16 Giving to Someone, Going to Someone

There’s another use of the dative/locative case (DL), but without any prepositions: you can state recipient of some action, for instance if you write a letter to someone, you must express someone in DL in Croatian:

Ana piše pismo Ivanu. Ana is writing a letter to Ivan.

Ana piše pismo Ivani. Ana is writing a letter to Ivana.

When you rearrange words in English, you don’t need to use to anymore, but case forms in Croatian don’t change at all:

Ana piše pismo Ivanu. Ana is writing a letter to Ivan.

Ana piše Ivanu pismo. Ana is writing Ivan a letter.

Such use of DL is quite common with the following verbs, where something is given (or shown, or offered) to someone:

davati (daje) give
nuditi offer
pokazivati (pokazuje) show
poklanjati make a gift, donate
prodavati (prodaje) sell
vraćati return
slati (šalje) send

The following nouns are also useful:

čestitka greeting card
dar gift
poklon gift
poruka message
razglednica (picture) postcard

The verbs are used simply: what goes/is offered/shown to another person (gift, postcard, whatever) is put in the accusative case, and the recipient in DL:

Ana šalje čestitku Ivanu. Ana is sending a greeting card to Ivan.

Ana poklanja knjigu Goranu. Ana is giving a book to Goran (as a gift).

The difference between davati (daje) and poklanjati is that the first verb means simply give, and the second one means that what’s given is a gift, possibly for a special occasion.

There’s a very rough but often effective rule: when an English verb takes two objects – and you order them without the word to – the first object corresponds to the Croatian DL case, and the second one to the A case:

I’m writing Ana a letter.
He told Ivan the truth.
She will buy Goran a new bike.
I wish you a nice day.
In Croatian:  DL     A

Of course, I haven’t explained past and future tenses yet, and I haven’t shown forms of pronouns in various cases – but it doesn’t matter, case use doesn’t depend on the tense, and whether you use nouns or pronouns. It’s always the same scheme.

There are two more useful verbs that use DL, but it does not have anything to do with receiving something – it’s just the way the verbs are. They are:

pomagati (pomaže) help
pripadati belong

For example:

Ana pomaže Goranu.  S▶   W▶  Ana is helping Goran.

Auto pripada Ani.  S▶   W▶  The car belongs to Ana.

(German uses here the same grammar as Croatian: German verbs gehören and helfen use the German Dative case. However, keep in mind that German cases are really not identical to Croatian cases!)

The DL case is also involved with possession, especially with body parts and related people (e.g. family or friends). I already explained how in Croatian, words like my are less often used and possession is implied:

Ana pere kosu. ‘Ana is washing hair.’ (= her hair)

However, if she’s washing someone else’s hair, a common way – very common in speech – to express it, is to add the person in the DL case:

Ana pere Goranu kosu. Ana is washing hair ‘to Goran’. (= Goran’s hair)

This is the preferred word order in such sentences – it’s, of course, possible to rearrange words if you want to stress something.

Croatian has possessive adjectives – I've already shown moj my, others will be shown a bit later – but with body parts, this is the preferred way. If you are familiar with German, Dutch, or a Romance language, you’ll notice that they do it in the same way.

In fact, English is famous for using a lot of possessive adjectives, while a great majority of European languages use them much less often. In most languages, possession of body parts and many other things is simply implied – it's expressed only if something belongs to someone else, often by dative or something equivalent.

The accusative case of neuter nouns is equal to their default, nominative form. It’s not so for the DL case, and it becomes important that some neuter nouns have specific case-base as well, not shortened (like masculine ones) but lengthened:

dijete (djetet-) child pile (pilet-) chicken

Pay attention how ije in dijete changes to je in its case-base.

The next two verbs have a obligatory se² always with them (as explained already, it must be the second word, if possible):

diviti se² marvel, admire
smijati (smije) se² laugh

For example:

Goran se divi Ivanu. Goran marvels at Ivan.

Ana se smije Goranu. Ana is laughing at Goran.

So in Croatian – if the DL case kind of corresponds to English to — you ‘marvel to someone’ and ‘laugh to someone’...

There’s another, completely different use of the DL case. It is possible with verbs of motion:

ići (ide) go trčati (trči) run

If you are going or running to someone, it’s expressed in Croatian ® with DL:

Ana ide Ivanu. Ana is going to Ivan. (where he is)

Trčim mami. I’m running to my Mum.

(You see again that it’s implied whose Mum it is.)

It’s often used when you go to some shop or office held by someone, e.g.:

frizer hairdresser zubar dentist

For example:

Ivan sutra ide zubaru. Ivan is going to the dentist tomorrow.

As with other masculine nouns that have two last vowels underlined (in my notation), the stress moves – you can see it in the example (zubarzubaru).

As a very special use, the DL of the noun kuća house can be used as destination: it means home, even if you live in an apartment:

Ana danas ide kući. Ana is going home today.

The same meaning, especially in western and northern regions of Croatia, can be expressed with the following adverb:

doma home (as destination)

There’s yet another use of the DL case, with certain nouns and adjectives. For example, this adjective is often accompanied by a noun in DL (this again corresponds to English to):

sličan (sličn-) similar

For example:

Višnja je slična trešnji. Sour cherry is similar to cherry.

In the previous sentence, trešnja cherry was put in DL.

® The use of DL of persons to express destinations seems to be much less common in Serbia, especially in speech.

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5 Easy Croatian: 16 Giving to Someone, Going to Someone There’s another use of the dative/locative case (DL), but without any prepositions: you can state recipient of some action, for instance if...

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