One word and beyond: 19 short Romanian phrases with “așa”
It has three letters and it originates from the Latin phrase eccum sic, meaning “(in) this way, in this manner/fashion”. It basically has the same meaning as in Latin, but, being quite versatile, in Romanian it can convey several nuances on its own, and it can take on several meanings as part of different common phrases. It is, in any case, a regular in the Romanians’ everyday speech, without, however, being necessarily colloquial – rather, it belongs to the neutral register, safe to use in both informal and more formal contexts.
Let’s go through the most frequent phrases based on it, with relevant examples and helpful translations/adaptations.
Așa... – on its own, it’s generally used to signal active listening, and encourage the speaker to go on talking.
“L-am sunat pe Marian ieri.” / “I did call Marian yesterday.”
“Așa...” / “Right…”
“Și i-am spus despre planul nostru.” / “And I told him about our plan.”
“Bun!” / “Good!”
Așa. Și? – this is how you can get defensive/defiant when you’re told something annoying or inconvenient.
“Să știi că Laura a aflat că ai ieșit cu prietenul ei.” / “Laura knows you went out with her boyfriend, you know.”
“Așa. Și?” / “So what?”
Așa și-așa. – we use it to describe something that’s neither good, nor bad.
“Cum a fost petrecerea?” / “How was the party?”
“Așa și-așa.” / “So-so.”
Așa-zis/Așa-numit. – introduces a name (usually wrongly) used to refer to something.
“Așa-numiții experți n-au fost în stare să ne spună ce nu mergea.” / “The so-called experts were unable to tell us what was wrong.”
Așa o fi. – this expresses a hint of scepticism about something you were told that you don’t really believe, but are reasonably prepared to accept, nevertheless.
“Pe măsură ce îmbătrânim, ne pierdem răbdarea.” / “As we grow old, we become less and less patient.”
“Așa o fi...” / “Might be…”
Azi așa, mâine-așa... – this is used to refer to something that happens repeatedly or continues the same.
“E-a treia oară luna asta că-i împrumuți bani fratelui tău! Azi așa, mâine-așa, o s-ajungem sapă de lemn!... ” / “It’s the third time this month that you’ve lent your brother money! Go on like this, and we’ll end up broke!...”
Așa că... – we use this very, very frequent compound conjunction to draw a conclusion.
“Nu răspunde la telefon de trei zile, așa că bănuiesc că s-a întâmplat ceva.” / “He hasn’t answered the phone for three days, so I suspect something’s happened”.
Și-așa mai departe. – refers to other things of the same kind which we won’t mention specifically anymore.
“Am șters praful, am dat cu aspiratorul, am spălat geamurile, și-așa mai departe.” / “I dusted, I vacuumed, I cleaned the windows, and so on (and so forth)”.
Așa să faci! – used, sometimes sarcastically, to encourage someone to do what they said they would.
“Când ajunge acasă am să-i fac un scandal monstru!” / “When he gets home, I’ll raise hell!”
“Așa să faci!...” / “You do that!...”
Nu-i așa? – added at the end of a sentence or as an afterthought, it asks for confirmation.
“E insuportabil de cald, nu-i așa?” / “It’s unbearably torrid, isn’t it?”
Cum așa? – we use it to express surprise and perhaps urge the speaker to give us more details or an explanation.
“Mai sunt două săptămâni până la salariu, dar eu deja am rămas fără niciun sfanț!...” / “Two weeks to go till payday, but I’m already penniless!...”
“Cum așa?” / “How come?”
Cam așa (ceva)... – confirms somewhat euphemistically something we have mentioned that’s possibly shocking, blameworthy, exaggerated or extreme.
“Deci te-ai supărat și-ai plecat trântind ușa?” / “So you got angry and left slamming the door behind you?”
“Cam așa ceva.” / “Something like that.”
Așa, da!/Așa, nu! – we use this almost pedagogically to approve or disapprove of something.
“Am învățat de la 9 la 12 și apoi am ajutat-o pe mama.” / “I studied from 9 to 12 and then I gave mom a hand.”
“Bravo, așa da!” / “Well done, way to go/that’s my boy!”
Am zis și eu așa... – dials down a suggestion or makes a tentative excuse.
“Tu chiar vrei să facem bungee jumping?” / “Do you really want us to go bungee jumping?”
“Ei, am zis și eu așa…” / “Bah, I was just saying…”
Arăți așa de obosită!... – next to an adjective, it intensifies the attribute it expresses.
“Arăți așa de obosită!... Ce s-a întâmplat?” / “You look so tired. What happened?”
“Am lucrat toată noaptea!... ” / “I worked all night long!...”
Așa tupeu, mai rar!... – expresses shock, outrage or disapproval about the noun it accompanies.
“Îți vine să crezi că iar mi-a cerut să-i țin locul? E-a treia oară săptămâna asta!” / “Can you believe he’s asked me yet again to fill in for him? It’s the third time this week!”
“Așa tupeu, mai rar!...” / “The nerve of him!...”
Mi-a venit așa, un gând. – introduces a tentative suggestion or a feeling (of suspicion).
“Auzi? Mi-a venit așa, un gând: ce-ar fi ca agentul să ne lase baltă?” / “Listen, I was just thinking: what if the agent let us down?”
Așa un chef de ducă am!... – gives emphasis to the noun (or sometimes verb) that it accompanies.
“Te-ai cam săturat de stat în București, nu?” / “You’re fed up with staying put in Bucharest, aren’t you?”
“O, da! Așa un chef de ducă am!...” / “Oh, yes! I get such itchy feet!...”
Așa, tată, așa fiu! – this is the exact equivalent of the English proverb on the (usually negative) similarity between father and son.
“Ionel e la fel de obraznic ca taică-său.” / “Ionel is just as cheeky as his dad.”
“Te miri? Așa tată, așa fiu!” / “Are you surprised? Like father, like son!”
Needless to say, any and all of the phrases above make your Romanian sound natural and fluent. Așa că, little by little, start using (some of) them, and what we’ll have to say to that will be... “Așa da!” 😉
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 email@example.com. 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”.