Flags of the countries where Big Romance Languages originate from

Which of the Big Romance Languages has the highest number of tenses?

Kamil Nguyen Van


What does big mean?

By big romance languages I mean: Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish, which according to wikipedia have 64, 77, 221 and 480 million native speakers respectively. There are many other Romance languages which we will not take into account in this definition, the next biggest ones would be Romanian (24 mln) and Catalan (4 mln).

Ephemeral complexity

It is very difficult to define what the most complicated grammar means. Even if we try to compare languages such as Hungarian (considered by many online bloggers to be one of the most grammatically complicated languages) and Bahasa Indonesia (considered to be one of the simplest languages grammar wise) it’s not straightforward to say which language has a more complex grammar. It is difficult because even linguists and polyglots do not agree what grammar complexity is.

In practice, too often we face logical fallacies like:

Polish has 7 grammatical cases, Russian has 6 grammatical cases. Therefore Polish is more complicated.

Hungarian could be considered a language with 18 grammatical cases. Does it mean that it is 3 times as complex as Russian? No, it’s almost certainly not.

You get my point. No matter what the answer to the title of this post is, I hope you will not be inclined to say that Romance language X is more complex than Romance language Y, because of the simple metric I present below.

Romance nightmares

Verb conjugation is a very familiar concept to the speakers of languages such as Russian, Polish or Czech, but when it comes to learning verb conjugations of Romance Languages even these people pale when they realize about the existence of the subjunctive form and others. Native speakers of other languages like: English or Swedish pale even earlier during the learning process. And I don’t even want to mention poor Thai, Chinese and others, for whom verb conjugation is a completely improbable and unnecessary chore.

Since verb conjugation is the main feature on which native speakers of non Romance languages have to concentrate, it would be very interesting to know which of…



Kamil Nguyen Van

Software engineer and language learning enthusiast. Currently building www.tiengos.com