Bulgarian nouns have the categories grammatical gender, number, case (only vocative) and definiteness. A noun has one of three specific grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and two numbers (singular and plural), With cardinal numbers and some adverbs, masculine nouns use a separate count form. Definiteness is expressed by a definite article which is postfixed to the noun.
Nouns can be formed from other words by means of suffixes. Some important suffixes that are used to form nouns are:
In Bulgarian nouns have three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. The gender is an inherent characteristic of every noun. This means that each noun is masculine, feminine or neuter. Only nouns referring to people or animals can change their gender. In most cases the gender of the noun can be determined according to its ending, but there aren't any strict rules. Masculines are all the nouns which refer to male people or animals, and many more.
|Masculine||a consonant (most of the nouns)||мъж, град, брат|
|a vowel (in some special cases)||а (when the noun refers to a male person)||баща, войвода|
|я (when the noun refers to a male person)||съдия, бояджия|
|о (when the noun refers to a male person)||татко, дядо, чичо|
|е (when the noun refers to a male person)||аташе|
|и (the names of most months)||януари, февруари, юни, юли, септември, октомври, ноември, декември|
|Feminine||a vowel (most of the nouns)||а||жена, вода, родина|
|я||земя, стая, идея|
|a consonant – usually ending in –ст and –щ, but also others||страст (passion), пропаст (ravine), съвест (conscience), младост (youth), доблест (valour); нощ (night), пещ (furnace), помощ (help), свещ (candle); цев (gun barrel), скръб (sorrow), гибел (doom), цел (aim), вечер (evening), пролет (spring), смърт (death), любов (love)|
|Neuter||always a vowel||о||село, дърво|
|и, у, ю (loanwords)||такси, бижу, меню|
Nouns referring to people or animals can change their gender (from masculine to feminine) by adding the suffixes: -ка, -ица, -а, -иня:
The gender of nouns that have no singular form can't be determined: финанси, очила, обуща.
Some nouns have changed gender with time, for example the feminine vecher (evening — it retains its masculine character in the phrase dobur vecher - good evening), or var (lime). Some words, in spoken Bulgarian at least, can take either gender, e.g. domat/domata (tomato — masc/fem) or sandal/sandala (sandal); some can take either gender with slight variations in meaning, e.g. gaz (gas) or prah (dust); while others, usually for etymological reasons, can have completely different meanings – e.g. med means "honey" in the masculine, and "copper" in the feminine, or prust, meaning finger (masc), or soil (fem).
A noun has singular (единствено) and plural (множествено) number (число). Unlike in English, where almost all nouns add -s in the plural, in Bulgarian there are many endings and despite of the rules listed below one cannot be absolutely sure which ending to use with which noun. Besides, when forming the plural some nouns alter additionally. That is why a noun should always be learnt together with its plural form. Generally if the noun ends in a vowel, it is removed before adding the plural suffix. Sometimes the stress changes position.
|A change from the velar consonants к, г, х, which are exactly before the ending -и, to ц, з, с respectively This change does not occur with loanwords ending in -нг (-ng)||езѝк—езѝци, по̀длог—по̀длози, кожу̀х—кожу̀си; loanwords: мѝтинг—мѝтинги (meeting), ло̀зунг—ло̀зунги (Losung)|
|Losing the sound е in the final part of the word||чужденѐц—чужденцѝ|
|Losing the sound ъ in the final part of the word. This happens almost always and not only when adding и||теа̀тър—теа̀три; exception: пода̀рък—пода̀ръци|
|Losing the sound е in the final part of the word and inserting ъ before л, or р||беглѐц—бегълцѝ|
|Losing the suffix -ин||бъ̀лгарин—бъ̀лгари|
|A change from е (when it is after a vowel) to й||боѐц—бойцѝ|
|A combination of the above alterations, for example losing the sound ъ in the final part of the word and a change from к to ц||мо̀мък—момци|
|A change of the stress position||грàд—градовè, стòл—столòве|
|A change from я to е (apophony)||бряг—бреговè|
|Metathesis of ъ in the letter group ръ||връх—върховè|
|Palatalization of the preceding consonant, indicated by the letter ь||зет—зèтьове|
|A combination of the above alterations||вятър—ветровè (a change from я to е, and losing ъ in the final part of the word), огън—огньòве (palatalization of the preceding consonant and losing ъ in the final part of the word)|
(most monosyllabic nouns ending in й)
|брой - броевè||—||—|
(only a few nouns)
|The stress always falls on the last syllable||крàл—кралè, княз—князè, цàр—царè|
(only a few nouns)
|The stress always falls on the last syllable||лист—листà|
|Losing the suffix -ин||господин—господà|
(only one noun)
(only a few nouns)
(some diminutives formed with the suffix -ец)
(nouns referring to people)
(almost all nouns)
|A change from я to е (apophony)||вяра—вери|
|Losing е and ъ in the final part of the word||песен—песни, мисъл—мисли|
|Metathesis of ъ in the letter group ръ||кръв—кърви|
(only the following nouns)
|A change from the velar consonants к and г to ц and з respectively||ръка—ръце, нога—нозе|
(nouns, ending in -о, -це, -щe)
|A change of the stress position||сèло—селà|
|A change from я to е (apophony)||тя̀ло—телà|
(nouns ending in -ле, -е, -че, and loanwords ending in -у, -ю, -и)
(nouns ending in -ие and a few more)
|A change of the stress position||цвèте—цветя̀, ло̀зе—лозя̀|
(only a few nouns ending in -ме)
|The stress always falls on the last syllable||зна̀ме—знамена̀, плѐме—племена̀|
(very few nouns)
|A change of the final о into е||чу̀до—чудеса̀|
|The stress always falls on the last syllable||небѐ—небеса̀|
(not a large amount of nouns, ending in -о)
|A change from the velar consonants к and х to ч and ш respectively||око̀—очѝ, ухо̀-ушѝ|
Masculine nouns which end in a consonant have another plural form, besides their usual one. This form is called count form or numerical form (бройна форма — broyna forma), and is used only after cardinal numbers and the adverbs колко (how many), толкова (this/that/so many), няколко (several/a few/some): пет / колко / толкова / няколко молива versus тези моливи. An exception to this occurs in some exclamations following колко, when the ordinary plural is used and the inferred meaning is "what a large amount of!": e.g. колко коня? (kolko konya? "how many horses?" - numeric plural), but колко коне! (kolko kone! – ordinary plural, implying "look at all those horses!").
The count form is formed with the endings -а and -я, and unlike the usual plural form without any additional changes (no losing of the sounds -ъ and -е, no change of consonants, etc.), except for stress moving (it never falls on the last syllable so if it is on the last syllable in the singular, it will move on the penultimate in the count form), and metathesis of ъ in the letter group ръ.
There are also a handful of neuter nouns for parts of the body which also take a count form – ramo (shoulder) → ramene / 2 ramena; kolyano (knee) → kolene / 2 kolena.
|Count form endings|
(nouns ending in й, тел, ар, and a few more)
* Some nouns have different count forms according to their meaning. When "литър" (litre) and "метър" (metre) mean measures of volume and length, their count form is "литра" and "метра" respectively. But when "метър" means "meter" (a device that measures and records the amount of electricity, gas, water, etc.) its count form is "метъра". The case is the same with "път": път ("road") - пътя and път ("time", "occasion", "instance") - пъти. The nouns "литър" and "метър" are the only ones that lose the "ъ" in their count forms.
** The usual plural form of the noun "ден" (day) is "дни" and its count form is "дена". "Дни" can be used instead of "дена", but not vice versa. The combinations of words два дни and два дена are both correct, but the sentence Зимните дена са студени (Winter days are cold) is incorrect. The usual form must be used, not the count one - Зимните дни са студени.
The count form is avoided with nouns denoting persons and in such cases the usual plural form is much more preferred (колко ученици - how many students, осем ученици — eight students).
The usual form is also used after masculine numbers (in Bulgarian some cardinal numbers have gender), ending in -ма (these forms of the numbers are used only with male persons, not with other masculine nouns denoting inanimate objects) - двама ученици (two students), петима ученици (five students).
Some nouns have irregular plural forms:
Some neuter nouns have two or more plural forms (most of them with no difference in meaning). For example: кълбо — кълба and кълбета, крило — крила and криле, рамо — рамена and рамене, коляно — колена and колене, море — морета and моря, дърво — дървета, дърва and дървеса, четене — четения and четенета. Some plural forms refer to different meanings: дърва - fuel wood, дървета - trees, some are used in specific contexts: the variants моря (from море), поля (from поле) are found only in the poetry.
In Bulgarian there are some nouns that are only in the singular, they are uncountable. Such nouns are some abstract words (материализъм - materialism, сигурност - security, любов — love), some collective words (студентство - students), chemical elements and some other substances (водород - hydrogen, въглерод - carbon, грис - semolina, ориз - rice, etc.). There are also words which have only plural forms. These are nouns referring to objects, composed of two identical parts (очила - glasses, ножици - scissors), and some concepts and objects, consisting of many elements (въглища - coal, финанси - finances, пари - money).
In Bulgarian nouns have the grammatical category definiteness (определеност). The morphological indicator of definiteness is the presence of a special morpheme, called definite article (определителен член). The definite article is placed after the noun and is written together with it. The using of the definite article in Bulgarian is called членуване.
|Gender and number||Article||Examples||Additional alterations||Examples|
(most nouns ending in a consonant)
|A change of the stress position (most monosyllabic nouns)||гра̀д—градъ̀т/града̀
|A change from я to е (regular apophony)||бря̀г—брегъ̀т/брега̀
|Metathesis of ъ in the letter group ръ||връ̀х—върхъ̀т/върха̀
|Losing the sound ъ in the suffix -зъм. This happens always.||ентусиа̀зъм—ентусиа̀змът/ентусиа̀зма
(nouns ending in -й, -тел, -ар and a few more)
(all nouns ending in -а or -я)
(all nouns ending in -о)
|A change of the stress position (nouns ending in a consonant)||любо̀в—любовта̀
|A change from я to е (regular apophony)||зря̀лост—зрелостта̀
(all three genders)
(all nouns ending in -е or -и, regardless of their gender)
(all nouns ending in -а or -я, regardless of their gender)
*Nouns that end in a consonant and are masculine use –ът/–ят ("full article"-"пълен член"), when they are grammatical subjects, and –а/–я ("short article"-"кратък член"), when they are grammatical objects. This rule is observed only in writing. In speech, there is no distinction between the full and the short article, and the short form is normally used in all cases.
There is an additional discrepancy between pronunciation and spelling when the stress of some monosyllabic masculine nouns falls on the definite articles -а or -ят/я.
|Discrepancy between spelling and pronunciation|
In Bulgarian masculine and feminine nouns have two cases (падежи) Nominative (Именителен падеж) and Vocative (Звателен падеж). The vocative is used when addressing a person or a thing, in all other cases the nominative is used. Theoretically, all masculine and feminine nouns can be declined in the vocative but vocative forms are used mainly with personal names and with nouns denoting people.
|Vocative case endings|
most nouns ending in a consonant
|Losing the sound ъ in the final part of the word||Пѐтър—Пѐтре
|A change from the consonants г or з, which are exactly before the ending, to ж, or from к to ч||Бо̀г—Бо̀же
|Replacement of the ending -ец with ч||отѐц—о̀тче
all nouns ending in -к, -ч, -ц (with a few exceptions) and in -ин (except господин) and a few more
|Losing the sound ъ in the final part of the word||мо̀мък—мо̀мко|
|Metathesis of ъ in the letter group ръ||гръ̀к—гъ̀рко|
|Palatalization of the consonant preceding the ending, indicated by the letter ь||зѐт—зѐтьо|
all nouns ending in -тел, - ар, -й and a few more
|A change of the stress position||ца̀р-царю̀|
only one noun
most nouns ending in -а
|A change of the stress position||сестра̀—сѐстро|
nouns ending in a vowel + я
nouns ending in a consonant + я
|лѐля—лѐльо||A change of the stress position||земя̀—зѐмьо|
all nouns ending in -ца, most nouns ending in -чка and рка, and all personal names ending in -ка
*Most common nouns ending in -ка can be found both with the ending о and е (другарко/другарке, тъпачко/тъпачке). One of the forms is considered colloquial, but there aren't any strict rules which one. For example: the form другарко is found more often than другарке, but директорко (instead of директорке) sounds very odd. Generally, the form with о is ruder.
Feminine nouns which end in a consonant do not have vocative forms.
There is a difference in usage between vocative forms of common nouns and proper nouns. The former are used always, when addressing someone, and the use of nominative forms instead is immediately perceived as a gross error:
|Как сте, професор?||Как сте, професоре?||How are you, professor?|
|Пощадете живота ми, цар!||Пощадете живота ми, царю!||Spare my life, king!|
|Здравей, баба!||Здравей, бабо!||Hello, grandmother!|
The latter, however, are considered informal, and are used less frequently, especially the vocative forms of female personal names ending in -о, which are even considered by some to be rude or rustic (Елено, Богдано). Nevertheless, nominative forms (especially the male ones) sound too formal, even snobbish, and are used rarely by native speakers. Instead, diminutives (Еленче, Богданче) or short forms (Ели, Боби) are preferred. Diminutives are used usually by elder people, when addressing younger ones.
Male vocative forms and female ones ending in е are used regularly and their substitution with nominative forms is also considered a gross error (or the speaker may sound too snobbish).
There is difference between the vocative form of both male and female short name forms and their other, non-vocative form (the form that is used in all other cases). The latter takes the definite article -та or -то, depending on the ending:
|Name||Short form||Vocative form||Non-vocative form|
|Павел||Павка||Павка, ела тук! (Pavka, come here!)||Дадох книгата на Павката (I gave the book to Pavkata.)|
|Веселина||Веси||Веси, ще ми помогнеш ли? (Vesi, will you help me?)||Весито ми помогна. (Vesito helped me.)|