Perfect and Imperfect Verbs in Croatian

CroatianCroatian A1

Welcome to our Croatian course for beginners! In the Croatian language, there are perfective and imperfective verbs. However, unlike other Slavic languages, they behave slightly differently when it comes to the future tense. Let`s go through this step by step.

In Croatian, as in many other languages, there are two main verb aspects: perfect (svršeni) and imperfect (nesvršeni). These aspects are used to convey different nuances of action and time in a sentence.

Perfect Aspect (Svršeni glagolski vid)

We use the perfect aspect to express completed and finished actions. In Croatian, perfect verbs are formed by adding certain suffixes or / and prefixes to the verb stem. Here are some key features of perfect verbs:

Past Actions:
Perfect verbs are commonly used to describe actions that were in the past and are considered complete.
Napisao sam pismo. (I wrote a letter.)

Specific Time:
Perfect verbs are often used when you want to specify when an action took place.
Jutros sam doručkovao. (I had breakfast this morning.)

Narrative or Storytelling:
When narrating a story or recounting past events, the perfect aspect is frequently used to provide a clear sequence of completed actions.
Tog dana probudio sam se rano, ustao sam i krenuo na put. (That day, I woke up early, got up, and started my journey.)

Imperfect Aspect (Nesvršeni glagolski vid)

The imperfect aspect is used to describe ongoing, habitual, or incomplete actions in the past. It is often used to set the scene, provide background information, or describe actions that were happening simultaneously. Imperfect verbs are formed differently from perfect verbs and are often recognizable by their endings. Here are some key features and uses of imperfect verbs.

Continuous Actions:
Imperfect verbs are used to express actions that were ongoing or in progress in the past.
Učio sam cijelu noć. (I was studying all night.)

Habitual Actions:
When talking about habits or routines in the past, the imperfect aspect is used.
Svake subote igrali smo nogomet. (We used to play soccer every Saturday.)

Simultaneous Actions:
The imperfect is employed when describing two or more actions happening simultaneously in the past.
Dok sam čitao knjigu, ona je gledala televiziju. (While I was reading a book, she was watching TV.)

Background Information:
Imperfect verbs are often used to set the scene or provide context for a story or narration.
Bilo je sunčano, ptice su pjevale, a ljudi su šetali parkom. (It was sunny, birds were singing, and people were walking in the park.)


Let`s see how these verbs behave when it comes to changing the tense of the verb - past or future.

Past Tense:
There are no special features in the past tense. Perfective and imperfective verbs have the same way of forming the past tense, similar to all verbs.

Future Tense 1:
Regardless of whether the verb is perfective or imperfective, to express it in the future tense, the auxiliary verb "htjeti" (to want) is mandatory.
Ja ću doći k vama - I will come to you.

Future Tense 2:
In this tense, perfective verbs are not used, and in subordinate clauses, they appear in the familiar present tense form, while expressing an event that will happen in the future before the main event.
Kad preskočim plot, poigrat ću se sa susjedovim psom - When I jump over the fence, I will play with the neighbor`s dog.

Try to understand and remember these features of Croatian verbs. With this, we conclude the fifth lesson in the concise Croatian language course for self-study. We hope it has been helpful, and we invite you to explore the next lessons, where we will discuss Croatian nouns and their cases. Good luck with your studies!