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P2 Pronunciation of vowel i in Romanian

The pronunciation of the vowel I in Romanian deserves special attention.

Even though Romanian is a phonetic language (by looking at a word you know how it should be pronounced), the vowel i is pronounced differently depending on:

  • its position in a word
  • the vowels before or after
  • the group of consonants before

1. Normal pronunciation of vowel i pronounced as a plain i, phonetic transcription: /i/

Under normal circumstances (all cases except for the ones below) the vowel i is pronounced as in the table below as a well articulated i.

Vowel I

How to pronounce the Romanian vowel i
Position of the lips:
Position of the tongue:
Phonetic Transcription: /i/ (see below for the other possibilities: /j/ or /ʲ/)
English equivalent sound : free

1. Romanian words containing vowel "i" pronounced as a plain "i", phonetic transcription: /i/

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

island

insulă

/'in.su.lə/

indirect

indirect

/in.di.'rekt/

harmless

inofensiv

/in.o.fen.'siv/

comedian

comic

/'ko.mik/

2 Listening
3 Translate



2. "I" at the end of a word pronounced as a very short, phonetic transcription /ʲ/

In most cases i at the end of a word is pronounced as a short, silent i together with the previous vowel or consonant. This type of i is barely heard. Nevertheless it is very important to pronounce it (silently) as without this "barely pronounced vowel i" the meaning of the Romanian word can change.

The final i is usually the plural marker, or the marker of the second person verbs singular and plural conjugations. Without the final i you can get (sometimes, not all the times) the singular of that word, or the same verb conjugated at a different person.
Therefore the final i, even though it's a mild i, barely heard i, is nevertheless there.

Romanian words containing vowel "i" at the end of a word pronounced as a short /ʲ/

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

shoes

pantofi

/'pan.tofʲ/

actors

actori

/ak'torʲ/

you see (where "you" refers to one person)

tu vezi

/tu vezʲ/

you go (where "you" refers to one person)

tu mergi

/tu merʤʲ/

2 Listening
3 Translate



Just to picture the difference that the final short "i" pronounced as /ʲ/ makes, please listen to these two forms of the verb "to go", "a merge", where the difference in the verb form is given only by the final "i":
English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

I go

eu merg

/jew merg/

you go (where "you" refers to one person)

tu mergi

/tu merʤʲ/

2 Listening
3 Translate

In Romanian it happens frequently that the subject "eu" or "tu" is left out, therefore whenever you would hear "merg", or "mergi" it is important to know whether there was a final silent "i" or not.

The two words below: actor (actor) and actors (actori) are also meant to help you practice your Romanian listening skills by recognizing the words with a silent / reduced "i" at the end or the ones without an "i" at the end.

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

actor

actor

/ak'tor/

actors

actori

/ak'torʲ/

2 Listening
3 Translate

3. Exceptions of "i" at the end of a word, where "i" is pronounced as /i/

As explained under point 2 above, in most cases "i" at the end of a word is pronounced as a short "i" which is marked in phonetics as /ʲ/. However there are certain exceptions from this rule when a final "i" in Romanian is pronounced as a "full i" as in point 1, marked in phonetics with /i/.
These are only a few and quite rare exceptions where the final "i" is preceded by the combination of these consonants: "fl","bl","tr","cl","cr","dr".

3.1 Exceptions of Romanian words containing vowel I at the end of a word, pronounced plainly /i/

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription
you find out or you get to know or you learn or you hear

tu afli

/tu afli/

centimeters

centimetri

/'ʧen.ti'me.tri/
blue referring to plural masculine nouns

albaștri

/alˈbaʃ.tri/

2 Listening
3 Translate

Another category of exceptions are the monosyllabic (short words) words ending in "i". The most obvious example is the word "și" (and) where you can hear a clear "i" at the end of the word.
The last exception are the Romanian infinitive verbs ending in "i": "a citi, a vorbi, a iubi, a auzi, a stropi". The stress of all these verbs is on the last syllable, thus on the last "i" that gets to be pronounced as a plain "i".

3.2 Exception I at the end of a word pronounced as plain i: infinitive forms

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

to hear

a auzi

/a a.u'zi/

to talk

a vorbi

/a vor'bi/

to read

a citi

/a t͡ʃi'ti/

2 Listening
3 Translate

4. "ci" pronounced as /ʧi/ and "gi" pronounced as /ʤi/

The two letters in "ci" are pronounced integrated and together as /ʧi/. Similarly, "gi" is pronounced as /ʤi/. It is important to note that "c" and "g" are "softened" by the "i", because without the "i" that follows, let's say "c" followed by "a" leads to the normally expected /ka/ pronunciation where one can clearly identify one sound independent of the other.

English Romanian
translation
Audio Phonetic
Transcription

Who

Cine

/'t͡ʃi.ne/

cyclone

ciclon

/

5 five

cinci

/ʧinʧʲ/
Ciprian - a Romanian first name

Ciprian

/ʧi.pri'an/

Gigi a Romanian first name

Gigi

/'ʤi.'ʤʲ/

you go (where "you" refers to one person)

tu mergi

/tu merʤʲ/

2 Listening
3 Translate

Romanian Exercises: 1. Romanian words containing vowel "i" pronounced as a plain "i", phonetic transcription: /i/

Question 1 / 48

Listen to the following word/expression.
Choose the word that you hear from the list below

Another complicated case in the Romanian pronunciation is the double "ii". In the next lesson, you will hear the Romanian combined vowels pronunciation including the double "ii".

3 comments

Stressed i at end of words

You omit, as an exception, the verb infinitives ending in -i (a ghici etc).

To be pedantic -fli is according to formal Romanian grammar books, and amongst speakers, ambiguous. So you can pronounce it as -flee or -fl(i)!

Ending of Romanian verbs, infinitive tense - pronunciation

Hi Iulian,
You are right, I will add it in the lesson, I believe I already have some recordings.

Happy to help

Romanian infinitive verbs ending "i" pronunciation

Hi Iulian,

I've just added a few samples of infinitive forms ending in "i".
Thank you one more time for helping me improve this lesson.

Happy to help

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