The simplest type of compound sentences is where the whole sentence is inserted into another sentence meaning "action" taken as an object in the main sentence. One kind of clause that can be inserted like that is called content clause (they are also called 'complement clauses'). For instance, in English (inserted sentences are marked with brackets [...]).
"I saw [that you bought a car]."
"Ana told me [that you had left]."
"I know [that I cannot sleep]."
"That" can be left out in such sentences and usually is. All three sentences refer to facts or statements. You saw something happening, you were told some thing. It maybe not true but it's treated as it is. Croatian inserts a da and it starts a clause (short words come after it):
Vidio säm [da si kupio auto].
Ana mi je rekla [da si otišäo].
Znam [da ne mogu spavati].
In Croatian sentences, da cannot be left out: it's essential. Da is a very often used word; used on its own it means "yes".
Only certain verbs allow such clauses as their objects: verbs that have information (or 'content') as their object, what is seen, heard, said, meant... Often used verbs that allow such clauses are:
nadam se "hope"
osjëćam ~ osjëtim "feel"
otkrivam ~ otkrijem "discover"
pamtim ~ za- "remember"
pretpostavljam ~ pretpostavim "suppose"
prihvaćam ~ prihvatim "accept"
shvaćam ~ shvatim "comprehend"
sjëćam se ~ sjëtim se "recall, remember"
sumnjam ~~ po- "suspect"
vidim, vidio, vidjëla "see"
vjërujem ~~ po- "believe"
zaboravljäm ~ zaboravim "forget"
znam ~~ do- "know"
Some of these verbs express knowledge and some belief, but they use the same grammar. Out of them, znam "know" and mislim "think, suppose" are most often used in everyday conversation. The meanings listed above are ones when verbs are used with content clauses, some of the verbs have other meanings as well!
Čuo säm [da si kupio auto]. "I heard you had bought a car."
Mislim [da si kupio auto]. "I think you bought a car."
Zaboravio säm [da si kupio auto]. "I forgot you had bought a car."
The verb značim is used in such constructs with general pronouns, like to, do express that something is implied from what is already said:
To znači [da si kupio auto]. "It means you bought a car."
Verbs nadam and sjëćam ~ sjëtim have an obligatory se:
Nadam se [da si srëtän]. "I hope you are happy." (you = male)
Sjëćam se [da si kupio auto]. "I remember you bought a car."
While English have just one verb "remember", Croatian has two: the verb pamtim ~ za- means "memorize", and sjećam se ~ sjetim se means "recall, bring from memory":
Zapamtio säm [da trëbam kupiti kavu]. "I remembered (that) I should buy coffee."
Unlike da-clauses used with desires, this type of content clause can use any verb tense, but cannot use perf. verbs in present — in other words, they behave like normal sentences, therefore, I'll call them 'normal da-clauses' (NdaC).
Normal da-clauses (NdaC)
Normal da clauses behave like main clauses, i.e. they can
be in any tense, but perf. verbs in the present tense cannot be used.
To express certainty, in everyday speech the following verbs and expressions are used (sorted from less certain to more):
ne vjërujem da... "I don't believe that..."
pretpostavljam ~ pretpostavim da... "I assume/suppose that..."
mislim da... "I think/believe that..."
sigurän säm da... "I'm sure that..."
znam da... "I know that..."
The following verbs have an optional object in dat. as well — the person who gets the 'content':
čitam ~ pro- "read (to D) that..."
dokazujem, dokazivao ~ dokažem "prove (D) that..."
javljam ~ javim "let (D) know that..."
kažem, kazao ~ (rečem), rekäo, rekla, reći "tell (D) that..."
objašnjavam ~ objasnim "explain (D) that..."
pišem, pisao ~ na- "write (D) that..."
pričam ~ is- "tell (D) that..." (colloq.)
priznajem, priznavao ~ priznam "admit (D) that..."
Out of them, pričam, rečem (in the past tense) and govorim are most often used in everyday conversation. Verbs of speaking are described in detail in 37 Talking, Eating, Drinking, including lažem, lagao that belongs to this group; however, it would be too complicated to explain it here, because there's no English verb like it.
Most of these verbs can be used with simple objects as well:
Ana mi je objasnila [da nema noväca]. "Ana explained me [that she has no money]."
Ana mi je objasnila problem. "Ana explained me the problem."
In the same way, several adjectives and nouns permit adding content sentences to them, e.g. vijëst f "news", svjëstän adj. (nom.sg.f svjësna) "aware":
Stigla je vijëst da je koncert otkazan. "The news arrived that the concert was cancelled."
Svjësni smo da je nedjëlja. "We're aware it's Sunday."
Now, something important: in such sentences, English performs adjustment of tenses, that is, if the main sentence is in the past, the inserted clause will be "back-shifted":
"Ana told me 'I am eating' → "Ana told me she was eating." (shift)
"Ana told me 'I will leave' → "Ana told me she would leave." (shift)
"I know 'Ana is here'." → "I know Ana is here."
"I knew 'Ana is here'." → "I knew Ana was here." (shift)
Not so in Croatian: there's no automatic tense adjustment! The tenses in the inserted clause are usually exactly as they were known, said (that is, they are relative to the main sentence):
Ana mi je rekla 'jëdem'. → Ana mi je rekla da jëde.
Ana mi je rekla 'otići ću'. → Ana mi je rekla da će otići.
Znam 'Ana je ovdjë'. → Znam da je Ana ovdjë.
Znao säm 'Ana je ovdjë'. → Znao säm da je Ana ovdjë.
However, the shift is possible, but rare:
Znao säm 'Ana je ovdjë'. → Znao säm da je Ana bila ovdjë.
The only adjustment needed is of persons, and of some words used for short answers (e.g. da "yes", ne "no"):
Ana mi je rekla 'kuham'. → Ana mi je rekla da kuha.
Ana mi je rekla 'da'. → Ana mi je rekla da hoće. (or da pristaje)
Ana mi je rekla 'ne'. → Ana mi je rekla da neće. (or da ne želi, etc.)
Several verbs permit use of content clauses as subjects; the most used are:
činim se ~ u- "seem"
dopadam se ~ dopadnem, dopao, dopala, dopasti se "like"
sviđam se ~ svidim, svidio, svidjëla se "like"
All three have one who likes in dative (or to whom it seems), and an obligatory se. Since the subject is a clause, the past tense must agree with sg.n (the same as if we have used to as a subject!):
Čini mi(D) se da je Ana kupila auto. "It seems to me that Ana bought a car."
Sviđa mi(D) se da je Ana kupila auto. "I like that Ana bought a car."
Činilo mi(D) se da je Ana kupila auto. "It seemed to me that Ana bought a car."
More about such verbs in 44 Pain and Strange Case Uses. (It's also interesting that the English verb "seem" shows the same use.)
The content clause is like any other clause, so it can contain another content clause, and so on:
Ana mi rekla [da Ivan misli [da...]]. "Ana told me [Ivan thinks [(that)...]].
The content clause can be alone in a sentence, in short answers. In Croatian, answers are usually short, only the important part is said:
Q: Što ti je Ana rekla? "What did Ana tell you?"
A: Da je kupila auto. "That she bought a car."
Some Croatian language manuals advice using kako instead of da in content clauses, for inexplicable reasons. However, it's seen only in writing and even there it's rare. Now, just in case you see it somewhere:
Čuo säm kako je Ana kupila auto. "I heard Ana bought a car" (sounds really weird to me!)
Content Clauses With Question Words
Content involves smaller bits of information as well, not only events. For instance, you can know or communicate where is something, or when something will happen:
Ne znam [gdjë je auto]. "I don't know [where the car is]."
Sjëćam se [kad si se vratila]. "I remember [when you came back]." (you = female)
Most verbs listed above permit such content clauses, but nadam se "hope" does not: as in English, you cannot hope "where the car is". It's also possible to know "who" or "what"; any question, actually:
Znam [tko je bio ovdjë]. "I know [who was here]."
Ne znam [koga si vidjëla]. "I don't know [whom you saw]." (you = female)
If the main clause says that you don't have information (e.g. ne znam) or that information is lost (zaboravljäm ~ zaboravim "forget"), it's possible to use yes/no questions as content. In English, translation of such clauses would be "if" clauses, and not the verbatim questions; in Croatian, just questions are used:
Je li Ana kupila auto? "Did Ana buy a car?"
Ne znam [je li Ana kupila auto]. "I don't know [if Ana bought a car]."
Da li je Ana kupila auto? "Did Ana buy a car?" (colloq.)
Ne znam [da li je Ana kupila auto]. "I don't know [if Ana bought a car]."
This holds for opinion questions as well, as they are a type of yes/no questions:
Da li da kupimo auto? "Should we buy a car?"
Ne znam [da li da kupimo auto]. "I don't know [if we should buy a car]."
However, you cannot use completely colloquial, non-transformed questions in present (just sentences with question intonation) as content clauses, you must use a question with at least jel instead:
Idemo u kino? "Are we going to cinema?" (colloq.)
Ne znam [idemo u kino]. (won't work)
Ne znam [jel idemo u kino]. "I don't know [if we're going to cinema]." (colloq.)
Content clauses in the examples above are identical to questions in Croatian: there's no difference in the word order, anything!
Referring to Content
How can you refer to a content, e.g. from the previous sentence? I mean, something like this:
"I heard Ana bought a car. I didn't expect that."
It turns out that it's quite simple — the general pronoun to is used:
Čuo säm da je Ana kupila auto. Nisäm to očekivao.
The pronoun to can be used with prepositions, etc. Beware, it declines!
Q: Znaš li da je Ana kupila auto? "Do you know that Ana bought a car?"
A: Ne znam ništa o tome. "I don't know anything about that."
Next, how to tell that buying that car was smart? You can always say:
Čuo säm da je Ana kupila auto. To je bilo pametno. "That was smart."
But it's possible to squeeze the content statement into the last sentence, just move the to and append the clause to it:
Bilo je pametno (to) da je Ana kupila auto. "It was smart that Ana bought a car."
The main clause (bilo je pametno) is impersonal, in sg.n., since to is still the subject of the main clause. The word to is normally left out in sentences like this, but da is essential.
With to da it's possible to use content clauses anywhere:
Razgovaramo o tome da je Ana kupila auto. "We're discussing about Ana buying a car."
In such sentences, to cannot be moved or left out, since it serves as a "glue" between the preposition and the word da: these three words cannot be rearranged. Sadly, here English content clauses break down and another construct must be used: not so in Croatian, where to comes to rescue content clauses whenever it's needed!
Impersonal starts of sentences with content clauses are often used as comments. Here are the common ones:
Bolje je da... "It's better that..."
Dobro je da... "it's good that...."
Loše je da... "It's bad that..."
Problem je da... "It's a problem that..."
Super je da... "It's awesome that..." (colloq.)
Žalosno je da... "It's sad that..."
You will often hear (colloquially) even the verb je left out, just Bolje da..., Super da..., etc.
Often used comments are also žao mi je da... "I'm sorry that...", drago mi je da... "I'm glad that..." with the person who feels something in the dative case (not necessarily mi, 1st pers. sg. dat.):
Drago mi je da ste ovdjë. "I'm glad you are here." (speaking to a group/with respect)
Žao mi je da si bolesna. "I'm sorry you are ill." (speaking to a female)
There's another possibility, which is sometimes heard: to use što instead of to in sentences like this (where content clause is not an object); if što is used, to is often retained:
Bilo je pametno to što je Ana kupila auto. (the same meaning as above)
Dobro je što je Ana kupila auto. "It's good that Ana bought a car".
This is a bit illogical, since što "what" normally refers to something within the clause after što, e.g. what was bought. Therefore, I don't recommend use of što in such sentences, unless your Croatian is perfect — and it probably isn't, since you reading this!
Expectations and Fears
There are couple of verbs that add a twist to content clauses when used in the main clause. The content clauses are like main clauses, perf. verbs in present tense are normally not used. However, with the verb očekujem, očekivao "expect", it's possible to use perf. verbs in the content clause:
Očekujem da Ana kupi auto. "I expect Ana to buy a car."
The English verb uses a desire clause, therefore behaves like "I'd like...", but the Croatian verb behaves more like "I think..." and uses a content clause!
But much, much weirder is the verb bojim, bojao se "be afraid": it allows perf. verbs in the content clause, similar to expectations. That's not surprising, since fear is a kind of expectation. This verb can also be used with infinitive: then it means "afraid to (do something intentionally)". With a da-clause, it means "afraid that (something that might or did happen)":
Bojim se letjëti. "I'm afraid to fly." (to do that)
Bojim se da ću zakasniti. "I'm afraid that I'll be late." (it might happen)
But then comes the weirdest part: any perf. verb in the content clause (when in the present tense) is in practice always negated, with no change in meaning whatsoever! Can you believe that?! These three sentences express the same fear:
Bojim se da zakasnim na posao. "I'm afraid of being late to work." (not used much)
Bojim se da ne zakasnim na posao. "I'm afraid of being late to work." (!)
Bojim se da ću zakasniti na posao. "I'm afraid that I'll be late to work."
Remember, this happens only if the verb in the main clause expresses fear, and if the content clause contains a perf. verb in the present tense.
If you don't believe me that Croatian contains such a weird part of grammar, Google™ for "bojim se da zakasnim", and see what comes out (or just click on the link), and then insert a ne and repeat the search...
Consequently, that means if you are afraid that something will not happen, you will have to use the future tense, where there's no such obligatory-but-meaningless negation:
Bojim se da neće biti mjësta. "I'm afraid there will be no room." (negation = no)>Beware, there's no obligatory negation with impf. verbs at all, and if there's a negation, it really means that you are afraid of something not happening:
Bojim se da kasnim na posao. "I'm afraid that I'm late to work." (no negation !)
Bojim se da nemam vrëmena. "I'm afraid that I have no time." (negation = no)
The verbs vidim, vidio, vidjëla "see", and čujem "hear" behave in these circumstances as impf. verbs, i.e. there's no obligatory negation when used in the present tense.
The verb brinem ~~ za- "worry" when using a da-clause (it has other uses as well) behaves in the same way. (According to the Standard, it should have an obligatory se, but it's often dropped in colloquial context.)
Brinem se da ne zakasnim na posao. "I worry that I'll be late to work."
Brinem se da ću zakasniti na posao. "I worry that I'll be late to work."
There are couple of verbs more that behave like that, all expressing fear and anxiety. This song illustrates a normal content clause and three weird content clauses after bojim se:
Kad rasplače gudalo žice
Tremolo u meni
sve ono najbolje polomi
Dokazat ću ti [da
nismo slučajän odabir]
"When a bow makes strings cry
Tremolo in me
shatters all what's best
I'll prove to you
[we're not a random choice]"
Bojim se [da
ne postanemo dio stalne postave
Muzeja prekinutih veza]
[we'll become a part of the permanent exhibition
A dusty item
in the Museum of broken relationships]"
Bojim se da... [da nas ne razdvoje i rastope] . . .
Bojim se [da ne ostanemo samo ožiljak u vrëmenu]
"I'm afraid that... [they will separate and dissolve us]" . . .
"I'm afraid [we'll remain just a scar in time]"
I'm sorry, the translation is crude and rather literal — I'm not a poet. Note how every bojim se... uses a content clause with a negated perf. verb in the present tense. Also, note use of perf. verbs in the present tense in the first two lines, to express a sequence that happens at anytime. The verbs ostanem perf. "remain, stay" and postanem perf. "become" are a bit special (that's not obvious in this song); they are described in 42 Main Verb Complex.
There's translation of this song (Tremolo) available on the Internet where content clauses after bojim se are translated verbatim, that is "I'm afraid we don't become a part"... Look it up! You see, there's a lot of hidden grammar people don't think about. (Besides, English "afraid of" really doesn't use a content clause.) Also, please Google™ for "I'm afraid we don't become", including the quotation marks :)
There's only one thing left to explain: if for some inexplicable reason you want to start a sentence with a content clause — it's quite unusual — you should mostly use to, and separate the fronted clause by an obligatory comma:
Da je Ana kupila auto, to nisäm znao. "That Ana bought a car, I didn't know that."
Sometimes to is omitted even in such inversions, but I really don't know if there's some underlying rule.
Updated 2014-10-27 (v. 0.4)