Lithuanian grammar

Lithuanian grammar

Lithuanian grammar is the study of rules governing the use of the Lithuanian language. Lithuanian grammar retains many archaic features from Proto-Indo European that have been lost in other Indo-European languages. It has extremely complex morphology; words have many different forms with subtle differences and nuances in usage.

Lithuanian language has these parts of speech:
# Noun ("Daiktavardis")
# Adjective ("Būdvardis")
# Verb ("Veiksmažodis")
# Numeral ("Skaitvardis")
# Pronoun ("Įvardis")
# Adverb ("Prieveiksmis")
# Particle ("Dalelytė")
# Preposition ("Prielinksnis")
# Conjunction ("Jungtukas")
# Interjection ("Jaustukas")
# Verbal interjection ("Ištiktukas")


Lithuanian language has four categories of gender:
*masculine gender
*feminine gender
*indefinite gender
*neuter gender

However only the first two can be called genders in the complete sense of this word. The indefinite gender is obtained by a pronoun kas - 'who? what?', by personal pronouns /mes - 'I'/'we', tu/jūs - 'you' and a reflexive pronoun savęs, as well as by few pejorative nouns. The indefinite gender doesn't have its proper inflections. So, the word "kas" uses masculine inflections, but the nouns of the indefinite gender have feminine inflections. The other pronouns have their own specific paradigm.

The neuter gender has very limited usage and a single grammatical form without declension. It's used to express the state or condition of surroundings, like 'It's cold' in English (the Lithuanian equivalent would be "Šalta", that's the neuter gender of a word šaltas - 'cold'). Adjectives (not every), passive participles and numerals (a part) have the neuter gender, but not nouns.

The masculine gender is also the indeterminate gender as in other Indo-European languages. Which means that if you have a mixed group of things named both in masculine and feminine genders, the masculine gender is used for the whole group. The masculine as the indeterminate gender differs from the indefinite gender, which allows treatment of the word in two ways.

Note that there are many nouns that use masculine or feminine genders without any reason of biological gender, for instance, words that denote inanimate things. The masculine or feminine usage of these words is stable (with few exceptions) and doesn't depend on the will of a speaker.

Grammatical number

The Lithuanian language has five categories of grammatical number:
* singular number
* plural number
* dual number
* indefinite number
* super-plural words ("dauginiai žodžiai" in Lithuanian)

But only the first three can be considered complete grammatical numbers, while the others are just auxiliary.

The singular number indicates that the denoted thing is one or indivisible (as in "pienas" - 'milk', "smėlis" - 'sand', "meilė" - 'love'). The plural number, when it can be in contrast with the singular, indicates that there are many of the things denoted by the word. But sometimes, when a word doesn't have the singular number, being a plurale tantum noun, the plural form doesn't indicate real singularity or plurality of the denoted object(s).

Adjectives and numerals also have the singular - plural distinction. Their number depends on that of the noun they are attributed to.

The dual number indicates a pair of things. Historically, the dual number has been a full grammatical number, participating as the third element in singular - dual - plural distinction. During the last century, the dual was used more or less sporadically in Lithuanian, sometimes reaching the status of a full number for agreement purposes, meaning the dual of noun required dual agreement in its adjectives or the dual of the subject required the dual of the verb. But in many more cases the dual was reduced to a nominal category explicitly indicating a pair of things, but not requiring dual agreement of adjectives or verbs. Presently, the dual is mostly used as a declension paradigm for numbers "du" - 'two' , "abu" - 'both' (and a variant "abudu" - 'idem') and with personal pronouns "aš" - 'I' ("mudu" - 'we (two)') and "tu" - 'you' ("judu" -'you (two)').

The indefinite number indicates that the same form of the word can be understood singular or plural, depending both on situation and on other words in the sentence. There are only few words that demonstrate indefinite number, and the indefinite number doesn't have its own forms in Lithuanian. These words are pronouns "kas" - 'who? what?', "kažkas" - 'something, somebody' and reflexive pronoun "savęs". All of them use inflections of the singular.

The super-plural words are a few numbers and pronouns that indicate a counting not of separate things, but of groups of things. keleri - 'several (groups of)' abeji - 'both (groups of)' (vieneri - 'one (group of)') dveji - 'two (groups of)' treji - 'three (groups of)' ketveri - 'four (groups of)' penkeri - 'five (groups of)' šešeri - 'six (groups of)' septyneri - 'seven (groups of)' aštuoneri - 'eight (groups of)' devyneri - 'nine (groups of)'

These words are also used with plurale tantum nouns instead of plural words ("keli", "abu", "du", "trys" and so on), in which case they indicate not the plural of groups, but just the semantic plural or singular (a word "vieneri" - 'one' only) of the noun.

Cases of declined words

"The main article is Lithuanian declension"

* Nominative ("vardininkas")
* Genitive ("kilmininkas"), which also functions similarly to the ablative case in other languages.
* Dative ("naudininkas")
* Accusative ("galininkas")
* Instrumental ("įnagininkas")
* Locative cases:
** Locative ("vietininkas")
** Illative ("iliatyvas", sometimes referred as "kryptininkas") - dialectic, without clear status in the standard Lithuanian
** Allative - obsolete, the singular is reduced to adverbs
** Adessive - extinct
* Vocative ("šauksmininkas")


Lithuanian grammar makes a distinction between proper and common nouns. Only proper nouns are capitalized. Some nouns, for example sun and moon, can be both proper and common.

There are masculine gender and feminine gender. A rough rule of thumb is that almost all masculine nouns in nominative case end in "-s" and most feminine - in "-(i)a" or "-ė". There are no strict rules governing the gender. For example, upė ("river") is feminine but upelis ("rivulet") is masculine. There is no neutral gender ("it gender"), but there are a few words that can be applied to both genders equally. Most of the time they describe people, have negative connotations, and end in "-a", for example vėpla - "dummy", elgeta - "begger", naktibalda - "a person who does not sleep", but mėmė - "gawk".


Most nouns have singular and plural numbers. Lithuanian language also has dual number but right now it is almost extinct and used only sporadically. There are some words that have only singular (for example, pienas - "milk", auksas - "gold", gripas - "flu", laimė - "happiness") or only plural (for example, lubos - "ceiling", miltai - "flour", kelnės - "trousers") forms. Most of such words are abstract (i.e., represent concepts like "luck" or "love" and not tangible things such as "table" or "house"), describe material or name a disease. However, in some instances, for example poetic language, it is possible to use singular nouns in plural form.

Noun modification by numeral

In Lithuanian, unlike in Romance/Germanic languages, the form of a count noun depends on "final digits" of the number.

(note that the -e ending for the vocative singular applies only to common nouns; proper nouns take the ending -ai. So, for example Jonas = John [nominative] and Jonai! = John! [vocative] )

econd Declension

-a, -ė, -ti (feminine)

(again, make note of the slight differences between the two variants of this declension - in the plural the nominative, dative, instrumental and vocative cases all differ, resembling first declension forms)

Fifth Declension

-uo (masculine)

There are also two feminine nouns of the fifth declension: sesuo (sister) and duktė (daughter).

Adjectives have also pronominal form that is formed by merging adjectives with third person personal pronouns.


Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns "aš" (I), "tu" (you) "jis" (he, it), "ji" (she, it) are declined as follows:

Singular1st Personmanęsmanmanemanimimanyje
2nd Persontutavęstautavetavimitavyje
3rd PersonMasculinejisjojamjuojame
Dual1st PersonMasculinemudumudviejųmudviemmudumudviemmudviese
2nd PersonMasculinejudujudviejųjudviemjudujudviemjudviese
3rd PersonMasculinejuodu "or" jiedujųdviejųjiedviemjuodujiemdviemjuodviese
Plural1st Personmesmūsųmumsmusmumismumyse
2nd Personjūsjūsųjumsjusjumisjumyse
3rd PersonMasculinejiejiemsjuosjaisjuose

Note, that the table contains only the objective genitive of pronouns "aš" or "tu". The possessive genitives of these words are "mano" or "tavo" respectively. Compare "jis manęs laukia" - 'he waits for me' and "mano draugas" - 'my friend' ('friend ' is in masculine), but in "jis mūsų laukia" - 'he waits for us' and "mūsų draugas" - 'our friend' the both genitives coincide as in almost any word.

Reflexive pronoun

The reflexive pronoun "savęs" is declined as a personal pronoun "tu" ("savęs" - "sau" - "save" ...), but it hasn't the singular nominative and the plural cases.

The Verb

Each Lithuanian verb belongs to one of three different conjugations:

*The first conjugation is the most commonly found in Lithuanian, encompassing those verbs whose infinite form ends in -ati, -oti, -auti, -uoti or a consonant followed by -ti (e.g. dirbti). This conjugation also has the highest occurrence of irregularity of all the Lithuanian verb cases.

*The second conjugation refers to those verbs whose infinitive form ends in -ėti. There are hardly any instances of irregularity for this conjugation. An exception: verbs, that have -ėja in the Present Tense (like didėti / didėja / didėjo 'to increase'), belong to the first conjugation.

*The third conjugation consists of those verbs whose infinitive form ends in -yti. An exception: verbs, that have -ija in the Present Tense (like rūdyti / rūdija / rūdijo 'to rust'), belong to the first conjugation.

The Present Tense

This is the basic tense in Lithuanian which describes present or ongoing actions or, sometimes, actions without definite tense.

e.g. dirbdavau = 'I used to work', norėdavai = 'You used to want', skaitydavome = 'We used to read'

The Future Tense

This tense basically describes what will happen in the future. It is relatively simple to form:

* Remove the -ti ending from the infinitive form of the verb.
* Add the -s- suffix which is used to form the Future Tense. Note, that ...š or ...ž + -s- assimilates to š without the final "s" (the infinitive vežti 'to transport' gives vešiu, veši, veš etc. in the Future Tense).
* Add the appropriate ending.

e.g. dirbsiu = 'I will work', norėsi = 'You will want', skaitysime = 'We will read'


Lithuanian retains a rich system of participles, thirteen in total. In contrast English contains just two: the present participle ("the eating cow") and the past participle ("the eaten cow").

The Lithuanian participles are as follows, complete with masculine and feminine forms respectively (where applicable):

1. Present active - "valgąs/valganti" ("the one who is eating")

2. Past active - "valgęs/valgiusi" ("the one who has eaten")

3. Frequentative past active - "valgydavęs/valgydavusi" ("the one who used to eat")

4. Future active - "valgysiąs/valgysianti" ("the one who will eat"/"the one who will be eating")

5. Present passive - "valgomas/valgoma" ("something that is being eaten")

6. Past passive - "valgytas/valgyta" ("something that has been eaten")

7. Future passive - "valgysimas/valgysima" ("something that will be eaten")

8. Adverbial present active - "valgant" ("while eating")

9. Adverbial past active - "valgius" ("after having eaten")

10. Adverbial frequentative past - "valgydavus" ("after having eaten repeatedly")

11. Adverbial future active - "valgysiant" ("having to eat")

12. Special adverbial present active - "valgydamas/valgydama" ("eating")

13. Participle of necessity - "valgytinas/valgytina" ("something to be eaten")

The adverbial participles (8-11) are not declined. []

The prefixes of verbs

Prefixes are added to verbs, to make new verbs, that have different color of the primary verb's meaning. The made verb and the primary verb are considered different words, taking different positions in vocabularies, however their meanings are very close, often showing similarity to being forms of a single verb. Prefixes have mostly restrictive sense, so they restrict the meaning of the primary not prefixed verb to certain direction, amount or limits of time. In addition to what, verbs often get meaning of more perfect action with prefix added. So, a prefix is a good indicator of perfective verb, but the perfective aspect never depends on just a prefix. In fact, some verbs without prefixes may be used as perfective as well as many verbs with prefixes may be understood as imperfective.

* ap- round (direction, perfective)
* "api-" is a variant of "ap-" before "b" or "p"
* at- from, from somewhere (direction; place, perfective)
* "ati-" is a variant of "at-" before "d" or "t"
* į- in (direction, perfective), be able to (imperfective)
* iš- out (direction, sometimes perfective)
* nu- away (direction), from the start place (action with some direction, perfective)
* pa- a bit, slightly, some time (time or amount, imperfective), till end (for single actions, cf "su-", time or amount, perfective), under (direction, perfective)
*par- similar to English (Latin) "re-" (with some differences; perfective)
* per- through (place, perfective), thoroughly, completely (perfective)
* pra- by (direction, perfective), starting (time, perfective rarely)
* pri- up, to (direction or place, perfective), to the place (of the action) (place, perfective), much, many (amount, sometimes perfective)
* su- from everywhere (direction), together (place, perfective), till end (time, perfective), completely (long or complex action, perfective)
* už- behind (direction, perfective), in (for limited time, cf "į-") (direction and time, perfective), suddenly, unexpectedly (time, perfective)
* už- on, over (direction or place), completely (short action, cf. "su-", perfective)

Some rules may be useful, using prefixes for verbs:
* ne- and be- formally are prefixes of verbs too. But they come out of the rule, making different forms of the same verb, rather than a new verb. "ne-" is a prefix, that makes negative form of a verb, but "be-" says that action of a verb may be interrupted. Both "ne-" and "be-" are used before any other prefixes of a verb. Also "ne-" precedes "be-" making a complex prefix "nebe-". "be-" is mostly used in participles, semi-participles or sub-participles, for pointing that synchronization of the main action of a sentence with the action of the participle isn't very strict.
* There is no more than one prefix in a verb, if we do not count prefixes "ne-", "be-" or "nebe-". Only few words are exception from this.
* The indicator of reflexion "-si" is used between the prefix and the root if the verb is prefixed, e. g. "nešasi" but "nusineša", "atsineša" "laikytis" but "susilaikyti", "pasilaikyti" "teirautis" but "pasiteirauti"
*The same rule is applied, when "ne-", "be-", or "nebe-" is added: "nešasi" but "nesineša", "nebesineša", also "nenusineša", "neatsineša" "laikytis", but "nesilaikyti", also "nesusilaikyti", "nepasilaikyti" "teirautis" but "nesiteirauti", also "nepasiteirauti"

Verb Categories


* The present tense
* The past tense
* The past iterative tense
* The future tense
* (The four perfect tenses, periphrastic)
* (The four inchoative tenses, periphrastic)


* The indicative mood (with all tenses)
* The relative mood (with all tenses, non-conjugated)
* The imperative mood (without distinction of tenses)
* The optative mood (without distinction of tenses, having the 3rd person only, sometimes treated as the 3rd person of the imperative mood)
* The conditional mood (without distinction of tenses)
* (The optative mood II, periphrastic, based on the conditional mood)
* The negative form
* The indeterminate form (for true action with uncertain aspect)
* (The intensified periphrasis, based on the verbal intensifier)

The three moods without distinction of tenses have periphrastic perfect along with their main form, and the aspect of perfection could be expressed.


* The Active voice
* The reflexive form (voice-like form, which can be sometimes in passive voice too)
* The Passive voice
** in a case of a participle it's a different grammatic form with 3 main tenses (it doesn't have the past iterative tense).
** in a case of conjugated verbs it's periphrastic, based on the passive participles (3 main tenses).

Conjugative verbal forms

* The present tense
* The past tense
* The past iterative tense
* The future tense
* The imperative mood
* The optative mood (having the 3rd person only, sometimes treated as the 3rd person of the imperative mood)
* The conditional mood

Non-conjugative verbal forms

The non-conjugative verbal forms are close to other non-conjugated grammatical categories, e. g. the participles are close to adjectives. But they also retain (except the "verbal intensifier") verbal specifics to have their own subject (except the infinitive, the gerund and the "semi-participle") objects and adjuncts.
* The infinitive
* The relative mood
* The gerund, or the verbal noun, is masculine masculine noun, regularly made from any verb, not having distinction of tenses and not used in the plural number in its direct sense. The gerund has its own specific order, to put its objects.
* The "sub-participles" are verbal adverbs, not declined, being of four tenses (the present, the past, the past iterative and the future) of the active voice. The sub-participle has its own specific order, to put its subject.
* The "semi-participle" is a verbal adverb, closer to the main verb in the sentence than the "sub-participle", not having distinction of tenses. The "semi-participle" isn't declined, but it has forms of number and gender, and they should be used in concord with the subject of the main verb in the sentence (whereas "semi-participle" couldn't have its own subject).
* The "verbal intensifier" is a verbal particle, used to mark more intensive action, than one of the single verb. It is quite always used with a verb of the same stem and never has its separate objects or adjuncts.
* The "verbal interjection" could be formed from verbs of certain categories. It's used like a simple interjection, but could have its own subject, objects and (not often) adjuncts. The verbal interjection is considered a separate part of speech in most of grammars of Lithuanian.


Word order

Lithuanian has SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) as the main word order: Adjunct(s)(temporal, locative, causal) + Subject + Adjunct(s)(other) + Verb + Object(s) + Infinitive + other parts.

At the same time Lithuanian as a highly declined language is often considered to have the free word order. This idea is partially true, and a sentence such as "Today I saw a beautiful girl at the movies" could be said or written in many ways:

Šiandien kine aš mačiau gražią mergaitę. "(the main order)"
Today - at the movies - I - saw - a beautiful - girl. Aš mačiau gražią mergaitę kine šiandien.
Šiandien aš mačiau gražią mergaitę kine.
Gražią mergaitę mačiau aš kine šiandien.
Gražią mergaitę aš šiandien mačiau kine.
Kine šiandien aš mačiau gražią mergaitę.
Kine gražią mergaitę aš mačiau šiandien.

However word order isn't a subject of intonation only. Different word orders often have different meanings in Lithuanian. There are also some strict rules and some tendencies in using different word placing. For example, a word that provides new information (rheme, or comment) has tendency to be postponed after other words, but not always to the end of the sentence. Adjectives precede nouns like they do in English, but order of adjectives in an adjective group is different than in English. If the main word order is followed, a temporal, locative or causal adjunct is put at the beginning of the sentence, while adjuncts of other types go directly before the verb and its objects (see the SVO rule above).

The word order in Lithuanian can also be described, using concepts of theme and rheme. Looking from this point of view, the structure of a sentence is following:

Initial complementary words or clauses + theme + middle words or clauses + rheme + final complementary words or clauses

The middle words or clauses are more significant words or word groups other than the theme or the rheme, but complementary words or clauses (both the initial and the final) are less significant or secondary. Local, causal or temporal adjuncts are typical parts of the initial complementary words group, while other complementary words are put to the final group. If an adjunct is more significant in a sentence, it should be put to the middle group or even used as theme or as rheme. The same is true, considering any other part of sentence, but the Subject and the Verb aren't complementary words typically, and they often serve as the theme and as the rheme respectively. Note, that a sentence can lack any part of the structure, except the rheme.

Verbal periphrastic constructions


Prepositions tell us where an object is or what direction it is going. Some cases of nouns, such as the genitive, accusative and instrumental, take prepositions. Some cases never take prepositions (such as locative and nominative). Certain prepositions are used with certain cases. Below is a list of some common prepositions used in Lithuanian.

Used with genitive form of noun

* - from, out of
* ant - on
* iki - until
* po - after, past, succeeding
* prie - near, at
* - behind

Used with instrumental form of noun

* po - under
* su - with
* sulig - up to
* ties - by, over

Used with accusative form of noun

* į - in
* pas - to, at
* per - through, during
* apie - about


Conjunctions are used to link together clauses in a sentence, for example "I thought it would be a nice day but it was raining." Some common conjunctions in Lithuanian are:
* ir - and
* bet - but
* ar - used to start a question, but can also mean "or"
* jei - if
* kad - that (not the demonstrative pronoun)
* kol - until
* arba - or/but
* nes - because
* tačiau - however

External links

* [ Some Unique Features of Lithuanian] on []
* [ Some Unsolved Riddles of Lithuanian Linguistics] on
* [ The Historical Grammar of Lithuanian language]

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