12 Present Tense

Check also in Easy Croatian:

I have shown one verb ("to be") in the present tense, and you have seen occasionally glimpses of some other verbs. Now, I will show how verbs are used in the present tense and endings they get.

There's Only One Present Tense

English has 2 present tenses:

"I eat." (the Simple Present)
"I am eating." (Present Continuous)

The first one is used for things that happen sometimes, everyday, and the second one for things going on right now.

Croatian (and most languages, including German) does not distinguish these two forms, and has only one present tense. Its meaning is close to the second English form.

Roots and Endings

While in English there's really only one pattern of endings in the present tense ("-s" in the 3rd pers. sg.) there are couple of patterns in Croatian, but they are quite similar. Like nouns, verbs are divided to verb classes according to the pattern they use.

When discussing verbs forms, it useful to distinguish three parts of each form: a root, a suffix (which can be empty), and an ending. (The root and suffix make a stem.) I have divided the verbs into several "classes", according to the suffix. Basically, suffix determines which endings will a verb get.

I'll show patterns for the two verbs imam "have" and mislim "think". (The verb "have" is completely regular in Croatian!) Both verbs are shown as root-suffix-ending:

1st sg. im-a-m misl-i-m
2nd sg. im-a-š misl-i-š
3rd sg. im-a misl-i
1st pl. im-a-mo misl-i-mo
2nd pl. im-a-te misl-i-te
3rd pl. im-a-ju misl-e

There are many verbs behaving exactly like these two: I will call them a-verbs (since they have the suffix -a-) and i-verbs (after -i-). Actually, most verbs in Croatian, thousands of them, fall into these two classes.

In other words, the class determines how the verb changes, its suffix, and its endings in various forms. For most verbs, class can be determined straight away by looking at a verb, e.g. kuh-a-m is an a-verb.

Next three classes look the same in the present tense. I will use verbs brinem "care", pijem "drink", tresem "shake", kupujem "buy" and očekujem "expect":

1st sg. bri-n-em pi--jem tres--em kup-uj-em oček-uj-em
2nd sg. bri-n-eš pi--ješ tres--eš kup-uj-eš oček-uj-eš
3rd sg. bri-n-e pi--je tres--e kup-uj-e oček-uj-e
1st pl. bri-n-emo pi--jemo tres--emo kup-uj-emo oček-uj-emo
2nd pl. bri-n-ete pi--jete tres--ete kup-uj-ete oček-uj-ete
3rd pl. bri-n-u pi--ju tres--u kup-uj-u oček-uj-u

You can notice that all classes in the last table have exactly the same endings. So, I could compress all of them to just one class. Why the difference, then? It has to do with formation of other tenses. For instance, the suffix -n- in the present changes to -nu- in the past. In other classes similar things will happen, that's why there are two j-verbs with no difference in forms whatsoever, and pijem is separate from tresem and kupujem...

Double dashes in e.g. tres--emo mean "no suffix", or "zero suffix". That's the reason for the class name: 0-verbs, "zero". Such verbs are also called e-verbs, and that was the name used in older versions of Basic Croatian, but it's a bit misleading, since all the classes in the last table have an -e- (also, calling that class 0-verbs simplifies some other things).

Therefore, the simplified pattern of present tense endings is just:

1st sg. -a-m -i-m -e-m
2nd sg. -a-š -i-š -e-š
3rd sg. -a -i -e
1st pl. -a-mo -i-mo -e-mo
2nd pl. -a-te -i-te -e-te
3rd pl. -a-ju -e -u

Unfortunately, this is not all: these tables leave out a group of 0-verbs that have consonant changes in root (e.g. peč-em, peč-eš... but 3rd pers. pl. pek-u). I will discuss them a bit later with the other strange 0-verbs and some other verbs I intentionally forgot to include here.

As stated before, personal pronouns are usually omitted. Objects (e.g. what is being eaten) must be in the accusative case for most verbs:

Ana jëde. "Ana is eating."
Jëdem. "I'm eating."
Jëdem pizzu(A). "I'm eating pizza."
Kuham juhu(A). "I'm cooking soup."
Učim hrvatski(A). "I'm learning Croatian."
Ivan piše pismo(A). "Ivan is writing a letter."
Imam malog(A) psa(A). "I have a small dog."

The verb can in principle be anywhere, but it usually put before the object (e.g. pizzu). Even 3rd pers. pronouns can be omitted if subject is clear from the context:

Ana je u restoranu(D). Jëde pizzu(A). "Ana is in a restaurant. She is eating pizza."

One must be careful to use the right form of the verb:

Ana i Ivan jëdu(3 pl.) pizzu. "Ana i Ivan are eating (a) pizza."
Ana jëde(3 sg.) pizzu. "Ana is eating (a) pizza."
Jëdeš(2 sg.) pizzu. "You're eating (a) pizza." (talking to a single person)
Jëdete(2 pl.) pizzu. "You (guys) are eating pizza." / "You (sir, madam) are eating pizza."

A Few Special Verbs

Verbs hoću "will, want" has a special 1stst pers. sg., but its other forms are according to the "e" pattern. The same holds for mogu "can" (that verb is seldom used on its own):

1st sg. hoć-u (!) ć-u (!) mog-u (!)
2nd sg. hoć-eš ć-eš mož-eš
3rd sg. hoć-e ć-e mož-e
1st pl. hoć-emo će-mo mož-emo
2nd pl. hoć-ete ć-ete mož-ete
3rd pl. hoć-e (!) ć-e (!) mog-u (!)

Forms ću, ćeš,... are auxiliary, "clitic" forms of hoću, hoćeš, similar to sam, si..., used as auxiliary verbs. More about them later. An example for hoću:

Hoću sladoled(A). "I want ice-cream."

With Basic Adverbs

The use of basic adverbs is the same as with forms of verb säm:

Ana vjërojatno jëde. "Ana is probably eating."
Opet jëdem. "I'm eating again."
Ivan sigurno spava. "Ivan is surely sleeping."

Useful Verbs

In dictionaries, verbs are usually listed in their "infinitive", a form which is used less often, for sure less than the present form. Therefore, similar to practice in Latin, I decided to list verbs by their first person present form. Another reason is that it's much harder to determine verb class by looking at its infinitive: you can't tell that kuhati and puhati are not in the same verb class (their presents are kuham and pušem); the same holds for piti and učiti (presents pijem and učim).

The Basic Dictionary lists verbs by their presents. Some important verbs are listed here:

brojim "count"
čekam "wait"
čistim "clean", "tidy"    
čitam "read"
dajem "give"
dišem "breathe"
idem "go"
jedem "eat"
gledam "watch"
govorim "speak"
guram "push"
hodam "walk"
kažem "say"
koristim "use"
kuham "cook"
ležim "lie, recline"
moram "must, have to"    
nëmam "don't have"
perem "wash"
pripremam "prepare"
plaćam "pay"
plivam "swim"
pišem "write"    
pitam "ask"
radim "work"
razgovaram "talk"
ronim "dive"
sjedim "sit"
skačem "jump"
slušam "listen"
spavam "sleep"
stojim "stand"
trčim "run"
trëbam "need"
tražim "search, look for"
učim "learn"
uzimam "take"
vičem "yell"
vidim "see"
vjëžbam "exercise"
vodim "lead, guide"
vozim "drive"
znam "know"
zovem "call"
želim "wish"

If you heard somewhere about so-called 'perfective' verbs that cannot be used in the present tense, well, none of the listed verbs is perfective, they are normally used in the present tense.

Verbs with Obligatory se

Some Croatian verbs are always used with the word se. To help you remember them, I will always list them with the se. Often used are:

bojim se "be afraid"
ponašam se "behave"    
smijem se "laugh"
svađam se "quarrel, have a dispute"

It's important to remember that the word se must come in the second place in a sentence. For instance:

Ana se smije. "Ana is laughing."
Smijem se. "I'm laughing."

The 'first' place can be occupied by two words making one logical unit:

Ana i Ivan se smiju. "Ana and Ivan are laughing."
Ana i Ivan se svađaju. "Ana and Ivan are quarreling."

Many other verbs use optionally the word se, usually with a change in meaning. It's explained in a greater detail in 30 Reflexive Pronoun.


If you want to say that something does not happen, simply put a ne directly in front of the verb; nothing happens to other words or to their order:

Ana ne jëde. "Ana is not eating."
Ana se ne smije. "Ana is not laughing."
Ne jëdem. "I'm not eating."
Ne jëdem pizzu(A). "I'm eating pizza."
Ne učim hrvatski(A). "I'm not learning Croatian."
Ne smijem se. "I'm not laughing."

The verb imam has a special negative verb nemam "don't have" which must be used when we want to express negation of verb imam "have":

Nemam malog(A) psa(A). "I don't have a small dog."

The verb hoću has a special negative verb neću "don't want" which must be used when we want to express negation of verb hoću "have"; its forms are equal to hoću, just ho- is replaced with ne-:

Neću sladoled(A). "I don't want ice-cream."

Adverbs of Indefinite Frequency

These useful words are used when you express how often you do something; with the present tense, such sentences will refer to what you do both in the past and still do; however, they don't imply that you do it at the very moment. Therefore, in English, such sentences are in the Simple Present. In Croatian, there's only one present tense, so there's no option but to use it. Such adverbs are (sorted by frequency):

adverbmeaning adverbmeaning
uvijëk"always" često"often"
skoro uvijëk"almost always" ponekad"sometimes"
stalno"constantly" rijëtko"rarely, seldom"
uglavnom"mostly" skoro nikad"almost never" (neg!)
obično"usually" nikad"never" (neg!)

For instance:

Često jëdem pizzu. "I often eat pizza."
Uvijëk pijem pivo(A). "I always drink beer."
Ponekad čitam knjige(A pl.). "I read books sometimes."

Important: if you use nikad or skoro nikad, you have to use negation, that is, put the word ne directly in front of the verb:

Nikad ne jëdem pizzu. "I never eat pizza."
Ana skoro nikad ne pije pivo. "Ana almost never drinks beer."

The reason will be explained later. The meaning corresponds to English forms without negation, as can be seen from the above examples. Order of words is quite free, but such adverbs are almost never found at the end of the sentence, although it's not a forbidden place to put an adverb:

Često jëdem pizzu. (OK)
Jedem često pizzu. (OK)
Jëdem pizzu često. (seldom heard)

Expectations and Negative Context

Adverbs of expectation don't change the meaning of the sentence, but show (with the present tense) that some action or state started sooner or takes longer than expected. They are simply:

in positive sentences
već"already" (sooner than expected)
još"still" (longer than expected)

They are normally placed before the verb:

Ivan već spava. "Ivan is already sleeping."
Još čitam knjigu. "I'm still reading the book."

These adverbs cannot be mixed with adverbs of indefinite frequency, since the adverbs of expectation imply that the action or state is ongoing.

With negative sentences in the present tense, another information can be given: OK, it's not going on right now, but is it because it was already finished or didn't start yet? These two adverbs will provide such information (they are placed as other adverbs):

in negative sentences
još"(not) yet" (didn't start)
više"(not) anymore" (already finished)

Both adverbs are normally placed before ne:

Ana više ne čita knjigu. "Ana is not reading the book anymore."
Još ne spavam. "I'm not sleeping yet."

Sentences with više ne are a bit ambiguous: it's not clear if there will be similar actions and states in the future (e.g. if Ana will ever continue reading or she just took a day off). Beware, these three adverbs (već, još, više) have other purposes as well...

When the adverb baš is used in the present tense, it emphasizes what is going on; it's hard to translate to English, it's approximately "exactly" or sometimes "already". For instance, somebody calls you over phone and tells you to turn on TV to see something interesting, but you are already watching it; you could answer:

Baš gledam. "I'm already watching."


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

Fill in appropriate forms of verbs in the present tense:

Ana pizzu. "Ana eats pizza."
vodu. "You (sg.) are drinking water."
. "They are sleeping."
. "I'm running."
. "We're learning."

Fill in appropriate adverbs:

Ana pije pivo. "Ana drinks beer often."
učim hrvatski. "I learn Croatian all the time."

Fill in negation (ne) where required:

Ana skoro nikad pije čaj. "Ana almost never drinks tea."
Rijëtko pijem alkohol. "I rarely drink alcohol."

Check your answers:


Updated 2014-09-17; v 0.4


Mason said...

On the verb list, it says "calld" instead of "called" for "zovem". By the way, this site is wonderful, it is much more comprehensive than a lot of other courses I have seen. Thanks your work.

Mason said...

One thing that would help a lot would be to have a list of verbs in the svršeni and nesvršeni forms. I think this is what you are going to do at croatian-verbs.blogspot.com but I have yet to find any such list online or in any textbook. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely excellent blog! Thanks for putting this together! It's better and easier to understand for me than a $50 textbook I bought.

Keep up the good work!

Karui Aoi said...

kao Hrvatica, želim napraviti tužbu na ovo. ne možete zvati glagole: ''kupujem'' , ''zovem'' i sl. glagoli se zovu infinitivom ''kupovati'' ili ''kupiti'' itd. prvo objasnite ljudima razliku između svršenih i nesvršenih glagolskih oblika, pa tek onda to radite. krivo učite ljudite! moj dečko uči preko ove stranice i on se jadan čudi, jer je Talijan, kako se glagol može zvati ''compro'' (kupujem) ili ''penso'' (mislim). nadam se da ćete uskoro grešku ispraviti. veliko hvala!

Daniel N. said...

Dakako da ovo nije greška, to je namjerno. Prezent je mnogo korisniji od infinitiva, iz mnogo razloga. Infinitiv se koristi samo za buduće vrijeme i za složene oblike (želim jesti) i sl.

Svršeni i nesvršeni glagoli su VRLO TEŠKI kao koncept. Apsolutno SVI priručnici predlažu da se oni uče što kasnije. Ja ih objašnjavam kod prošlog vremena. U sadašnjem vremenu se u jednostavnim rečenicama koriste isključivo nesvršeni glagoli i takvi su shvatljivi svakom. Osobina slavenskih jezika su upravo svršeni glagoli, dakle kategorija koja ne postoji u mnogim jezicima. To je bitno tek za prošlo vrijeme.

Dakako da ništa neću ispravljati, ja sam autor ovog bloga i pišem kako mislim da treba. Za najjednostavnije sporazumijevanje je dovoljno znati samo prezent glagola.

Konačno, ovo ne bi bio izuzetak. U latinskom se glagoli normalno uče u prezentu: porto, amo, habeo, dico. Slično je i u starogrčkom.


Anonymous said...

Hvala lijepa.

In the first two tables you have "2nd sg." twice each. I think you meant "3rd sg." for the second one in each table.

Daniel N. said...

OMG! Thanks! I have fixed it immediately.... br Daniel

narukio2000 said...

I found that the word(ostaviti),to leave, has a present tense form of (ostavljam 1st person present tense). How can you tell if certain words do this? and what category would this word fall under?

Daniel N. said...

No, that's not right. These are two verbs with connected meanings.

1. ostavljati, ostavljam = the imperfect verb "be leaving"
2. ostaviti, ostavim = the perfect verb "leave"

As you can see, both are perfectly regular. They form an aspect pair, one means "action-in-progress" and another means "completion of action". This is common in Croatian, and described here:


Only imperfective verbs are normally used in the present tense.

In fact, those two verbs, together with other verbs derived from stavim ~ stavljam by means of prefixes, are described here:


Croatians don't think about it really, many people will say that the present of pasti (past pao, pala) is padam while in fact these are two related verbs, and the past of padam is really padao, and its infinitive is padati — as you see, it's completely regular :)

Joan Semone said...

I can’t thank you enough for this truly excellent blog. It has clarified so many points that are omitted or not covered in depth by the two textbooks I’m using to learn Croatian. Hopefully you’re receiving adequate compensation for all of your work!
I think there might be an error in section 12. I suspect that “ležim” probably means “lie.” To lie is to recline (lie down). To lay refers to the act of setting something down – or laying an egg! To make matters even more confusing, “lay” is the past tense of “lie!”
Puno hvala!

Daniel N. said...

Hi Joan, yes, that's a typo/misspelled translation or simply me forgetting the spelling :( Unfortunately, Croatian verbs are also similar :) ležim = lie, polažem or liježem = lay
The only compensation I receive are comments by readers :)
Please if you find any time, try finding other mistakes or simply unclear or confusing parts... I will try to correct them.
A big reconstruction is currently under way, I'm fixing a lot of things and errors...
br Daniel

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel,

first of all - great job, perfect source to learn Croatian!

Secondly - verb "pijem" - shouldn't its root be "pij - em" instead of "pi - jem"? It seems a bit confusing, because you say the endings should be the same in all the verbs but as of now they differ for that one...

Thanks once again for your work!
Best regards,

Daniel N. said...

You're right, it's awkward. Unfortunately, it's a consequence of another rule, that -j- is frequently inserted between two vowels. I will try to clarify it. Endings are really -(j)em, -(j)eš etc. A similar thing happens with the noun radio :/ br Daniel

Post a Comment