This blog is titled 'Basic Croatian'. Having read all this, you may ask yourself: is this really the basic Croatian, or the complete Croatian?
Well, I have left out intentionally some stuff. You may call it advanced stuff — you will find them in newspapers, books, in TV news. Nobody uses them actually in casual conversation or in normal writing. I hate when people describe features of the Croatian grammar and "forget" to mention that many of things described are actually seldom (actually: never) used nowadays. So, what did I leave out?
The past conditional is similar to the present conditional, but with an additional word — the past tense of "to be" (i.e. bio). Sentences referring to possible, but unrealized events in the past can use the past conditional, but the present conditional is used more often:
English: "If I had had money, I would have bought the car."
Da säm imao novca, kupio bih bio auto. (past cond., rare)
Da säm imao novca, kupio bih auto. (present cond., mostly used)
One of the first things I said about Croatian was 'there are no articles'. Well, I have kind of lied. There are no articles, but there are so-called indefinite adjectives. That is, some adjectives (not all!) have special forms when describing indefinite nouns. What I wanted to say, the forms I have described actually mean "the big X", where "the big" is one word. Now I'm going to describe how to say "a big X", where "a big" is again just one word.
Almost nobody uses these forms. But you can hear them occasionally, so it's good to understand them: people in TV news use it, some newspapers use it. I have never ever heard it in a conversation. I have never used it. I have never written it.
The forms for the plural and f gender are the same as for the 'normal' adjectives, so I'll list only singular for m and n genders:
case ma mi n nom.sg. - - -œ acc.sg. -a dat.sg. -u gen.sg. -a ins.sg. -im
You see, the endings are similar to nouns! According to the Standard, possessive adjectives like Ivanov, Anin and even njegov "his" should have only indefinite forms:
Vidio säm Ivanova brata. "I saw Ivan's brother." (Standard, but seldom used)
Vidio säm Ivanovog brata. "I saw Ivan's brother." (not Standard, but everyone uses it!)
The only thing that is really used from indefinite adjectives in everyday life is -i vs. no ending in nom. (and acc.).
These forms are used in poetry, however: one instance is the poem Odlazäk "Departure" by Tin Ujević (here performed by Arsen Dedić).
This poem contains other not really often used words, such as spomenäk, kaloper — I had to look into a dictionary to find their meanings! Šestopir or "shestopyor" is a type of ancient weapon. The word mjësto means also "town", not only "place", and spomenäk is a plant "forget-me-not" (Myosotis palustris):
U slutnji, u čežnji
u srcu, u dahu
Malena mjësta srca moga,
spomenäk Brača, Imotskoga.
I blijësäk slavna šestopera,
i miris, miris kalopera
Tamo, tamo da putujem,
tamo, tamo da tugujem...
"In suspicion, in yearning
In heart, in breath
Small towns of my heart,
forget-me-not of Brač, of Imotski
And a flash of famous shestopyor,
And the scent, scent of costmary
There, there I would travel,
There, there I would mourn..."
My rough translation is literal and does not rhyme. I have underscored an indefinite adjective. Observe the poetic inversion of adjectives as well: srca moga, found in many songs, Croatian anthem, and in vocative forms!
The Plusquamperfect Tense
This is another past tense. It's used for things that happened before something else in the past. It's made in the same way as the past tense, but you don't use present of "be" (säm, si...) but the past (bio säm, bio si...), e.g.:
Jeo säm. "I was eating." (past)
Bio säm jeo. "I had been eating." (plusquamperfect)
I use it sometimes. I think I used it a year ago or so, once. Or was it the year before?
The Aorist Tense
This is another past tense. This tense has nothing in common with the common past tense, it's made of one word, something we have seen only for the present tense! It's made from the past base, with restoring d or t that were lost. And, yeah, it's mostly made from perf. verbs!
It has very special, although regular endings that are attached to the past stem; a variation in endings is used if the past stem ends on a consonant (it's possible only in 0-verbs):
vowel- cons.- 1st sg. -h -o-h 2nd/3rd sg. - -e 1st pl. -smo -o-smo 2nd pl. -ste -o-ste 3rd pl. -še -o-še
I didn't bother to list all classes: if you know the past part., you'll know the aorist. There's only a couple of exciting things happening to 0-verbs: first, verbs like pečem (peku), pekäo, pekla, peći: in the 2nd and 3rd pers. sg the ending -e changes the -k to -č; next, all 'lost' -d-, -t- etc. are restored:
class present past part. (m, f) 1st sg. aorist a obeć-a-m obeć-a-o, obeć-a-la obeć-a-h i pomisl-i-m pomisl-i-o, pomisl-i-la pomisl-i-h n zabri-n-em zabri-nu-o, zabri-nu-la zabri-nu-h 0 tres--em tres--äo, tres--la tres--oh jed--em je--o, je--la jed--oh plet--em ple--o, ple--la plet--oh zarast--em zarast-äo, zaras--la zarast--oh ispeč-em ispek--äo, ispek--la ispek--oh (2nd ispeč--e) popi--jem popi--o, popi--la popi--h pozov--em pozva--o, pozva--la pozva--h ’j/a piš--em pis-a-o, pis-a-la pis-a-h i/jë vid-i-m vid-i-o, vid-jë-la vid-jë-h
In reality, the aorist tense can be formed out of impf. verbs as well. The aorist of säm, bio... is bih, bi, bi, bismo, etc. — exactly the 'conditional verb'!
I use it sometimes, when I want to say something monumental or archaic, or just different. The aorist tense is frequently used in Serbian, even colloquially; it has no archaic overtone there.
It's interesting that in Serbia and Bosnia — and sometimes in Croatia — you will often hear 2nd/3rd pers. sg. forms used for the first person as well, for instance:
Ja ode. "I left." (aorist, 2nd/3rd pers. form = colloq.)
Ja odoh. "I left." (aorist, Standard)
The aorist is also used for things that are just about to happen; sentences above could be said by someone who is leaving as he or she speaks.
The Imperfect Tense
And this is yet another past tense, again just a single word. As its name tells, it's made from imperfective verbs only.
I have never used it. I don't know the endings. I should look into the book. You could look into Wikipedia or elsewhere. Well, no one uses it. Ever.
This form is an adverb (therefore, indeclinable) meaning "after x-ed,...". For instance:
Napisavši pismo, otišäo säm u poštu. "Having written the letter, I went to the post office."
It exists only for perfective verbs, and it's made from the past base, by adding -vši or -avši (if the base ends on a consonant), after restoring d or t if one was lost.
napis-a-la → napis-a-vši
pogod-i-la → pogod-i-vši
ispek--la → ispek--avši
pozva--la → pozva--vši
The past adverb of säm, bio is used as an adjective and has a special meaning:
bivši adj. "ex", "former", "once in existence"
Beside bivši, I can't recall that I ever used a past adverb.
Updated 2014-09-17 (v. 0.4)