Introduction to Lithuanian III: Lesson 2

In the last lesson you got introduced to adjectives. Adjectives are those words that describe things (such as geras, blogas, mažas). In Lithuanian, all of them respond to the question koks? (like what?).

For example, if you ask somebody Kokį namą turi? (What kind of a house do you have? - notice how koks is used in the accusative case here and becomes kokį) that person might answer Turiu mažą namą. (I have a small house).

There is not much that is special about adjectives but you still have to remember something:

Adjectives always adapt to the word they describe: they have the same case, gender and number as that word.

To understand that, we first have to understand what those things are.

Case is easy. It’s the form that the noun (word) is in. For example, one case is the accusative that we talked about before and which means that the noun is an object in a sentence (i.e. namą in aš turiu namą), another case is the nominative which is just the usual form of the word (oras in oras yra blogas).

What our described rule means is that whenever the noun changes, the adjective that describes it changes as well. So, if we say She has a small house, the word house or namas is in the accusative and that’s why the word small (which is the adjective that describes the word namas) also has to be. Say that:

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As we learn more cases (because there is more than just the accusative and the nominative), we will still have in mind the same thing: the adjective follows whatever case the noun is in.

What is important to know is that they also change their gender. Here we will have to learn the concept of gender and how it works in Lithuanian. This concept is not hard because there are just a couple of rules in Lithuanian.

First, remember the word for he and she that we have learned a while ago:

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The word jis refers to a male entity and its of course of masculine gender and ji refers to a female one and therefore it’s feminine.

Here’s the kicker, though:

Not only the words for jis and ji but ALL Lithuanian nouns, i.e. words for things is tied to one of these two genders: either masculine or feminine.

This is a concept that you have in other European languages as well, for example in French you have un and une, in Spanish un and una, in German der and die to signify these two genders.

Lithuanian does not have articles to show gender but it has a simple general rule:

In Lithuanian, pretty much all words (nouns, adjectives) that end in s are of masculine gender, and pretty much all words that do not - of feminine.

In other words:

The ending S makes things maSculine.

So, we have learned a bunch of Lithuanian masculine words already and we know that by that they end in s. Do you remember how to say:

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Notice that s? It means they’re all masculine.

In contrast, we have learned some feminine words too and we know that by the fact that they lack that s. For example:

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Yup, the word Lithuania in Lithuanian is feminine. This feature also exists to some extent in English because most countries in English including America get referred to as a she. In Lithuanian, it also is referred to as a ji because the Lithuanian word Amerika does not have an s in the end and hence it’s feminine. If it had it (and therefore if it was Amerikas) then Lithuanians would refer to it as a jis.

In English, words like nature and Earth also get referred to as a she (mother nature, mother Earth), and in Lithuanian likewise (gamta, Žemė - motina gamta, motina Žemė).

Here’s another one of them:

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And also:

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Yup, those are all feminine words. Thus if you have an s it’s masculine and if you don’t, it’s feminine. Now there is one caveat that I have to include:

This s means masculine rule does not always work, and in particular it does not work with words that end in is. Words ending in is can sometimes be feminine too although they are often masculine and the rule often does work for them too.

You might think of other examples when the rule does not work in words ending in uo such as šuo - dog, vanduo - water, akmuo - stone, which are masculine but actually they are not a violation of the rule - these words only have their usual nominative form ending in uo but in all other forms they act as if the nominative ended in is, i.e. if it was šunis, vandenis, akmenis because you have šunį that is the accusative forming in a way as if the nominative was šunis, also vandenį, akmenį and then all the other cases following from šunis and vandenis, akmenis, etc.

But you have words ending in is that are after all feminine, such as paslaptis - a secret or viltis - a hope.

So the rule of thumb is:

All that ends in s in singular nominative is masculine and all that does not is feminine. Use that, but be cautious about is ending words because some of them violate the rule and are feminine.

So, having the gender down, here’s how it relates to adjectives:

The adjective always follows the gender of the noun!

So, for example, if you use the word geras (good) to describe žodis (a word), you say:

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But if you use it to describe kalba (a speech), you have to make that geras into feminine as well which in this case you do by removing that masculine ending s. What do you get:

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Right, so adjectives always follow the case and gender of the noun they apply to. Try having both of these in the same sentence.

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Right, you have geras + kalba thus it becomes gera kalba and then you use the accusative (she has a good speech and not a good speech has her) and it becomes gerą kalbą. We have covered case and gender and how it relates to adjectives and we’ll talk about number in the next lesson.

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