Georgian has a rather complex grammar which requires cases for nouns and conjugation of verbs. Typically, people learn how to conjugate verbs before declining nouns into various cases, but because of Georgian’s complex grammar and tenses, let’s learn how to decline nouns first.
This lesson is part of our Beginners’ guide to learning Georgian series, which also contains the following lessons:
- About the Georgian language and culture
- Georgian Alphabet & Pronunciation
- Georgian Grammar, Part 1: Noun Declension, Cases & Conjugation of Verbs
- Georgian Grammar, Part 2: Noun Suffixes, Verbal & Personal Prefixes, Motion & Medial Verbs
- Georgian Grammar, Part 3: Aorist Tense, Ergative Case & Imperative Tense
- Georgian Grammar, Part 4: Pluperfect Tense & Masdars
Georgian Noun Declension
What is a case? If you are only familiar with English, you might not necessarily know the concept of grammatical cases, but if you know other Germanic languages, Slavic languages, Latin, Greek, then you should be familiar with that concept.
Basically, a case is when a noun changes its ending based on what position it is in the sentence. If a noun is the direct object, it would be in the accusative case, if it is the subject, it is in the nominative case, etc. That is usually the case with most languages. Georgian, however, is slightly different in this respect. We will cover that in more detail below.
In Georgian, nouns are rather simple in the nominative case. Most Georgian nouns end in consonants. These nouns take the ending -ი in the nominative case. Note that all nouns shown in dictionaries are shown in the nominative case. Nouns ending in a vowel do not take an ending in the nominative case.
Georgian Case Declension
Note, we will be declining a noun ending in a consonant and one ending in a vowel.
to the house
to the bakery
with the house
with the bakery
in the house
in the bakery
becoming a house
becoming a bakery/baker
Oh, a house!
Oh, a bakery!
* When looking at the table above, you may see something strange. Note that in the ergative case, past is placed in parentheses because the ergative case is a case which works strictly with the aorist tense, which we will cover below. The ergative case is also used for the Georgian verbs defining to know. We will cover each case and how they are used in detail below.
The Nominative Case
The nominative case is the basic case in Georgian, as the nominative case would be in any language with case declensions. Typically, in a sentence, when a noun is the subject, the one performing the action is in the nominative case. The difference in Georgian is that the subject is only in the nominative case if the verb is in the present subjunctive and present perfect tense or in the future tenses. The nominative case is also used as the defining case in dictionaries and textbook vocabularies. Likewise, all nouns and adjectives in our vocabularies are in the nominative case. Most nouns and adjectives which end in a consonant have an ending in ი, and Georgian nouns and adjectives ending in a vowel have no ending. The vowel is the ending.
The Ergative Case
This case is unique to Georgian and her related Kartvelian languages. Other languages besides Georgian which have an ergative case are Laz, Megrelian, Basque, and Corsican. In Georgian, the ergative case governs the aorist tense. The aorist tense will be covered below, but it primarily covers the past subjunctive tense. The verbs ცოდნა to know (something) and ცნობა to know (a person) also govern the subject to be in the ergative case in all tenses. In Georgian nouns and adjectives which end in consonants, the ergative ending is მა and nouns and adjectives ending in a vowel have the ending მ. Note that nouns which truncate during declension do not truncate in the ergative case.
The Genitive Case
The genitive case defines possession. Basically, it is the possessive form of the noun, much like the ‘s in English. The noun possessing another noun is always in the genitive case. Depending on the position of the possessed noun, it can be in any of the cases listed in the table above. Georgian nouns with consonants have the genitive ending of ის and the adjectives which describe the noun in the genitive keep their nominative ending. Georgian nouns ending inა and ე take the ending ის in the genitive, and nouns ending in ო or უ just take the ს for the genitive ending.
The Dative Case
If you have studied German, or some of the Slavic languages, such as Russian, Ukrainian, or Polish, you might be familiar with the dative case, which typically places the noun in the indirect object. Though the dative case can also denote the indirect object in Georgian, it is also used to denote direct object if the verb is in the present subjunctive and the subject is in the nominative case. In the aorist tense where the subject is in the ergative case, the direct object ends up in the nominative case, yet the indirect object remains in the dative case. Nouns ending in a consonant drop the ი ending and take on ს in the dative. Truncating nouns do not truncate in the dative case. Nouns ending in vowels simply take on the ს ending in the dative case. Adjectives which end in a consonant drop their ending all together and end in the last consonant in the dative case. Adjectives ending in a vowel do not take any ending in the dative case.
The Instrumental Case
This is a rather simple case. Besides Georgian, other European languages which carry an instrumental case include many of the Slavic languages, such as Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, and Serbian. The instrumental case is used when you are using a noun as a means of doing something or as a vehicle. For example, აქედან დედოფლისწყაროში ორი საათია მანქანით. Basically, this means Dedoplistskaro is two hours from here by car. As you notice, the word მანქანა or car is being used as the means of getting to Dedoplistskaro, hence it’s in the instrumental case. Georgian nouns ending in consonants take the ending ით and nouns ending in ა or ე also take the ending ით in the instrumental case. Nouns ending in ო or უ just take the ending თ in the instrumental case. Adjectives keep their nominative ending for agreement in the instrumental case, like in the genitive case.
The Locative Case
Sometimes called the prepositional case by some linguists, this case denotes the noun as a location or the preposition of the sentence. For example, მაღაზიაში, in the store. In Georgian, the locative case is similar to the dative, but instead of the ს ending, like in the dative case, the locative case takes on two suffixes, eitherში which means in or ზე which means on or on top of. The dative case can also take these suffixes to denote into or onto or about. All suffixes will be covered below.
The Adverbial Case
This is another case which is unique to Georgian. This case got its name because it takes on the ending ად for nouns which end in consonants and დ for nouns ending in vowels. Basically, the adverbial case is used if a noun has become something. For example, ვანომ პოლიციელად გახდა. In English, this would translate as Johnny became a policeman. Johnny is the subject and what did he become – a policeman. Thus policeman in this sentence is in the adverbial case.
The Vocative Case
This is a case that is used when a noun is addressed to or called. Typically, this case is mainly used with names in conversational Georgian, however it is also often used in poetry. Typically, in the vocative case, nouns which end in consonants take the ending ო. Example: ზურაბო, ხინკალი მომეცი. In English, this would read Zurab, pass me the khinkali. Zurab is in the vocative case. Nouns ending in vowels will keep the vowel ending of the nominative and take the ending ო. For example: მამაო ჩვენო, რომელი ხარ ზათაშინა… The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer in Georgian, Our Father, who art in Heaven… Note that father or in Georgian მამა is in the vocative case.
Basic Conjugation of Verbs
Verb conjugation in Georgian is very complicated. Georgian has many irregular verbs and some of the more regular verbs have irregularities. In this section, we will just cover the present subjunctive as this is the easiest tense. Then after covering the suffixes for nouns and how they work with the cases, we will cover the future subjunctive and the aorist tenses.
Personal pronouns are the pronouns which address the person. These would be first person in singular and plural, I and we, second person you, and third person, he, she, it. Anyway, you know how this goes in English. In Georgian, it’s a bit different. Unlike English, where you can be the second person in both the singular and plural, in Georgian they are different. Furthermore, Georgian has a formal and informal in the second person singular. They are covered in the chart below.
He, she, it
The personal pronouns are very important for verb conjugation, however, in many cases, the personal pronoun is not used in sentences, though they can be used to emphasize.
The Verb ყოფნა – to be
This verb is irregular and also relatively easy to conjugate. We will only show the present subjunctive here, because this is the easiest to conjugate, though we will cover verbal prefixes and get into the other tenses later on.
2nd person (informal)
2nd person (formal)
The table above shows the basic conjugation of the verb to be, however, there are some nuances. In the third person plural, animate objects are conjugated in the plural form, however, inanimate objects take the singular conjugation in the plural. Some examples are listed below.
რომელი ხარ? Who are you?
მე ვარ. It’s me.
როგორა ხარ? How are you? (informal)
მე კარგადა ვარ, შენ? I’m good, and you?
როგორა ბრძანდებით? How are you? (formal)
მე კარგადა ვარ, თქვენ? I’m good, and you?
ეს ვინ არის? Who is this?
ეს არის ნინო. This is Nino.
ნინო არის ჩემი ცოლი. Nino is my wife.
იგინი არიან ქეთი და ზურა. They are Keti and Zura.
ქეთი და ზურა არიან ჩვენი ბავშვები. Keti and Zura are our children.
ეს რა არის? What is this?
ეგ არის ქვა. This is a stone.
ეს ქვები ძვირფასი არის. These stones are dear to us.
In these dialogues, you can see how the verb to be can be conjugated. This is not all with the verb ყოფნა in Georgian. With verbs denoting to go, to cry, to sit, and others, the word ყოფნა or to be takes root in the conjugation of the first and second persons. The verb მისვლა or to go will be conjugated below. Other such verbs will be conjugated later when you are more familiar with the basic grammar.
The Verb მისვლა – To Go
2nd person (informal)
2nd person (formal)
Some examples of this verb used in conversational Georgian are shown below.
სად მიდიხარ? Where are you going?
ბათუმში მივდივარ. I am going to Batumi.
ბატონ მამალაძე, სად მიბრძანდებით? Where are you going, Mr. Mamaladze?
უნივერსიტეტში მივდივარ. I am going to the university.
Note that the verb to go can change prefixes to denote different meanings. Many Georgian verbs have prefixes which change and also change the context of the verb. For example, with the verb მისვლა, or to go, variations with the prefixes are listed below. They are all conjugated as shown above, but with the different prefixes.
- მისვლა – to go
- მოსვლა – to come
- ჩამოსვლა – to come down, to drop in
- წასვლა – to go out, to exit
- შესვლა – to enter
- გასვლა – to leave
- დასვლა – to walk, to go (on a regular basis)
ყოველ კვირას ეკლესიაში დავდივარ. I go to church every Sunday.
The prefixes and verbs along with the nouns and suffixes will be covered a bit later, when we conjugate regular and other basic verbs.
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