39 Common Verbs and Aspect Patterns

• • • Review: Likes, Wishes and Purpose

I'm going to describe 5 important 'verb families' — each 'family' consists of a base verb with verbs derived from it, either perfective or with a shift in meaning. You'll see how verbs start from a basic meaning and then attain a specialized one. The whole verb 'family' follows the same pattern of perf. and impf. verbs. From now on, a big part of learning Croatian is just different verb families.

Verbs dajem "give", imam "have" and uzimam "take" are quite important; verbs derived from dajem are important as well. Verb stavljam means "put", and from the verb tvorim very common verbs are derived.

stavljam ~ stavim: Symmetric Aspect Pattern

The verb stavim perf. is a very often used verb, and means "place something", "put". It's impf. form is stavljam:

Stavljam meso u lonac. "I'm putting (the) meat in (a) pot."
Stavio säm meso u lonac. "I have put (the) meat in (a) pot."

Verbs derived from stavim are perf., and ones derived from stavljam impf. This is a very frequent scheme in Croatian, I'll call it symmetric:

To list various meanings, I'll just list prefixes. Furthermore, I'll list all the possibilities of cases and prepositions used with a verb. To make things more compact, I'll use the shortest abbreviations for cases (N, A, etc.). A possible infinitive is indicated with INF. If there are more nouns in one case, distinguished by either word order, or preposition use, I'll mark them as e.g. A1, A2... PLACE indicates a prepositional phrase for a static location, e.g. u + dat.

do-N (D) (A)N delivers, brings (A) (to D)
izo-N (A)N excludes (A), N leaves out (A)
na-N (INF)N continues (to INF)
obu-N (A)N discontinues, aborts (A)
o-N (A)N leaves behind (A)
po-N (A) (PLACE)N puts in place, installs (A)
pretpo-N (A)N assumes, hypothesizes (A)
pred-N (A) (D)N presents, introduces (A) (to D)
ra-N (A) (na A1)N puts apart, disassembles (A) (to A1)
sa-N (A)N puts together, assembles (A)
zau-N (A)N stops, halts (A)

Some examples:

Dostavio säm pizzu. "I have delivered (the) pizza."
Nastavila säm jesti. "I have continued eating."
Rusija je obustavila isporuku plina. "Russia has discontinued supplying gas."
Ostavio sam auto. "I have left (the) car behind.
Postavila säm sliku. "I have put (the) picture (on its place)."
Pretpostavljam to. "I'm assuming that."
Rastavio säm sat.. "I disassembled (the) clock."
Sastavio säm sat.. "I assembed (the) clock.

Common nouns and adjectives derived from these verbs:

dostava "delivery"
nastava "instruction"
nastaväk "continuation, extension"
pretpostavka "assumption"
predstava "performance, show"

dajem, davao ~ dam

The verb simply means "give":

Dala säm ti(D) jabuku(A). "I gave you an apple".

The derived verbs also follow the symmetric pattern: ones derived from dajem, davao are impf., and ones from dam perf. Some verbs have two meanings, literal and symbolic:

N (A) (D)
N (D) da...
Ø se D INF
N gives (A) (to D)
N allows (D) to... (see below)
D feels like INF (explained in ch. 46)
do-N (A) (D)1. N passes (A) on to (D)
2. N adds (A) (to D)
iz-N (A)1. N publishes (A)
2. N betrays (A)
o-N (A) (D)N reveals (A) (to D)
pre-N (A) (D)1. N hands over (A) (to D)
2. N gives lecture (to D) (on A)
pro-N (A) (D) (za A1)N sells (A) (to D) (for A1)
raspro-N (A) (D) (za A1)N sells off (A) (to D) (for A1)
u-N (A) (za A1)N marries (A) (to A1)
za-N (A) (D)1. N sets a task (A) (to D)
2. N inflicts (A) (to D)

Another use of the unprefixed verbs, with da, will be explained shortly. The third use of the unprefixed verbs, the impersonal dative, will be explained in a following chapter, it's included here of completeness.

The verb dam has an alternative form in present only: dadem, sounding a bit archaic nowadays.

The verb udajem, udavao ~ udam has a very special meaning: "to make someone female marry". If it's used with reflexive se, it means just "marry", but it's used for female persons only: males use another verb ženim. Some examples:

Udao säm kćer. lit. "I made my daughter marry".
Udajem se za Ivana. "I'm marrying Ivan". (female speaking)

The verb prodajem, prodavao ~ prodam means just "sell", and selling at discount prices use special verb rasprodajem, rasprodao ~ rasprodam "sell off", "sell out".

Prodajem jabuke. "I'm selling apples."
Prodat ću kuću. "I will sell (the) house."

There are some derived nouns:

prodaja "sale"
rasprodaja "discount sale"
udaja "marriage" (from a female perspective)
zadaća "duty, homework"
zadatäk "task"

This verb group is one of just two common verb groups that have endings -ajem, -avao (ones derived from -znajem, -znavao make the other group).

Permissions (dajem, davao ~ dam + da...)

The verbs dajem, davao ~ dam can be used with dat. and a restricted da-clause (always in the present tense, perf. verbs are allowed), meaning "let, allow someone to...". Consequently, ne dam dat. da... means "I don't let...".

Here dam is often used in present as well, despite being perf. The one who could do the action is in dative (as a 'recipient' of "giving").

Somehow songs I used to illustrate features tend to be a bit traditional, and even performed by a bit traditional-looking people, so here are two guys that balance it a bit...

Ne dam vjëtru, ne dam nikom
[da te prati, s tobom diše]
[da se kiti tvojom slikom]
tjëram vjëtar, tjëram kiše.

Svatko nosi svoje brëme
i u srcu ljubav sklanja
pođi spati, već je vrijëme:
'Budi dobra, lijëpo sänjaj.'

(Jakša Fiamengo)

"I don't allow the wind, don't allow anyone
to follow you, breathe with you
to display your picture
I'm chasing away wind, chasing away rains

Everyone carries own burden
And shelters love in heart
Go to sleep, it's time already:
'Be good, sleep well.'" (lit. "dream nice")

Forms pođi and budi are imperatives (command forms, explained in 41 Imperatives, Permissions and Vocative Case) of pođem perf. "go, start moving", and säm, bio "be". The verb spim, spao is an alternative and a bit archaic form of spavam "sleep" (and it's common in some regions). In this context, kitim se does not mean exactly "display", but I can't find the better word at the moment.

Beware, the 3rd pers. sg. of dam is also spelled da, but it of course means "he/she gives", so you will find sentences like:

Mama mi ne da [da jedem sladoled]. "Mom doesn't let me [eat ice-cream]".

Here, the first da is just the verb, and the second is the conjunction introducing sub-sentence (i.e. clause)! Don't get confused. In past, it would be:

Mama mi nije dala [da jedem sladoled]. "Mom didn't allow me [to eat ice-cream]".

Keep in mind that the recipient (in dat.) is also the subject of the da clause, therefore the verb in the clause must be in the right person and number:

Mama nam nije dala [da jedemo sladoled]. "Mom didn't allow us [to eat ice-cream]".
Mama im nije dala [da jedu sladoled]. "Mom didn't allow them [to eat ice-cream]".

Even a funnier case is when the verb in the da-clause is also dam used in the 3rd pers. sg., so it's easy to confuse someone learning Croatian with such a sentence:

Mama joj ne da [da da auto Ivanu]. "Mom doesn't let her [give the car to Ivan]".

tvorim: Asymmetric Aspect Pattern

Verb tvorim impf. has a completely different basic meaning "make" (and is seldom used) but verbs derived from it are also important. The verb means "make" (in meaning: "bricks make a house"), but is very seldom used nowadays. Verbs derived by prefixing from it are perf., and to 'imperfectize' them again, base of verb changes to -tvaram, -tvarao,... so the verb class is changed as well. This "derived-basic" verb is not used on its own:

derivedx-tvor-i-mx-tvar-a-m, x-tvar-a-o,...

I'll call this scheme asymmetric.

o-N A (I)
N se
N opens A (with I)
N opens †
pre-N A1 u A2 (I)N transforms A1 to A2 (with I)
pri-N A (I)a. N partially closes A (with I)
b. N detains A
s-N AN creates A
za-N A (I)
N se
N closes A (with I)
N closes †

(See below for †)

The vowel in the verb root changed from o (perf.) to a (impf.). This is a very common change, like in pairs:

spajam ~ spojim "connect"
nagovaram ~ nagovorim "persuade"

Important: verbs "open" and "close" are 'ergative' in English, and when they are used without object, they must be translated to the Croatian verb with se:

"He closed the window." Zatvorio je prozor.
"The window closed." Prozor se zatvorio.
"He opened the window." Otvorio je prozor.
"The window opened." Prozor se otvorio.

One must be careful not to translate verbatim such strange English verbs that shift meaning if they have a subject or not! Such use of se in Croatian is explained in 46 Mediopassive.

Common nouns and adjectives derived from these verbs (all these nouns have only short plural):

izlog "shop window"
nalog "order, written command"
polog "deposit"
prilog "appendix, attachment, side dish"
prijëdlog "proposal"
razlog "reason, cause"
sloga "concord, agreement of people"
složän adj. "concerted, in agreement"
ulog "investment"
zalog "pledge, pawn"


This verb has only impf. aspect. It's used more restrictive than in English; for instance, some English sentences cannot be translated literally:

"I have a house." Imam kuću.
"I had a headache." Imala sam glavobolju.
"I had a lunch." Imala sam ručak.

If there's a special verb meaning an action, people use it, instead of "have something": there's a verb ručam "have a lunch", so it's used. Remember that imam is not an auxiliary verb in Croatian, but a plain and regular verb with a full meaning. In fact, it's in the group of most regular and simple verbs, a-verbs.

There are only two derived verbs, primam ~ primim "accept, receive, take hold" and snimam ~ snimim "record; shoot a movie". Both verbs use only an subject in nom. and an object in acc. Some examples for primam ~ primim:

Primila säm pismo. "I received a letter."
Jesi li primio poruku? "Did you receive (the) message?"

uzimam ~ uzmem, uzeo

This verb means "take", a meaning related to "give". However, it does not have all metaphorical meanings as "take" in English: in Croatian, you don't "take" photos (except a printed one in hand!), don't "take" opportunities, notes, etc. but you do "take" a car, money etc.

The verbs (and ones derived from them) have a very strange change in the perf. member of the pair: m is changed to e. They are only a handful of verbs that behave like that. As for the derived verbs, there are only few, all following the symmetric pattern:

N (A) (D)N takes (A) (from D)
ob-N (A)N overwhelms (A)
od-N (A) (D)N takes away (A) (from D)
pod-N (A)N undertakes (A)
pre-N (A) (od G)N takes over (A) (from G)
za-N (A)N occupies (A)

It's interesting how Croatian prefixes are similar to English prepositions and prefixes: od- vs. "away", pod- vs. "under-" and "pre-" vs. "over". Some examples:

Uzeo säm auto. "I took (the) car."
Preuzimam posäo. "I'm taking over (the) job."

kidam ~ (-kinem)

This verb is not frequently used nowadays: it means "break apart, rip"; however, the few verbs derived from it are quite important. It uses a broken symmetric aspect pattern; it's impf., and prefixing gives impf. verbs; one produces perf. verbs from them by changing verb to -kinem, a verb that's not used unprefixed:


For some verbs, one prefix is reserved to make the perf. counterpart of the basic verb; no such counterpart exists for kidam.

The verbs are:

N (A)N breaks, rips apart (A)
pre-N (A)N interrupts, stops (A)
ot-N (A) (od G)N breaks off, chips (A) (from G)
s-N A
N se
N removes, strips A
N undresses
u-N (A)N cancels (A)
za-N (A) (za A1)N deprives A (of A1)

The verb skidam ~ skinem serves as an opposite of stavljam ~ stavim, but also means "undress". It's the most often used verb from this family, but others are used frequently as well.

Updated 2014-06-01 (v. 0.4)


Ivana Kardum said...

odličan ti je blog!

Daniel N. said...

Hvala Ivana, drago mi je da ti se sviđa. Bio bih ti zahvalan za svaku sugestiju kako da ga poboljšam ili na ukazivanje na bilo kakvu pogrešku. lp daniel

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