Verb Biti (to be) in Croatian

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Welcome to our Croatian course for beginners! Today we`re going to talk about the verb "biti".

In Croatian, the construction with the verb "biti" is common. It largely resembles the English verb "to be." The verb "biti" is used to describe states, identities, characteristics, and more. It is essential for forming tenses and aspects in Croatian, making it a cornerstone of the language. It is often used with adjectives and nouns to describe objects, people, and conditions.


First, let`s see how this verb is conjugated in the Present tense. Verb "biti" - affirmative form (full / short):
Ja jesam / sam - I am
Ti jesi / si - You are (informal singular)
On/Ona/Ono jest / je - He/She/It is
Mi jesmo / smo - We are
Vi jeste / ste - You are (formal singular and plural)
Oni/One jesu / su - They are

It is worth saying, that in spoken language both forms are used, and we`ll explain when and which one to use at the end of the article.

Next is the same verb but in the negative form:
Ja nisam - I am not
Ti nisi - You are not (informal singular)
On/Ona/Ono nije - He/She/It is not
Mi nismo - We are not
Vi niste - You are not (formal singular and plural)
Oni/One nisu - They are not

The negative form of the verb "biti" is formed differently from verbs in the present tense (remember the previous lesson, hopefully). The particle "ne" somehow transformed into the prefix "ni-" and attached itself to the short forms of the verb "biti."
Now, the same verb in the perfect form, which indicates an action in the future:
(Ja) budem (I will)
(Ti) budeš (You will)
(On / Ona / Ono) bude (He / She / It will)
(Mi) budemo (We will)
(Vi) budete (You will)
(Oni) budu (They will)

As you can see from the example, the perfect forms of the verb "biti" change according to the rules of verbs of the -e type (see the previous lesson if you`ve forgotten what that is). Negative forms of the perfect are formed following the rules as well. That is, "ne" is simply written next to the verb form ("ne budem," "ne budeš," and so on).
The conjugation of "biti" may change according to the gender and number of the subject, particularly in the past tense. The forms "bio" and "bila" are used to match the gender of the subject (masculine and feminine, respectively).


Now, as for the use of these forms in the present tense. The full forms of the verb are generally used in interrogative sentences, as well as in affirmative ones if you need to emphasize the response or answer briefly to a question. Example:
Jeste li vozač? Jesam vozač! (Are you a driver? I am a driver!)

The short forms are used as linking verbs in the predicate. Most often in examples, the short form comes in the second position after the subject or the emphasized word:
On je moj prijatelj - He is my friend.

The only structure in which the linking verb is used in the short form in an interrogative sentence can be as follows:
Da li ste vi ovdje na godišnjem odmoru? - Are you here on vacation?

In this example, a special form is used for asking questions, but we will talk about that in the following lessons.

And that`s all for now. Don`t forget that using the verb `biti` forms the basis for learning Croatian. This verb plays a crucial role in constructing complex sentences and tenses. It is a versatile and essential verb that every student should be familiar with. Best of luck with your studies!