At this moment, I recommend that you check my other blog, Easy Croatian first. It's simpler, has sound clips, deals with pronunciation from the start, etc., and use this blog as supplemental information only.

This is my Croatian language blog. I have been trying to put together a language blog for some time. I have collected some materials, and I'll be posting some Croatian lessons here.

I think there's not enough information on the Internet about the Croatian language basics. A good thing about blogs is that I'm able to edit them easily, people are able to post questions and comments, etc.

Some explanations and descriptions I will use are different from ones found in the textbooks. I had two goals:

  • simplify things wherever possible
  • attempt to create a more logical descriptions — hence easier to memorize.

Beware, Croatian is not a simple language. It's complicated even with my simplifications.


I will concentrate mostly on spoken, everyday language. If you take a look at an average Croatian language book, or read about Croatian grammar on Wikipedia, there are actually many things that almost nobody uses nowadays. Some features are used only on TV and in some books. My aim is to give important things first, and such fine points will be 'for those who want to learn more'.

I will also consider various dialects: most people actually everyday speak a somewhat different (some would say — quite different) language from the Standard Croatian!

Similar languages

If you would really like to learn e.g. Serbian or Bosnian, it's useful to learn Croatian first and specifics of similar languages can be learned later. Grammatical specifics of Serbian are mentioned whenever they occur, Cyrillic script can be learned later, and Bosnian is basically Croatian with some changes in vocabulary and optional changes in spelling. All four languages (including Montenegrin) are extremely similar, and some consider them variants of a single language.

Main vocabulary and spelling specifics of similar languages are covered in 80 Bosnian, Serbian and Montenegrin.

About this work

I'm not a professional linguist or teacher of Croatian. This work is not finished but nevertheless I hope you will find it useful. All suggestions are welcome. I'm not likely to expand this blog with more entries, I will rather work to expand already written posts.

Updated 2014-11-11

1 Basic Features

Croatian is a Slavic language. It's almost the same as Serbian or Bosnian, and similar to Czech and Russian. Its grammar resembles Old Greek and Latin, so it's quite complex (but don't get afraid!). Here's a map of Slavic languages:

Relation to Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin

Basically, you can say that you almost learn 4 languages with one effort: Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin. Yes, there are some differences, but they are mostly in vocabulary. And you can get by with Croatian in Slovenia and Macedonia as well, so that's all together 6 countries!

It's incredible that some web sites offering (costly) language courses say:

'Not surprisingly, Croatian vocabulary has much in common with Serbian and Bosnian. In many cases, speakers of these languages can even communicate between one another.'


On Croatian TV and in cinemas, Serbian or Bosnian films are shown always without any subtitles or dubbing. Statements by people from Serbia (politicians, etc.) are shown on TV also without any dubbing or subtitles! "Much in common" is a terrible understatement. To "even communicate" is laughable. I have read many books in Serbian without any difficulties...

We will also see that 'Croatian' is a standard language, and spoken variants have considerable variation, much more than e.g. in English. We will see later that there's no simple way to describe relations of Croatian to similar languages (a similar situation exists in Scandinavia), but for now let's just say that Croatian has internal diversity and also a lot in common with surrounding languages, even with more distant ones like Russian.

Basic Features

Let's take a dive and look at some basic features of Croatian. Maybe it's best to see how some simple sentences in English translate to Croatian.

English: John has a big house. John's son came to visit him. John's house has three bedrooms.

Croatian: John ima veliku kuću. Johnov sin je došao posjetiti ga. Johnova kuća ima tri spavaće sobe.

This is almost a word-to-word translation, except:

  • Croatian has no articles like English a, the (now you see why I miss articles sometimes — my native language has no articles!)
  • English form to visit corresponds to one Croatian word posjetiti
  • English verb came translates to the two-word Croatian form je došao
  • English bedroom translates to Croatian phrase spavaća soba (literally, "sleeping room")

Johnima velikukuću.
John'ssoncameto visithim.
Johnovsinje došaoposjetitiga.
Johnovakućaimatrispavaće sobe.

Have you noted that some words look somewhat similar (sin "son", and tri "three")? You can read something about reasons for such similarities here.

Now, if we take a closer look, we see that kuća "house" (we don't worry about pronunciation for now) has a different form when it's in the sentence where it's possessed (kuću). We say that it's in a different case.

So, Croatian has cases.

Next, we see that "John's" translates to Johnov and Johnova. This is so-called possessive adjective. And it has a different form (as every adjective has) depending whether is describes a male noun (sin "son"), female (kuća "house" is female in Croatian), or neuter! Therefore, gender is much more pervasive in Croatian than in English: all adjectives and words similar to them must change according to the gender of nouns. Also, adjectives can and do change case.

So, the bulk of Croatian grammar will be just cases of nouns and adjectives.

Note that English has a very limited case system, for pronouns only. So him is "object case" of pronoun "he". Likewise, Croatian ga is "object case" (more commonly known as "accusative") of pronoun on "he".

I once saw someone wrote 'I don't know cases in English for start, I should learn them first'. No, you should not: cases are simply a concept that some languages have a some do not. In a similar fashion, Croatian has no articles: there's no way to learn articles in Croatian before trying to learn English ones. Even better, the 'accusative' case in one language is not really the same as 'accusative' in another! German and Latin also have cases, but those cases are a bit different than Croatian ones (there are a lot of similarities, of course) — even their number do not match (e.g. neither German nor Latin have any equivalent of Croatian instrumental case).

There's one feature that you will probably find quite weird, since it has no equivalent in German or English. In many languages, nouns have basically two forms: singular ("room") and plural ("rooms", "big rooms"). If you want to say exactly how many rooms there are, you just use plural forms ("five big rooms"). It's a bit more complicated in German.

It's a lot more complicated in Croatian, as you can see:

"big room"großes Zimmervelika soba
"big rooms"große Zimmervelike sobe
"five big rooms"fünf große Zimmerpet velikih soba

So please, be prepared that things very simple in English or German are sometimes complex in Croatian. Of course, there are also things that are simpler in Croatian than in English or German...

You will probably note that my approach to some issues is a bit different than in other books and internet sites. That's intentional.

Updated 2014-11-07 (v. 0.4)

2 Spelling

For an alternative explanation, with sound clips, check: Easy Croatian.

Usually, basic language courses give pronunciation rules. I find that somewhat strange — after all, a language is primarily spoken, writing can vary. If fact, over centuries, Croatian writing system did vary, but nowadays it settled to a quite simple one. Roughly, there is a rule: one sound = one letter. However, some "letters" are actually "double". But they are really considered as true letters, and have own entries in dictionaries and like.

Croatian has 6 vowels. They can be either long (like English feel) or short (like sit) but difference is not really big and not much important. They are pronounced as in Spanish or Italian (except for one). Here are vowels with approximate English sounds (for completeness, there are IPA symbols in square brackets as well). Courtesy of Brandon Bertelsen (thanks again!), you can hear these sounds as well.

letterIPAEnglish correlate
r[r̩][listen]somewhat like her, but clearly pronounced

Consonants are more complex. Since you are not probably aiming for a speaker job at the Croatian Radio, it's OK if you don't distinguish č from ć, and đ from . Many people in Croatia don't distinguish them either!

letterIPAEnglish correlate, and some others
c[t͡s][listen]somewhat similar to cats; also in Russian tzar, German Zimmer, etc.
ć[t̠͡ɕ][listen]softer than č (don't worry too much)
đ[d̠͡ʑ][listen]softer than (don't worry too much)
h[x][listen]similar to Scottish loch, rougher than English hat
lj[ʎ][listen]somewhat like million; also in Portuguese olho, Italian figlio
nj[ɲ][listen]somewhat like onion; also in Spanish señora, Italian bagno
r[r][listen]it's hard to match; it's somewhat "clearer" than English rough
v[ʋ][listen]between very and wave (don't worry too much about this one)
ž[ʒ][listen]vision; Portuguese jogo; Turkish jale

Croatian spelling does not use letters q, x, y, and w, except in foreign names and like.

How to know when an r is used as a vowel, and when as an consonant? Well, if it's in an "impossible" position, then it's surely a vowel, e.g.:

prst "finger"
trg "square" (in a city)
smrt "death"
svrha "purpose"

I took some liberty to introduce "matres lectionis" — symbols I have personally invented, that are never used in the real life, or by anyone else — but indicate important letters that are not distinguished in ordinary writing at all.

First, on some e's I have placed two dots (ë) to indicate that it's somewhat special. It's because the sequence ijë is by most people not pronounced as /ijë/, but much closer to /je/ (that is, not as two syllables), except when it's at the end of the word, then it's pronounced just like /ije/. But when an e is not marked, it means that everybody pronounces it as /ije/:

prijë "before" — pronounce just as written, because it's at the end
nijedan "no one" — pronounce just as written, because the e is not marked
uvijëk "always" — pronounce actually much closer to /uvjek/ (two syllables, /u-vjek/), since the e is marked

If an i is not pronounced, why did I mark the e following it!? One reason is that it can change in plural of some words — i is just dropped:

cvijët "flower" — most people pronounce it much closer to /cvjet/
cvjëtovi "flowers" — (mind the spelling!)

I must confess that spelling of ije (and its mutation to je) was responsible for 90% of my spelling errors in primary school. It's a nightmare for many people. It's impossible to learn for many, since it's pronounced as if spelled as je, so many people are guessing all the time where to spell ije and where je. It's frequently called "the infamous ije".

Second, on some a's I have placed the dots (ä) to indicate "inconstant a". It's that in some words an a is "automatically" inserted in consonant clusters at the end of the word. Now, nobody makes mistakes with this, but you will — because you'll like learn the forms with an inserted a, and will be unsure where it disappears! For instance, let's see the word "dog":

psi "dogs" — you'll see later, plural of some nouns is made by adding an -i
päs "dog" — the singular cannot be ps, an a is automatically inserted

That's how it looks from the standpoint of the plural, but from the standpoint of singular, the a was dropped. Now, there are words ending on -as (e.g. pojas "belt") where nothing is dropped (pl. pojasi "belts") — how are you going to know which a's are dropped? Hence the notation. Of course, the ä is pronounced just like another a.

If an ä is found in the middle of the word, then it's not dropped at all, it means something completely different, e.g. mägla "fog". Just pronounce it as any a until it gets important!

Finally, I have added two dots on some i's (ï) — just disregard them and treat is as any other i until it gets important.

Special notation

There's a special notation invented for this course. It consists of two dots (¨).

Most people actually pronounce sequence ijë when not at the end of the word as /je/

Otherwise, pronounce an ä, ï, or ë just if there were no dots.

The notation ä signifies an a that likely disappears in some forms of the word, but only if it's the last vowel. If it's not, it never disappears.

The Baška Tablet, one of oldest Croatian writings, not written in the modern alphabet

A short video on letters and spelling (not my creation, found it on the net):

3 Basic Phrases

I will here list some basic phrases, and some basic patterns of simple sentences. First, most basic words and politeness:

molim"please" [listen]
hvala"thank you" [listen]
oprostite"excuse me", "sorry"

How to ask does someone know a language:

Govorite li..."Do you speak..."
Razumijem..."I understand..."
Znam..."I know (speak)..."
Ne razumijem..."I don't understand..."
... engleski"English"
... hrvatski"Croatian"
... njemački"German"
... francuski"French"
... talijanski"Italian"
... španjolski"Spanish"
... japanski"Japanese" (slim chance for this one!)

Some other useful phrases:

Možete li mi pomoći?"Can you help me?"
Gdjë je...?"Where is...?"
... toalet?"... the toilet?"
... izlaz?"... the exit?"
... policija?"... the police?"
... bolnica?"... hospital?"
... pošta?"... post office?"
... banka?"... bank?"
Trëbam(o)..."I (we) need..."
... pomoć"... help"
... doktora"... doctor"
... vode"... water"

Yes, we are rude; please don't ask for a bathroom, you want a toilet really! Ask for a bathroom if you want to take a shower...

You will often hear people saying to you izvolite. That means two things: "can I serve you", and "here it is". For instance, you come to a post office:

  • a clerk says izvolite
  • you ask for postcards, and give him/her the money
  • the clerk gives you postcards and says again izvolite.

That's just a polite word.

Also, when someone says hvala "thank you" other side will usually respond with molim, a word that usually means "please".

Finally, some greetings:

Dobär dan!"Good day", "Good afternoon" (the basic formal greeting when meeting someone) [listen]
Dobro jutro!"Good morning" [listen]
Dobra večer!"Good evening" [listen] (she says dobär actually; some people do it)
Laku noć!"Good night" [listen]
Do viđenja!"Good bye" (this is formal) [listen]
Bok!"Hi" (this is informal, both meeting and leaving)

You can find other useful words using a free online dictionary; it's comprehensive, but it translates some sentences slightly incorrectly. You can also use Google™ Translate (

4 Types of Words

This chapter should prepare you for what lies ahead, to introduce some basic concepts.

For some reasons, English grammar divides words into various "parts of speech". I would rather use a phrase "types of words". In scientific use people prefer "word classes". I would rather use class to sub-divide various types.

I hope you know at least about nouns (e.g. "Sun") and verbs (e.g. "shine"). There are also adjectives (e.g. "yellow"), etc. Croatian has all these types, similar to English.

However, there comes a twist. One can divide words by various criteria. In Croatian, there are basically three ways to divide words:

  • by meaning: whether they describe a being, action, some property, quantity, etc.
  • by syntax: how the word behaves grammatically, what forms it has, etc.
  • finally, one can divide among "full words" and "short words" ("short" are usually called clitics, but they are... short).

This mixture can be also seen in English: there are nouns with verbal meaning, like in the sentence "Leaving was not easy". "Leaving" is called verbal noun (that is, word that behaves like a noun, and has a meaning of an action), or sometimes gerund.

In Croatian, there are a lot of words that behave like adjectives and represent something else — actions and quantities, for instance.

Let's take a look at some types of words in Croatian, not by meaning, but by their grammatical properties:

Nouns stand for persons (John), beings (pas "dog"), various objects (soba "room"), feelings (bol "pain"), or abstractions (odlazak "departure").

  • more or less all nouns have different forms in various cases, for both singular and plural,
  • each has pre-determined gender which may be anything for non-living things: e.g. odlazak is masculine;
  • from most nouns, a possessive adjective can be created (Ivan - Ivanov "Ivan's")

Pronouns stand for nouns and describe some already known thing, sides of conversation (ja "I", mi "we"). Words standing for some undetermined beings (netko "someone") are also usually classified as pronouns.

  • more or less all pronouns also have different forms in various cases, for both singular and plural,
  • there are pronouns for the first and second persons in conversation;
  • some pronouns have different forms for various genders (the same is in English - check "he", "she", "it");
  • from most pronouns, a possessive adjective can be created (on "he" - njegov "his")
  • some pronouns have special "short forms" that are placed in pre-determined place in a sentence;

Adjectives describe nouns somehow (žuti "yellow") or are derived from nouns to describe possession (Ivanov "Ivan's") or pronouns (njegov "his") or from verbs (more about it later).

  • more or less all adjectives also have different forms in various cases, for both singular and plural, and they adapt to gender of a noun, so adjectives have quite a lot of forms;
  • many adjectives have comparison (velik "big", veći "bigger", etc.);

Verbs describe actions or states.

  • they have various forms that describe tenses (past, present, future) and persons in a conversation;
  • some nouns and adjectives can be formed from verbs; such adjectives are further used to create compound forms for various tenses;
  • there are some auxiliary verbs used to create compound tenses;
  • there are some forms describing orders (like "go there") or possibilities (like "you could").

Besides that, there are prepositions (u "in", iz "from"), adverbs (lako "easy"; they have relations with adjectives), and conjuctions and particles (i "and").

However, there's another way of looking at it. Words can be divided what meaning they carry. For instance, some words point to some real person (like personal names, Ivan, for instance), and on the other extreme other words have only pure grammatical use (like English "in", "of", "and"), called "function words".

More or less completely independent of this, there's another division regarding that some words describe things and persons ("nouns"), possessions ("possessives"), properties ("adjectives"), actions ("verbs"). But there can be generic possessions ("his") and individual ones ("John's"). It could be described in a neat table:

personal names:
Ivan, Ana
fixed gender, change case
objects and concepts:
soba "room", bol "pain"
fixed gender, change case
personal pronouns:
ja "I", mi "we"
change gender and case
Ivanov "Ivan's", Anin "Ana's"
change gender and case
sobni "room", bolni "painful"
change gender and case
pronominal possesives:
moj "my", naš "our"
change gender and case
velik "big", hladan "cold"
change gender, case and degree
taj "that", ovo "this"
change gender and case
  brzo "quickly", malo "little"
change degree
kako "how", ovako "like this"
have only one form
  jučer "yesterday", noćas "this night"
have only one form
kada "when", ovdje "here"
have only one form
pišem "I'm writing", spavam "I'm sleeping"
change tense and person

The yellow-shaded cells are adjective-like words, the major part of Croatian. You see that verbs are a separate part of the scheme; but fully apart from all described above are fully functional words, like u "in", i "and" — prepositions, conjuctions, particles and so on.

There's a major system linking most of "generalizations", similar to English words "where"/"anywhere"/"nowhere"/"there"....

5 Basic Sentences

• • • Easy Croatian: 02 Simplest Sentences, 03 Objects

In this post I'll describe the structure of simple sentences. I have a serious problem - English is, in a sense, a very peculiar language. Regarding the sentence structure, most languages of the world are not so rigid as English is. In fact, even Mandarin Chinese is (in this aspect) more similar to Croatian. Germanic languages (English included) and French are somewhat different from the bulk!

Let's take a look at a simple sentence:

English: I am eating an apple.

Croatian: Ja jedem jabuku.

However, in Croatian, the subject pronoun ja "I" is almost always ommited:

Jedem jabuku.

One says ja... only in very special circumstances!

Some words: jedem "am eating"; jede "is eating"; jabuka "apple".

There are some verbs that are called "0-argument" (don't worry about technical terms for now) - they really don't have a subject, because it's how they are. In English, such verbs have a "dummy pronoun" it:

English: It rains.

Croatian: Kiši.

In Croatian, you cannot use any subject with such verbs - there are no dummy pronouns!

There are some "2-argument" (or "transitive") verbs than have a subject and (mostly optional) object:

English: Iva is drinking water.

Croatian: Iva pije vodu. (pije "is drinking"; voda "water")

In English, this is the only word order. This is the normal order for Croatian, but sometimes people use other word orders:

Croatian: Iva vodu pije.

Croatian: Vodu Iva pije.

Croatian: Vodu pije Iva.

Croatian: Pije Iva vodu.

Croatian: Pije vodu Iva.

These variants are used when someone wants to emphasize some words.

If we use a pronoun as the subject, we get:

English: She is drinking water.

Croatian: Ona pije vodu.

Croatian: Pije vodu. (this is the most common)

Croatian: Vodu pije.

There are some verbs that have a subject and two objects (they are called "ditransitive" or "3-argument"). One such verb is dajem "give". One can shuffle words in such English sentences a bit, but must insert a word to. In Croatian, there are so many possibilities that I'm not going to list all:

English: Iva is giving Ana an apple.

English: Iva is giving an apple to Ana.

Croatian: Iva daje Ani jabuku. (daje "is giving")

Croatian: Iva daje jabuku Ani.

Croatian: Ani Iva daje jabuku.

Croatian: Jabuku Ani daje Iva.


Again, first possibilities are most common in Croatian. If you use a pronoun (e.g. she) for the subject, you usually drop it in Croatian.

There's usually no possibility for confusion when shuffling words in Croatian sentences, since subject, direct and indirect object are in different cases. So when one finds a noun in the "subject case" wherever in a sentence, that's the subject. The same goes for object(s). Therefore, it's important to learn the so-called cases.

6 Cases Survival Guide

Introducing Cases

This post will introduce you to grammatical cases. English has 2 cases (the subject case and the object case). However, their forms are different only for pronouns ("we" vs. "us").

Cases are forms of words when used in various places in a sentence (subject, object, indirect object, etc.)

If the sentence "Ivan is writing a letter to Ana." is translated into Croatian, all three nouns (Ivan, letter, Ana) must be put in cases corresponding to their roles. In English one uses just word order and preposition "to".

Case changes apply to nouns, adjectives and pronouns. For instance, the phrase moja sestra "my sister" (adjective + noun) and the pronoun ona "she" change like this:

Moja sestra je ovdje. "My sister is here" Ona je ovdje. "She is here."
Vidiš moju sestru. "You (can) see my sister"     Vidiš je. "You (can) see her."

We see that the adjective moja and the name change only a bit (only the ending), but the pronoun changes completely (this is actually similar to English, where "she" changes to "her" — a complete change). This example illustrates only two cases, but that's the principle.

So, a noun has different forms in various cases, an adjective has them too, but generally they don't follow the same pattern (although they are similar). Even worse, the pattern for an adjective depends on the gender of the noun! (That's actually the definition of gender I'm using here: it tells you which form of an adjective you should use).

As we've seen from the example, pronouns have yet another pattern... This is a hard thing to learn, and there's no other way but to memorize it. Therefore, it's worth learning the often used cases first. This chapter will introduce you to the cases, and the next two chapters will introduce forms for adjectives and nouns for the two most often used cases, and we will leave pronouns out for now.

Cases are roles of words in sentences.

Nouns ("cat"), including names ("Ivan"), adjectives ("big", "my") and pronouns ("I", "you") have different forms in various cases according to specific patterns.

I don't want to oversimplify things. Cases are a hard-to-learn concept, and which case is used where even harder. So I want to introduce basic cases as soon as possible. Don't be impatient and jump into conclusions, you must learn gradually where each case is needed and how to put a word into that case!

Some languages have more than 10 cases, like Hungarian. Georgian, Latin, Old Greek, Sanskrit, Old English, and most Slavic languages have 5-8 cases. Most textbooks say that Croatian has 7 cases.

Cases are woven together with singular/plural, so every Croatian noun has 7 forms for cases in singular, and additional 7 for plural = 14 all together. Adjectives have even more forms — one for each gender and case combination! Hopeless? Not completely.

A Quick Survey

First, one case (the nominative, or 'subject case') is the 'default' case — you have to know the dictionary form of a noun if nothing else, and there are rules how to make a plural. So, 6x2 left.

Second, two of the remaining 6 cases are always exactly the same in both singular and plural (except for a small difference in accent; also they are not equal in some dialects); they are called locative and dative — I'll call them both 'dative'. We are down to 5x2.

Next, there is a case (the vocative) used only when calling someone, or yelling at someone (like in "John, come down!" or "You, idiot!"); we can live without it for a while, and yell in nominative. Besides, a vocative plural is always the same as the nominative plural (there's again a small difference in accent for some words). Did you know that in fact, many languages have special forms for yelling and giving orders? This leaves us with 4x2.

We can postpone learning of two more cases — the before mentioned genitive (which is in many aspects the most difficult case!) and instrumental — because they are not used in simplest sentences; they are however used in some constructions, and we will have to learn them a bit later (otherwise we would not be able to say "two apples" in Croatian).

(The genitive case is introduced in 13 Genitive Case, and the instrumental case is introduced in 21 Instrumental Case. The vocative case is explained in 41 Imperatives, Permissions and Vocative Case.)

This leaves us with just 2x2 cases — precisely one for objects (the accusative), and another for indirect objects ('to-case', before mentioned dative). And, of course, there's the default case found in every language — the nominative. Sorry, I cannot make it simpler than that!

And you don't need to remember all 6 forms for every noun — there are rules how to make all of them.

Cases are usually abbreviated to three letters (e.g. acc. = accusative) or to one letter (N = nominative, A = accusative, etc.), and singular and plural to sg. and pl.

If you are worried about the locative case and how it got lost and absorbed into the dative case, you are free to call that case dative/locative. In practice, in colloquial conversation they are always identical. Let's keep things simple.

How They Work

Let's take a look how the noun Ana (a personal name) looks in various cases. I will indicate cases with superscribed letters N (nominative), A (accusative) and D (dative):

Ana(N) jede. "Ana is eating."
Hranim Anu(A). "I am feeding Ana."
Pišem Ani(D). "I am writing to Ana."

This doesn't look too complex! Don't forget, the nominative is the 'normal', unchanged form. From standpoint of Croatian, you could say that English nouns are always in the nominative case.

Now, some fun: every noun must be squeezed into this scheme! So, if one is writing to somebody else, let's say, to George Bush, it will be:

George(N) Bush(N) piše Ani. "George Bush is writing to Ana."
Pišem Georgeu(D) Bushu(D). "I am writing to George Bush."

You may also note two things: first, we changed every word in his name (that's normal); second, we added -u and not -i as we did to Ana (that's because Ana ends on -a, and we really changed that -a to -i).

Warning: most verbs use accusative, and some can use dative (like "write", "give"). But not all. That's not important at this time, but just remember that use of cases ultimately depends on the verb. The verb is the boss.

There's another use for acc. and dat. They are used with prepositions (words that correspond to English "in", "on", etc.). Croatian has a system of prepositions that is not too different from English (there are languages without prepositions!), and quite similar to German. The main point is that after a preposition a noun must be put in appropriate case. However, for some prepositions we can use more than one case, and that affects the meaning:

u + D = "in something"       u + A = "to something"
na + D = "on, at something"       na + A = "onto something"

In short, with these two prepositions (u, na), the accusative is used with directions (u grad "to the city"), and dative with static locations (u gradu "in the city"). German speakers will recognize a lot of similarities.

Summary and Final Remarks

Let's summarize:

Nominative is the default, "dictionary" case, and is used as a subject of sentence ("she is writing").

Accusative case is used as an object ("feed her"), and with prepositions u, na meaning motion to somewhere ("to", "onto").

Dative case is used as an indirect object ("write to her"), and with prepositions u, na meaning static location ("in", "on", "at").

Please, bear in mind these are only some uses of those cases. There are of course more. Much more :)

Don't ever think that acc. itself means 'direction'. It gets such meaning only with several prepositions. And there are other prepositions that require accusative but don't mean directions! That's why it's a complex thing to learn. (Again, exactly the same complexity exists in German).

Many people in Croatia always list cases in the 'standard' order (nom., gen., dat., etc.) That's a very bad choice since it makes cases much harder to learn (you'll see later why). I decided to completely disregard the so-called standard order. If hear from anyone that there's 'the standard order of cases', please ask that person to explain reasons for it, and they will not be able to say anything (except that it's a tradition).

Finally, you will maybe read somewhere that cases 'answer to questions'. That's the way Croatian children are taught cases in school. However, such approach is useful only if already you know Croatian — as children do — but you don't know the names of cases. For instance, the page gives a completely useless introduction to cases, and even tells that the word školu is in the locative case, while it's of course in the accusative case (I'll show you case patterns soon, so you'll be able to figure it out yourself). If you find any resource for learning Croatian mentioning 'cases answering to questions', you can safely conclude that their author didn't understand what cases really are, and you can safely disregard it...

Updated 2013-11-06 (v. 0.4)

7 Gender

• • • Easy Croatian: 9 Gender

Introduction to Gender

Suppose Ana is a woman, and Igor is a man. In English, the only effect will be that one has to use "she" for Ana, and "he" for Igor; "her" vs. "his". Words have to 'agree' on gender. In Croatian, gender is much more comprehensive.

Here I have underlined words affected by "gender agreement" in English sentences, and the same sentences translated to Croatian. I kept the word order of English sentences.

Anaje stiglajučer.
Igorje stigaojučer.

It's 'self-evident' that there should be three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. But it's not so simple, there could be less (for instance, only two) or more genders. Some African languages have many genders: for example, Zulu has nine. If there is more than 3 genders, then other concepts than just male/female/neuter are involved. In fact, even in English, gender is a bit abstract: "ship" and "car" are often considered feminine nouns and demand the pronoun "she".

I will use gender in meaning 'what form of other words you must use with a noun'. For English, it's just whether one uses "he", "she" or "it", and for Croatian it's much more comprehensive (actually, there are many languages where gender is much more comprehensive than in English).

Genders in Croatian

How many genders Croatian has? Common knowledge: three. I will rather describe Croatian as a language with approximate 3.2 genders! Textbooks usually describe Croatian as having three genders, but then note that some nouns behave specially. In my view, that 'special behavior' makes, more or less, another two genders. It's much simpler in that way, less exceptions and more system. So, let's take a look at the genders:

Masculine animate gender (symbol ) comprises nouns that describe living beings that are masculine in the real life, including people and animals. This includes generic names for some species of animals, e.g. lav "lion", slon "elephant". Plants and other non-animals are excluded. Examples are čovjëk "man", päs "dog", vozač "driver", predsjednik "president", kit "whale", losos "salmon", etc.

Masculine inanimate gender (symbol mi) comprises nouns that describe non-living beings and plants that are 'grammatically masculine'. Examples are stol "table", mjësec "moon, month", kamen "stone", početäk "beginning", prst "finger", hrast "oak", posäo "job", auto "car", etc.

In most occasions, both masculine genders behave similarly and then we can disregard differences and speak just about 'masculine genders' (symbol m). Actually, these two genders show a difference only in accusative singular forms.

Neuter gender (symbol n) comprises nouns that describe things, some of them alive, that are 'grammatically neuter'. Examples are dijëte "child", selo "village", oko "eye", more "sea", jezero "lake", polje "field", tijëlo "body", uže "rope", pleme "tribe", etc.

Feminine gender (symbol f) comprises nouns that describe living beings that are female, and some non-living things that are 'grammatically female', including some generic animal names. Examples are žena "woman", lavica "she-lion", ptica "bird", beba "baby", riba "fish", vrana "crow", ruža "rose", noga "leg", godina "year", voda "water", jesen "autumn", sol "salt", etc.

To demonstrate how nouns in different genders demand different forms or other words related to them, I'll show how the sentence "I see a big X" translates to Croatian for nouns of different genders; you'll see that adjective "big" translates to a different word each time:

Vidim velikog lava. (lav mª) vidim means "I see"
Vidim veliki kamen. (kamen mi; or velik, not that important)
Vidim veliko selo. (selo n)
Vidim veliku ženu. (žena f)

There's still one gender left — the "mixed collective" gender. Some nouns behave strangely — they demand form of verbs as if they are in plural, but adjectives attached to them are in singular feminine! Such nouns have forms as if in singular, but they actually mean plural. There are not too many of them; examples are braća "brethren", djëca "children".

How to tell what nouns are in which gender? For people it's obvious, but for other things there are rules that will be explained later (in 9 Basic Cases for Nouns).

The Agreement Rule

Let me re-emphasize the importance of agreement in Croatian. Because of that rule, every adjective must have a form for every combination of gender/number/case in Croatian. Theoretically, there could be over 100 different forms of every adjective, but there are actually much, much less.

Agreement Rule

All adjectives describing a noun (or pronoun) must be put in the same case, number (singular/plural), and gender as the noun (or pronoun) they describe. This holds across parts of sentence and across sentences!

This rule applies to all words that can adapt to gender — in Croatian, these are all adjectives and words similar to them, like 'past participles', which are used to form the past tense.

Remember, the gender in Croatian is not simple. It's a bit similar to gender in Italian and Spanish, but it has its own twists.

Updated 2014-07-01 (v. 0.4)

8 First Steps with Adjectives

Basic Cases of Adjectives

Let's take a look how can one make all necessary forms of adjectives in all genders, and three basic cases in both the singular and plural. I'm going to show all those forms for one adjective, for instance velik "big". Now, all these forms differ only in endings added to velik - and some forms don't add any ending at all. So, I'll list only the endings. Just a '-' means no ending added:

casemin            f   , -i    -, -i    -o-a, -oga-u, -ome, -omu-oj

There are more than one endings in some cases - one can use whatever he or she likes (there are some twists regarding - vs. -i, but you will pick them up gradually). Usually the shorter endings are used. So, velikom x is equivalent to velikome x, or velikomu x, all meaning "to big x"(we assume x is masculine, and in dative).

This are not so complicated as it could be. Look at the dative — it's the same for all genders except f in the singular, and in the plural there's only one form for all genders.

The Missing A

There are some adjectives, mostly ending on -an or -ar (but not all of them!) that drop -a- when endings are added. I will list one of them, dobär "good" (recall the greeting dobär dan):

casemin                  f         är, dobridobär, dobridobrodobra

For clarity, I have omitted forms dobroga, dobromu, and dobrome; they are used sometimes. You see that -ä- is dropped whenever anything is added to the adjective. The marks on the -ä- use exactly for that purpose: to remind you that the letter (and the sound) is dropped.

Not every last a is dropped: in mekan "soft", the last a is never dropped. So I didn't mark them...

Some adjectives are never "bare" — they have always an ending attached. One example is mali "small". It has all usual forms as velik does, but there's no form mal — you must attach -i. Its is usual malog (or maloga, etc.)

Slightly Different Endings

Is this scheme, using these endings, used for all adjectives? For most it is; however, some adjectives have slightly modified endings. Instead of o they have e in the endings (except for the f gender, you'll see). They are mainly comparatives (e.g veći "bigger"), and possessive adjectives created from personal pronouns, but some ordinary adjectives have these endings as well: one is loš "bad":

casemin                  f         š, loš-i   loš, loš-i   loš-eloš-aš-egloš-uš-em loš-ojš-iloš-aloš-eš-eš-im

We'll see later that this is a consequence of a very common rule in Croatian, the o/e rule, where in many endings you find o or e, depending on the preceding sound.

Words Like "my" are Really Adjectives

As I already explained, Croatian treats words like "my" exactly the same as "blue" — both are adjectives. Compare these sentences:


Where English permits or does not permit articles, and uses different forms ("my", "mine"), Croatian makes no difference between moja and velika when used in a sentence.

I will explain possessive adjectives in due time, but it would be useful if I explain one important example — "my". Let's check all its forms in the basic cases (it uses modified e-endings):

casemi         n          f     , mogmoju, mommojoj

Again, there is more than one form in some cases. People use both. Also, sometimes people say mome, moga, mojega, etc.

How It Works

Let's put that to use; I'll show how the sentence "I am writing a long letter to a good friend" translates to Croatian:

Pišem dugo(A sg.n) pismo(A) dobrom(D sg.mª) prijatelju(D).

Since pismo "letter" is a noun with neuter gender, we use form of dug - dugo (we have put pismo in acc. as well, but it's the same as nominative!).

Noun prijatelj "(male) friend" is mª, we useª form of dobar - dobrom (we could have used dobrome as well!).

Now we try "I am writing a long letter to my friend":

Pišem dugo(A sg.n) pismo(A) mojem(D sg.mª) prijatelju(D).


Pišem dugo(A sg.n) pismo(A) mom(D sg.mª) prijatelju(D).

The othey way around:

Moj(N sg.mª) prijatelj(N) piše dugo(A sg.n) pismo(A).

Do you get the system?


The endings listed above are for adjectives ("big"), but not for nouns ("water"). Nouns have different endings.

Useful Adjectives

Some useful adjectives follow. I will list only if all other forms are as usual; if there's some change I'll list as well (then other forms are similar to it); finally I'll list the if it uses e instead of o; from the ending for m you see if it is "bare", and if it drops a):

brz "fast"
spor "slow"
suh "dry"
jak "strong"
slab "weak"
star "old"
mlad "young"    
velik "big"
mali, mala "small"    
visok "tall"
nizäk, niska "low"
pun "full"
prazän, prazna "empty"    
umorän, umorna "tired"
gladän, gladna "hungry"    
žedän, žedna "thirsty"
hladän, hladna "cold"
vruć, vruća, vruće "hot"  
dobär, dobra "good"
loš, loša, loše "bad"
mokär, mokra "moist", "wet"

Adjectives for colors:

crn "black"
crven "red"
zelen "green"    
bijëli, bijëla "white"
plavi, plava "blue"
žut "yellow"

Why we have e.g. nizäk vs. nisko will be obvious later. Just use s in all forms except nizäk.

Adjectives that end on -stän in lose the -t- in all other forms:

bolestän, bolesna, bolesno "sick"
koristän, korisna, korisno "useful"
mastän, masna, masno "greasy, fatty"


There are words similar to adjectives, called adverbs (abbreviation: adv.). While adjectives describe a noun, adverbs tell more about verbs (hence the name) or adjectives. In English, adverbs often have suffix -"ly": "great" (adjective) vs. "greatly" (adverb), but some do not, e.g. "very".

In Croatian, most adjectives can be used as adverbs, one simply uses the neuter singular form of an adverb, and the form never changes. For example:

Ona je brza. "She is quick." (brza = an adjective)
Ona odlazi brzo. "She's leaving quickly." (brzo = used as an adverb here)

We will see later that the is "neutralized" form used in Croatian is many occasions. What one needs to remember is: if an adjective is in the same gender as a noun, it describes a noun; if it's neuter singular nominative, it describes a verb ("in what way is she leaving? quickly" = a question about "leaving", not "her")

Also, some adjectives used as adverbs have a meaning that's somewhat removed from meaning of the adjective; often used are:

pun "full"puno "a lot"
jak "strong"jako "very (much)"

Updated 2014-06-09 (v. 0.4)

9 Types of Nouns and Basic Cases

Types of Nouns

The following is slightly complicated, so I will try to explain it slowly.

Previously, we have examined how adjectives change in gender, case, and number. Adjectives don't have their own gender, case, or number — instead, you can (and must) create any combination of these for any adjective when needed.

Now, there's another issue: you must also change nouns, first to make plural ("boy"-"boys") but then also to make various case forms that correspond to roles in a sentence (sorry, no English equivalent). Unfortunately, there are various schemes to do that, called 'declension types', or just 'types'. In principle, they don't need to be connected in any way to the gender of a noun. In the modern Croatian, there is however a close connection between noun types and noun gender, but they are not really identical.

If you would like something in English you can compare this with, consider gender and patterns of noun plural:


It's not really the same, but it's similar in a way: there are two 'declension classes' (ways to make plural) in English and three genders. They are completely independent in English, but in Croatian they are not. There's a similar situation in German: there are five ways to make plural and three genders, and they are not independent: nouns that have -(e)n in plural are mostly feminine, those that have -er are never feminine.

What I call e. g. 'a-noun' means how the noun changes. The basic 'types' are:

a-nouns: they all belong to the f gender, except for a very small number that belongs to mª gender (e.g. tata "Dad"); one recognizes them easily, since they end on -a in (hence their name).

m-nouns: they are divided further to mª and mi subclasses; they host only nouns with genders mª and mi (but not all of them, a few mª-nouns are in the a-class); they mostly end on a consonant in

n-nouns include all nouns of n gender, and only them; they end on -o or -e in

i-nouns include a not so small number of nouns (around 250 and more, you'll see my point later), all having f gender; they end on a consonant in (except for a few). You need to learn their list by heart. You can postpone learning them and return to them later, of course. Some examples are noć "night", jesen "autumn, fall" etc.

Furthermore, there are some adjectives 'serving' as nouns. They have a case change pattern exactly as an adjective, but behave otherwise completely as nouns do — their gender is also fixed. They are mainly place names. The chief example is name of the country itself — Hrvatska "Croatia".

Irregular nouns are oddballs and don't fit in the 5 previous classes. You learn them the hard way, all forms by heart.

Warning: for many nouns it's straightforward to know their type and gender. But there are some exceptions, for instance, auto is an mi-noun, misäo "thought" an i-noun, and oräo "eagle" an mª-noun. Beware, there are some additional types, I will explain them later.

To summarize relations between gender and noun types:

Each noun belongs to a gender and to a noun type.

Gender tells you what form of adjectives or pronouns to use
with a noun; how adjectives and pronouns adapt ("agree") to the noun.

Noun type tells you how to make plural of a noun, how to create other
cases etc., that is, how the noun itself changes when in various roles.

Noun types are also called 'declension types'.
(Declension = how a noun changes, what endings it gets)
In Croatian, gender and noun types largely overlap.

Some books oversimplify things: instead of introducing e.g. a-nouns simply use 'feminine nouns'. Then you have an awkward situation that tata "Dad" is a 'feminine' noun. But there's a major problem: with tata you must use masculine forms of adjectives (moj tata and not moja tata!) and that is hard to explain from that standpoint. In my point of view, separating how nouns change from what forms of adjectives must be used with them keeps the concepts clear.

This is probably confusing a lot. There's a simpler way to group nouns, into 6 groups, each corresponding to one line in the chart above. The only difference is a special status of a-nouns belonging to the mª gender (the combination I will indicate as a/mª-nouns):

groupending in
n -omlijëko "milk", selo "village" n
-emore "sea", lice "face"
mi cons.zrak "air", kolač "cake" mi
(-o)auto "car", dio "part" *
cons.päs "dog", sin "son"
(-o)oräo "eagle", Marko (name) *
a/mª -atata "dad", Luka (name)
(-o, -e)Ivo (name), Ante (name) *
a -avoda "water", riba "fish" f
i cons.sol "salt", krv "blood" *

Only a small number of nouns have endings in parentheses (..): you can consider them exceptions. Bear in mind, this table does not show all exceptions out there. Gender and declension type of all nouns in groups and subgroups indicated by an asterisk (*) cannot be guessed and must be learned.

Also, for now, you could consider all the i-nouns and a-nouns that are not of the f gender (e.g. tata "Dad") as exceptions. There is only a limited number of such nouns, after all. For most nouns it's easy to guess their gender from their (i.e. dictionary) form, just by looking at their last sound:

For the majority of nouns,
their gender can be guessed from their ending in

  • nouns ending on a consonant are mostly masculine (animate or inanimate)
  • nouns ending on an -a are mostly feminine (a-nouns)
  • nouns ending on an -o or -e are mostly neuter (n-nouns)

Normally, it's not needed to remember the noun type and gender for 95% of nouns or more. For instance, when you see voda "water", you will assume that it's an a-noun (since it ends on -a), and feminine (as almost all a-nouns are), and you'll be completely right! So you see, actually it's simpler than it looks at the first sight... Therefore, it's worth marking gender of nouns only if it does not follow this approximate rule.

There's no need to mark gender of voda "water" or kuća "house". However, the noun jesen "autumn" has not the mi gender, but unexpectedly the f gender (it's an i-noun), therefore it must be marked: jesen f "autumn". Likewise, jezero "lake" is neuter as expected, but auto mi "car", misäo f "thought" and posäo mi "job" are not. On the other hand, prijatelj "(male) friend" is a mª-noun, as expected, and therefore I don't need to indicate its gender.

I'll indicate only things that are not 'default'.

Let's take a look at the case forms for the following nouns:

  • n-nouns selo "village" and more "sea"
  • a-nouns žena "woman, wife" and ruka "hand, arm"
  • i-noun stvar f "thing" (remember, all i-nouns are feminine!)

We'll postpone m-nouns for the next chapter/entry since they are a bit more complex than the other three types. There's no need to list forms of adjectives serving as nouns — they have forms exactly as adjectives have.

case n-nouns a-nouns i-nouns selo more žena ruka stvar ženu ruku selu moru ženi ruci stvari sela mora žene ruke stvari selima morima ženama rukama stvarima

Some a-nouns ending on -ka (e.g. ruka) change that k in to c. However, that does not happen for all a-nouns ending on -ka, so I will indicate when has -ci instead of ki. The similar thing happens for some nouns ending on -ga (e.g. noga "leg, foot") that have -zi instead of gi in

You see now why i-nouns are called so: they always have an -i- in their endings (except in Some people call them 'feminine nouns ending on a consonant'. That's also right, but a bit less precise.

The Pattern

Since only endings change, we can list endings only, and take into account that a lot of these endings are the same: both more and selo have the same endings, except in It's quite similar to declension (forms of cases) of adjectives, but the endings are not the same, except for some cases.

I hope you can see that the pattern is not as complicated as it could be: many cases actually share endings, especially in plural.

I'll indicate the possible change kc or gz with a + in the scheme. Here's the scheme of endings only:

casen-nounsa-nounsi-nouns, -e-a-

I know it's not easy at all to remember endings, especially in singular. Maybe it would be best to remember whole 'template phrases' — nouns and adjectives — so you learn what forms go together. Here I will list only 'typical' words, forgetting for a moment there are a-nouns that are not of f gender, etc. I shaded cases where adjectives and nouns ave different endings.

sg. n- veliko selo
veliko more
velikom(u,e) selu
(u,e) moru
a- velika kuća veliku kuću velikoj kući
i- velika stvar veliku stvar velikoj stvari
pl. n- velika sela
velika mora
velikim selima
velikim morima
a- velike kuće velikim kućama
i- velike stvari velikim stvarima

This is maybe too much to learn at once; you could try the following approach:

  1. Try to learn a-nouns and adjectives in feminine first.
  2. Then check neuter gender and nouns and corresponding adjective forms. They are quite similar.
  3. Once you learn them, move to the i-nouns — you don't need to learn more adjective forms, you have already learned adjectives in feminine gender.

Nominative vs. Accusative

One curiosity: there's much less difference between nom. and acc. (check plural forms) that one would expect from Croatian. For instance, since both žena "woman" and knjiga "book" are ordinary a-nouns, the sentence "women are reading books" is somewhat ambiguous! There's no difference between and; so, when it's translated to Croatian, it might actually mean "books are reading women":

Žene čitaju knjige.
Knjige čitaju žene. (who is reading?)

Then the word order kicks in, as in English. And the common sense.


Here are some common a-nouns; all nouns in the list are feminine, except for tata "Dad" (it's therefore marked as mª):

banka "bank"
cijëna "price"
cipela "shoe"
crkva "church"
čaša "glass (to drink from)"
glava "head"
juha "soup"
haljina "dress" (women wear)  
hrana "food"
kava "coffee"
kiša "rain"
kosa "hair" (on a head)
košulja "shirt"
kuća "house"
lubenica "watermelon"
majica "T-shirt"
mama "mom"
naranča "orange"
obala "shore"
pjësma "song"
plaža "beach"
pošta "post office, mail"
ptica "bird"
razglednica "picture postcard"  
riba "fish"
riža "rice"
sestra "sister"
soba "room"
stolica "chair"
škola "school"
tata "dad"
trava "grass"
večera "supper"
vilica "fork"
voda "water"
zemlja "ground, earth"
žena "woman, wife"
zgrada "building"
žlica "spoon"

Common a-nouns that end on -ka or -gi, with their forms listed in parentheses (...) are:

baka (baki) "grandmother", "old woman"  
jabuka (jabuci) "apple"
knjiga (knjizi) "book"
luka (luci) "harbor"
mačka (mački) "cat"
majka (majci) "mother"
marka (marki) "postal stamp"
noga (nozi) "leg, foot"
patka (patki) "duck"
ruka (ruci) "arm, hand "

You can maybe see an approximate rule: if such nouns have another consonant right before k, there's no change (e.g. patkapatki).

There are few common male names that belong to a-nouns, more precisely to the a/mª group:

Andrija mª    
Ilija mª    
Matija mª    

(Actually, there are more male names that belong to this group, but — exceptionally — they don't end on -a in! Such names are covered in 45 Nouns for Small and Dear.)

Common n-nouns (all neuter!) are:

drvo "tree, wood"    
jaje "egg"
jelo "dish, meal"
jezero "lake"
jutro "morning"
lice "face"
meso "meat"
mjësto "place"
more "sea"
piće "drink"
pismo "letter"
pivo "beer"
povrće "vegetable(s)" *    
selo "village"
smeće "trash"
stäklo "glass (of a window)"
sunce "sun"
tijëlo "body (of a person)"
vino "wine"
voće "fruit(s)" *

Nouns povrće and voće can represent any quantity of fruit and vegetables, they are similar to meso "meat" and smeće "trash".

Common i-nouns (once more, they are all feminine!) are:

bol "pain"
bolest "disease"
jesen "autumn, fall"    
kost "bone"
krv "blood"
mast "fat, ointment"    
noć "night"
obitelj "family"
ponoć "midnight"
rijëč "word"
sol "salt"
večer "evening"

For an exhaustive list of i-nouns, check 89 Abstract and I-nouns.


JavaScript must be enabled. You don't have to use my special notation (e.g. ë) in answers, normal spelling will do as well; letter case does not matter.

All above words are in the 'dictionary form' — Try putting these words in various cases, and making sentences as:

Imam __________. "I have (a)..." (insert a noun in acc.)
Trëbamo __________. "We need (a)..." (insert a noun in acc.)
Jedem __________. "I'm eating..." (insert a noun in acc.)
Pijemo __________. "We're drinking..." (insert a noun in acc.)
Molim __________. "I would like (a)..." (insert a noun in acc.)
Idem u __________. "I'm going to (a/the)..." (insert a noun in acc.)
Ja säm u __________. "I'm in (a/the)..." (insert a noun in dat.)

Be careful with a-nouns ending on -ka...

Try filling right forms of nouns in the following sentences (the first 6 sentences are given as examples):

Imam sobu. (soba "room")
Trëbamo sobu. (soba "room")
Jedem juhu. (juha "soup")
Molim juhu. (juha "soup")
Idem u sobu. (soba "room")
Ja säm u sobi. (soba "room")
Ja säm u . (kuća "house")
Molim . (čaša "glass")
Jedem . (riba "fish")
Trebamo . (sol "salt")
Ja säm u . (more "sea")
Pijemo . (pivo "beer")
Imam . (mačka "cat")
Pijemo . (kava "coffee")
Jedem . (povrće "vegetables")

Check your answers:


Updated 2014-11-03 (v. 0.4)