4 Types of Words

This chapter should prepare you for what lies ahead, to introduce some basic concepts.

For some reasons, English grammar divides words into various "parts of speech". I would rather use a phrase "types of words". In scientific use people prefer "word classes". I would rather use class to sub-divide various types.

I hope you know at least about nouns (e.g. "Sun") and verbs (e.g. "shine"). There are also adjectives (e.g. "yellow"), etc. Croatian has all these types, similar to English.

However, there comes a twist. One can divide words by various criteria. In Croatian, there are basically three ways to divide words:

  • by meaning: whether they describe a being, action, some property, quantity, etc.
  • by syntax: how the word behaves grammatically, what forms it has, etc.
  • finally, one can divide among "full words" and "short words" ("short" are usually called clitics, but they are... short).

This mixture can be also seen in English: there are nouns with verbal meaning, like in the sentence "Leaving was not easy". "Leaving" is called verbal noun (that is, word that behaves like a noun, and has a meaning of an action), or sometimes gerund.

In Croatian, there are a lot of words that behave like adjectives and represent something else — actions and quantities, for instance.

Let's take a look at some types of words in Croatian, not by meaning, but by their grammatical properties:

Nouns stand for persons (John), beings (pas "dog"), various objects (soba "room"), feelings (bol "pain"), or abstractions (odlazak "departure").

  • more or less all nouns have different forms in various cases, for both singular and plural,
  • each has pre-determined gender which may be anything for non-living things: e.g. odlazak is masculine;
  • from most nouns, a possessive adjective can be created (Ivan - Ivanov "Ivan's")

Pronouns stand for nouns and describe some already known thing, sides of conversation (ja "I", mi "we"). Words standing for some undetermined beings (netko "someone") are also usually classified as pronouns.

  • more or less all pronouns also have different forms in various cases, for both singular and plural,
  • there are pronouns for the first and second persons in conversation;
  • some pronouns have different forms for various genders (the same is in English - check "he", "she", "it");
  • from most pronouns, a possessive adjective can be created (on "he" - njegov "his")
  • some pronouns have special "short forms" that are placed in pre-determined place in a sentence;

Adjectives describe nouns somehow (žuti "yellow") or are derived from nouns to describe possession (Ivanov "Ivan's") or pronouns (njegov "his") or from verbs (more about it later).

  • more or less all adjectives also have different forms in various cases, for both singular and plural, and they adapt to gender of a noun, so adjectives have quite a lot of forms;
  • many adjectives have comparison (velik "big", veći "bigger", etc.);

Verbs describe actions or states.

  • they have various forms that describe tenses (past, present, future) and persons in a conversation;
  • some nouns and adjectives can be formed from verbs; such adjectives are further used to create compound forms for various tenses;
  • there are some auxiliary verbs used to create compound tenses;
  • there are some forms describing orders (like "go there") or possibilities (like "you could").

Besides that, there are prepositions (u "in", iz "from"), adverbs (lako "easy"; they have relations with adjectives), and conjuctions and particles (i "and").

However, there's another way of looking at it. Words can be divided what meaning they carry. For instance, some words point to some real person (like personal names, Ivan, for instance), and on the other extreme other words have only pure grammatical use (like English "in", "of", "and"), called "function words".

More or less completely independent of this, there's another division regarding that some words describe things and persons ("nouns"), possessions ("possessives"), properties ("adjectives"), actions ("verbs"). But there can be generic possessions ("his") and individual ones ("John's"). It could be described in a neat table:

personal names:
Ivan, Ana
fixed gender, change case
objects and concepts:
soba "room", bol "pain"
fixed gender, change case
personal pronouns:
ja "I", mi "we"
change gender and case
Ivanov "Ivan's", Anin "Ana's"
change gender and case
sobni "room", bolni "painful"
change gender and case
pronominal possesives:
moj "my", naš "our"
change gender and case
velik "big", hladan "cold"
change gender, case and degree
taj "that", ovo "this"
change gender and case
  brzo "quickly", malo "little"
change degree
kako "how", ovako "like this"
have only one form
  jučer "yesterday", noćas "this night"
have only one form
kada "when", ovdje "here"
have only one form
pišem "I'm writing", spavam "I'm sleeping"
change tense and person

The yellow-shaded cells are adjective-like words, the major part of Croatian. You see that verbs are a separate part of the scheme; but fully apart from all described above are fully functional words, like u "in", i "and" — prepositions, conjuctions, particles and so on.

There's a major system linking most of "generalizations", similar to English words "where"/"anywhere"/"nowhere"/"there"....


Anonymous said...

"concrete" znači "beton", pa bi bolja riječ bila "specific".

Anonymous said...

Can you please tell me the English form of the word type "Čestice"? What are they called? Hvala puno!

Daniel N. said...

particles? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_particle
Nema na čemu! LP Daniel

Anonymous said...

They're actually called articles. Particles refers to a small amount of matter (chemistry)

Daniel N. said...

Well if you check any of these links, you'll see there are some particles in grammar too.


Post a Comment