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22 Pronouns

Croatian mostly omits personal pronouns when used as subjects. But there are many circumstances when personal pronouns cannot be omitted, e.g. when we want to say we’re waiting for him.

Croatian personal pronouns have forms for all three persons (I-you-he), for three genders in the 3rd person (he-she-it), for singular and plural (I-we) but also for different cases (he-him). As in English, these forms are far from regular, but not impossible to remember. Even better, forms for the genitive case are identical to the accusative forms, with one partial exception.

Here are the personal pronouns for the 1st and 2nd person in singular. Since forms for the genitive and accusative cases are identical, I have grouped them to a single column:

pronouns in singular
person NA, G DL
1st (ja) me² mi²
2nd (ti) te² ti²

Bear in mind that Croatian completely distinguishes 2nd person singular and plural (the plural forms are used also to show respect), while English has just only one pronoun – you – for all.

Like the word se², accusative, genitive and DL forms of personal pronouns must be put to the second position in a sentence. For example:

Ana me čeka.  ▶  Ana is waiting for me.

Pišem ti pismo.  ▶  I’m writing a letter to you.

And, of course, there’s the famous example:

Volim te. I love you.

(There are also longer, ‘stressed’ forms of personal pronouns, but they are used only in specific circumstances, and will be introduced later.)

I’ve put forms in the nominative case into parentheses to remind you that they are actually not used often. In fact, they can be considered stressed forms – you use them only if you want to emphasize the subject (or sometimes, you have to use them, e.g. in constructions like ja sam Amerikanac I’m American.).

Here are the forms for plural:

pronouns in plural
person NA, G DL
1st (mi) nas² nam²
2nd (vi) vas² vam²

Again, accusative, genitive and DL forms must be placed at the second position:

Ana nas čeka. Ana is waiting for us.

As usual, the second position should not be understood mechanically. Two or more words, if they form a phrase, can occupy the first position. It’s normal to say:

Moj prijatelj¹ te² čeka. My friend is waiting for you.

Again, you’ll find sometimes in books and newspapers that the second position is forced, even splitting combinations adjective + noun. That’s never used in speech (except maybe in very formal speeches, e.g. in the news on the public radio):

Moj¹ te² prijatelj čeka. (the same meaning, very formal, in writing)

Bear in mind that Croatian vi/vas/vam stands both for plural (y’all, you guys) and respect (you sir/madam). The second use is usually distinguished by using a capital V in writing:

Ana vas čeka. Ana is waiting for you (guys).

Ana Vas čeka. Ana is waiting for you (sir/madam).

Finally, here are the 3rd person forms. They are quite unlike forms for the 1st and 2nd person:

3rd person pronouns
gender NA, GADL
f ona je² ju² joj²
n (ono) ga² mu²
m on
f pl. one ih² im²
n pl. (ona)
m pl. oni

The forms are not trivial, but they can be learned. The accusative case of ona she has two forms (ju² and je²; the latter is common with the G).

For example, if you’re talking about a knjiga book – a feminine noun – both are acceptable and used:

Čitam je. I’m reading it. (lit. ‘her’)

Čitam ju. (the same meaning)

However, the form je² is never used if there’s the pers-3 of the verb biti in the sentence, since it sounds exactly the same (and is spelled the same).

Pay attention: the noun knjiga book is feminine. The same goes for voda water and kuća house. And the same goes for noć night and obitelj family. You have to use feminine pronouns when referring to them, as you would use for your sister.

Likewise, nož knife and auto (aut-) car are masculine nouns (more precisely, masculine inanimate, but pronouns are not affected by the animate-inanimate split). You have to use the same pronoun to talk about a knife, a car and your brother.

Maybe you have noticed a small problem: what if someone uses two second-position pronouns? I mean, something like this:

Šaljem ti ga.  ▶  I’m sending it to you.

In such sentences, the word order is always such that pronouns in DL come before ones in the accusative or genitive case!

There’s one more fine point. You noticed that neuter pronouns are in brackets. That’s because they are used not often: it’s much more common to use demonstrative adjectives (i.e. ovo, to...) instead.

This is maybe a convenient place to introduce two very similar verbs:

razumjeti (razumije) understand
shvaćati understand ®

The first verb has inf like živjeti, but a special form in the present tense – there are only few verbs like that.

They are usually used interchangeably, except when you don’t understand something because of the bad phone line, you are not familiar with the word, or you poorly know the language – you cannot use shvaćati then. Only razumjeti includes recognizing of words and sounds, either spoken or written. (You’ll see later that razumjeti behaves a bit specially in some aspects.)

For example:

Ne razumijem te. I don’t understand you.

Ne shvaćam pitanje. I don’t understand the question.

In the second sentence, speaker really says I understand the words, but the whole question doesn’t make sense to me. You could use razumjeti in the second sentence as well – but shvaćati is more specific in this case.

There are two special constructions which frequently use pronouns. Both use the genitive case. The first one is:

evo + G here’s / here are

It’s used when you want to emphasize that something is now ‘here’, visible, e.g. when you show up somewhere, or when you find something. The word starts a sentence and it followed by a noun (with optional adjectives) or a pronoun in genitive:

Evo moje sestre. Here’s my sister!

The most common use is when you see someone or you come somewhere where you’re expected. It’s used mainly in spoken language:

Evo me.  ▶  Here I am!

Evo ga. Here he/it is!

Evo Ane. Here’s Ana!

It’s also used when you give something to someone, but it’s neither formal nor polite, it’s used only when you are quite familiar to someone:

Evo piva. Here’s the beer!

(You will sometimes even hear eto + N in the last use, when giving something to someone.) Similar words are eto and eno, used for more distant things, but they are much less often used.

Another construction expresses there's no...; it uses negative pres-3 of imati have with genitive:

nema + G there’s no

For example:

Nema piva. There’s no beer.

Nema soli. There’s no salt.

This construction is much more versatile than the English one: like with evo, you can use personal names, any nouns and pronouns, but they always have to be in G:

Nema Ane. lit. ‘There’s no Ana.’

Nema moje knjige. lit. ‘There’s no my book.’ = My book isn’t here.

Nema ga. lit. ‘There’s no him.’ = He’s not here.

Nema ih. lit. ‘There’s no them.’ = They’re not here.

This is the negative existential construction. These sentences don’t say really here, but there’s no way to translate them accurately to English (if you know, please tell me). It always uses nema in the present tense (check the last sentence).

How to distinguish two possible meanings of nema gathere’s no him/it and he/she doesn’t have him/it? The first meaning is impossible if there’s a subject. So, people use on ga nema (or ona ga nema) to avoid confusion.

You cannot use the pronoun forms above with prepositions. If you want to use prepositions with pronouns, you have to use the stressed forms, explained in 34 For Them: Stressed Pronouns.

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® Instead of shvaćati, a slightly different form of the verb, shvatati, is used in Serbia and most of Bosnia.

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5 Easy Croatian: 22 Pronouns Croatian mostly omits personal pronouns when used as subjects. But there are many circumstances when personal pronouns cannot be omitted, e....

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