29 Plural of Masculine Nouns and Adjectives


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 bedkreveti beds
prozor windowprozori windows
tanjur plate (to eat from) → tanjuri plates ®

What about the accusative case? It has just an -e instead of -i:

Goran pereprati zube. Goran is ‘washing’ his teeth.

(Yes, in Croatian, teeth are ‘washed’ and not ‘brushed’.)

And now, a few complications.

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):

N N-pl A-pl
putnik traveler putnici putnike
razlog reason razlozi razloge
uspjeh success uspjesi uspjehe
prozor window prozori prozore

For example, you can see here the plural of ruksak backpackruksaci:

(The term školske torbe is N-pl of školska torba school bag; školski is an adjective derived from škola school; forming such adjectives will be explained in 57 School Yard: Relational Adjectives. Yes, the English phrase is an original part of the poster.)

However, most one-syllable nouns (that is, nouns that have only one vowel) get a longer ending; most of them -ovi:

brod shipbrodovi
grad citygradovi
lijek curelijekovi
sin sonsinovi
vrt gardenvrtovi
zid wallzidovi

(I hope you remember that e.g. lijek 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. kc) do not happen if the noun gets longer endings in plural:

vlak trainvlakovi

If such short nouns end in a Croatian-specific letter, they get -evi instead:

broj numberbrojevi
ključ keyključevi
miš mousemiševi
nož knifenoževi

(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 princeprinčevi
zec rabbit, bunnyzečevi

A few one-syllable nouns do not end in a Croatian-specific letter, but get -evi nevertheless:

car emperorcarevi sir cheesesirevi

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
nos nose
pojas belt
put way

(The noun pojas belt, despite having two syllables, gets longer endings; more nouns like that are listed below.)

Furthermore, there are a few exceptions: certain common one-syllable nouns get simply an -i; they are listed here:

crv worm
đak pupil
dan day
gost guest
gumb button ®
keks biscuit
konj horse
mrav ant
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 hoursati hours
sat clock, watchsatovi 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-) actorglumci
lonac (lonc-) potlonci
nokat (nokt-) fingernail/toenailnokti

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-) drumbubnjevi
češalj (češlj-) combčešljevi
dio (dijel-) partdijelovi
lakat (lakt-) elbowlaktovi
otac (oc-) fatheročevi
vjetar (vjetr-) windvjetrovi

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 a bit later:

čovjek man/humanljudi people, men and women
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. In a more narrow sense, it corresponds to men and women (i.e. all adults). If you attempt to translate men and women as ljudi i žene, it would sound extremely sexist – you would basically say that women are non-human.

Unfortunately, there’s more: some nouns in N-pl have a bit unexpected – and unsettled – spelling. They have case-base in -tk-; for example:

redak (retk-) line of text
početak (početk-) beginning

From everything you have learned so far, you would expect the forms:

redak retku retci retke
početak početku početci početke

However, since the sequence tc in N-pl is normally pronounced just as c, it was traditionally spelled without the t. On the contrary, more recent Croatian orthography manuals mandate writing tc – and here’s a crazy thing – dc if the N has a d! So, be prepared to see all possible variants®:

redak retku reci
početak početku počeci

The most recent Croatian orthography manual allows also c-only forms for some frequent nouns, such as:

gubitak (gubitk-) loss
ostatak (ostatk-) remainder
početak (početk-) beginning
predak (pretk-) ancestor
trenutak (trenutk-) moment
zadatak (zadatk-) task

But the noun redak (retk-) is not one of them! I expect there will be more changes in the future regarding this group of nouns. (Google™ for forms preci, pretci and predci on the .hr domain, to check frequencies. Don’t forget that the most regular form – pretci – is non-standard, according to the latest manual.)

What about adjectives? They are much simpler – they just get the following endings (equal to short endings for nouns) without any complications:

adjectives N-pl A-pl
masculine -i -e

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.

® Instead of tanjur plate, a slightly different word tanjir is used in Serbia and most of Bosnia. Instead of gumb, the word dugme (dugmet-) is used for button in Bosnia and Serbia.

The masculine singular form bol m pain is much more frequent in Serbia.

Serbian standard orthography allows only spellings like reci, preci, etc.

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5 Easy Croatian: 29 Plural of Masculine Nouns and Adjectives N A  DL  G If the world were a simple place, Croatian masculine nouns would have their nominative plural made just by adding an -i ...

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