Slovene grammar

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The following is an overview of the grammar of the Slovene language.

Common phonological changes[edit]

As in most other Slavic languages, changes to consonants and vowels often occur between related forms of words. Most of these can be traced back to changes that occurred in the ancestral Proto-Slavic language. Over time, many of the original changes have been reversed or levelled out.

Consonant alternations[edit]

  • The Slavic first palatalization causes alternations in the consonants k, g and h. It occurs in the present tense of consonant stem verbs, and when certain suffixes (often beginning with e or i) are attached to words.
  • The Slavic second palatalization affects the same consonants, but has different results, and occurs most notably in the imperative form of consonant stem verbs.
  • Iotation is the effect that the consonant j has on a preceding consonant. It may merge with the preceding consonant, causing effects similar to the first palatalization, or it may cause other changes. However, not all instances of j have this effect. This change happens in the present forms of certain verbs in -ati.

The following table gives an overview of the above changes:

Normal b p v m d t s z g k h
First palatalization b p v m d t s z ž č š
Second palatalization b p v m d t s z z c s
Iotation blj plj vlj mlj j č š ž ž č š

These changes are very similar to those found in the related Serbo-Croatian language, but in iotation, Slovene j corresponding to Serbo-Croatian đ, and č with ć.

Hard and soft stems[edit]

Word stems that end in c, č, š, ž or j are called "soft" stems, while the remainder is "hard". When endings begin with -o-, this vowel usually becomes -e- after a soft stem; this is called "preglas" in Slovene. This happens in many noun and adjective declensions, and also in some verbs. For example, the instrumental singular form of korak "step" is korakom, while for stric "uncle" it is stricem.

There are also some instances where the vowel stays as o, such as the accusative singular of feminine nouns. These instances can be traced back to an earlier nasal vowel ǫ in Proto-Slavic, which did not undergo this change.

Fill vowel[edit]

When certain hard-to-pronounce consonant clusters occur word-finally, an additional fill vowel is inserted before the last consonant(s) of the word to break up the cluster. This typically happens where there is no ending, like in the nominative singular, or the genitive dual and plural. The fill vowel is usually a schwa (/ə/, spelled e). For example, the noun igra "game" has the genitive plural form iger, not igr.

If the last consonant is j, then i is used as the fill vowel instead. For example, ladja "boat" has the genitive plural ladij. However, if the stem ends in lj, nj or rj, then the fill vowel is the normal e and is inserted before both consonants. The noun ogenj "fire", for example, loses the fill vowel in the genitive singular form ognja.

There are a few cases where the fill vowel is instead a stressed a. These are irregular and must simply be memorized. An example is ovca "sheep", which is ovac in the genitive plural, not ovec.


In Slovenian, nouns 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 giving a total of 10 declension forms.


The adjective expresses three main ideas: quality (qualitative adjectives, kakovostni pridevniki), relation (relational adjectives, vrstni pridevniki) and possession (possessive adjectives, svojilni pridevniki).

Adjectives in Slovenian can serve in three syntactical functions: left attributes (levi prilastek), predicate articles (povedkovo določilo) and predicate attributes (povedkov prilastek).

  • Left attribute: Kakšno pričesko želiš? (What kind of haircut would you like?)
– Želim modno pričesko. (I would like a fashionable haircut.)
  • Predicate article: Kakšna je pričeska? (What is the haircut like?)
– Pričeska je modna. (The haircut is fashionable.)
  • Predicate attribute: Kakšna se je naredila pričeska? (What kind of haircut has been made?)
– Pričeska je bila narejena lepo. (The haircut has been made beautiful.)

The majority of adjectives are of the first kind. These express any qualities and properties of personal and impersonal nouns. Such adjectives are gradable either in the two- or three-step comparison, depending if they are relative to another, opposite adjective (three-step) or not (two-step or three-step). (lep - grd (beautiful - ugly) vs bolan (ill)).

Relational adjectives express type, class or numerical sequence of a noun. For instance: kemijska in fizikalna sprememba (chemical and physical change), fotografski aparat (photographic device (=camera)).

Possessive pronouns define possession, ownership or belonging. For example: barvin sijaj (the colour's shine), Karmenina torbica (Karmen's handbag), delavska halja (workers' overall).

Some adjectives expressing properties next to masculine nouns imply definiteness ('relation') or indefiniteness ('quality') of nouns.
For an exactly defined noun or a specific type thereof:

  • the adjective in nominative singular has the ending -ni or -i
  • the question word is Kateri? (Which? (in German Welcher?))

For nouns which are not exactly defined, either being mentioned for the first time or generic:

  • the adjective in nominative singular has the ending -en or - (no ending)
  • the question word is Kakšen? (What sort of? (in German Was für ein?))

Adjectives ending in -i and all possessive pronouns do not have special indefinite forms. There are two special adjectives which have special definite and indefinite forms for all genders and all cases, namely majhen (small) and velik (big) (the definite forms are mali and veliki respectively).


  • Stari učitelj je to dejal. (The old teacher said this.) – the implication here is that there is at least one other teacher who is not old
  • Star učitelj je to dejal. (An old teacher said this.)

The adjective matches the subject or the predicate article to which it is ascribed. If it describes two singular nouns or one dual noun, the adjective should be in the dual. If it describes a plural or one singular and one non-singular noun, the adjective should be in the plural. Although gender should match the group, sometimes the gender of the adjacent noun is used with the appropriate grammatical number. For declension patterns of adjectives, see the section on nouns (the fourth declension is always adjectival). Some adjectives, however, are never declined, for example bež (beige), poceni (cheap), roza (pink), super (super), seksi (sexy), and some other loanwords.

  • Mesto in vas sta bila proti predlogu občine. (The city and the village were against the suggestion of the municipality.)
  • Mesto in vas sta bili proti predlogu občine. (the same, but somewhat unusual and seldom heard)
  • Ti in tvoji sestri boste precej odšli! (You (masculine, since the verb is in masculine) and your two sisters shall leave forthwith.)

Possessive adjectives for masculine and neuter possessed nouns add -ov (or -ev if the possessive noun ends in c, č, ž, š and j ("preglas")) to the possessive noun. Feminine possessed nouns always take -in. Possessive nouns can include proper names, in which case they are written capitalised.

Negative adjectives are formed by prefixing the negative ne-, which is almost always a proper form, even though sometimes a Latin prefix is an alternative.

  • lep -> nelep (beautiful, not beautiful (but not ugly (grd))
  • reverzibilen -> nereverzibilen (reversible, irreversible)
  • moralen -> nemoralen (moral, immoral) (note that 'amoral' in English has a different meaning)
  • legitimen -> nelegitimen (legitimate, illegitimate)


The comparative is formed by adding the ending -ši (-ša, -še), -ejši (-ejša, -ejše) or -ji (-ja, -je) to an adjective, or using the word bolj (more) in front of an adjective in case of stressing, and also when the adjective in question cannot be formed by adding an ending, such as when dealing with colours, or when the adjective ends in such a sound that it would be difficult to add the appropriate ending.

For instance:

  • lep - lepši (beautiful - more beautiful)
  • trd - trši (hard - harder) (-d- falls out)
  • zelen - bolj zelen (green - greener)
  • zanimiv - zanimivejši (interesting - more interesting)
  • transparenten - transparentnejši (transparent - more transparent) (-e- falls out)
  • globok - globlji (deep - deeper) (notice the added -l-, -o- and -k- fall out)
  • otročji - bolj otročji (childish - more childish)


The superlative is formed by prepending the word naj directly in front of the comparative, whether it comprises one or two words.

  • lep - lepši - najlepši
  • trd - trši - najtrši
  • zelen - bolj zelen - najbolj zelen
  • zanimiv - zanimivejši - najzanimivejši (but najbolj zanimiv is more common)
  • transparenten - transparentnejši - najtransparentnejši
  • globok - globlji - najgloblji
  • otročji - bolj otročji - najbolj otročji'


Main article: Slovene verbs

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.


A gerund is a noun formed from a verb, designating an action or a state. The standard substantive in Slovenian ends in -anje or -enje:

  • usklajevati -> usklajevanje (to harmonise -> harmonising)
  • pisati -> pisanje (to write -> writing)
  • goreti -> gorenje (to burn -> burning)
  • saditi -> sajenje (to plant (into soil, as in potatoes (krompir), maize (koruza) or flowers (rože)) -> planting)
  • sejati -> sejanje (to plant (by throwing seeds into the air, as in most any cereal (žito), such as buckwheat (ajda), wheat (pšenica), rice (riž) (but also 'saditi riž'), millet (proso), etc.) -> planting)

For example:

  • Pisanje ni naravno: potrebno se ga je priučiti. (Writing is not natural: it must be learnt.)
  • Ob visokih temperaturah gašenje ognja ni enostavno. (At high temperatures, putting out a fire is not trivial.)
  • Brenčanje mrčesa me spravlja ob živce! (The buzzing of insects is driving me crazy!)


Main article: Slovene numerals


The adverb in Slovene is always the same as the singular neuter form of any given adjective if derived from an adjective.

  1. "Dan je bil lep." (The day was nice.) - masculine adjective
  2. "Bilo je lepo." (It was nice.) - neuter adjective

—> "Imeli smo se lepo." (literally, "We had ourselves nicely.", the meaning is 'We had a nice time.')

—> "Govorili so lepo." (They spoke nicely.)

Other types of adverb are derived from nouns (doma (at home), jeseni (in autumn)), prepositional constructions (naglas (aloud), pozimi (in winter), potem (then)), verbs (nevede (unknowingly), skrivoma (secretly), mimogrede (by the way)) or numerals (see adverbial numeral).

In essence, there are four main types of adverb: adverbs of time (danes (today), večno (perpetually)), adverbs of place (domov (towards home, homewards)), adverbs of manner (grdo (uglily), povsem (entirely)) and adverbs of cause and reason (nalašč (on purpose)).

Adverbs are, much like adjectives, normally gradable.

  • To je storil natančno. (This he did carefully.)
    • Naslednjič pa še natančneje. (The next time, however, more carefully still.)


Main article: Slovene pronouns


An interjection is ordinarily an uninflected word expressing mental states, encouragement towards actions, greetings or mocking of sounds and voices.

  • Uf, končno smo na vrhu. (Phew, we're finally at the top.)
  • Uf, povsem mi je ušlo iz spomina. (Gosh, that has slipped my mind completely.)
  • Petelin zapoje kikiriki. (A cock sings cock-a-doodle-doo.)
  • Mojbog, kaj še vedno klamfaš neumnosti? (My god, are you still talking nonsense?)
  • Čira čara, in zajec bo izginil. (Hocus-pocus, and the rabbit will disappear.)
  • Torej, kaj porečeš na to? (So, what do you say to this?)
  • Brr, kako mraz je. (Brr, it's so cold.)
  • Oj (or Hej), ti človek tam zadaj: kako ti je ime? (Hey, you person back there: What's your name?)
  • O ne, tako pa se ne govori z menoj. (Oh no, this is not how one speaks to me.)
  • No, pa adijo! (Well, then goodbye!)
  • Ne bev ne mev niso rekli. (They didn't say anything.)
  • Šššš: bo že bolje. (Shhh, it will get better.)

Interjections may be inflected; however, in spite of the words' being the same, such use calls for a different word class (part of speech), this most frequently being nouns.

  • "Ufov in ojojev se izogibajte, kajti bolnik je zelo ubog revež s to obrazno hibo." (Steer clear of 'uf's and 'ojoj's, because the patient suffers a lot with this facial deformity.)

Slovene syntax[edit]

Case use[edit]

The nominative case defines a subject of a sentence; all other cases define an object as either direct or indirect.

Case Slovene (semi) English
Nominative Moj stol je v sobi My chair is in the room
Genitive Mojega stola ni v sobi My chair is not in the room
Genitive Košček papirja mi je ostal v dlani A piece of paper remained in my palm
Genitive Tipkovnica računalnika je vhodna enota A computer’s keyboard is an input device
Dative Beraču je dal denar He gave money to a beggar
Accusative Vidim zvezde I see the stars
Locative Mnogo je rečenega o novem sodniku A lot is being said about the new judge
Instrumental Na sprehod grem s svojim psom I am going for a walk with my dog

Use of number[edit]

There are four types of inflexion related to the grammatical number in Slovene. The future tense shall be used to demonstrate its usage. The future tense is formed with the verb to be in the future tense plus the l-participle of the full lexical verb. For example, a table of the English expression "I will see" ("Jaz bom videl") when including gender for he ("on") and she ("ona") without it ("ono") can be written as:

Singular Dual (semi) Plural
I will see We (both/two) will see We (all) will see
You will see You (both/two) will see You (all) will see
He/She will see They (both/two) will see They (all) will see

can be translated into Slovene as:

Singular with M/F gender Dual with M/F gender Plural with M/F gender
Jaz bom videl/Jaz bom videla Midva bova videla/Midve bova videli Mi bomo videli/Me bomo videle
Ti boš videl/Ti boš videla Vidva bosta videla/Vidve bosta videli Vi boste videli/Ve boste videle
On bo videl/Ona bo videla Ona (or onadva) bosta videla/Oni (or onidve) bosta videli Oni bodo videli/One bodo videle

Not only does Slovene have singular and plural, but it also has the rare dual grammatical number, or a separate form of every noun used when there are only two such items (except for natural pairs, such as trousers, eyes, for which plural is used). Dual grammatical number, when an ambiguity between dual and plural forms exists, can be rendered into other languages in various ways; comparatively often, there is no ambiguity and the dual is extraneous. (This explains the relatively early disappearance of the dual in most languages). Dual grammatical number was a feature of the Proto-Slavic language which has been retained by Slovene. An example of dual grammatical number would be "onadva sta" ("The two are") which refers to two objects or subjects in the masculine gender or "onidve sta" ("The two are") which refers to the same concept, but in the feminine gender. However "oni so" ("They are ") refers to more than two objects or subjects in the masculine gender while "one so" ("They are") does the same the feminine gender. Dual grammatical number is also preserved in gender. The dual is used consistently in Slovene.

Bil je lep jesenski dan. Odšla sva v park. Usedla sva se na klopco in se pogovarjala. Lepo nama je bilo.
It was a nice autumn day. We (the two of us) went to the park. We (the two of us still) sat down on a bench and talked. We had a nice time.
Bil je lep jesenski dan. Odšli smo v park. Usedli smo se na klopco in se pogovarjali. Lepo nam je bilo.
It was a nice autumn day. We went to the park. We sat down on a bench and talked. We had a nice time.

The first phrase sounds much more romantic and intimate to a Slovene, a style that is impossible to translate into English with its lack of dual grammatical number.



In a sentence, there can only be four types of constituent, the order of which is seldom crucial:

subject (osebek) + predicate (povedek) + object (predmet) + adverbial phrase (prislovno določilo).

By changing the order, the stressed part changes. It may also serve to create poetic sentiment, for inversion is common in poetry.

Free sentence[edit]

Včeraj sem šel domov. (I went home yesterday.) (or: Yesterday I went home.)
Danes prihajam domov. (I am coming home today.)
Jutri bom šel od doma. (I'll leave home tomorrow.)

Compound sentence[edit]

Res me veseli, da si prišel. (I am really glad you came.)
Da – tako je bilo, kakor praviš! (Yes – it was as you say!)

Incomplete sentence[edit]

This is a sentence which does not have a predicate.

Rana ura, zlata ura. (Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; The early bird catches the worm (literally Early hour, golden hour))

Inserted sentence[edit]

V tistih časih – bil sem še mlad in sem od sveta veliko pričakoval – sem lepega večera srečal starega berača in ... (In those times – I was still young and I expected a lot from the world – I met an old beggar one fair evening and ...)

Accompanying sentence and direct speech[edit]

"Dobro jutro," je rekla Lojza. ("Good morning," said Aloysine.)
Lojza je rekla: "Dobro jutro." (Aloysine said, "Good morning.")
– Dobro jutro. ("Good morning.")

See also the section on inverted commas.


Main article: Slovene punctuation

Punctuation marks are one or two part graphical marks used in writing, denoting tonal progress, pauses, sentence type (syntactic use), abbreviations, et cetera.

Marks used in Slovene include full stops (.), question marks (?), exclamation marks (!), commas (,), semicolons (;), colons (:), dashes (–), hyphens (-), ellipses (...), different types of inverted commas and quotation marks ("", '', ‚‘, „“, »«), brackets ((), [], {}) (which are in syntactical use), as well as apostrophes (',’), solidi (/), equal signs (=), and so forth.