16 Numbers and Time

• • • Review: Quantities and Existence

Now we tackle an important issue — numbers. Croatian cardinal numbers (there are also ordinal numbers: "first", "second"; they will be discussed later) are a diverse assembly of words: some behave as adjectives, some as nouns, and some others even differently.

This chapter is hard, don't expect to get it at once.

Numbers 1-10

Here is a list of numbers from one to ten. Each number is listed with an example on use — with words konj mª "horse", selo n "village", and krava f "cow", and the adjective velik "big" in phrases meaning, of course, "my N big horse(s)" (or "village(s)", "cow(s)"):

1moj jedän veliki konjmoje jedno veliko selomoja jedna velika krava
2moja dva velika konjamoja dva velika selamoje dvijë velike krave
1+1moja oba velika konjamoja oba velika selamoje objë velike krave
3moja tri velika konjamoja tri velika selamoje tri velike krave
4moja četiri velika konjamoja četiri velika selamoje četiri velike krave
5mojih pet velikih konjamojih pet velikih selamojih pet velikih krava
6mojih šest velikih konjamojih šest velikih selamojih šest velikih krava
7mojih sedäm velikih konjamojih sedam velikih selamojih sedam velikih krava
8mojih osäm velikih konjamojih osam velikih selamojih osam velikih krava
9mojih devet velikih konjamojih devet velikih selamojih devet velikih krava
10mojih deset velikih konjamojih deset velikih selamojih deset velikih krava

Let's explain this a little.

The word for number 1, jedan, behaves exactly as an adjective — in Croatian, "one big cow" behaves grammatically same as "my big cow". All three words remain free and must change case as any other noun with adjectives attached does:

Imam jednu(A sg.f) veliku(A sg.f) kravu(A). "I have one big cow."
Jedna(N sg.f) velika(N sg.f) krava(N) jede(sg.). "One big cow is eating."

The whole phrase, if used as a subject, works as in singular noun — well, after all, it is only one thing!

With numbers 2-4, phrase after number is put in a special form: nouns are in genitive singular, and adjectives for m and n genders get special endings, and for feminine regular genitive singular forms are used. These forms are sometimes called 'dual' (or 'paucal', '234-form'; abbreviation: du.). The phrase after the number is always in the same form:

Imam dvijë(f) velike(du.f) krave(du. = G sg.). "I have one big cow."
Dvijë(f) velike(du.f) krave(du. = G sg.) jedu(pl.). "Two big cows are eating."

The verb is put in plural, as can be seen in the example.

Words for numbers 2-4 are sometimes declined but in everyday use most people keep their form in all cases. We'll cover their forms a bit later.

Words oba m/n, objë f mean "both" and in many aspects they are very similar to "two", so I have included them with numbers as a special number "1+1". They also demand nouns and adjectives in the "dual". There's one more word which is sometimes used: obadva lit. "both two" = "both", it's just emphasized more; its forms follow the same system as dva.

The whole phrase, if used as a subject, behaves as a 'dual' of the same gender, as expected, so one must use 'dual' forms of past participles and adjectives as well, and verbs in plural:

Dvijë krave su jele. "Two cows were eating." (jele = dual f = pl.f)
Objë krave su jele. "Both cows were eating."
Tri krave su jele.
Četiri krave su jele.
Dva konja su jela. "Two horses were eating." (jela = dual m)
Tri konja su jela. "Three horses were eating."
Dvijë krave su moje. "Two cows are mine."
Dva konja su moja. "Two horses are mine."
Oba sela su velika. "Both villages are big." (velika = dual n = dual m)

"Dual" for past participles just means a -la in m and n genders. Sometimes people use plural of adjectives in such circumstances, but it's really rare.

We can include 'dual' forms in the scheme for cases of adjectives:

casemamin            f            
nom.sg.-, -i-, -i      -œ-a
acc.sg.-œg, -œga-u
dat.sg.-œm, -ome, -œmu-oj
gen.sg.-œg, -œga-e
dual (2-4)-a-e

Nouns have no special forms for the 'dual', only adjectives do: nouns use gen.sg. for numbers 2-4 as 'dual'.

With numbers 5-20, the word for the number always has the same form, and the rest is 'locked' in gen. plural, but verbs come in singular:

Imam pet velikih(G pl.) krava(G pl.). "I have five big cows."
Pet velikih(G pl.) krava(G pl.) jede(sg.). "Five big cows are eating."

The whole phrase now behaves as if 'grammatically dead' — it's in neuter singular, the default gender/number combination (recall impersonal sentences):

Osam krava je jelo. "Eight cows were eating." (jelo = sg.n)
Nekoliko krava je jelo. "Several cows were eating." (jelo = sg.n)
Deset konja je jelo. "Ten horses were eating."
Deset konja je moje. "Ten horses are mine." (moje = nom.sg.n)

What adjectives agree with here are the numbers, and they are actually adverbs, recall that nekoliko krava behaves as sg.n. However, you will sometimes hear people forcing agreement with counted nouns:

Deset krava su jele. "Ten cows were eating." (jele = pl.f)
Deset konja su jeli. "Ten horses were eating."
Deset konja su moji. "Ten horses are mine." (moje = nom.pl.ma)

I personally prefer the first option, this second way is really an exception and sounds awkward to me.

I must repeat again: numbers 5-10 use gen.pl. of nouns. Some nouns have irregular plural, the best example is čovjek "man, human" and its plural ljudi:

Jedan čovjek piše knjigu. "One man is writing (a) book."
Dva čovjeka pišu knjigu. "Two men are writing (a) book." (gen.sg.; verb in plural!)
Pet ljudi piše knjigu. "Five men are writing (a) book." (gen.pl.; verb in singular!)


Some nouns cannot be counted, like ulje "oil" and similar "stuff". You must make a phrase with another noun boca ulja "bottle of oil" and then count bottles. Such nouns are incountable. Not so different from English, really.

However, there are some nouns, like plurals braća "brethren", and djëca "children" that use a different set of numbers for counting, and that numbers will be explained later in 53 Strange Nouns and Collectives. If you want to count children, use forms of dijëte "child" for numbers 2-4, and for counting more children you'll have to wait a bit more.

Imam jedno dijëte. "I have one child."
Imam dva djëteta. "I have two children."
Imam tri djëteta. "I have three children."
Imam četiri djëteta. "I have four children."
Imam ? djëce. (be patient)

Numbers 11-99

Numbers 11-20 follow:


Gramatically, they behave as 10 (genitive plural follows, words never change form, the whole phrase behaves as neuter singular). A word about pronunciation — most people read sequence ae in these words as a simple e.

Bigger numbers are constructed using a following scheme.

"21" dvadeset i jedän or dvadesetjedän (or dvadeset i jedno, etc.)
"22" dvadeset i dva or dvadesetdva (or dvadeset i dvijë, etc.)
"23" dvadeset i tri or dvadesettri
. . . . etc.
"30" trideset
"31" trideset i jedän or tridesetjedan
"32" trideset i dva or tridesetdva
. . . . etc.
"40" četrdeset
"50" pedeset
"60" šezdeset
"70" sedämdeset
"80" osämdeset
"90" devedeset

Words for 21, 31, 41, etc. behave grammatically as word jedän; words for 22, 32 etc. as dva/dvijë, and so on:

Imam dvadeset i jednu kravu.
Imam dvadeset i dvijë krave.

Words for 100 and bigger we'll leave for the future.

A neat table summarises the whole scheme:

#structureall together
behaves as
21, 31,...
agrees with the noun
agrees with the nounin sg., case is freesame gender as the noun, singular
1+1, 2-4
22-24, 32-34,...
changes gender, rarely casein duallocked in dualsame gender as the noun, dual (= plural for verbs)
11-20, 25-30,...
doesn't changein gen.pl.locked in gen.pl.sg.n

Telling Time

Since we now know numbers 1-60, we can tell time! For that we need several nouns:

sat mi (gen.pl. sati) "hour"  
minuta "minute"
sekunda "second"
podne (gen. sg. podneva) "noon"
ponoć f "midnight"
četvrt f "quarter"

Preposition u + acc. is used to tell absolute time when something did or will happen. If no noun is used, "hour" is assumed:

Odlazim u tri sata. "I'm leaving at three o'clock."
Odlazim u tri. "I'm leaving at three."
Odlazim u podne. "I'm leaving at noon."
Odlazim u ponoć. "I'm leaving at midnight."

Standard Croatian uses the 24-hour system. If you want a more precise measurement, you can say:

Odlazim u tri i dvadeset. "I'm leaving at three-twenty." (3:20)
Odlazim u tri i pol. "I'm leaving at half past three." (lit. "three and a half")
Odlazim u tri i četvrt. "I'm leaving at quarter past three." (lit. "three and a quarter")
Odlazim u četvrt do tri. "I'm leaving at quarter to three." (lit. "three and a quarter")

Don't forget an i in tri i dvadeset!

In everyday speech people use colloquially the 12-hour system. If it's not clear is it morning or evening, people use ujutro "in the morning", popodne "afternoon" and navečer "in the evening":

Odlazim u šest ujutro. "I'm leaving at 6 am."
Odlazim u šest popodne. "I'm leaving at 6 pm."
Odlazim u deset navečer. "I'm leaving at 10 pm."
Odlazim u deset ujutro. "I'm leaving at 10 am."

To emphasize that something happens at exact time, use točno (can be put after u as well):

Vlak odlazi u točno tri sata. "The train is leaving exactly at three o'clock."
Vlak odlazi točno u tri. "The train is leaving exactly at three."

How to ask about time? It's too early to explain question-making, but as a preview, you should use kada "when" and koliko to ask "how many", since time is a countable thing — one can count hours.

Kada odlaziš? "When do you leave?"
Koliko je sati? lit. "How many hours are there?" = "What time is it?"

Answer use je/su, and can use a word sada "now":

Jedan je sat. "It's one o'clock." (nom.sg. all)
Tri su sata "It's three o'clock." (dual for sat, pl. for the verb)
Deset je sati. "It's ten o'clock." (gen.pl. for sat, sg. for the verb)

Rules of agreement of numbers with various forms of nouns of course apply. Please learn them.

Relative and Approximate Time

There are three words that can be used to express relative and approximate time. All three require any nouns that come after them be put to genitive:

before after about
prijë + gen. poslijë + gen. oko + gen.

The genitive of podne is a bit irregular, it's podneva:

Odlazim prijë podneva. "I'm leaving before noon."
Odlazim prijë ponoći. "I'm leaving before midnight."
Odlazim poslijë podneva. "I'm leaving after noon."
Odlazim poslijë ponoći. "I'm leaving after midnight."
Odlazim oko podneva. "I'm leaving about noon."
Odlazim oko ponoći. "I'm leaving about midnight."

You can sometimes hear oko podne as well.

If you use time with numbers, you should not change the form of time (i.e. don't change jedän to genitive). With prijë and poslijë, sat is almost always left out:

Odlazim prijë jedän. "I'm leaving before one o'clock."
Odlazim poslije dva. "I'm leaving after two o'clock."
Odlazim oko tri sata. "I'm leaving about three o'clock."
Odlazim oko tri. "I'm leaving about three."
Odlazim oko tri i pol. "I'm leaving about half past three."


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.

Fill in appropriate words, using nouns: sestra "sister", brat "brother" etc. and use velik for "large":

Imam . "I have two sisters."
Imam . "I have three brothers."
Naša kuća ima . "Our house has five big rooms."
Ivan ima . "Ivan has one sister."
Dva . "Two men are waiting."

Fill in words:

Sad je i . "It's half past six now."

Fill in appropriate prepositions, numbers and nouns:

Odlazimo . "We're leaving before night."
Vratila se . "She returned about midnight."
Sastanäk počinje . "The meeting starts at four o'clock."

Check your answers:


Updated 2014-10-02 (v. 0.4)

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