NOTE: I would like comments on this chapter. I don't know if anyone will understand this, and I need more fluent and realistic English examples.
There are prepositions that have meanings other than spatial or temporal. There's no systematic way to list them. Some prepositions that have also spatial/temporal meaning demand other cases.
Company: s + ins.
We have already encountered this use, when describing the instrumental case. It's also used by some verbs, like razgovaram "talk, chat". Some examples:
Pijem kavu s Anom. "I'm drinking coffee with Ana."
Razgovarao säm s Anom. "I was talking to Ana." or "I had a chat with Ana."
Lack: bez + gen.
This combination has exactly the opposite meaning, "without". For example:
Otišli su bez mene. "They left without me."
Reason: zbog + gen., radi + gen.
This preposition is used when reason for some action is a noun (with possible adjectives and subordinate clauses, of course). For instance, you are late due to fog:
Kasnim zbog mägle. "I'm late because of the fog."
Cësta je zatvorena zbog radova. "The road is closed due to works."
Preposition radi has exactly the same meaning and can be used interchangeably:
Kasnim radi mägle.
Cësta je zatvorena radi radova.
In poetic works, proverbs and literature, radi comes sometimes after the noun phrase it's attached to, especially after pronouns. This is considered archaic today.
Don't confuse this preposition with the 3rd pers. present radi "he/she/it works/functions" from radim "work". They have no connection whatsoever.
With pronouns sve, to, zbog and radi are frequently used to specify that something is "because of" something said before, a "consequence":
Netko će zbog toga imati probleme. "Someone will have problems because of that."
Zbog svega moramo biti oprezni. "We must be careful, because of everything (known, said before)."
As with any to, a whole što-clause can be attached to it; it's often used instead of jer, which also inserts a "reason" clause:
Otišäo säm zbog toga što je bilo kasno. "I left because it was late."
Otišäo säm jer je bilo kasno. "I left because it was late."
Recipient: za + acc.
This preposition is used when something is "for" someone, for instance:
Stiglo je pismo za Anu. "A letter for Ana has arrived."
Ovo je za mene. "This is for me."
"About": o + dat.
This preposition has a rather abstract meaning, very like English "about":
Razgovarali smo o Ani. "We were talking about Ana"
Mode: na + acc.
Preposition na together with a noun in acc. can mean "how is something done"; English uses mostly adjectives in such circumstances -- but nouns cannot be used as adjectives in Croatian without some transformation. Examples are:
učenje na daljinu "distance learning" (lit. "learning on distance") daljina "distance"
kupujem auto na kredit "I'm buying a car using a loan" (lit. "on loan")
igračka radi na baterije "The toy runs on batteries" (lit. "works")
bušilica radi na struju "The drill runs on electricity" (lit. "works")
This is used only with some verbs, none of them implying motion. Don't confuse this with direction (na posao, na more), which uses the same combination of preposition and case.
"Of": od + gen.
This combination usually corresponding to English "of", e.g. something is "made of", or something "belongs to":
Ova je kuća od kamena. lit. "This house is of stone."
"To get": po + acc.
This very strange combination is used with motion verbs, indicating intention to "pick up", "get" something. For instance, you returned to take the key. That would be translated as:
Vratio säm se po ključ. "I returned to pick up the key."
This combination is often used, more examples:
[to be expanded]
Otišla je do doktora po lijëk. "She went to the doctor to get a medicine."
"While": po + dat.
This combination implies "during", "while", in sentences like "We walked in rain", "I drove at night", "We sleep at day", "The lake freezes in winter," etc.:
Šetali smo po kiši. "We walked in rain."
Vozio säm po noći. "I drove at night."
Spavamo po danu. "We sleep at day."
Jezero se smrzava po zimi. "The lake freezes in winter." (lit. "gets frozen" — a mediopassive)
For some often used "times" there are specific adverbs, e.g. noću (= po noći), danju (= po danu), etc., already mentioned in 29 Telling When and How Long.
"According to": po/prema + dat.
Both prepositions with dative can mean "according to", "following":
U evanđelju po Marku piše.... "It's written in the gospel according to Mark..."
Prema ugovoru, moram platiti 1000 kuna. "According to the contract, I have to pay 1000 kuna."
On ne igra po pravilima. "He's not playing by the rules."
Po zakonu, moraš platiti kaznu. "According to the law, you have to pay a fine."
Iteration, distribution: po + acc.
This is yet another strange use of this multi-purpose preposition. It implies distribution in a sense of distributed fixed amount of something countable, usually expressed with a number. It's actually simpler than it sounds, it's better understood through examples:
Dobili su po 100 kuna. "They got 100 kuna each."
U svaku kutiju ću staviti po dva poklona. "I'll put two gifts in each box."
It also implies iteration, corresponding to English "x by x":
Dolaze jedan po jedan. "They're arriving one by one."
Tražio säm ga ulicu po ulicu. "I was looking for him street by street."
Unfortunately, I cannot represent meanings with fancy icons.
prep. + case meaning example s + ins. company Pijem kavu s Anom.
"I'm drinking coffee with Ana."
bez + gen. lack,
opp. to company
Otišli su bez mene.
"They left without me."
zbog + gen.
radi + gen.
reason Kasnim zbog mägle.
"I'm late because of the fog."
o + dat. "about" Razgovaramo o Ani.
"We're talking about Ana."
za + acc. recipient Ovo je za mene.
"This is for me."
na + acc. mode, "how"
(with static verbs)
Igračka radi na baterije
"The toy runs on batteries"
od + gen. made of, "of" Kuća je od kamena
"The house is of stone"
po + dat. situation, "while" Šetali smo po kiši.
"We walked in rain."
po + dat.
prema + dat.
"according to" On ne igra po pravilima.
"He's not playing by the rules."
po + acc. "to pick up", reason
(with motion verbs)
Vratio säm se po ključ.
"I returned to pick up the key."
po + acc. distribution Dobili su po 100 kuna.
"They got 100 kuna each."
acc + po + acc. iteration Dolaze jedan po jedan.
"They're arriving one by one."
Bear in mind that došli su po 100 kuna means "they came to get 100 kuna", while dobili su po 100 kuna means "they received 100 kuna each" — the difference is only the verb used.
This concludes discussion of prepositions in Croatian. There are a few more, but they are all seldom used and always require genitive.