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Basic Bulgarian, Lesson 3 - Thanks, bye!

Здравейте! Как върви?

After what's been a long pause, the Basic Bulgarian lesson sequence continues our investigation of basic Bulgarian greetings and phrases. To recap, in the last lesson we went over things like "good morning" and "good afternoon", the different ways to ask "how are you", and the many ways to respond to that. If you recall, Bulgarians use "how are you" as a conversation starter, so be prepared to hear a detailed answer, and provide one yourself.

We also talked a little bit about how our choice of words changes when we want to sound more polite vs. more casual. These different ways of using the language are called "registers", e.g. the formal register and the informal register. There are plenty of examples in the language when it's important to know which register to use, but for the next few lessons we'll simplify things a bit by focusing on the informal register. That's the register you'd use when making friends or trying to surprise your date with your knowledge of Bulgarian. Later on we'll learn in more detail when and how to use the formal register.

So here's a short conversation between two friends, using the phrases from the last lesson. The highlighted vowels show where the stress falls in the entire phrase. Can you guess what the friends are saying?

  • Здрасти! Как си?
  • Добре съм. Ти как си?
  • И аз съм добре.

Notice the stress on the "ти" in "Ти как си?". That's because it's used for emphasis - I'm done talking about myself, now you tell me how you're doing. Technically, we have an "And you?" - "А ти?" - but the form I've shown you above is more popular in everyday speech these days.

However, the interesting thing about "А ти?" is that it shows that Bulgarian has two words for "and" - "и" and "а". The latter is used for contrast, as in the sentence "I like singing, and she likes dancing". Compare that to "I like singing and dancing." - in the latter sentence, you're just linking things that are the "same" (things you like doing). In the first sentence, you're comparing your likes to someone else's likes that might be different. That's why we have "А ти?" as opposed to "И ти?" - how I'm doing and how you're doing may not be the same.

Last time we learned how to say "hi", but not how to say "bye"! It's time to fix this.

  • Чао! - Bye! / See you! (unlike Italian, it can't also be used for "hi")
  • Довиждане! - Goodbye! (literally "until (our) seeing (each other again)". This is in the spirit of German "auf Wiedersehen", Italian "ci vediamo", and English "see you later")
  • До скоро! - See you soon! (literally "till soon")
  • До утре! - See you tomorrow! (literally "till tomorrow")

Another important thing to learn in any language is giving and receiving thanks:

  • Благодаря! [bɫɐgodɐ'rjɐ] - Thank you!
  • Много ти благодаря! - Thank you very much!
  • Мерси! - Thanks!
  • Мерси много! - Thanks a lot!
  • Моля. - You're welcome. (probably most common).
  • За нищо. - You're welcome / don't mention it. (literally "for nothing", like Spanish "de nada". Also very common.)
  • Пак заповядай. - You're welcome. (literally "come again next time (that you need a favor)". While this is closest semantically to "you're welcome", it's somewhat less frequently used than "моля" and "за нищо", or rather it's used in specific contexts. For example, it's the kind of thing the dinner party host might say when you thank them for the wonderful food.)

One thing of note is the pronunciation of "благодаря", which is why I wrote it out in IPA. Based on our lesson on vowels, you'd expect that the stressed "я" is going to be pronounced as [ja], but instead it's pronounced with an unstressed "a" - [jɐ]. That's because "благодаря" is a verb - "to thank" - and verbs provide one of the very few exceptions to the stressed/unstressed vowel pattern. Specifically, if "а" or "я" are stressed in the first person singular (I) or the third person plural (they) of a verb ending, they are pronounced [ɐ] and [jɐ], respectively.


  • чета, четат [tʃɛ'tɐ, tʃɛ'tɐt] - I read, they read
  • летя, летят [lɛ'tjɐ, lɛ'tjɐt] - I fly, they fly
  • горя, горят [go'rjɐ, go'rjɐt] - I burn, they burn
  • плета, плетат [plɛ'tɐ, plɛ'tɐt] - I knit, they knit

A lot of speakers additionally darken the unstressed "a" to [ɤ] in these contexts. We'll talk a lot more about Bulgarian verbs in lessons to come - this was meant as an illustration of a time where your intuition about the pronunciation of the word would be wrong.

With that, we can have a slightly more elaborate conversation:

  • Здрасти! Как върви?
  • Благодаря, добре! Ти как си?
  • Не се оплаквам. - Can't complain. (literally "I'm not complaining.")
  • Супер! (Great!) До скоро!
  • Чао!

With that said, довиждане! :)

Up next: Lesson 4 - What's your name?

October 12, 2015



In case anyone is wondering what the "се" is in "не се оплаквам" - it is a particle (small word) which makes a verb reflexive. Reflexive verbs are expressed with "himself", "myself", etc. in English, as in "I hurt myself while trying to fix the roof." In Spanish, the verb "to complain" is also reflexive - quejarse. Notice the "se"? :)


I'll imagine it will come up in another lesson, but usually the best example is "казвам се Карл". Here we have казвам (to call, 1st person singular) and then add се to turn it back on oneself, making "I call myself..."


You're right - the next lesson is "Introducing ourselves", where we learn how to say our names :)


Do you think you could explain a little more why се is needed here? Just saying (аз) не опликвам is enough to convey that you aren't complaining, right? If I said не работя it would mean "I'm not working/I don't work". What is it that makes се needed?


So verbs come in different categories, and one of the categories is "reflexive" vs "non-reflexive". Reflexive verbs express that the subject of the verb is also the receiver of the action - "I hit myself on the head". The subject is "I", the reflexive verb is "to hit oneself", and the receiver of the action is still the subject.

In Bulgarian, reflexive verbs take what's called the reflexive pronoun "се". If you omit it, then you change the verb from being reflexive to being non-reflexive, and that can change the meaning. For example:

  • казвам - " to say"
  • казвам се - "to be called" (as in Казвам се Карл.)
  • оплаквам - to mourn someone
  • оплаквам се - to complain

The key observation to make is that verbs that are reflexive in Bulgarian don't have to be reflexive in English, and vice versa. The two languages make different decisions on that. In English, "to complain" is not a reflexive verb, but it is in Bulgarian. That's why you always need the "се". Your other example - работя - is a non-reflexive verb, which also happens to be non-reflexive in English.


Thanks, as always, for your detailed answer!


Anytime! I'm very happy to explain these things.


Hi! I love this course! By the way I have a suggestion: try to put some exercises at the end of the lesson with the solution as well! It is a good way to practice your vocabulary! (:


Good idea, I should've done that. What would be some good exercises for this? I thought about it actually, but I thought there was too little Bulgarian yet to make useful exercises.

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