Croatian is a small but incredibly chic slavic South Slavonic language spoken by around twelve million people largely living in Croatia. It is mutually intelligble with Bosnian, Montenegrin and Serbian.
It is a slavic language, and in common with other slavic languages has a complicated grammar and case system, as described below.
Croatian holiday phrases ordered by topic.
koji jesi na nebesima,
sveti se ime Tvoje,
dođi kraljevstvo Tvoje,
budi volja Tvoja,
kako na nebu, tako i na zemlji.
Kruh naš svagdanji daj nam danas,
i otpusti nam duge naše,
kako i mi otpuštamo dužnicima našim,
i ne uvedi nas u napast,
nego izbavi nas od Zla!.
An extract from the Croatian version of the Little Prince Mali Princ as translated by Mia Pervan-Plavec.
Kad mi je bilo šest godina, vidio sam jednom prilikom jednu veličanstvenu sliku u nekoj knjizi o prašumi koja se zvala »Istinite priče«. Slika je predstavljala zmiju udava kako guta neku zvijer. Evo tog crteža.
When I was six years old, I once saw a magnificent picture in a book about the rainforest called True Stories. The picture depicted a boa constrictor swallowing a beast. Here is this drawing.
Croatian phrases arranged by topic.
This is very much a work in progress, and a personal attempt to understand Croatian grammer. So don't take it as 100% accurate!
I am writing these notes on Croatian grammar as much for me as for anyone who has happened onto this page in their travels. It is (or will be), the basic grammar needed to construct a Croatian sentence, and (sometimes) ignores the numerous exceptions.
As a slavic language, Croatian has many similarities to Polish, Russian, Czech and so on. Learning Croatian gives you an insight into other slavic languages, in a similart way to Spanish giving an insight into other romance languages.
Slavic languages are characterised by a complicated (but not impossible) grammar including noun gender, a case system and verbal aspects.
Croatian has seven cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, genitve, dative, locative and instrumental. The case endings differ depending on the noun gender and whether the noun being described is singular or plural.
The dative and locative cases have the same endings but different uses.
OK. So what does that mean? A picture, or in this case an illustrative sentence is worth a thousand words, and here are some example sentences.
Novi (new) and ideja (idea) are a (feminine) noun and adjective respectively and change in these sentences according to the case required.
Moja nova ideja je fantasticna (nominative).
Imam novu ideju (accusative).
Razvijam projekt od moje nove ideje (genitive).
Vrlo sam sretan s mojom novom idejom (instrumental)
All Croatian nouns have a gender. You must know the gender of the noun to be able to construct a sentence (correctly).
The gender is generally obvious from the ending, and the basic rules are as follows:
Feminine nouns end in an a.
Masculine nouns end in a consonant.
Neuter nouns end in an o or e.
See more on noun gender for the exceptions.
Nouns and adjectives change case, that is, decline depending to their position/use in a sentence, and after prepositions.
The subject of a sentence uses the nominative.
Nouns and adjective generally use the accusative case after verbs (i.e. when the noun is the object of the verb) and certain prepositions. Some verbs require a specific case. Also remember that Croatian word order differs from English, and so a word may be the object of a verb, but positioned in front.
Examples of masculine nouns in the accusative are vidim stareg čovjeka (I see the old man) and vidim lijepi park (I see the nice park).
Notes on the masculine accusative.
The masculine accusative for animals and people differ from all other classes of masculine nouns and the endings are og, eg (adjective) and a (noun).
Eg is used when following c, č, ć, š, z, đ, lj, nj, j .These are soft sounds and once you know the pronunciation make sense.
Plural masculine nouns end in e.
The genitive case is the most widely used case in Croatian. It is used after prepositions, numbers, quanities and when 'of' is used in English.
The endings for the dative and locative are identical.
Prepositions use different cases:
So, for example prema + dative (towards) as in Voze prema autobusnom kolodvoru (he drives towards the bus station).
A preposition may have more than one case depending on the meaning:
za + accusative (for)
za + instrumental (behind).
Croatian prepositions are covered in excruciating detail here.
Croatian word order takes a bit of getting used to and at the beginning it is difficult to see the wood for the trees. So if you are just staring here is one of the most important things to remember and one way to improve.
The small parts of the verb biti (to be) can not start a sentence.
Learn set phrases e.g. Sviđa mi se (I like it) and use them as as mnemonics to help remember/understand word order.
Word order depends on the tense, so learn set phrases in different tenses. E.g. Svidjet će ti se (you will like it).
There is more detail about word order here.
Croatian sentence structure often differs English sentence structure, although there are also structures which are the same as the English.
A simple sentence in the present tense is straight-forward: subject, verb and object.
Modal verbs (I want, I can etc) can be used with a following infinitive.
Želim + infinitive (I want + infinitive)
Mogu + infinitive (I want + infinitive)
There is more detail about sentence structure here.
These, as you might imagine, decline and decline differently depending on the case. One way of remembering these is within phrases.
me, te, ga, ju (je), nas, vas, ih, ih
pitaju te (they ask you)
I have used the phrase čini mi se (it seems to me) to remember these for the different dative personal pronouns.
mi, ti, mu, joj, nam, vam, im, im
čini mi se ... (it seems to me)
čini nam se ... (it seems to us)
Sviđa mi se ... (It is liking to me)
Sviđa mi se ...
and also ...
To mi se jako sviđa
and also ...
This functions in a similar way to čini mi se and uses the dative
of the person. E.g. Sviđa joj se London (she likes London) or literally 'likes to her London'.
There are three main patterns of Croatian verb, and each pattern is conjugated in the present tense (for illustration).
dolaziti:dolazim, dolaziš, dolazi, dolazimo, dolazite, dolaze
gledati:gledam, gledaš, gleda, gledamo, gledate, gledaju
ići:idem, ideš, ide, idemo, idete, idu
The vast majority of Croatian verbs are conjugated according to the patterns above, but in common with many other languages, some of the most frequently used verbs are irregular.
These are random Croatian verbs that you will use constantly.
nemati to have not
nemam, nemaš, nema, nemamo, nemate, nemaju.
nemam duboke korijene
nema dobar okus
nemam puno vremena
ima, nema mean there is and there isn't respectively and are followed by the genitive in certain circumstances.
nemam problema s tim
Some verbs take specific cases and prepositions, and here are a few.
Sjećati se to remember
Siguran sam da se sjećaš te knjige
But it doesn't have to be followed by a phrase
And it can be followed by a word like da so think word order.
Sjećaš li se da
Suosječati s to empathise
Suosjećam s tim
Ovisiti + o + dat to depend on Ovisi o projektu
Navijati + za + acc to cheer for
As you might imagine,sentence structure in Croatian often but not always differs from English.
There are many constructions which are similar to English, and these are easy wins as long as you can remember which constructions these are.
For example, Želim + infinitive (I want + infinitive) has the same word order and meaning as the English. This is the same for he wants, she wants ...
There are also, by way of illustration, constructions in Croatian sometimes use the infinitve in English, but don't in Croatian, an example being Ne bih preporučio turistima da idu na takva mjesta (I would not recommend tourists that tourists go ...). In English, we could equally say 'I would not reccomend tourists to go ...'.
Croatian sentence structure is more detailed.
Pomisliti na to kako ... to think about how to ...
za for, in order to
promjenit ćemo planove za odmor Kako bi in order to
Išla si u Keniju kako bi vidjela životinje kako + conditional Nego što than
trebalo mi je više vremena nego što sam mislio
These are converstional chunks such as 'I hope that ...', 'I remember that ...' and 'It seems to me that ...', that can be learnt by heart and used to start a sentence.
Phrases by topic. Hundreds of Croatian phrases ordered by topic.
A Croatian crossword suitable for beginner to intermediate learners. Semi regular updates on my progress learning Croatian through self study.
As the Latin phrase goes