33 School Yard and Bunk Bed: Relations


Croatian contains a big number of adjectives derived from nouns (and sometimes from other words too) that are often represented in English as nouns-used-as-adjectives. Here’s what I mean:

school yard

Here school is actually used as an adjective, it describes what kind of yard it is, what it belongs to. Such adjectives are sometimes called relational or quasi-possessive adjectives. It’s interesting that such adjectives in English cannot have a comparative (you cannot say more school) or even cannot be used as a property (you cannot say the yard is school).

In Croatian, you cannot simply use nouns as adjectives – you have to turn them into adjectives. It holds for some nouns in English too: you cannot use e.g. person as an adjective (e.g. ‘person space’) you have to turn it into an adjective – personal.

The main way to turn nouns into adjectives in Croatian is to append -ski as if it were a case ending (it’s not a case ending!):

brod shipbrodski
grad citygradski
more seamorski
škola schoolškolski

The resulting word is an adjective, so it must adapt to the noun case and gender. Since dvorište yard is neuter (as expected) we have to use it accordingly:

Ovo je školsko dvorište. This is a school yard.

Bili smo u školskom dvorištu. We were at the school yard.

In some words that add -ski, the s gets fused with neighboring consonants and vowels, and we sometimes get -ški, -čki or even -ćki, or other irregularities:

pošta postpoštanski postal
putnik passengerputnički

Adjectives for cities, regions and countries are often irregular (and they are not uppercase):


For countries, islands and cities that end in -s or -z, the final consonant is usually assimilated into -ški:

Pariz Parispariški ®
Teksas Texasteksaški ®
Tunis Tunisiatuniški ®
Vis (an island) → viški

Relational adjectives are also created for cities having more than one word (e.g. Banja Luka, a city in Bosnia-Herzegovina) and foreign ones, respelled according to pronunciation:

Banja Lukabanjalučki New Yorknjujorški

(You will also see mixed spellings, e.g. newyorški.) You can find adjectives derived from countries in L2 Countries and Nationalities, and adjectives derived from cities and towns in L3 Cities and Towns.

Country adjectives (many of which are used as country names) such as danski Danish, irski Irish etc. are also historically derived with the suffix -ski. Recall, words like Hrvatska Croatia or Njemačka Germany are already adjectives, just used as nouns – there’s no need to make adjectives from them.

All countries and cities derive relational adjectives by -ski (unless they are already adjectives) – but, generally, not all words do. Many words add -ni instead, and there’s no real rule which noun uses what ending, as you can see for adjectives derived from seasons – you have to remember it:

jesen f autumnjesenski
zima winterzimski
proljeće springproljetni ®
ljeto summerljetni

Common adjectives that are derived with -ni are:

cvijet flowercvjetni
kiša rainkišni
kuća housekućni
ljubav f loveljubavni
osoba personosobni ®
rad workradni
rat warratni
soba roomsobni
stol table, deskstolni ®
voće fruit(s) → voćni
vrt gardenvrtni
zid wallzidni

Observe that adjective cvjetni has just je instead of ije. The adjective osobni is frequently used in this phrase:

osobna iskaznica personal identification card, ID

The phrase is often shortened (not in formal documents) to just osobna: the noun iskaznica is assumed:

Molim Vas osobnu. Your ID, please. (lit. ‘I’m kindly asking you the ID.’)

Adresa je na osobnoj. The address is on the ID.

Regardless of being used on its own, the word osobna behaves like any adjective — i.e. gets adjective case endings – and keeps the gender of the omitted noun (here: feminine).

Consonants change before the ending -ni, e.g. k or cč and so on, as in these examples:

brak marriagebračni
krug circlekružni
mlijeko milkmliječni
ruka handručni
noga legnožni
oko eyeočni
trbuh bellytrbušni
ulica streetulični

(English has specific adjectives personal, marital and circular, but there’s no specific adjective for many other nouns in English, e.g. hand is simply used as an adjective in hand brake. English usually has specific adjectives if a noun is of French or Latin origin, since these two languages have specific adjectives). Adjectives derived from cardinal directions also follow this pattern:

sjeverni northern
zapadni western
istočni eastern
južni southern

A few adjectives in -ni have specific meanings; the most common one is:

glava headglavni main

It’s interesting that relational adjectives cannot be derived from days of week, except for Sunday:

nedjelja Sundaynedjeljni

(You will occasionally see and hear adjective subotnji adj. Saturday, but it’s quite rare.)

It’s very useful to learn relational adjectives derived from time nouns (like English daydaily, monthmonthly); some of them are quite irregular:

dan daydnevni
noć f nightnoćni
jutro morningjutarnji
večer f evening ®večernji
mjesec monthmjesečni
godina yeargodišnji

For the nouns tjedan (tjedn-) week, ponoć f midnight and podne (podnev-) noon, adjectives are derived regularly by adding the -ni. For example:

Ovo je moj mjesečni prihod. This is my monthly income.

Imam neke dnevne novine. I have a daily newspaper.

The adjective godišnji annual is used in a common phrase:

godišnji odmor annual leave, paid vacation

The phrase is often shortened (not in formal documents) to just godišnji: the noun odmor is assumed. So, you’ll often hear (and read):

Ivan je na godišnjem. Ivan is on (paid) vacation.

Sutra idemići na godišnji. I’m going on (paid) vacation tomorrow.

Of course, even when used on its own, the word godišnji behaves like any adjective and keeps the gender of the omitted noun (here: masculine inanimate). Therefore, it got the DL ending -em in the first sentence (for “activity as a location”) and the A ending in the second (for “activity as a destination”).

It’s also possible to derive relational adjectives from many adverbs, e.g. sad(a) now, jučer yesterday, gore up and so on: they will be explained in 76 Inner and Outer and Step by Step: More on Space and Time.

A small number of neuter nouns which have alternative, poetic, longer plurals on -esa always derive relational pronouns from the longer form:

nebo skynebeski tijelo bodytjelesni

Few nouns have relational adjectives on -ji, again with (specific) consonant alternations; they include most animals:

djeca coll. childrendječji ®
mačka catmačji
miš mousemišji
ptica birdptičji
riba fishriblji
zec rabbitzečji

For example:

Mi smo na dječjem igralištu. We’re at the (kid’s) playground.

Note that Croatian igralište can mean any type of playing or sports grounds (football, basketball...) so adding dječji makes it precise.

For certain animals, it’s possible to distinguish possessive from relational adjectives; the latter includes a generic relation, the former possession to a specific, individual animal:

mačka cat →   mačkin (possessive = specific)
mačji (relational = generic)

There are frequently used adjectives to indicate what kind of meat something is made of:

goveđi adj. beef
janjeći adj. lamb
pileći adj. chicken
teleći adj. beef (veal)

Since relational adjectives cannot be simply derived from nouns, they will be listed with nouns in the Core Dictionary.

The -ski is the default suffix for relational adjectives: new words that are adopted into Croatian use it (translation for the words below is, I hope, not necessary):

atomatomski laserlaserski

However, nouns ending in -s or -t will likely get the suffix -ni:

baletbaletni virusvirusni

There are probably more rules on -ski vs -ni, but I don’t know them at the moment.®

Certain terms in Croatian are not expressed in this way, especially when we describe the purpose of something, e.g. where something is applied or where it’s used. Then, the preposition za¨ + a noun in A are put after the noun. Common examples are:

čaša za vino wine glass
četka za kosu hair brush
krema za ruke hand cream
lak za nokte nail polish
pasta za zube toothpaste
šalica za čaj tea cup ®

Such constructions are used even in many cases when there seems to be an appropriate relational adjective. For example, hand towel is only ručnik za ruke, despite the relational adjective existing and being used in ručna kočnica hand brake, ručni alat hand tool, and some others. Also, there is an adjective čajni, but it’s basically used only in the expression čajni kolutić, which is a type of tea biscuit (some 80% of appearances of čajni on the Internet are followed by kolutić: try it yourself).

On the other hand, some of these terms have alternative versions, with relative adjectives (e.g. zubna pasta toothpaste), but versions with za¨ are more common in speech.

Certain types of nouns, e.g. gerunds like čitanje reading don’t have relational adjectives at all. To express reading glasses in Croatian, you have to use the same construction:

naočale za čitanje reading glasses ®
štap za pecanje fishing rod

(More about gerunds later.)

The preposition za¨ is used always in expressions like plane to Split, where you describe a vehicle:

avion za Split plane to Split

However, nouns put way, travel and putovanje trip, travel normally use u¨/na¨ + A for destinations:

put u Japan trip to Japan

Another way of expressing relation which does not use a relational adjective is with na¨ + A, mostly placed after a noun, used as a predicative, or used as a kind of (secondary) object. First, it can describe basically sources of power and energy:

peć na drva wood stove
svjetiljka na baterije battery-powered lamp
igračka na navijanje wind-up toy

Note how Croatian is more precise here. English wood stove is in principle ambiguous. Is it maybe a proverbial stove made of wood? Croatian distinguishes peć od drva (made of wood) from peć na drva (running on wood).

It can be also used with the verb raditi work, do describing how something works:

Fen radi na struju. The hair dryer runs on electricity.

This preposition (with A!) is frequently used in parts of phrases that describe something; it’s never about the material, but some other distinctive property. For example:

krevet na kat bunk bed (lit. ‘bed on floor/story’)
kupus na salatu cabbage salad (lit. ‘cabbage on salad’)
plaćanje na rate paying by installments (lit. ‘on installments’)

There are four very common, fixed combinations of na¨ + a noun in A, with non-trivial meanings (except for one, which translates to English literally):

na primjer for example
na sreću fortunately, luckily
na vrijeme on time
na žalost unfortunately

All four are sometimes spelled as one word, e.g. naprimjer (both ways are standard)®. The phrase na primjer is so common that is has a standard abbreviation (the period is mandatory):

npr. = e.g.

Don’t forget: when na¨ is used to describe properties or power supply, it always requires the accusative case.

This table summarizes various ways to express English ‘noun attributes’ in Croatian:

expression Croatian example
generic rel. adj. + školsko dvorište school yard
x of y + G ključevi auta car keys
ključevi od auta (colloq.!)
material + od¨ G sok od jabuke apple juice
purpose + za¨ A četka za kosu hair brush
mode, power + na¨ A peć na drva wood stove

All these constructions form phrases that can fill the first position in a sentence or clause, and then second-position words normally come after them:

Naočale za čitanje su² na stolu. The reading glasses are on the table.

You will very rarely see these expressions split by second-position words, if ever. (Also check A5 Word Order.)


® In Serbia, relative adjectives derived from Pariz, Teksas and Tunis have forms pariski, teksaski and tuniski, while forms of these adjectives in -ški are rare and considered non-standard in Serbia. This applies to most such nouns, but not to viški, which is accepted also in Serbia. Conversely, forms like pariski are very rare in Croatia.

Instead of proljetni, a more regular “Ekavian” adjective prolećni is used in Serbia and as proljećni Montenegro, and sometimes in Bosnia; instead of osobaosobni, licelični covers that meaning in Serbia and Bosnia.

The noun stol table has the form sto (stol-) in Serbia and most of Bosnia, and the derived adjective is a bit unexpected stoni.

The noun večer f evening has the form veče (večer- f) in Serbia and most of Bosnia, but the derived adjective is the same, večernji.

Adjectives ending in -ji (e.g. dječji) have alternative forms ending in -iji (e.g. dječiji) that actually prevail in Serbia and Bosnia and are accepted in standard there. They are sometimes seen in Croatia as well.

Instead of šalica, the words šolja and šoljica are used in Serbia and parts of Bosnia.

Instead of naočale, words naočare and naočari are more common in Serbia and most of Bosnia.

It appears that -ski is a bit more favored in Bosnia and Serbia: for example, from the noun autobusʷ¹ there’s autobuski there, while there’s autobusniʷ¹ in Croatia. The same holds for jezični (Croatia) vs jezički (Serbia) – meaning linguistic – and some other adjectives.

Spellings such as naprimjer are not standard in Serbia, and are partially accepted in Bosnia and Montenegro.

↓ Something Possibly Interesting (click to show)

↓ Examples (click to show)

↓ Exercise (click to show)

5 Easy Croatian: 33 School Yard and Bunk Bed: Relations N A  DL  G 24 Croatian contains a big number of adjectives derived from nouns (and sometimes from other words too) that are ofte...

↓ 7 comments (click to show)