Provençe.
- Ames Marià?
- Do you love Maria?
- Pense dau chòt verd.
- I am thinking of the green owl.
- Leis orses ajudan leis pichòts.
- The bears help the children.
- L'alces dona una pera a Jacòb.
- The moose gives a pear to Jacob.
- Cosinatz de pastas?
- Are you cooking pasta?
- Are they working?
Beware of false friends. The verbs demandar and pausar merit an explanation, since they don't mean "to demand" and "to pause" as you might expect. Demandar means "to ask" and pausar means "to pose (a question)" or "to put something down".
- Demande de Mia e Clara se son lèstas.
- I ask (of) Mia and Clara if they are ready.
- Pausan una question de Bregida.
- They pose a question of Bridget.
- Pausam lei mans sus la taula.
- We put our hands on the table.
The second group is further divided into extended-stem verbs and single-stem verbs. Extended-stem verbs receive one of two extended stems, depending on the tense. In present tense, this extended stem is -iss- (-ís- in third-person singular). Regardless of whether a verb receives an extended stem or not, the endings are the same.
Most verbs in group 2 receive an extended-stem. Examples include: agir ("to act"), bastir ("to build"), chausir ("to choose"), decidir ("to decide"), finir ("to finish"), fugir ("to flee"), legir ("to read"), ofrir ("to offer"), seguir ("to follow"), and vestir ("to dress").
Examples of verbs that do not receive an extended stem include: ausir ("to hear"), bolhir ("to boil"), dormir ("to sleep"), morir ("to die"), partir ("to leave"), sentir ("to feel"), servir ("to serve"), and sortir ("to exit", "to go out").
finir ("to finish")
|I finish||you finish||he/she/it finishes||we finish||you finish||they finish|
sentir ("to feel")
|I feel||you feel||he/she/it feels||we feel||you feel||they feel|
- Ausètz quicòm?
- Do you hear something?
- Lei vèspas bastisson un nis.
- The wasps build a nest.
- Seguissèm lo raton lavaire dins la piscina.
- We follow the raccoon into the swimming pool.
- Lo garçon sèrv lo bolhabaissa ai pandas.
- The waiter serves the bouillabaisse to the pandas.
Pay attention to verbs such as obeïr ("to obey") and joïr ("to enjoy") which end in a vowel + -ïr instead of -ir. The two dots above the i is called a trema and mean that the i and the vowel before it should be pronounced separately, not as a diphthong (the i should be pronounced [i] not [j]). It carries over to the extended stem: obeïsse, obeïsses, obeís, obeïssèm, obeïssètz, obeïsson. Note the third-person singular: we don't write the trema when the letter has an accent.
In the present tense, these verbs conjugate just like single-stemmed verbs of group 2. However, this group contains a larger number of irregularities than the other two groups.
Examples of regular verbs in this group include: batre ("to beat", "to fight"), defendre ("to defend", "to forbid"), escondre ("to hide", "to disguise"), fendre ("to split"), fondre ("to melt"), mòrdre ("to bite"), pèrdre ("to lose"), rendre ("to give back", "to render"), respòndre ("to respond"), tèisser ("to weave"), tendre ("to tighten", "to stretch"), and vendre ("to sell").
Examples of irregular verbs in this group include: beure ("to drink"), conóisser ("to know"), córrer ("to run"), crèire ("to believe"), créisser ("to grow", "to increase"), destruire ("to destroy"), dire ("to say"), escriure ("to write"), metre ("to put"), nàisser ("to be born"), plaire ("to please"), plòure ("to rain"), prene ("to take"), rire ("to laugh"), sacher ("to know"), tenir ("to hold"), veire ("to see"), venir ("to come"), viure ("to live"), and voler ("to want").
batre ("to beat")
|I beat||you beat||he/she/it beats||we beat||you beat||they beat|
sacher ("to know")
|I know||you know||he/she/it knows||we know||you know||they know|
- Danisa mòrd la merinjana en dos.
- Denise bites the eggplant in half.
- Rendèm lo livre de magia negra a la bibliotèca interdicha.
- We return the book of black magic to the forbidden library.
The two verbs conóisser and sacher both mean "to know". You use conóisser to say that someone knows someone or is familiar with someone or something, while sacher is used to say that someone knows some fact or how to do something.
- Conoissètz lo fiu l'ainat de Marià e Jaque?
- Do you know Maria and Jack's oldest son?
- Sabe un sortilègi per escondre la veritat.
- I know a spell to hide the truth.
- Vincènç saup tèisser.
- Vincent knows how to weave.
Notice how in English we say "I know how to do something" while in Provençal we don't need the "how"; we simply follow sacher with the infinitive ("I know to do something").
For verbs in group 1 whose stem ends in -c, -ç, -g, or -j, if the new ending begins with an e or i, the last letter of the stem changes to -qu, -c, -gu, and -g respectively. For example: explicar ("to explain") becomes explique ("I explain"), dançar ("to dance") becomes dance ("I dance"), plegar ("to bend") becomes plegue ("I bend"), and assajar ("to try") becomes assage ("I try").
For verbs containing an e or an o in the last syllable of the stem, that vowel gains a grave accent (è, ò) if that syllable is now stressed (generally in the singular as well as the third-person plural for verbs in group 1). For example (stress in bold; refer also to the section on stress): restar ("to stay") becomes rèstan ("they stay", because stress is on the second-to-last syllable) but restam ("we stay", because stress is on the last syllable), and voler ("to want") becomes vòlon ("they want") but volètz ("you want").
For some single-stemmed verbs in group 2 containing an e in the last syllable, the e changes to iè instead of è. This is less common in the Rhodanian sub-dialect where many of these verbs receive an extended stem instead, but a few examples exist: aquerir ("to acquire") becomes aquière ("I acquire").
For verbs containing a u in the last syllable of the stem, this u changes to ue if that syllable is now stressed (just like for e/è and o/ò above). For example, the verb recular ("to move backwards") becomes: recuele, recueles, recuela, reculam, reculatz, recuelan.
As we saw with sacher, some verbs, especially in group 3, have more radical or irregular changes. These are too numerous to detail here, but you can find them using Lo Congrès' verb'Òc (Note that it may be missing some variants, for example it has saber instead of sacher).
Transitivity (direct and indirect objects)
Verbs can be categorized as either transitive or intransitive. A transitive verb is one that takes a direct object, while an intranstive verb takes no direct object. Some verbs are always transitive or always intransitive, while others can be either depending on the sentence.
In the sentence La princessa manja la poma ("The princess eats the apple"), la princessa is the subject and la poma is the direct object. Instead of "the apple" we could say "it": La princessa la manja ("the princess eats it"). Notice that in Provençal, unlike in English, the direct object comes before the verb in such cases.
|Before a ...||Singular||Plural||Neutral|
In the examples below, the direct objects have been highlighted.
- La princessa ama lo prince.
- La princessa l'ama.
- The princess loves the prince.
- The princess loves him.
- Cosinam lo polet.
- Lo cosinam.
- We cook the chicken.
- We cook it.
- Nos ajudatz.
- You help us.
- Bròque lei camisas.
- Lei bròque.
- I knit the shirts.
- I knit them.
Sometimes the direct object doesn't really refer to anything specific. In English, we may simply leave it out in some situations, for example we'd normally say "I know" rather than "I know it" ("I knew it", on the other hand, keeps the pronoun). In Provençal we use a so-called neutral pronoun as the direct object of such phrases: lo sabe. In the Rhodanian sub-dialect this pronoun is identical to the third-person singular masculine pronoun (see footnote).
Verbs can also be ditransitive, which means they take both a direct and an indirect object. In the sentence La masca dona la poma a la princessa ("The witch gives the apple to the princess" or "The witch gives the princess the apple"), la masca is the subject, la poma is the direct object, and la princessa is the indirect object.
|Before a ...||Singular||Plural|
Instead of "the princess", we could say "her": "The witch gives the apple to her" or "The witch gives her the apple". Same as with the direct object, in Provençal the pronoun comes before the verb: La masca i dona la poma (Literally: "the witch her gives the apple").
We can even replace both the direct and the indirect object: La masca i la dona ("The witch gives it to her", literally: "The witch her it gives"). In this case, the indirect object comes before the direct object, and when, as in this case, both are third-person, the direct object is sometimes left out: La masca i dona.
You may see a sentence such as M'agrada la musica ("I like music" or "I like the music"). This is a tricky sentence because the verb agradar doesn't literally mean "to like" and the subject of the sentence isn't "I" like it is in English. Agradar means "to please" or "to be pleasing to", and the subject is actually la musica, which explains why it's conjugated in the third person singular (m'agrada not m'agrade). Think of it as "Music is pleasing to me" or "Music pleases me."
In the examples below, the object is highlighted in yellow, while the subject is highlighted in blue. Pay attention to the agreement of the verb: it is always with the subject of the sentence.
- T'agrada pas la dona?
- Do you not like the gift?
- Nos agradan lei chins.
- We like dogs.
- A leis orses i agrada lo mèu.
- Bears like honey.
- A Loïsa i agradan lei tortons.
- Louisa likes cakes.
Notice the double object in the last two examples. When the object is third person, we use the article a in this way, along with the indirect object pronoun. The semi-literal translation of the last example is "to Louisa cakes are pleasing to her," which you'd never say in English, but this sort of double object is prefectly fine and normal in Provençal.
Pronominal verbs (reflexive pronouns)
When the subject and direct object of a verb are the same and singular, the verb is said to be reflexive, as in m'ajude ("I help myself"). A verb where the subject and direct object are the same and plural may be either reflexive or reciprocal. For example, vos ajudatz can mean either "you help yourselves" (reflexive) or "you help each other" (reciprocal). If a verb is either reflexive or reciprocal, it is also said to be pronominal.
Said another way, a verb is pronominal (either reflexive or reciprocal) when it takes a reflexive pronoun as its direct object. When talking about a pronominal verb, it is common to include the pronoun se: we say s'ajudar when talking about the verb as a pronominal verb, and ajudar when talking about it as a non-pronominal verb.
|Before a ...||Singular||Plural|
Some verbs (called inherently pronominal) lack a non-pronominal form and always take a reflexive pronoun, and some verbs are (inherently) pronominal in Provençal that are not typically so in English, for example se pausar ("to lie down") and se banhar ("to bathe").
- L'òme se pausa sus lo sòu.
- The man lies down on the ground.
- Me pause sus lo liech.
- I lie down on the bed.
- Se banhan dins la banhadoira.
- They bathe in the bathtub.
- Se banham dins lo fluvi.
- We bathe in the river.
In English we ask someone "what" their name is, but in Provençal we ask instead "how" (by what name) they call themselves. However, when asking what "his" or "her" name is, you don't ask how he or she calls him- or herself, but how "they" call him or her.
- Coma te dises?
Me dise Marià.
- What is your name?
My name is Maria.
- Coma i dison?
I dison Michèu.
- What is his name?
His name is Michael.
Pronouns and politeness
Remember that the subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, etc. in English) are rarely used in Provençal except where an emphasis or distinction is required; usually, they are implied by the conjugation of the verb. In this section, I include them in square brackets solely to make certain concepts clearer.
The third-person singular pronoun has two forms depending on the gender of the subject. The singular feminine ela is used only when it refers to a feminine noun or when the one being talked about is explicitly female. The singular masculine eu is used in all other cases.
- [Eu] es un enfant.
- He/she is a child.
- [Ela] es una dròlla.
- She is a girl.
- [Ela] es una poma?
Non, [ela] es una ceba.
- Is it an apple?
No, it is an onion.
In the first example, we use eu because the child's gender is unspecified. In the second example, we use ela because we're talking about a girl. In the last example, we use ela twice because both poma and ceba are feminine nouns.
There are also two forms of the first- and second-person plural pronouns: nautrei, nautres and vautrei, vautres. The -i forms are used when they are linked with the next word: vautrei dos ("you two") but lei premiers de vautres ("the first of you"). You may also encounter the longer forms nosautrei, nosautres and vosautrei, vosautres, which are normally only used for emphasis.
The singular you also has two forms: tu is the informal form (like French tu) used (very roughly speaking) when talking to friends, family, and children while vos is the formal or polite form (like French vous), used (very roughly speaking) when talking to superiors, elders, and strangers. While the vos pronoun is used to refer to a single person (singular you), it uses the plural verb forms (same as vautrei, vautres).
Because these pronouns are usually left out, including vos, the second person plural verb forms are used both to refer to a group of people generally (or politely), and when speaking politely to a single person: Siatz de França? can mean two things:
- Adieu, Mirèlha e Magali. [Vautrei] siatz de França?
- Hello, Mireille and Magali. Are you from France?
- Bonjorn, Madama Martin. [Vos] siatz de França?
- Good morning, Ms. Martin. Are you from France?
- Adieu Cristòu. [Tu] siás de França?
- Hello Christopher. Are you from France?
In the first example, we're talking informally but addressing multiple people. In the second example we're only addressing one person, but doing so formally. In the last example we address one person informally.
We saw how to talk about "this thing" and "that thing" in the section on demonstratives above. In English, we use the same four demonstratives as determiners and as pronouns: "I eat this apple" (the word "this" is a determiner which modifies the noun "apple") and "I eat this" (here "this" is a pronoun which stands on its own).
In Provençal, we distinquish between these two cases. However, there are only three demonstrative pronouns. The first two are aiçò ("this" or "these") and aquò ("that" or "those").
- Es aiçò?
- Is it this one?
- Aiçò son de libres de magia.
- These are books of magic.
- Aquò m'agrada pas.
- I don't like that.
- Aquò m'agradan pas.
- I don't like those.
When aquò comes before es (the third-person present singular of "to be") it is typically shortened to aquò's.
- Aquò's una mòstra.
- That is a watch.
- Aquò's pas una luna.
- That is not a moon.
The third demonstrative pronoun, çò, is used in the phrase çò que ("that which", "those who", or "the one(s) who").
- Aquel ostau, es çò que volèm.
- That house, it is the one we want.
- Aquelei tipes, son çò que vòu la polícia.
- Those guys, they are the ones the police want.
- L'apocalipsi de zòmbis, es çò que se passa.
- The zombie apocalypse, that's what is happening.
Possessive adjectives and pronouns
When talking about something belonging to someone, we use the possessive adjectives.
|Masculine||Feminine||+ consonant||+ vowel|
The gender of the adjective must match that of the noun, regardless of the gender (if any) of the owner: we say son libre ("his book", "her book", "its book", or even "their book", notice the ambiguity here) and never
sa libre even if the owner of the book is a woman or a girl.
There is one exception: the pronouns mon, ton, and son are also used for feminine nouns when those nouns begin with a vowel: una enfància, mon enfància ("a childhood, my childhood").
The plurals add an -s before a vowel: nòstreis aucèus ("our birds") but nòstrei buòus ("our bulls").
- Luc, siáu ton paire.
- Luke, I am your father.
- Ai vòstrei libres.
- I have your books.
- Lo fraire de ta maire es ton oncle.
- The brother of your mother is your uncle.
To say "the dog is mine" and "the apples are yours" we need the possessive pronouns instead.
|Singular||1st||lo mieu||la mieuna||lei mieus||lei mieunas|
|2nd||lo tieu||la tieuna||lei tieus||lei tieunas|
|3rd||lo sieu||la sieuna||lei sieus||lei sieunas|
|Plural||1st||lo nòstre||la nòstra||lei nòstres||lei nòstras|
|2nd||lo vòstre||la vòstra||lei vòstres||lei vòstras|
|3rd||lo sieu||la sieuna||lei sieus||lei sieunas|
In English we wouldn't say "the apple is the mine", but in Provençal we do.
- Aqueste torton es lo tieu.
- This cake is yours.
- An uech veituras mai vòlon lei vòstras.
- They have eight cars but they want yours.
- L'ors a la nòstra e avèm la sieuna.
- The bear has ours and we have its.
- Lei tartugas a la nòstra e avèm la sieuna.
- The turtles have ours and we have theirs.
However, these pronouns are sometimes used without the article, or (mostly in the east of Provence) even as an adjective in front of a noun to create insistence or emphasis.
- Prenèm çò que son nòstres.
- We take the ones that are ours.
- Lo mieu amic.
- My friend.
Adverbial pronouns (n'en and i)
We've already seen the adverbial pronoun i in such sentences as i a ... and i vau.
In English we can ask "How many almonds do you want?" If almonds have been mentioned or implied already, we could also say "How many of them do you want?" Here, "of them" refers back to the aforementioned almonds. In English we don't even need to include "of them", we can simply say "How many do you want?"
In Provençal, we aren't allowed to leave out that "of them".
- Quant d'ametlas vòles?
- How many almonds do you want?
- Quant ne'n vòles?
- How many of them do you want?
The pronoun ne'n takes the place the object of the verb. When it appears in front of a vowel, it becomes n', and when it appears after a reflexive pronoun it becomes either 'n (after me, te, se) or en (after nos, vos).
- Ne'n volètz?
- Do you want some (of it/them)?
- Frederic n'a seissanta sèt.
- Frederic has 67 of them.
- Mon amiga me'n ajuda.
- My friend is helping me with it.
- La presidenta se'n vai.
- The president is leaving.
- Nos en anam.
- We are leaving.
Notice the difference between i anar ("to go somewhere") and s'en anar ("to leave a place").
Infinitives and chains
The infinitive of a verb is used when "chaining" verbs, in which case only the first verb in the chain is conjugated. To really see this in action, we'll take a look at a few other common verbs.
To be able (poguer)
The verb poguer means "to be able", although in English we usually use the form "can", as in "I can do it" rather than "I am able to do it".
|I can||you can||he/she/it can||we can||you can||they can|
- Pòu pas èstre verai.
- It can not be true.
- Dòufina e ieu podèm aguer un glacet?
- Can Delphine and I have an ice cream?
Here we see the chaining of verbs, pòu èstre ("can be") and podèm aguer ("can have"), where only the first is conjugated and the second stays in its infinitive form. We also see one use for the personal pronouns, here ieu ("I"), when we say "Maria and I" instead of just "we": Podèm aguer un glacet? ("Can we have an ice cream?").
Necessity and obligation (faler and deure)
The verb faler is a defective verb, meaning it is only used in the 3rd person singular and has no other forms. It expresses a necessity: "to need", "to have to", "to be necessary". In the present tense it takes the form fau.
- Fau anar a l'escòla.
- It is necessary to go to school.
- One must go to school.
- I/you/we/they have to go to school.
- Fau pas aguer paur d'aranhas.
- There is no need to be afraid of spiders.
- You need not be afraid of spiders.
Similarly, the verb deure ("must", "have to", "should") expresses a requirement or obligation.
|I must||you must||he/she/it must||we must||you must||they must|
- I deves pas anar.
- You must not go (there).
- Lei pichòts devon manjar seis èrbas.
- The children must eat their vegetables.
To do (faire)
The verb faire means "to do" or "to make".
|I do||you do||he/she/it does||we do||you do||they do|
Careful not to confuse the 1st-person singular of faire with the verb faler discussed above.
- Fau mei devers.
- I do my homework.
- Fau faire mei devers.
- I have to do my homework.
Just like aguer, faire is sometimes used for things, like talking about the weather or time, where English would use different words.
- Fai vent.
- It's windy.
- Fai freg.
- It is cold outside.
- Fai bèu temps.
- The weather is nice.
- Fai dos ans.
- It was two years ago.
- Danisa fai vint ans.
- Denise is twenty years old.
Notice the ambiguity in the last two examples: fai vint ans can mean either "it was twenty years ago" or "she is twenty years old". In the last example we know it's the latter because of context (we're talking about a person), but in the other example we could be saying "he is two years old" instead. Without context we can't tell.
Rather unusually, the verb faire has a second infinitive, far, which is used by some speakers when it is followed by another infinitive in a chain and in certain set phrases such as far vent ("to be windy", as we saw above), far fuòc ("to make a fire"), far lume ("to turn on the lights), and far conèissença de ("to make the acquaintance of", "to get to know").
- Fau lei far creire au projèct.
- We have to make them believe in the project.
- Trabalhan per far conóisser l'identitat dau criminau.
- They work to make the identity of the criminal known.
- Anam a la reserva naturala per far conèissença d'un aucèu rar.
- We go to the nature reserve to get to know a rare bird.
- Fasèm la maquina far faire lo tè dins una ora.
- We make the machine have the tea done in an hour.
- Pòdes far lume dins leis escaliers?
- Can you turn on the lights on the stairs?
In English, we can say "I go" or "I am going". Both are present tense, but "I go" is more immediate while "I am going" is an ongoing action (think: "I am in the process of going somewhere").
In Provençal, vau au parque can mean either "I go to the park" or "I am going to the park". If you want to make the distinction clear, use èstre a plus the infinitive of the verb: siáu a anar au parque ("I am going to the park").
The past imperfect tense (or simply "imperfect") is generally used for actions and states that were in some sense continuous or ongoing, or happened regularly or repeatedly, in the past. In English, this is usually expressed in various ways, such as:
- "I was eating the pie", an ongoing action which may or may not have been interrupted (for example "I was eating the pie until I couldn't eat any more"), as opposed to "I ate the pie" which is a completed action and therefore not imperfect.
- "I used to eat pie", which implies that eating pie happened with some regularity, or "I ate pie every day for a month", as opposed to "I ate pie yesterday", which only happened once.
It is also used to express states of being or descriptions of time, weather, age, and feelings in the past tense: "the man was handsome", "the weather was good", "she felt sad" or "she was feeling sad", and "the dog was five years old".
|I used to have||you used to have||he/she/it used to have||we used to have||you used to have||they used to have|
|I used to be||you used to be||he/she/it used to be||we used to be||you used to be||they used to be|
|I used to go||you used to go||he/she/it used to go||we used to go||you used to go||they used to go|
- Aviáu mau de dents.
- I used to have a toothache.
- My teeth used to hurt.
- My teeth were hurting.
- Aviam de mau de lo crèire.
- We were having trouble believing it.
- I aviá soleu lo jorn de mon anniversari.
- It was sunny (on) the day of my birthday.
- Lo cavau aviá uèch ans.
- The horse was eight years old.
Since this is imperfect tense, the first example implies that I used to have a toothache regularly ("I used to have a toothache at least once every year"), or that the ache lasted for a while before being treated ("I had a toothache for months before going to the dentist"). In the last two examples we use imperfect because we're describing states of being (the weather and age respectively) in the past. Remember also how aguer is used when talking about age and the weather where in English we use "to be".
- Aqueu restaurant èra lo melhor.
- That restaurant used to be the best (one).
- That restaurant was the best (one).
- L'ors e leis abelhas èran sòcis.
- The bear and the bees used to be good friends.
- The bear and the bees were good friends.
In both these examples we can translate the imperfect as either "used to be" or "was/were", depending on context. We're either talking about how things used to be, before perhaps they weren't (the restaurant was the best but later some other restaurant surpassed it), or we're simply describing a (continuous) state of being in the past regardless of how things were later (the bears and the bees were good friends, and maybe they still are).
This sort of ambiguity is common with imperfect, and in many of the examples below. I frequently only provide translations using "used to be", to emphasize that it is imperfect, even when other translations are possible.
- Anavan a l'escòla lo dimenge.
- They used to go to school on Sunday.
- I anaviam l'estiu.
- We used to go there in the summer.
- Me demandave s'aviáu tòrt.
- I used to ask myself if I was wrong.
- I used to wonder whether I was wrong.
- Lei rèis caçavan de rainards dins aqueste bòsc.
- The kings used to hunt foxes in this forest.
- Joïssiáu legir aquelei libres.
- I used to enjoy reading those books.
- Mes flors morián totjorn.
- My flowers always used to die.
- Lei cavaliers defendián leis innocents.
- Knights used to defend the innocent.
- Lo disiam la veritat mai nos cresiá jamai.
- We used to tell him the truth but he never used to believe us.
- Lei ratas tenhián lo peu dau caton.
- The mice used to dye the kitten's fur.
- Victòria la còntradisiá de lònga.
- Victoria used to contradict her all the time.
- Preniá lo trin totei lei jorns.
- He used to take the train every day.
Where the imperfect tense describes continuous, ongoing, or repeating actions in the past, such as "I was eating the pie" or "I used to eat pie", the past perfective or preterite tense, sometimes also called the simple past, describes completed actions such as "I ate the pie".
In the preterite tense, all verbs in group 2 receive the extended stem -igu-, and all regular verbs in group 3 receive the extended stem -gu- (-egu- if the stem ends in a consonant).
|I had||you had||he/she/it had||we had||you had||they had|
|I was||you were||he/she/it was||we were||you were||they were|
|I went||you went||he/she/it went||we went||you went||they went|
- L'estudi scientific aguèt d'errors notablas.
- The scientific study had notable errors.
- Lei gents de la dròlla aguèron lo plaser de far conoissença de son amigueta novèla.
- The girl's parents had the pleasure of getting to know her new girlfriend.
- Lo jòc aguèt luòc dins lo castèu vièlh.
- The game took place in the old castle.
- Au mens dètz-e-sèt personas siguèron arrestadas.
- At least seventeen people were arrested.
- Aneriam a la plaja per surfar.
- We went to the beach to surf.
- Alumeriam de bogias dins lei fenèstras.
- We lit candles in the windows.
- La conilha cosinèt un ragost ai garròtas.
- The rabbit cooked a carrot stew.
- Lei remercière avans de partir.
- I thanked them before leaving.
- Lei tres pòrcons bastiguèron seis ostaus pròpris.
- The three little pigs built their own houses.
- L'orsa d'espaci joïguèt au bilhard ambé leis estèlas.
- The space bear played billiard with the stars.
- Legigueriam un cònte de fadas per la girafa.
- We read a fairy tale for the giraffe.
- L'escrivan deguèt escriure.
- The writer had to write.
- Lo can conoguèt lo fam.
- The dog experienced hunger.
So far, we have discussed the past imperfect tense (an ongoing or repeated action in the past) and the preterite or past perfective tense (a completed action in the past), but there is a third way to speak about the past in Provençal called the composite past (lo passat compausat) or the perfect tense (not to be confused with past perfective). Composite past, as the name implies, is composed of two elements: an auxilliary verb, which can be either the verb aguer or èstre, and the past participle of a verb.
- L'òme a legit lo libre.
- The man has read the book.
- The man read the book.
Here we have the verb aguer in the 3rd person present form a, and legit, which is the past participle of the verb legir ("to read").
You may notice the two different translations, which are essentially equal in meaning, and you may remember from the last part that we could say the same using the preterite:
- L'òme legiguèt lo libre.
- The man read the book.
In other words, both composite past and preterite are used for completed actions in the past, so what exactly is the difference, and how do we know which one to use? At the risk of oversimplifying, it has to do with how close to the present the action is: composite past is used for "recent" actions, while preterite is used for more distant actions.
Uses of composite past include recent actions which are finished in the past but still have consequences in the present, and actions which take place shortly before other actions in the present.
- Ma vesina m'a prestat son tractor.
- My neighbor lent me her tractor.
- Pense qu'a ja arribat.
- I think that he has already arrived.
In the first example, my neighbor lent me the tractor recently, but I haven't returned it yet, the consequence being that I still have it. In the second example, my thinking happens now, in the present, but his arrival is in the recent past.
Finally, composite past may be used when it is accompanied by a complement of time, indicating that the action happens in the same time frame as the speaking.
- Aqueste matin, l'ai encontrat a la fornariá.
- This morning, I met him at the bakery.
- Aquesta setmana, ai pas agut léser de lo faire.
- I didn't have the time to do it this week.
In the first example, the meeting happened in the morning of the current day, which has not ended when this sentence is spoken. In the second example, the thing I did happened earlier this week, which has not yet ended either.
The next example illustrates the difference between composite past (perfect tense) and preterite (past perfective). Here the composite past has been highlighted in yellow, while the preterite has been highlighted in blue. Notice the difference in time between the two.
- L'ai fach uei per çò qu'a la setmana passada aguère pas léser de lo faire.
- I did it today as I did not have time to do it last week.
The first part of the composite past is the auxilliary verb, which may be either aguer or èstre. Most verbs, including all transitive verbs, use aguer as an auxilliary verb. Remember that transitive verbs are those that have an object, as highlighted in the examples below.
- Ai legit lo libre.
- I have read the book.
- L'an manjat.
- They have eaten it.
The verbs that use èstre are èstre itself (a notable difference from French), all pronominal verbs, and usually those intransitive verbs indicating motion or change of state.
- L'animau es estat descobèrt dins la jungla.
- The animal was discovered in the jungle.
- Lo cavau marron es vengut lo darrier.
- The brown horse came last.
- Marc s'es romput la camba.
- Marc broke his (own) leg.
Notice that some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, and can therefore use either aguer or èstre depending on meaning and context.
- Lo policier es sortit de la veitura.
- The police officer got out of the car.
- Lo fustier a sortit un martèu.
- The carpenter took out a hammer.
Agreement of the participle
When the past participle is transitive, it must agree in gender and number with the object of the sentence, as highlighted in the examples below.
- Lo palhassa a manjat lo banut.
- The clown ate the croissant.
- L'aucèu a manjada la sèrp.
- The bird ate the snake.
- Lo lop garon a manjats lei cavaliers.
- The werewolf ate the knights.
- La vèspa a manjadas leis abelhas.
- The wasp ate the bees.
When the past participle is intransitive or pronominal (as is always the case when the auxilliary is èstre), it must agree in gender and number with the subject of the sentence, as highlighted in the examples below.
- Lo vaccin es estat testat ambé succès.
- The vaccine was tested with success.
- La mesura es estada denonciada per l'oposicion.
- The measure was denounced by the opposition.
Until now, the auxilliary verb has always been in the present tense, but there's no reason we can't use the imperfect or preterite tense instead.
The combination of past imperfect + past participle is called the recent pluperfect or simply pluperfect (lo plus-que-parfait, literally "more than perfect"). To understand the difference between perfect and pluperfect, consider the difference between "I have done it" (perfect) and "I had done it" (pluperfect).
The pluperfect is used for a past event which takes place before another past event, when the second event is in the past imperfect tense. For example, in the sentence "I was hungry because I had not eaten", "had not eaten" happened before "was hungry", which is in the past imperfect tense.
The second event may be explicit, as in the previous example, or implied by context. For example, the sentence "I had eaten" must be in reference to some later event, for example "I had eaten when she came."
- Marc podiá pas jogar per çò que s'èra romput la camba.
- Marc couldn't play because he had broken his leg.
The combination of preterite + past participle is called remote pluperfect or past anterior. It is used in the same way as the recent pluperfect when the second action uses the preterite.
- Quand Marc se foguèt romput la camba, cambièt sa vida.
- When Marc broke his leg, it changed his life.
If we want to express an even more immediate past than the composite past, we can use venir de followed by the infinitive of a verb. This is called the "near past". In English we accomplish this by adding "just" before the verb.
- Vòstres amics venon de partir.
- Your friends just left.
- Pense que vèn de plòure.
- I think it just rained.
- Podiam pas jogar per çò que veniá de plòure.
- We couldn't play because it had just rained.
Notice in the last example how we combine the pluperfect and near past by using the past imperfect of venir.
Future tense is used to talk about events and actions in the future. There are no real surprises here, and everything if fairly straight forward. Only thing to note is that verbs in group 2 do not receive an extended stem in the future tense.
|I will have||you will have||he/she/it will have||we will have||you will have||they will have|
|I will be||you will be||he/she/it will be||we will be||you will be||they will be|
|I will go||you will go||he/she/it will go||we will go||you will go||they will go|
- Aurem dètz minutas.
- We will have ten minutes.
- I anarai deman se fai bèu temps.
- I will go (there) tomorrow if the weather is good.
- Aprendretz lo provençau e vos faretz trobadors.
- You will learn Provençal and become troubadours.
The combination of future tense with a past participle is called future anterior.
- Aurà ganhat mila euros o mai.
- He will have won a thousand euros or more.
Just as we had a near past, we can talk about the near future with anar, èstre (aquí) per, or èstre a mand de plus an infinitive.
- Van èstre riches.
- They are going to be rich.
- Siáu aquí per aprene la lenga.
- I am here to learn the language.
- Siatz a mand de vos endormir.
- You are about to fall asleep.
Conditional is used to express something that is dependent on some condition. In English we might say, for example, "I would do it if I could." Just as we saw with future tense, verbs in group 2 do not receive an extended stem in the conditional.
|I would have||you would have||he/she/it would have||we would have||you would have||they would have|
|I would be||you would be||he/she/it would be||we would be||you would be||they would be|
|I would go||you would go||he/she/it would go||we would go||you would go||they would go|
- Cantariáu se podiáu.
- I would sing if I could.
- Se me lo permetiás, sariáu tieu.
- If you allowed me to, I would be yours.
- Lo chivalier deuriá combatre un dragon per sauvar la princessa.
- The knight would have to fight a dragon to save the princess.
The combination of conditional and a past participle works just like other compound tenses.
- Auriam anats, mai lei poupres manifestavan.
- We would have gone, but the octopuses were protesting.
The imperative is used for telling people what to do or not do, as in "write this ten times", "don't walk on the ice", and "let's play a game."
Unlike other tenses, the imperative is only used in the second-person singular (informal), second-person plural (formal or polite, or when talking to more than one person), and first-person plural ("Let's ..."). Also notice that some verbs have different imperative forms depending on whether it's a positive command ("Do that!") or a negative one ("Don't do that!") Beware in particular of the subtle differences in the second-person plural (a/e and è/e).
|aguer||agues!||agues pas!||aguem!||aguem pas!||aguetz!||aguetz pas!|
|Have!||Don't have!||Let's have!||Let's not have!||Have!||Don't have!|
|éstre||fugues! ||fugues pas!||fuguem!||fuguem pas!||fuguetz!||fuguetz pas!|
|Be!||Don't be!||Let's be!||Let's not be!||Be!||Don't be!|
|anar||vai!||vagues pas! ||anem||anem pas||anatz||anetz pas|
|Go!||Don't go!||Let's go!||Let's not go!||Go!||Don't go!|
|Group 1||-a||-es pas||-em||-em pas||-atz||-etz pas|
|Group 2||-(iss)e||-(iss)es pas||-(iss)em||-(iss)em pas||-(iss)ètz||-(iss)etz pas|
|Group 3||-e||-es pas||-em||-em pas||-ètz||-etz pas|
- Vai a l'escòla! Ara!
- Go to school! Now!
- Anem a la plaja.
- Let's go to the beach.
- Manges pas aquelei bagas rojas, en plaça manja aqueste talhon de pastèca.
- Don't eat those red berries, eat this slice of watermelon instead.
- Prenguetz pas aqueste trin, prenètz l'autre.
- Don't take this train, take the other.
The gerund is used to indicate the simultaneity of one action in relation to another. In English we use the -ing form of verbs: "While riding my bike, I saw a strange animal." Here "riding" and "seeing" happen together and at the same time. In Provençal, the gerund is formed by combining the preposition en with a present participle.
|aguer||èstre||anar||Group 1||Group 2||Group 3|
|aguent ||estent ||anant||-ant||-(iss)ent||-ent|
- En fasent bicicleta, ai vist un animau estrani.
- While riding my bike, I saw a strange animal.
- Marchan en parlant.
- They walk while talking.
- En corrent, la nuech es tombat.
- While running, night fell.
The present participles on their own can also be combined with a past participle to indicate an action taking place not at the same time but after and (or simply) as a result of another action.
- Aguent manjat la grand, lo lop dòrm ara.
- Having eaten the grandmother, the wolf sleeps now.
- Estent mòrt, lo còrs bolega plus.
- Being dead, the body doesn't move anymore.
The present participles can also used as adjectives.
- Siam estats atacats per deis insèctes volants.
- We were attacked by flying insects.
The subjunctive is used when expressing desire, wish, opinion, doubt, possibility, necessity and similiar moods, such as "I prefer that we leave now," "We want you to wait," and "It is necessary that he understand it". It is almost always preceded by que ("that"), but not everything preceded by que should use the subjunctive.
|... that I have.||... that you have.||... that he/she/it has.||... that we have.||... that you have.||... that they have.|
|... that I am.||... that you are.||... that he/she/it is.||... that we are.||... that you are.||... that they are.|
|... that I go.||... that you go.||... that he/she/it goes.||... that we go.||... that you go.||... that they go.|
- Espère qu'agues una làmpia de pòcha.
- I hope (that) you have a flashlight.
- Volèm que vèngues ambé nautres.
- We want you to come with us.
- Fau que fagues tei devers.
- It is necessary for you to do your homework.
The subjunctive is also used in certain phrases and sayings that express a wish or desire.
- Lo diable l'empòrte!
- The devil take it!
- Se sauve quau podrà!
- Every man for himself!
- Literally: May he save himself who will be able.
As with the other tenses, it is possible to combine subjunctive present with a past participle to create the subjunctive past.
- Que lo libre t'ague agradat me sosprene pas.
- That the book has pleased you doesn't surprise me.
When the main clause is in either the past or conditional tense, the subordinate clause uses the subjunctive imperfect tense instead of the subjunctive present. Whereas the subjunctive imperfect has largely disappeared from modern French, it is still common in Provençal.
|... that I used to have.||... that you used to have.||... that he/she/it used to have.||... that we used to have.||... that you used to have.||... that they used to have.|
|... that I used to be.||... that you used to be.||... that he/she/it used to be.||... that we used to be.||... that you used to be.||... that they used to be.|
|... that I used to go.||... that you used to go.||... that he/she/it used to go.||... that we used to go.||... that you used to go.||... that they used to go.|
|Group 2||-iguèsse ||-iguèsses||-iguèsse||-iguessiam||-iguessiatz||-iguèsson|
|Group 3||-eguèsse ||-eguèsses||-eguèsse||-eguessiam||-eguessiatz||-eguèsson|
- Volián que lo faguèsse.
- They wanted him to do it.
- Faliá que faguessiam mòstra de comprenença.
- It was necessary for us to show understanding.
- Voudriáu que nos laissèsson viure en patz.
- I would like for them to leave us in peace.
- Literally: I would like that they let us live in peace.
Combining the subjunctive imperfect with a past participle is called subjunctive pluperfect.
- M'auriáu pas estonat que l'aguèsson vendut.
- It would not have surprised me that they had sold it.
It's useful to be able to talk about where someone or something is. The word onte (ont in front of a vowel) means "where".
- D'onte vènes?
Vène d'un vilatge en Cevenas.
- Where are you from?
I'm from a village in the Cévennes.
- Ont es papet?
Es dins la cosina.
- Ont es papet?
Es en cosina.
- Where is grandpa?
He is in the kitchen.
- Ont anam?
En quauque luòc entre Manòsca e Sisteron.
- Where are we going?
Somewhere between Manosque and Sisteron.
- Onte rèstan?
Rèstan pròche la comuna.
- Onte rèstan?
Rèstan près de la comuna.
- Where do they live?
They live close to the city hall.
In English we talk about things that are "here" (in the same place as the speaker) or "there" (further away). In Provençal we say aicí ("here"), but we have more options when we want to say "there": aquí and ailà both mean "there", but ailà is more distant, similar to the archaic English word "yonder". Ailà can also mean "down there", while adaut means "up there".
If we want to say "around here", "over here", or "over there", as in "somewhere in this/that general area", we use per aicí, per aquí, and per ailà.
- Lo catàs es aicí, au bèu davant de la pòrta.
- The big cat is here, right in front of the door.
- Rèstan per aicí, au mitan de la palun.
- They live around here, in the middle of the swamp.
- Regarde per aicí, en bas deis escaliers.
- I am looking over here, at the bottom of the stairs.
- Quau es aquí, darrier l'ostau?
- Who is there, behind the house?
- Anna es per aquí, de l'autre costat de la carriera.
- Anna is [somewhere] over there, on the other side of the street.
- La veitura es ailà, au bot dau camin.
- The car is over there, at the end of the road.
- Lo dròllon es ailà, au fons dau potz.
- The little boy is down there, at the bottom of the well.
- La princessa es adaut, en aut de la torre.
- The princess is up there, at the top of the tower.
In English we might say "my place", "his place", "Maria's place", "Pierre's", or "the doctor's". In Provençal we use en cò (de) or, when talking about home, a l'ostau.
- Tomàs vai en cò dau vesin.
- Thomas is going to the neighbor's place.
- Anam en cò de Marià dins lo centre de la vila.
- We are going to Maria's place in the center of the city.
- Vau en cò mieu.
- Vau a l'ostau.
- I'm going (back) to my place.
- I'm going home.
It's high time to talk about time.
The word ora can mean "hour", "time", or "o'clock" depending on context. To say "it is one o'clock", we say es una ora, and to say "it is two o'clock" we say son doas oras. Notice the plurality; in English we say "it is" regardless of the time, but not in Provençal.
Of course, two o'clock can mean two different times: AM or PM. To make it clear which you're talking about, in case context doesn't make it clear, say son doas oras de matin ("it is two in the morning", "it is 2 AM") or son doas oras de tantòst ("it is two in the afternoon", "it is 2 PM").
To say "it is a quarter past" and "it is half past", say es una ora un quart ("it is a quarter past one") and son tres oras e mièja ("it is half past three").
When talking about times between "one minute past" and "twenty-nine minutes past", simply add the number: es una ora cinc ("it is five past one o'clock").
However, between "twenty-nine minutes to" and "one minute to", as in "it is ten minutes to five o'clock", you have to subtract instead: Son sièis oras manca dètz (literally "it is six o'clock minus ten.").
- Son onge oras picanta de tantòst.
- It is exactly eleven o'clock in the afternoon.
- Ièr, uei e deman a nòu oras de matin.
- Yesterday, today and tomorrow at nine o'clock in the morning.
- Ai un examen l'endeman deman a miègjorn.
- I have an exam the day after tomorrow at noon.
- Anam a l'escòla l'endeman matin a uech oras.
- We are going to school the morning after at eight o'clock.
- La velha de Nadau a doge manca cinc.
- The day before Christmas at five minutes to twelve o'clock.
- Christmas Eve at five minutes to twelve o'clock.
- Lo revelhon de l'an nòu a mièjanuèch.
- La velha de l'an nòu a mièjanuèch.
- New Year's Eve at midnight.
Provençal is primarily spoken in the south of France where, like in most of Europe, it is common to use the 24-hour clock instead of the 12-hour clock. In the 24-hour clock there is no AM and PM, we simply keep counting past 12, so 1 PM is 13 o'clock and 11 PM is 23 o'clock. When we would reach 24, we roll around to 0 instead, so 12:15 AM in the 12-hour clock is 00:15 in the 24-hour clock.
- Divendres trege a trege oras trege.
- Friday the Thirteenth at 13 minutes past 13 o'clock (1:13 PM).
- Quant es d'ora?
Ja son vint horas e mièja.
- What time is it?
It is already half past twenty o'clock (8:30 PM).
- A quina ora?
- At what time?
^ A trobairitz is a female troubadour, but English has been inconsistent in its adoption of these two words; see the section on dialects and writing systems, in particular the difference between Classical and Mistralian norms. English, for whatever reason, has adopted Mistralian spelling of the masculine but Classical spelling of the feminine.
^ Adessiatz in some dialects.
^ Bòn vèspre is an older term still in use by some speakers.
^ Mossur, Madama, and Misé are the modern, everyday ways to formally address a man, a woman, and a girl or young woman respectively. To formally address a group of people, use messiers and meidamas (for groups of women and girls). The older words sénher, dòna, and madomaisèla or madamisèla are less common these days.
^ Bessai in the Maritime sub-dialect.
^ Chivau ("horse") is a French influence found mostly in the west of Provence while the classical cavau is still favored in the east.
^ Femna ("woman") is found in Rhodanian while the rest of Provence favors frema. The word fema can sometimes be found in between.
^ While enfant can technically refer to any child, in practice it is usually limited to boys. The noun pichòt, which literally means "little (one)", is often used instead, with the feminine pichòta for girls: un pichòt e una pichòta ("a boy and a girl"). Other words such as dròlle/dròlla ("boy/girl") and fiu/filha ("son/daughter") are also in use. Chata ("young girl") is also common in Rhodanian.
^ Cat and cata ("cat") are mostly found in the west of Provence while the classical gat and gata are still favored in the east.
^ The word rat ("rat") is less common than its synonym garri (both masculine). The word rata ("mouse") on the other hand is widely used, perhaps even more common than its synonym fura (both feminine).
^ Canard ("duck"), a French influence, is also used.
^ Some dialects write it aquest or aquesto. You may also see the aqu- dropped: este or est (masculine) and esta (feminine).
^ Or subre.
^ Sometimes written amé (primarily in the west) or emé (primarily in the east), or shortened to 'mé after a vowel.
^ The origin of the term poma d'amor ("tomato", literally "apple of love" or "love apple") is unclear but likely originated in Sicily from whence it spread to the south of France. It may be related to the supposed aphrodisiac properties of tomato seeds, or a corruption of the Italian pomo d'oro ("golden apple", because the first tomatoes arriving in Europe were yellow) or the Spanish poma de moros ("apple of Moors," because the first red varieties came from the Maghreb region of North Africa, the people of which were called Moors by the Europeans of the time). The word tomata exists for the less poetically inclined.
^ Or jus, influenced by French.
^ The phrase mai d'un(a) literally means "more than one". You may also see unei or the older plusors, all of which mean "several".
^ The words chin and china for "dog" are a French influence. The older words can and canha are still found in many dialects.
^ Cada ("every") is invariate, meaning it has only that one form, unlike the synonyms chasque and chasca: cada òme e cada femna but chasque òme e chasca femna ("every man and every woman").
^ The de in pron de ("enough") is sometimes left out.
^ Causa ("thing") is the variant found in Rhodanian. Variants in other dialects include: cauva and cava.
^ Several variants exist of the plural quauqueis unei ("someones"), including: quauqueis un(a)s, quauqu'un(a)s, and quauqu'unei.
^ In some dialects you may see autres and autras instead.
^ Some speakers, influenced by French, have adopted the variant meme, mema, memei, memeis.
^ Luec outside Rhodanian.
^ Quicòm ("something") is found west of the river Rhône. East of the river you'll find quauqua ren.
^ Or promier.
^ You may see the old forms tèrç ("third"), quart ("fourth"), and quint ("fifth") in certain fossilized phrases: lo tèrç estat ("the third estate"), lo tèrç monde ("the third world"), Carles Quint ("Charles the 5th").
^ The numbers 11 to 16 are written onze, dotze, tretze, quatorze, quinze, setze in some parts of Provence. The ordinals change accordingly: onzen, dotzen, etc.
^ The number 80 can also be found in the French-influenced form quatre-vints (ordinal: quatre-vinten), literally "four twenties".
^ The older form aver is still used in many dialects, and the forms avedre and aguedre can be found in places west of the river Rhône. This has no effect on the conjugation, which is the same for all forms of the verb.
^ Or quitarra.
^ Cu in other dialects. In these dialects, quau, quala, qualei(s) is used to mean "which one" while cu is just "which".
^ The forms based on quet are used in Rhodanian. Several different forms exist in other dialects, including: quun(a), quunei(s); quunt(a), quuntei(s); quint(a), quintei(s); and quent(a), quentei(s), or que is used instead. The older forms quin(a), quins or quinei(s) aren't used much in the modern language.
^ The older form, èsser, is still found in some dialects.
^ In the Rhodanian sub-dialect, the third-person singular present of èstre can be either es (as in other dialects) or ei. However, from what I can tell the former is more common.
^ The word non is sometimes used in older texts instead of pas. While it is no longer used this way in the modern language, it is sometimes used together with pas as a double negative for added emphasis: L'òme non vòu pas lo pòrc ("The man really doesn't want the pig") and Non pas! ("No, really!")
^ Some, especially in the south-east, drop the -i from the third-person singular: va.
^ Or prendre, which honestly makes more sense, since no other verb (as far as I can tell) ends in -e rather than -re. But languages and dialects often evolve funny little quirks.
^ The first-person ending is -e in the Rhodanian sub-dialect, -i in Maritime, and -o in the Alpine dialect. This affects: present tense (all 3 groups), past imperfect (group 1), preterite (all 3 groups), and subjunctive mood (all 3 groups).
^ The Rhodanian sub-dialect has conserved the extended stem in many verbs where the rest of Provençal has dropped it.
^ Some dialects use -(iss)e. This applies to both extended- and single-stemmed verbs, as well as verbs in group 3.
^ The older form saber is less common nowadays. The form saupre is mostly found in the east around Nice.
^ The variant voguer is mostly used outside of the Rhodanian sub-dialect.
^ The three singular forms of sacher also have short variants: sa, sai, sao (1st person), sas (2nd person), and sap (3rd person). These are more common in the Maritime sub-dialect.
^ In the Maritime sub-dialect, the first two direct object pronouns are mi, ti (m', t'), and the first two plural pronouns (nos, vos) may be shortened in front of a vowel (n', v') just like the singular pronouns.
^ Most parts of the Rhodanian and Niçard sub-dialects "confuse" the neutral pronoun with the third-person masculine direct object pronoun (lo). However, some parts of Provence use a dedicated neutral pronoun o (east-Rhodanian and the Alpine dialect) or va (Maritime, vò in the imperative where it follows the verb).
^ The third-person indirect object pronoun i (pronounced [je] and sometimes written ié to highlight this, and to distinguish it from the adverbial pronoun i) is used in the Rhodanian sub-dialect. In the rest of Provence this pronoun is li. The older plural pronoun lor is still found in a few dialects, notably the Alpine dialect.
^ The older first-person plural reflexive pronoun nos is often replaced in the modern language by se. In the Maritime sub-dialect, the reflexive pronouns are mi, ti, si, vos (m', t', s', v').
^ Some speakers use only one or the other form, and some distinquish between masculine nautres, vautres and feminine nautras, vautras. In this case, the feminine forms are used for groups composed entirely of women, girls, females, and/or feminine nouns while the masculine is used for any other group.
- Nautres siam enfants.
- We are children.
- Vautres siatz dròlles e vautras siatz dròllas.
- You are boys and you are girls.
^ Ce in some dialects.
^ The first- and second-person plural possessive adjectives often but somewhat irregularly drop the r: nòste, nòsta, nòstei(s), vòste, etc.
^ The classic third-person plural possessive adjectives lor ("their", replaced by son, sa in most modern dialects) and lors ("their", replaced by sei(s) in most modern dialects) are still found here and there, notably in the Alpine dialect.
^ When used as an adjective in front of a noun, the singular feminine pronouns may be replaced by the masculine except for the article (la mieu, la tieu, la sieu), and the plurals may use the ending -ei(s) (except meius, tieus, sieus): lei tieuneis, lei vòstreis, etc.
^ The classical form poder is still in use in many places. The variant posquer is mostly used outside of the Rhodanian sub-dialect.
^ Caler (cau) in the east and chaler (chau) in the Alpine dialect.
^ The extended stems in the preterite tense are preserved as described in the Rhodanian sub-dialect. In other dialects, only extended-stem verbs in group 2 receive an extended stem in the preterite, which is the same (-iss-) as for other tenses, and verbs in group 3 do not receive an extended stem at all.
^ The older preterite stems of èstre are fogu- instead of sigu-. Some speakers of the Rhodanian sub-dialect use the stem fugu-.
^ The Maritime and Nice sub-dialects favor the forms serai, seràs, etc.
^ The Maritime and Nice sub-dialects favor the forms seriáu, seriás, etc.
^ Other dialects favor the forms si(e)gues, siguem, siguetz. In the Var department and the southern Alpine dialect, the forms sieches, siechem, siechetz can be found.
^ Anes pas! in some dialects.
^ Avent in some dialects.
^ Essent in some dialects.
^ The old forms beginning in fogu- are still found in some dialects. A rarer form beginning in fugu- can be found here and there in Rhodanian.
^ No extended stem in other dialects.
^ No extended stem in other dialects.