27 Likes, Desires and Purpose

• • • Easy Croatian: 50 Because, In Order To, Why: Reasons, 56 Desires and Suggestions

• • • Review: Infinitive and Future Tense

Likes and Desires

In Croatian, there are basically two verbs used to express that you "like" or "love" something: volim, volio, voljëla ~~ za- and sviđam se ~~ svidim, svidio, svidjëla se.

The latter verb uses cases in a strange way that's quite usual in Croatian: what you like is the subject (therefore, in nom.) and who likes is an object in dative (short forms of personal pronouns are often used here). For instance:

Sviđa mi(D) se čokolada(N). "I like chocolate."

If you like something that's not an animal (people included), you can use either verb; volim just means a slightly stronger feeling and a general statement, while sviđam is often used for impressions about an individual item:

Volim čokoladu. "I like/love chocolate."
Sviđa mi se juha. "I like the soup." (one you just ate)

With animals and persons, volim would translate to "love", and it's always used for permanent relations, while sviđam means "like":

Ani(D) se sviđa tvoj(N) brat(N). "Ana likes your brother."
Ana(N) voli tvog(A) brata(A). "Ana loves your brother."

More verbs that uses dative in such a way are described in detail in 44 Pain and Strange Case Uses.

With both verbs you can use infinitive of another verb, meaning you like doing something; it's more common to use volim:

Volim plivati. "I like to swim."
Ne volim trčati. "I don't like to run."

The opposite verb is mrzim ~~ za- "hate":

Mrzim čokoladu. "I hate chocolate."
Mrzim plivati. "I hate running."

The verb želim, želio, željëla "want" has basically four uses. You can want either:

  1. something (or somebody) e.g. "a chocolate"
  2. to do something, e.g. "to sing"
  3. somebody else "to do something"
  4. something to happen that's expressed impersonally, e.g. "to rain"

The first two uses are quite simple, and exactly as with the verb volim, you use (1) a noun in acc. and (2) a verb in infinitive:

Želim čokoladu. "I want a chocolate."
Želim pjëvati. "I want to sing."

The verb hoću (irr.), htio, htjëla — its short forms ću/ćeš... are used to form the future tense — can be used in the full form to express simply a wish; however, it's not polite:

Hoćemo čokoladu. "We want a chocolate."
Hoću pjëvati. "I want to sing."

Desire Clauses

The last two uses of "want" in Croatian involve clauses. A clause is a sentence within a sentence, e.g. in "I know [Jack drives every day to work]" where the part in square brackets [] is a clause; the rest is often called the 'main clause' (MC).

Clauses are a part of grammar that's sometimes overlooked, especially in overviews of Croatian grammar, where clause types are just listed, without much explanation. I decided to take a completely different approach and explain all major clause types as they are vital for understanding any sentence that's even a bit more complex.

Croatian clauses are quite different than English. Let's take a look at the following sentences:

"Ana sings. She sings"
"I want Ana to sing."
"I want her to sing."

English basically tells what someone should do, with "to". The subject of that action (e.g. Ana) becomes an object, "her" must be used, not "she". Croatian uses another approach: you want something to happen, the whole thing, not 'somebody' to do something! In Croatian, such things are expressed with clauses that start with a little word da. (We can call it a da-clause, since it starts with that word.) I have used here square brackets [...] to emphasize clauses:

Ana pjëva. "Ana sings."
Želim [da Ana pjëva]. "I want Ana to sing."

The whole clause, starting with the word da is the 'object' of desire! Within the clause, Ana is the subject. The subject can be a pronoun, and it stays in the nominative, as Ana did:

Ona pjëva. "She sings."
Želim [da ona pjëva]. "I want her to sing."

The pronoun in the clause can be omitted. Who is the subject of the da-clause is then deduced from the context:

Pjëva. "She/he sings."
Želim [da pjëva]. "I want her/him to sing."

The da-clauses are found in all types of constructs in Croatian, in fact the da is likely the most often word in Croatian.

It's also possible to desire something to happen where nobody really does anything, e.g. you can wish "to be raining". In English, dummy "it" is used, while in Croatian, as in other impersonal expressions, there's no pronoun whatsoever. (I have used the verb kišim "rain" to make a parallel with English, but actually the preferred way to tell that it's raining in Croatian is pada kiša.)

Kiši. "It rains."
Želim [da kiši]. "I want it to rain."

The Croatian grammar is here actually simpler than English. We'll see it often in various constructs.

All da-clauses used with desires (or 'desire clauses') are normally always in the present tense, even if you wanted something to happen and it didn't, or you desire something to happen in the future: you should use the present tense in the clause after a da:

Htio säm [da Ana pjëva]. "I wanted Ana to sing."

Such 'tense restriction' happens in some types of clauses, but there are clause types that are completely unrestricted. Very roughly speaking, where English uses "to", and Croatian uses a clause, tenses used in Croatian clauses will be restricted. We can call this type of da-clause 'restricted da-clause' (RdaC).

Restricted da-clauses (RdaC)

Restricted da-clauses are always in the present tense;
both impf. and perf. verbs can be used.

Since clauses are really small sentences within a sentence, you should pay attention to the placement rule within it. The word da starts the clause, occupy the first position in it, and short words in the clause all come after the da in the usual order! For instance:

Ivan1 je2 želio [da1 ga2 Ana posjëti]. "Ivan wanted Ana to visit him."

Word-counting is done within the main clause, and within the sub-clause.

There's a complication with the verb säm, bio "be": it can be used in such clauses, but also its alternative version budem is often used, and there's a small difference in meaning:

Mama želi da je Ana srëtna. "Mom wants Ana to be happy." (now; probably she isn't)
Mama želi da Ana bude srëtna. "Mom wants Ana to be happy." (in future)
Želim da je sunčano. "I want it to be sunny." (now; probably it isn't)
Želim da bude sunčano. "I want it to be sunny." (in future, e.g. when we get there)

Since we express events somebody likes, desires, etc. the perf. verbs can be used (if we want something to be accomplished, done, etc.), e.g.:

Mama želi da Ivan pojede juhu. "Mom wants Ivan to eat the soup."
Ana želi da kupim auto. "Ana wants me to buy a car."

This is another place where perf. verbs are used in the present tense!

Furthermore, it's quite easy in Croatian to express what you want not to (not what you don't want, but you want something not to happen) — just negate the part after da:

Ana želi da ne kupim auto. "Ana wants me not to buy a car."
Želim da ne bude hladno. "I want it not to be cold."

If you want to use a reference to a desire clause, instead of repeating it over and over, use the general pronoun to:

Želim [da Ana pjëva]. "I want Ana to sing."
Želim to. "I want it."

Croatian vs. Serbian

Now, more or less everything I have written up to now could be applied to Serbian as well. There's a difference now: in sentences of the second type — expressing desires about the very subject of the main sentence — Standard Croatian prefers infinitives. However, Serbian usually uses a da-clause instead:

Croatian: Želim čitati. "I want to read."
Serbian: Želim [da čitam]. lit. "I want me to read."

This is the famous difference, da + present vs. an infinitive. I leave it up to you to decide how this thing is important to the whole system. In reality, differences are less sharp: you will occasionally hear people in Croatia using da-clauses when infinitive should be used, and people in Serbia using infinitives.

Summary of Expressing Desires

The following table summarizes differences between Croatian and English in constructs used to express desires:

1 MC object-in-acc.
Želim Anu(A).
Želim je(A).
MC object
"I want Ana(OBJ)."
"I want her(OBJ)."
2 MC infinitive
Želim pjëvati(inf.).
MC "to" verb
"I want to sing."
3 MC [da-clause in present]
Želim da Ana(N) pjëva(pres.).
Želim da ona(N) pjëva(pres.).
Želim da pjëva(pres.).
MC X-as-object "to" verb
"I want Ana(OBJ) to sing."
"I want her(OBJ) to sing."
4 MC [da-clause in present]
Želim da kiši(pres.).
MC "it" "to" verb
"I want it(OBJ) to rain."

Where Croatian and English grammar diverge, Spanish grammar usually shows parallels to Croatian. Not here! In such sentences about uncertain, or desired things, Spanish uses 'subjunctive', something completely unknown in Croatian.

Other Verbs Using RdaC's

There's a couple of verbs in Croatian that don't use infinitives as their 'objects' at all, but restricted da-clauses (RdaC), regardless if the subject of da-clause is the same as subject of the main one or not. (They can use nouns in acc. as well, of course). Often used ones are:

čekam "wait"
dopuštam ~ dopustim "allow" <D>
moliti ~ za- "ask (politely)" <A>
predlažem, predlagao ~ predložim "propose, suggest" <D>
savjëtujem "advise, suggest" <D>
zabranjujem, zabranjivao ~ zabranim "forbid" <D>
zahtijëvam "demand" <od G>

Some English verbs above use the object-to construct. Examples for čekam:

Čekao säm ga. "I waited for him."
Čekao säm da on kaže nëšto. "I waited for him to say something."
Čekao säm da kaže nëšto. "I waited for him/her to say something."

In the first sentence, you waited for somebody, but in the second sentence, you waited for some event, "him saying something". Croatian uses hare a quite different grammar, the preposition ("for") is not used, the verb in the clause is in the present tense. The most often used sentence in the real life would be the third one, where the subject can be guessed from the context.

Most verbs in the above list have an object besides a da-clause — e.g. <D> means it's an object in dative — to indicate whom you allowed/suggested/forbid something. They still use a RdaC, and the clause has the subject omitted if it's the same as the object in the main clause:

Dopustio säm Ani(D) da ode ranije. "I allowed Ana to leave earlier."
Zamolio säm Anu(A) da ode ranije. "I asked Ana to leave earlier."
Zabranio säm Ani(D) da ode ranije. "I forbade Ana to leave earlier."

Unfortunately, some English verbs in this group are rather complicated and use another construct, e.g. "suggest that...". It's actually a common error I make to use "suggest" in the same way as "ask", and say "suggest her to leave", which is a mistake in Standard English:

Predložio säm Ani(D) da ode ranije. "I proposed (that) Ana leave earlier."
Savjëtovao säm Ani(D) da ode ranije. "I suggested (that) Ana leave earlier."
Zahtijëvao säm od Ane(G) da ode ranije. "I demanded (that) Ana leave earlier."

In all three sentences above, it's understood that you told Ana the suggestion. If you told someone (or suggested, demanded, allowed — Croatian verbs all use the same pattern!) that someone else should leave, you can of course use a subject in the clause:

Zahtijëvao säm od Ivana(G) da Ana ode ranije.

This would be hard to translate to Standard English, maybe as "I told Ivan that I demand that Ana leave earlier".

If you leave the object and use just a da-clause, then it's not clear who was the recipient of your demand/suggestion/whatever, but it's still clear what you demanded/suggested/whatever. English does not have such a fine distinction:

Predložio säm da Ana ode ranije. "I proposed (that) Ana leave earlier."

Warning: there are a couple of English verbs that use the same or similar construct as "want" and "wait", e.g. "choose", "expect", "promise", "remind", "threaten", etc. Such verbs in Croatian use da-clauses as well, but the clauses not restricted to the present tense! Such verbs and clauses are explained in 32 Knowledge, Expectations and Fears.

Purpose Clauses

Desire clauses can be used with only a limited number of verbs. Now, there's similar type of clause — often called 'purpose clauses' — that can be used with most verbs! They indicate why you are doing something, but that "why" is not "because" (looking back) but rather "in order to" (looking forward). Therefore, you do this because you want something else to happen (or not to happen).

In English, such clauses start with "to", "in order to" and "so that" (the last one is used with verbs "can", "may, "will" etc. because "to" cannot be used before them, or when the subject of the purpose clause is different from one in the main clause). In Croatian, they always start with — you guessed it — da:

"She went to her room
to sleep."
Otišla je u svoju sobu
da spava.
"She went to her room
in order to sleep."
"She went to her room
so that she can sleep."
Otišla je u svoju sobu
da može spavati.
"I'll leave the door open
so that you can come in."
Ostavit ću otvorena vrata
da možeš ući.

Purpose clauses are tense-restricted (i.e. they are RdaC), they can have verbs in the present tense only:

Upalio säm radio da čujem vijësti. "I turned on the radio to hear the news."
Palim radio da čujem vijësti. "I'm turning on the radio to hear the news."
Upalit ću radio da čujem vijësti. "I'll turn on the radio to hear the news."

(When the main clause is in the future tense, it's possible to use the so-called present conditional in the purpose clause: see 36 Conditionals and Conditional Clauses.)

The perf. verbs are often used:

Vozim bicikl da uštedim. "I drive bicycle to save (money)."

As with desire clauses, instead of the verb säm, bio "be", the verb budem is usually used. The same rules for word order apply, the 'second place' is right after the da:

Ivan1 je2 u Zagrebu [da1 me2 posjëti]. "Ivan is in Zagreb to visit me."

Using negative in purpose clauses is also simpler in Croatian:

Pojest ću sendvič da ne budem gladän. "I'll eat a sandwich so that I don't get hungry."

The English sentence sounds awkward, it's probably not really fluent. The Croatian sentence is completely acceptable and such 'avoidance clauses' are often used.

If you want to refer to a purpose clause (or anything already said as a purpose), you must use the general adverb zato:

Vozim bicikl da uštedim. Puno ljudi zato vozi bicikl. "I drive a bicycle to save (money). That's why many people drive bicycle."
Hladno je. Zato danas ne vozim bicikl. "It's cold. That's why I don't drive the bicycle today."

Sometimes, zato can be occasionally seen before da, but it usually left out. However, da cannot be neither replaced nor removed:

Vozim bicikl zato da uštedim. (seldom used, but possible)


JavaScript must be enabled. You don't have to use my special notation (i.e. ä, ë) in answers, normal spelling will do as well. Letter case is ignored.

Fill in appropriate words:

Želim hladno. "I want it to be cold." (in future)
Ana želi auto. "Ana wants you to drive the car."
Ivan . "Ivan likes to sing."

Fill in words, using only the short forms of personal pronouns:

Sviđa . "She likes my son."
Svidio ručak. "They liked the lunch."

Fill in the missing words (use verbs prolazim ~ prođem "pass" and budim ~ pro- "wake up"):

Moram ispit. "I have to learn to pass the exam."
Stišat ću radio djëcu. "I'll turn down the radio so that we don't wake up the children."


Updated 2014-09-30 (v.0.4)

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