It's interesting to look at the phrase "Good night!" in the various languages of different language groups. The phrase is usually recognizable across related languages. (It's similar when looking at the Germanic languages.)

One thing that occurs to me when looking at the Romance languages is is that the syntax of Romanian stands out from the rest. They say "Night good!"

Italian:           Buona notte!

Spanish:        Buenas noches!

Catalan:         Bona nit!

French:          Bonne nuit!

Latin:              Bonam noctem!

Portugese:     Boa noite!

Romanian:     Noapte bună!

Why is this? I suppose that most of the Romance languages share a certain amount of common syntax structures. (Just like the Germanic languages.) Does Romanian generally have a significantly different syntax from the rest of the Romance languages? If yes, why?

Do we know anything about this particular example described here?

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    Related: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/1340/… Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 20:33
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    @bytebuster Very interesting.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 20:39
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    Possibly related, reversing it in many of those language you end up with Christmas Eve (Nuechebona - AST, Noiteboa - GL, Nochebuena - ES, etc). Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 20:50
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    Like most things, probably historical accident.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 22:27
  • @curiousdannii As in some Romanian guys decided to say it that way, and then the rest followed? I was thinking it might have something to do with the syntax of the Slavic languages Romania is surrounded by.
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 22:34

3 Answers 3


The greeting/parting distinction
In many languages there is a distinction between the greeting upon meeting eg Good day! and the farewell upon parting Have a good day! The comparison table in the question mixes those two distinct senses, and also mixes evening and night. In Italian there is Buon giorno! and Buona sera! but also Buona giornata! and Buona serata! Spanish ¡Buenas noches! can in fact be used upon meeting, rather like English Good evening! as Iberian has no cognate to sera.

In Romanian
In Romanian the greeting/parting distinction seems to be provided by word order, hence the greeting Bună ziua! and Bună seara! but the parting O zi bună! and Noapte bună! It is not clear if it is a productive feature. Note also some subtleties around the definite article.

Neighbouring languages
Outside Romance we could look to Greek or Albanian as their predecessors had influence on early Balkan Romance. Armenian - which like Romanian has many structural features of the Balkan sprachbund - inverts order in the answer - Lujs bari! - to Bari lujs! The surrounding South Slavic languages do not use the order noun + adj except in a few archaisms, and in general Slavic and Hungarian contributions to Romanian were lexical not syntactic. Turkish has yet another paradigm: distinct farewell phrases for the person departing and the person staying.

  • Is "Noapte bună!" used for greeting or for parting?
    – Fiksdal
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 6:25
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    Parting. I'll update for clarity. Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 6:33
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    Spanish buenas noches is used only upon meeting? News to me... Commented Jul 15, 2016 at 22:05
  • In the variant I know best it would be Que pases buenas noches or before sleeping Que duermas con los angelitos, but now I read Buenas noches would be normal upon parting in some other regions. I will update. Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 6:09
  • @Lucian How does your native speaker sense react to this explanation? Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 9:33

Why is this?

For one very simple reason : in Romanian, unless one does not purposefully wish to sound either poetic or theatrical, the adjective follows the noun rather than preceding it. Therefore, Noapte buna !, Ziua buna !, S(e)ara buna !, O dupa-amiaza placuta !, Duminica placuta ! or O saptamana frumoasa (sa aveti) ! are actually quite standard. So a more logical question would be why do certain inverted expressions, such as Buna ziua ! or Buna seara !, still exist in the first place ? My hunch would be that it is precisely this type of common phrases which, by sheer virtue of being among the oldest in any language, are more likely to preserve antiquated features (such as obsolete word order, for instance). Just think of the famous English expression Pop goes the weasel !, which is phrased in this peculiar, almost poetic sounding way, because of an archaic characteristic of Proto-Germanic, now only preserved in Nordic languages, namely verb second (commonly abbreviated as V2).

Does Romanian generally have a significantly different syntax from the rest of the Romance languages?


If yes, why?

Since I replied yep rather than yes, I am hereby exempt from answering this question. ;-) Joke aside, just take a good look at the map of Europe, and tell me what you notice, even at a superficial glance, regarding the geographic position of Romania vs. that of Western European Romance speaking countries ?

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    Most Romance languages have adjectives to follow the noun actually, so it does not explain much in comparison to them. However these languages typically have exceptions for certain high-profile short adjective that typically precede the noun (such as "bonus" descendants). Do these Romanian adjectives follow the noun too?
    – Eleshar
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 20:47
  • @Eleshar: Let's just say that in Romanian, unless you don't want to sound like an actor or a poet, the word order is, without exception, noun followed by adjective, whereas in other Romance languages it gets iffy. Thus, in Italian, it could be both ways (again, I am talking about normal speech), and likewise in Spanish to some very limited extent; even French disappoints.
    – Lucian
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 21:09
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    I'm a native Portuguese speaker. A-N order is poetic or otherwise marked. The usual order is N-A. Boa noite, the greeting, is an exception (it sounds like a greeting precisely because the order is reversed/marked); "it was a good night" would be era uma noite boa. Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 22:42
  • @leoboiko: In Romanian, no such dichotomy exists. Peasants, for instance, which represent the most traditional body of speakers, usually utter greetings in the natural N-A order (ziua buna, s(e)ara buna, noapte buna). Also, in the specific case of night, the inverted expression simply does not exist at all. For all other times of day (morning, day, evening), it can be said both ways, but for night it just doesn't work like that, for some reason (it just sounds completely off, but I find myself at a loss coming up with any logical reason for why this is so).
    – Lucian
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 0:57
  • @cipricus: I never said you heard them, I said I did.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 14:56

In Albanian it's Natën e mirë - Night good , which is the original order of Name Adjective order of IndoEuropean languages, rather than the inverted order found in most western languages. So even though Romanian is a Romance language, it's a Romance language as spoken by Balkan people.

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