Croatian Present Tense

CroatianCroatian A1

Welcome to our Croatian course for beginners! In this lesson we will focus on Croatian verbs, which are essential for conversational speech. Verbs not only allow us to express actions but are also necessary for constructing sentences in Croatian.

In general, verb conjugations in all Slavic languages are somewhat similar because these languages share a common ancestor. Croatian is no exception, so if you are familiar with any Slavic language, you should be able to find similarities and analogies with Croatian. Here are some details:

Croatian verbs differ based on several characteristics: gender (feminine, masculine, neuter), person, number (singular, plural), and aspect (perfective and imperfective), as well as mood and voice (active and passive). However, we won`t delve into all these types in this course for beginners.

Let`s start with the basics. To conjugate verbs by person and number, you need to know the infinitive form. Infinitive is the unconjugated form of a verb that answers the question "what to do" and is characterized by endings like "-ti" or "-ći." For example:
to work - raditi
to sing - pjevati
to have - imati
to go - ići
to say - reći

It`s worth noting that while most verbs end in "-ti," there are some that end in "-ći." For example:
to bake - peći
to cut - strići
to be able - moći
to beat - tući

Another group of verbs to consider is reflexive verbs, where the action or state returns to the subject. In these verbs, the particle "se" is separate from the verb, so you need to pay attention or simply memorize them. Examples include:
to laugh - smijati se
to repent - kajati se
to wake up - buditi se
to hope - nadati se

Now, let`s talk directly about verb conjugation. Depending on the endings of the base, there are three types of verbs:

1. "a" type, which includes verbs with the letter "a" before the ending "-ti." These can be verbs like "pitati" - to ask and "gledati" - to watch. Here`s how they are conjugated:
(Ja) Pitam - I ask
(Ti) Pitaš - You ask
(On / Ona / Ono) Pita - He / She / It asks
(Mi) Pitamo - We ask
(Vi) Pitate - You ask
(Oni) Pitaju - They ask

In this situation, it`s important to clarify that the base is formed from the verb ending in "-ti," so all you need to do is remove that ending. Then, you simply add the endings (in our case, "-am," "-aš," "-a," "-amo," "-ate," "-aju") for the respective person and number to obtain the desired verb forms. You can try conjugating the second verb we mentioned, "gledati," for practice.

2. "i" type, which includes verbs with the letter "i" before the ending. These are verbs like "nositi" - to carry and "raditi" - to work. Here`s how they are conjugated:
(Ja) Radim - I work
(Ti) Radiš - You work
(On / Ona / Ono) Radi - He / She / It works
(Mi) Radimo - We work
(Vi) Radite - You work
(Oni) Rade - They work

In this case, the base is also formed from verbs ending in "-ti," so you just remove that ending and add different endings ("-im," "-iš," "-i," "-imo," "-ite," "-e") for the respective person and number. Overall, it`s quite similar to the previous type, except for the third person plural, so be attentive.

3. "e" type, which is the most interesting of all types. These verbs look similar to "a" and "i" type verbs, but their endings are somewhat different from other types. This is due to the alternation of consonants, which often changes the verb base, and in some persons, the changes can be quite specific. Here`s how the infinitive and the first person singular form can look: "pisati" - to write - (ja) pišem, "skakati" - to jump - (ja) skačem, "pomagati" - to help - (ja) pomažem.

Even more interesting situations can arise with verbs ending in "-ći." For example: "peći" - to bake - (ja) pečem, (oni) peku; "strići" - to shear - (ja) strižem, (oni) strigu.

For a better understanding, let`s provide conjugation for one of the verbs, "pisati":
(Ja) Pišem - I write
(Ti) Pišeš - You write
(On / Ona / Ono) Piše - He / She / It writes
(Mi) Pišemo - We write
(Vi) Pišete - You write
(Oni) Pišu - They write

The main challenge here is to identify the type of verb. After that, all you need to do is add the endings ("-em," "-eš," "-e," "-emo," "-ete," "-u") based on the last letter of the base. For speakers of Slavic languages, the similarity of these verbs to their native language should help, but for those who do not know Slavic languages, it might be more challenging.

Everything mentioned above pertains to the affirmative form. As for the negative form, it`s worth noting that for most (but not all) verbs in the present tense, the negation is indicated by the particle "ne," placed separately before the verb form. For example, for the verb from the last example, it looks like this:
Pišem (I write) - ne pišem (I don`t write)
Pišeš (You write) - ne pišeš (You don`t write)
Piše (He / She / It writes) - ne piše (He / She / It doesn`t write)
Pišemo (We write) - ne pišemo (We don`t write)
Pišete (You write) - ne pišete (You don`t write)
Pišu (They write) - ne pišu (They don`t write)

We won`t provide examples for verbs of other types, as forming the negative form of verbs is quite straightforward.

And that concludes our lesson. In conclusion, it`s important to determine the verb base and then add the appropriate endings based on the last letter of that base. There`s also consonant alternation that can sometimes alter the base, making it different from the infinitive. However, the good news is that these bases often resemble verbs in other Slavic languages, which makes this task much easier if you have previously studied a language from this group. We also recommend practicing verb conjugation, paying special attention to the third person plural. Good luck!