Slovenian is a Slavic language and may be easier for speakers of other Slavic languages to master than for non-Slavic speakers. For instance, it has quite an extensive system of inflections that can sometimes cause confusion. However, with a little patience and enough practice, you will be able to master this beautiful language. In this article, we will take a look at the main features of Slovenian grammar, to give you an understanding of its general system. Furthermore we’ll point out some of the trickier points that would need extra attention when learning.
Nouns in Slovenian are marked for case and number. There are 6 cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, locative, and instrumental) and 3 numbers (singular, dual, and plural).
Slovenian nouns are divided into 3 genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). Each gender has different declension patterns, for a total of 10 declension forms.
In addition to gender, there is a distinction between animate and inanimate nouns, although this is only relevant for masculine nouns and only in the singular.
The gender of a noun can usually be determined from the final vowel in the nominative singular:
- Masculine nouns typically end in a consonant, although a few end in a vowel
- Feminine nouns usually end in -a; these are the “a-stem” nouns. A number of feminine nouns end in a consonant; these are “i-stem” and “v-stem” nouns
- Neuter nouns end in -o or -e
Adjectives may occasionally be used as nouns. They are declined as the original adjective.
There are no articles in Slovenian.
Adjective declension is simpler than noun declension, as there is only one set of endings. The endings can be split into three groups of cases:
- The nominative and accusative, which are like the o-stems of masculine and neuter nouns, and the a-stems of feminine nouns
- The other feminine singular cases, which also follow the a-stems of nouns
- The remaining cases, which have endings unique to adjectives. These are the same for all three genders in the dual and plural
Slovene adjectives have both comparative and superlative forms. For many adjectives, these are formed periphrastically, using the adverbs bȍlj “more” and nȁjbolj/nȃjbolj “most”. For some adjectives, especially more basic or old ones, the comparative and superlative are formed with affixes.
Adjectives in Slovene distinguish between indefinite and definite meanings. They correspond in meaning to the distinction between the English indefinite article a, referring to an unknown thing, and the definite article the, referring to a known thing. The definite form is also used in fixed noun phrases where the combination of adjective and noun are to be understood as a single concept.
The adverb in Slovene is always the same as the singular neuter form of any given adjective if derived from an adjective.
lepo (nice; neuter adjective) — Govorili so lepo. (They spoke nicely.)
Other types of adverbs are derived from nouns (doma – at home, jeseni – in autumn), prepositional constructions (naglas – aloud, pozimi – in winter), verbs (nevede – unknowingly, skrivoma – secretly) or numerals.
In Slovenian there are personal (jaz, jim), reflexive (si), interrogative (kaj, komu), relative (kdor, kar), negative (nikogar), universal (vsemu), and indefinite (nekoga, nekaj) pronouns.
Pronouns generally inflect like adjectives, although many do not have a definite form in the masculine nominative singular. Some pronouns are irregular.
In Slovenian, the verbs are conjugated for 3 persons and 3 numbers (singular, dual, and plural). There are 4 tenses (present, past, pluperfect, and future), 3 moods (indicative, imperative, and conditional) and 2 voices (active and passive).
Verbs also have 4 participles and 2 verbal nouns (infinitive and supine). Not all combinations of the above are possible for every case.
As in all Slavic languages, Slovene verbs are classified based on their aspect: perfective verbs, which represent a completed action and imperfective verbs, which represent an ongoing action.
Each verb is either perfective or imperfective, and most verbs occur in pairs to express the same meaning with different aspects. For example, the concept of jumping expressed in the 2 different aspects is skákati, which has an imperfective aspect and can roughly be translated as to be jumping (continuously), and skočíti, which has a perfective aspect and can roughly be translated as to jump (once).
In Slovenian, each preposition has an assigned case. If an inflectable word follows a preposition, the word is declined in the same case as the preposition’s assigned case.
Some of the common Slovenian prepositions are: o, nad, po, pred, za, iz, v, na, od, kot, do, pod.
This is a very brief overview of Slovenian grammar. To truly master it, you will need to study each of the parts of speech in much more detail. However, this overview will hopefully give you a general idea of the Slovenian grammatical system and of the main points you should consider when learning.