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CROATIAN LANGUAGE - some basic facts about Croatian grammar

Here you can find some general information (rules) about Croatian language. Not all elements of Croatian grammar are included in this document. Taking the course of Croatian language we will go systematically through each element of Croatian grammar‌

Š Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies Croatian language, literature and culture


The Croatian language belongs to the group of Indo-European languages. The Croatian language has 30 phonemes: 5 vowels and 25 consonants. The system of writing of the Croatian language uses the Latin script and is called abeceda after the first four letters in the fixed order in which the characters are listed:

A-a, B-b, C-c, Č-č, Ć-ć, D-d, DŽ-dž, Đ-đ, E-e, F-f, G-g, H-h, I-i, J-j, K-k, L-l, LJ-lj, M-m, N-n, NJ-nj, O-o, P-p, R-r, S-s, Š-š, T-t, U-u, V-v, Z-z, Ž-ž Vowels: Aa, Ee, Ii, Oo, Uu *Note: In some words the phoneme r functions as a vowel (eg. vrt, prst, čvrst) The vowel chart: I ------------------------------------ U A – ona, soba, Ana E – selo, evo, pet E ---------------- O I – slika, pivo, ići O – on, vino, stol A U – uho, dugo, puno Consonants: B - brat, brod, boja P - pjesma, lijep, pitanje D - dan, rad, dugo T - takav, tek, sat G - gdje, izlog, guma K - oko, kat, knjiga V - voda, vino, vrt F - filozof, fratar, fino

M - mama, smijeh, mlijeko N - ništa, nitko, nervoza L - lijek, list, led J – jaje, sjajno, kraj H – htjeti, kruh, duhan S – sada, stvar, sat Z – zid, prozor, zora

The following consonants differ considerably or completely from non-Slavic European languages: C (ts) - crkva, otac, cvijet Č (tč) - čovjek, mačka, čokolada Ć (ć) - kuća, ćud, mladić Dž (dž) - džep, džem, svjedodžba Đ (đ) - đak, vođa, grožđe

LJ (lj) - ljubav, kralj, ljeto NJ (nj) - knjiga, konj, njega Š (š) - šuma, duša, šala Ž (ž) - žena, nož, važno R (r) - riba, ured, dar


Pronunciation The following table should help you with the pronunciation of Croatian words. It gives you a general overview about the main differences between English and Croatian. Of course, it is always better to consult a person that has experience in this language. (especially for the correct emphasis of words). Here are the most important differences (all other letters are pronounced as usual): LETTER

PRONUNCIATION

a

British English pronunciation, long "a", like Arnold, army

c

like "z" in pizza, pronunciation like "ts"

č

like "ch" in chips, chocolate, Charles

ć

softer "ch", examples: cherry, chicken

đ

like "j" in job, Jack, jungle, jazz

harder "j", similar to "đ" or "dj"

e

like "e" in expected, error, exit never say "e" like eagle, east, flee / letter "i" is used for these words (look for "i")

h

normal "h", like "h" in house, hear, horror

i

like "e" in she, we, key

j

like "y" in yes, York, yell

lj

no equivalent in English

nj

like Spanish “ñ”; like “n” in British English news, New York

o

short, British English sounding, "o", like in Ford, pot, population

r

like the Spanish or Scottish "r", examples: Rodriguez, Ronaldo, riviera

š

normal "sh", examples: shock, shelf, she

ž

like "s" in measure or leisure French sounding "j" or "g", like Jacques, genre, Gérard, jeune

In Croatian language almost every letter is pronounced as it is written. There are no silent letters. There are no diphthongs.


NOUNS Nouns are words that name a subject of a discourse, such as a person, place, thing, quality, idea, location. The nouns in Croatian denoting male or female living beings are usually masculine (policajac) or feminine (djevojka), nouns denoting young living creatures are often neuter. The nouns in Croatian – like pronouns, adjectives and numbers – have declensions, that is they are declined, which means that their endings vary according to the function of the noun in the sentence. In Croatian the declension vary according to the gender and type of the noun. However, in each declension the noun ending s may be the same in two or more cases and the nouns of different genders often have equal endings. Nouns are declined through seven (7) cases in both singular and plural. They are: NOMINATIVE, GENITIVE, DATIVE, ACCUSATIVE, VOCATIVE, LOCATIVE, INSTRUMENTAL. Nouns are classified as hard or soft according to the last consonant of the stem. The noun is soft if the last consonant is – j, lj, nj, c, č, ć, š, ž, dž, đ. Otherwise it is hard. Each case answers a question or is correspondent to a preposition. 1) THE NOMINATIVE – by its form, position and function is the case of the subject of the verb. It is also the dictionary form of nouns and the other declinable words. It answers the question tko? or što? (who, what). 2) THE GENITIVE – is the case generally used to modify other nouns, usually indicating possession, origin, belonging, partition or absence. The Genitiva case is often preceded by prepositions. It answers the question koga? or čega? (of whom, of what). 3) THE DATIVE – in the case of the indirect object of a verb. It also denotes direction. The Dative answers the question komu? or čemu? (to whom, to what). 4) THE ACCUSATIVE – in the case of direct object of a verb. The Accusative is used after some prepositions which may also govern other cases. When those prepositions indicate motion towards (u, na) and are an answer to the question kamo? They are followed by Accusative. The Accusative normally answers the question koga? or što? (whom, what). 5) THE VOCATIVE – is the case used to address people or things. It does not answer any question, it is not a part of a sentence and it is separated by a comma. 6) THE LOCATIVE – is used mainly after prepositions u, na, po, o, pri, prema and especially in answer to the question gdje? (where), denoting place. It also answers the question o komu? or o čemu? (about whom, about what). 7) THE INSTRUMENTAL – is used to denote the instrument employed in performing an action when talking about inanimate object. No preposition is used with the Instrumental noun in such case. When the Instrumental noun is seen as accompanying some action or some other noun, the preposition s or sa is used. The Instrumental normally answers the question s kim? or čim? (with whom, whit what).


VERBS PERFECTIVE AND IMPERFECTIVE VERBS In Croatian (and other Slavic languages) a verb can express (besides tense, person and number) the information whether the action is perfective or imperfective. Perfective verb: Ivan sjedne. (infinitive sjesti) - Ivan sits down. - at the moment of speaking the action both begins and finishes. - we use this form of verbs to express short, momentary actions Imperfective verb: Ivan sjedi. (infinitive sjediti) - Ivan is sitting. - at the moment of speaking we know that Ivan is sitting, we don't know when the action has begun and when it will be over. - we use this form of verbs to describe unlimited duration of an action or an undefined duration of an action There are also some verbs that have both aspects (perfective and imperfective) at the same time (e.g. večerati, ručati, doručkovati, čuti, vidjeti and all the verbs ending in -irati: telefonirati, pakirati, organizirati). The Present Tense: perfective verbs are never used to express the real present; they have the present tense form but are used in: a) subordinate sentences to express the future or b) the actions that have already been completed at the time of speaking. e.g. a) Kad dođem, reći ću ti. b) Ivan sjedne. The Future Tense: Perfective: Sutra ću očistiti stan. (I will clean the apartment tomorrow). Imperfective: Sutra ću čistiti stan. (I will be cleaning the apartment tomorrow.) The Past Tense: Perfective: Jučer sam pročitala novine. (I read the newpaper yesterday.) Imperfective: Jučer sam čitala novine. (I was reading the newpaper yesterday.)


PRESENT TENSE There is only one Present Tense in Croatian language. Therefore pričam for example, may mean either I talk or I am talking. PAST TENSE Literary Croatian has four Past Tenses viz. Perfect, Imperfect, Aorist and Pluperfect. However, the Imperfect and Aorist are disappearing and are virtually no longer used in ordinary speech. The Pluperfect may still be used occasionally, but always in a subordinate sentence. These three Past Tenses are all nowadays usually replaced by the Perfect, which (practically speaking) is the only Past Tense now in use. The other three must be recognized for purposes of reading where they may still be met occasionally. THE FUTURE SIMPLE Form: unstressed form of the verb HTJETI (present tense) + the infinitive of the main verb. Since the auxiliary verb already indicates person and number any pronouns used as subject is often omitted. Because the auxiliary, being the enclitic, cannot then occur initially, the infinitive normally takes first place, followed by the auxiliary. If the infinitive precedes the auxiliary in such a way, than the final - i of any –ti verb is omitted. However the final – i does not disappear when the infinitive follows the auxiliary. e.g. Ja ću pisati. / Pisat ću. Ja ću reći. / Reći ću. THE FUTURE EXACT This tense may be used to refer to some action in the future which will take place before some other action in the future (for which the Future Simple is used). The second future tense is a compound tense (it consists of two parts). It is formed from the perfective present tense form of the verb to be and the active participle of the main verb. THE IMPERATIVE The imperative mood expresses a command and personal pronoun is not used in the imperative. This is distinct morphological form used for expressing commands in the 1st and 2nd persons. It is formed by adding the endings to the base of the Present Tense.


PRONOUNS A pronoun is a word used as a substitute for a noun or noun equivalent but sometimes a pronoun may also function as a substitute for an adjective. 1. PERSONAL PRONOUNS It can be seen that certain cases have both a stressed and an unstressed form. The unstressed forms rank as enclitics. The unstressed form is used except: - To indicate emphasis or contrast. (Nije ga dala meni. Možda ga je dala Marku.) - In the spoken language, after a preposition, and sometimes in the literary language. (Je li kod tebe moja knjiga?) When more than one pronominal enclitic is used in the same sentence a strict order of precedence is observed. The order is: Dative, Genitive, Accusative. In the sentence Čini mi se da mi ga je ona zaboravila vratiti (I think she has forgotten to return it to me) – the order of mi ga cannot be reversed since Dative mi must precede Accusative ga. 2. POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS Possessive pronouns have three genders, two numbers and the same declension as adjectives. Possessive pronouns are: (my) MOJ / MOJA / MOJE (your)TVOJ/ TVOJA/ TVOJE (his) NJEGOV / NJEGOVA / NJEGOVO (her) NJEZIN / NJEZINA/ NJEZINO (our) NAŠ / NAŠA / NAŠE (your) VAŠ / VAŠA / VAŠE (their)NJIHOV / NJIHOVA /NJIHOVO 3. REFLEXIVE – POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS -

always used with an object (never in the nominative case) it indicates that something belongs to the person we are talking about (the subject of the sentence) it replaces all the possessive pronouns

e. g. On ima stan. To je njegov stan. But! On ima svoj stan. (In this sentence stan is an object which belongs to the subject of the sentence). If the sentence: On ima njegov stan. The meaning would be that the apartment he has belongs to another man.


OTHER PRONOUNS These are declined as adjectives. Most of them may also be used as adjectives. The most commonlyoccurring are: DEMONSTRATIVE: TAJ – TA – TO (this) OVAJ – OVA – OVO (that) ONAJ – ONA – ONO (that) TAKAV – TAKVA – TAKVO (such, like that), OVAKAV – OVAKVA – OVAKVO (such, like this) ONAKAV – ONAKVA – ONAKVO (such, like that) Taj – onaj – ovaj are equated in English by this or that. In Croatian ovaj is used with reference to something or someone close to the speaker or just mentioned by him. Taj is used with reference to something or someone close to or just mentioned by the person spoken to. Onaj is used with reference to something or someone just mentioned by another person altogether. Similarly, takav refers to something close to the speaker, ovakav to something close to the person spoken to, and onakav to something quite different. REFLEXIVE: SEBE (SE) Exists only in certain cases, such as: Nominative Genitive Stressed / sebe Unstressed / se

Dative sebi si

Accusative Vocative sebe / se /

Locative sebi /

Instrumental sobom /

INTERROGATIVE: TKO – ŠTO (who – what), KOGA – ČEGA (of whom – of what), KOMU – ČEMU (whom – what), KOGA – ŠTO (whom – what), KOME – ČEMU (whom – what) INTERROGATIVE AND POSSESSIVE: ČIJI – ČIJA – ČIJE (whose) INTERROGATIVE AND RELATIVE: Interrogative pronouns are used only in question and substitute the word which is expected in the answer. e.g. Tko sam ja? (Who am I?), Koji je dan? (Which day is it?) Relative pronouns are used only in compound sentences. They connect the dependent clause with the main sentence. e.g. Ja sam čovjek koji voli čitati. (I am a man who likes to read.) KOJI – KOJA – KOJE (which, whose) KAKAV – KAKVA – KAKVO (like which) INDEFINITE: NEKI – NEKA – NEKO (some), SVAKI – SVAKA – SVAKO (every), DRUGI – DRUGA – DRUGO (other), MNOGI – MNOGE – MNOGO (many)


ADJECTIVES Adjectives are words used with a noun or noun equivalent to denote a quality of the thing named or something attributed to it. Adjectives in the Croatian language have three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter and two numbers: singular and plural. Their declension differs from that of nouns. - The masculine, feminine and neuter plural forms take the same endings in the Genitive, Dative, Locative and Instrumental. - In some cases adjectives have identical endings as nouns in the same case:  The Nominative of all gender in singular and plural.  The Accusative of feminine and neuter in singular and plural.  The Accusative plural of masculine nouns.  The Vocative of all genders in plural.  The Genitive and Instrumental singular of feminine nouns. Apart from declension, adjectives also have comparison to denote degrees of quality, quantity and relation. If the last consonant of the base is j, lj, nj, c, č, ć, š, ž, dž, đ the adjective is soft. Otherwise is hard.

DESCRIPTIVE ADJECTIVE Indefinite and definite adjective The Nominative singular masculine of an indefinite adjective ends in a consonant (star, plav, vruć) or in an o which has derived from l (vreo), whereas the Nominative singular masculine of the definite adjective ends in –i after a consonant. When the indefinite adjective end in –o which has derived from l, mobile a appears before the final –o: topli (definitive), topao (indefinite). In the Nominative singular feminine and neuter there is no difference in spelling between the indefinite and definite form, but in speech the final vowel of the definite ending may be pronounced long, that of the indefinite pronounced short. The Nominative singular feminine ends in –a (plava, stara, lijepa) and the Nominative singular neuter ends in –o if the adjective is hard (plavo) but in –e if the adjective is soft (vruće).

When to use definite or indefinite adjective? The indefinite form existed first in the language and was used to indicate some general kind of quality possessed by the noun it described. The definite form developed through contamination of the indefinite form with the demonstrative pronoun in order to indicate a particular or individual member of the general category possessing that quality.


e.g. Imam dva prijatelja, jedan je siromašan a drugi bogat. (I have two friends, one is poor and the other risch) – the adjectives indicate the general state of both friends and are therefore indefinite. Siromašni mi je draži od bogatoga. (The poor one is dearer to me than the rich one.) – reference is made to particular individuals, one belonging to the category of the rich, the other to the category of the poor.

POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES 1. Animate nouns Possessive adjectives are formed from personal names of people and animals or common nouns denoting people to express that something or someone belongs to them. They have different forms for all three genders, both in singular and plural, depending on the noun following the adjective. This kind of possessive adjectives (if they come from personal names) are always written with a capital letter (Ivan – Ivanov, Marta – Martin). b) Inanimate adjectives Possessive adjectives are formed from geographical names (countries, towns, cities, villages etc.) and common nouns denoting places to express the notion of belonging to a particular place. They have different endings for all three genders, both in singular and plural, depending on the noun following the adjective. This kind of possessive adjectives (if they come from a specific geographical name) are always written in a lower case (e.g. hrvatski jezik).


NUMERALS CARDINAL AND ORDINAL NUMBERS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

jedan dva tri četiri pet šest sedam osam devet deset dvadeset trideset četrdeset pedeset šezdeset sedamdeset osamdeset devedeset STO

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 32 43 54 65 76 87 98 101

200 – dvije stotine / dvjesto 300 – tri stotine / tristo 400 – četiri stotine / četiristo 500 – pet stotina / petsto

jedanaest dvanaest trinaest četrnaest petnaest šesnaest sedamnaest osamnaest devetnaest dvadeset (i) jedan trideset (i) dva četrdeset (i) tri pedeset (i) četiri šezdeset (i) pet sedamdeset (i) šest osamdeset (i)sedam devedeset osam sto (i) jedan

1 000 2 000 3 000 4 000 5 000 6 000 7 000 8 000 9 000 10 000

jedna tisuća / tisuću dvije tisuće tri tisuće četiri tisuće pet tisuća šest tisuća sedam tisuća osam tisuća devet tisuća deset tisuća

22 000 23 000 24 000 32 000 43 000 54 000 62 000

dvadeset dvije tisuće dvadeset tri tisuće dvadeset četiri tisuće trideset dvije tisuće četrdeset tri tisuće pedeset četiri tisuće šezdeset dvije tisuće

600 – šest stotina / šesto 700 – sedam stotina / sedamsto 800 – osam stotina / osamsto 900 – devet stotina / devetsto

*Attention!!! 1 + NOMINATIVE SINGULAR (jedan muškarac, jedna žena, jedno dijete) 2, 3, 4 + GENITIVE SINGULAR (dva muškarca, tri žene, četiri djeteta) 5, 6, 7, > + GENITIVE PLURAL (pet muškaraca, šest ženâ, sedam djece)

22, 23, 24 … 32, 33, 34 … 42, 43, 44 … 52, 53, 54 … 62, 63, 63 … 72, 73, 74 … 82, 83, 84 … 92, 93, 94 … 102, 103, 104 … 122, 123, 124 … + GENITIVE SINGULAR


ORDINAL NUMBERS 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

prvi –a – o drugi – a – o treći – a – e četvrti – a – o peti – a – o šesti – a – o sedmi – a – o osmi – a – o

9. 10. 11.

deveti – a – o deseti – a – o jedanaesti – a – o

25. 125. 1 125.

dvadeset (i) peti – a – o sto dvadeset (i) peti – a – o tisuću sto dvadeset (i) peti – a – o

The cardinal numbers Of the cardinal numbers only (1) and (2) have adjectival gender and of these only (1) behaves as a true adjective having different forms for all three genders and being used in the same gender, case and number as the noun it qualifies. Cardinal (2) has a form which is the same for both masculine and neuter but has a different feminine. Unlike (1), but like the other cardinals, it is used as a noun, not an adjective. 1 = jedan (m), jedna (f), jedno (n) 2 = dva (m), dvije (f), dva (n)


Reference: Barić – Lončarić – Malić – Pavešić – Peti – Zečević – Znika. Hrvatska gramatika. Školska knjiga. Zagreb. 2005. Partridge, Monica. Serbo-Croat practical grammar and reader. Prosveta. Beograd. 1988. this book was used mainly because it was written in English, concidering only the elements reffering to Croatian language.

Special thanks to my colleagues who helped in creating this brief overview of Croatian grammar.


Croatian Grammar  

Some basic facts about Croatian language.

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