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  • Ilinca Stroe

One word and beyond: 8 common Romanian phrases with “ba”

There comes a point in conversation when, having made several constructive suggestions that keep being turned down, you cannot but blurt out to your interlocutor: “Hai, nu fii Gică contra!” / “Come on now, don’t be Gică contra!” Popular knowledge in Romania has it that Gică contra (literally, “counter Gică”) is an individual who will object to whatever you have to say for the sheer sake of objecting. He can’t help himself. And there are even suspicions that, in his sour way, he enjoys endless countering.

That character’s name was translated into English as “sorehead”, but it would be perhaps more fitting (and more fun!) to call him “Mister Nay”. That’s not just because the nickname suits his temper, but also because if there’s just one word that captures the essence of disagreement, persistent opposition and bickering dissent, then that word is the Romanian equivalent of English “nay”. It has two letters, and you’ll hear quite a bit of it around: “ba”. (Not to be confused with “bă”, in which one letter is different and which works as an interjection, e.g. “Bă, ce gol a băgat!” / “Man, what a goal he scored!” So “bă” = “man”, “dude”.)

In old-fashioned Romanian, especially in rural areas or in rural-style fiction, “ba” used to mean, just like “nay”, “no”. Nowadays, however, the stubborn little word features in a number of phrases which are worth going through, along with their translations, as they carry the special flavour of colloquial Romanian, plus a bit of an attitude, a certain mood and temper…


“N-a zis nici da, nici ba.” / “She said neither yay, nor nay.”


“A râs, ba chiar în hohote, la gluma lui!” / “She laughed, nay roared, at his joke!”


“Ba pleacă, ba nu pleacă. Nici ea nu știe ce vrea.” / “Now she leaves, now she stays. Not even she knows what she wants.”


“N-ai mâncat de prânz, nu?” / “You didn’t have lunch, did you?”

Ba da!” / “I did!”


“Ție nu prea-ți place fotbalul.” / “You don’t really like football.”

Ba da!” / “I do, too!”


“Vii cu noi, da sau ba?” / “Will you join us, just yes or no!”


“Du-te în camera ta imediat!” / “Go to your room right now!”

Ba nu!” / I won’t!”


“Și nu i-ai spus vreo două?” / “Did you not tell him a thing or two?”

Ba bine că nu!” / You bet I did!”

Now, we’ve covered the meaning in context of common colloquial phrases with “ba”, but from a grammatical point of view you also have to pay attention to these structures, as they occur in sentences and dialogues, because there’s an interplay of positive and negative there which needs to be built logically in patterns with “ba + verb” (an auxiliary, in English). Follow the interplay in this final example of verbal exchange:

“N-am timp acum de tine.” / “I have no time for you now.”

Ba ai!” / Yes, you do!”

“De fapt, nu vreau să vorbesc cu tine.” / “Actually, I don’t want to talk to you.”

Ba vrei!” / Yes, you do!”

Ba nu! Fiindcă tu nu mă asculți cu adevărat niciodată!” / No, I don’t! Because you never really listen!”

Ba te ascult!” / I do, too!”

Ba nu!” / No, you don’t!”

Ba da!” / Yes, I do!”

And so can carry on and on Gică contra… 😊

International House Bucharest, through its Romanian Language Department, runs online and face-to-face Romanian courses and cultural integration workshops for foreigners living in Romania or interested in the country’s culture, language or history. For more information, click here. To enrol, contact You can also watch our video series “Your Romanian Class” and subscribe to our YouTube channel, or listen to our series of podcasts “Ascultă româneşte”.

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