If the world were a simple place, Croatian masculine nouns would have their nominative plural made just by adding an -i, and accusative plural just by an -e. Well, it’s almost so, but there are few twists.
Most masculine nouns do simply get an -i in nominative plural:
krevet bed →
prozor window → prozori windows
tanjur plate (to eat from) → tanjuri plates
What about the accusative case? It has just an -e instead of -i:
Goran pere zube. Goran is ‘washing’ his teeth.
(Yes, in Croatian, teeth are ‘washed’ and not ‘brushed’.)
A couple of nouns that get simply an -i in nom. plural undergo a consonant change if they end in either k, g or h. It does not happen in the accusative plural, only when an -i is added (that is, in the N-pl):
However, most one-syllable nouns (that is, nouns that have only one vowel) get a longer ending; most of them -ovi:
brod ship →
grad city → gradovi
sin son →
vrt garden → vrtovi
zid wall → zidovi
(I hope you remember that e.g. l
ijek is just a spelling convention, the word is actually pronounced as ljek, and therefore has only one syllable, so it gets longer endings for plural.)
The consonant alternations described above (e.g. k → c) do not happen if the noun gets longer endings in plural:
vlak train → vlakovi
If such short nouns end in a Croatian-specific letter, they get -evi instead:
broj number →
ključ key → ključevi
miš mouse →
nož knife → noževi
(It’s the same principle as for -om vs. -em for change of adjectives in masc. and neuter genders.)
If one-syllable nouns end in a -c (it’s a Croatian-specific letter!) it turns into a č before -evi:
princ prince →
zec rabbit, bunny → zečevi
A few one-syllable nouns do not end in a Croatian-specific letter, but get -evi nevertheless:
|car emperor → carevi||sir cheese → sirevi|
A couple of nouns often have -evi in everyday, colloquial communication, but according to the rules of Standard Croatian, -ovi is preferred (I personally use -evi):
kut angle, corner|
Furthermore, there are a few exceptions: certain common one-syllable nouns get simply an -i; they are listed here:
pas (ps-) dog
I haven’t listed prst finger/toe and zub tooth since we have already learned them. The noun đak gets the same alternation as putnik, so its N-pl is đaci.
There’s a quite odd noun that has different plural forms depending on its meaning:
sat hour →
sat clock, watch → satovi clocks, watches
The noun bol pain is usually feminine ®, but in plural, the masculine bolovi is quite frequent, while regular boli is usually used for non-physical pains, and in poetry:
|bol f pain → pl.||bolovi m (physical)|
|boli f (emotional, poetic)|
There are nouns that have two syllables in nominative, but a one-syllable case-base. Most such nouns get short endings, like any other two-syllable nouns:
glumac (glumc-) actor →
lonac (lonc-) pot → lonci
nokat (nokt-) fingernail/toenail → nokti
However, a few such nouns get longer endings, as one-syllable nouns do; the only option is to remember them (the list below is not exhaustive):
bubanj (bubnj-) drum →
češalj (češlj-) comb → češljevi
ijel-) part →
lakat (lakt-) elbow → laktovi
vjetar (vjetr-) wind → vjetrovi
There are several two-syllable nouns that usually get longer endings. Notably, they include bird species:
|galeb gull||golub pidgeon||labud swan|
(The Core Dictionary lists all unusual plural forms of nouns included in it.)
The accusative case for longer plural again has just -e instead of the final -i:
Gledam brodove. I’m watching ships.
One masculine noun has a completely irregular plural, and one more has no real plural but something else that will be explained soon:
čovjek man/human →
brat brother → ?
The noun ljudi has a slightly different meaning than čovjek, it’s more generic, and can be often translated as people. It also corresponds to the English phrase men, women and children used to describe a mixed group.
What about adjectives? They are much simpler: they just get the following endings (equal to short endings for nouns) without any complications:
This applies to past forms of verbs as well. For example:
Gledam velike brodove. I’m watching big ships.
Goran ima prljave laktove. Goran has dirty elbows.
Psi su bili gladni. Dogs were hungry.
® The masculine singular form bol m pain is much more frequent in Serbia.