39 For Days: Indefinite Periods


There are two very frequent words used to express relative duration of some state or action:

dugo for a long time
kratko for a short time

While English uses both for a long time and long in different sentences (e.g. long is used in questions), Croatian uses only one word in all kinds of sentences. The words can be placed at any position, but they are often found at the first position. For example:

Dugo smo gledali filmove. We watched movies for a long time.

Kratko je padala kiša. It rained for a short time.

It’s possible to modify the meaning, using adverbs of intensity (except for malo):

Jako dugo sam čitao knjigu. I was reading the book for a very long time.

Then, the instrumental case can be used to express time, when something lasted for days, for years, and also that something happens on Tuesdays.

Simply put, when something was going on for days, you should use instrumental plural. You will find the following words useful:

dan day
godina year
mjesec month
sat (N-pl sati) hour
tjedan (tjedn-) ® week

For example:

Čitao sam knjigu tjednima. I was reading the book for weeks.

Čekao sam te2 A satima. I was waiting for you for hours.

Both sentences mean the action or state is over now, that is, you are no longer reading the book or waiting.

But what if you’re still reading or waiting? In English, you should use the Present Perfect tense (have been), but in Croatian you should use the present tense:

Ivan je godinama živio u Zagrebu. Ivan lived in Zagreb for years. (but not now)

Ivan godinama živi u Zagrebu. Ivan has lived in Zagreb for years. (and still does)

The same applies to all kinds of time periods:

Ana je dugo živjela u Splitu. Ana lived in Split for a long time. (but not now)

Ana dugo živi u Zagrebu. Ana has lived in Zagreb for a long time. (and still does)

So, Croatian is here much simpler and logical (at least from my point of view) than English.

If you want to say that something happens on Fridays, that is, repeats, you should use weekdays in instrumental singular:

Petkom igramo nogomet. We play football on Fridays. ®

Vikendom idemoići u kino. We go to cinema on weekends. ®

The word vikend weekend is of course not a day of week, but has a similar role.

If you use the present tense, it means it still goes on; if it’s something that happened only in the past, use the past tense – the same as with for years. It’s a principle worth remembering:

not anymore still ongoing
Croatian past tense present tense
English Past Present Perfect

Finally, if you want to express duration of a noun that expresses some event or state (e.g. predavanje lecture, kiša rain, oluja storm, etc.) you can use the following verb:

trajati (traje) last, take time

For example:

Predavanje je trajalo satima. The lecture lasted for hours.

In all uses described above, the periods in currently ongoing actions are often emphasized with već already, which has a weakened meaning and is often not translated:

Ivan već godinama živi u Zagrebu. Ivan has lived in Zagreb for years.

This table summarizes indefinite and relative time periods:

relative period
  for a short time
  for a long time
indefinite period
  for days

Next, it’s possible to say that something happens or is done during something else. If that ‘something else’ is expressed by a noun (with optional adjectives to describe it), the most common way is to use:

za vrijeme + G during

When something happens or is done in winter (or other season), one option is to use specific adverbs:

zimi in winter
u proljeće in spring
ljeti in summer
najesen in fall

For example:

Ljeti idemoići na more. We go to the seaside in summer. (regularly, usually)

The most common way to express roughly when something happened or will happen is to use combinations of ‘determiners’ (specific adjectives, really) and nouns for time periods, in A (only A forms are listed, which are identical to N for these nouns and masculine inanimate gender): ®

jedan one
ovaj this
prošli last
sljedeći next *
svaki each
+ tjedan week ®
mjesec month

Instead of sljedeći, sometimes idući is used, without any difference in meaning.

The noun dan day is a partial exception, explained below.

However, with the feminine nouns godina year and noć f night, it’s more common to use phrases in G (all words are here listed in G):

jedne one
ove this
prošle last
sljedeće next *
svake each
+ godine year
noćifem. night

Again, sometimes idući is used. There are two specific (and a bit old-fashioned) adverbs that can be used instead of prošle godine and prošle večeri:

lani last year ® sinoć last evening

For example:

Ove godine putujemoputovati u Pariz. We’re traveling to Paris this year.

Prošli tjedan sam bila bolesna. I was sick last week.

Sljedeći mjesec odlazimo na more. We’re leaving for the seaside next month.

There are exceptions to this pattern: the noun dan day, and jutro morning. With them, adjectives are used in both A and G to get phrases meaning one day, that day, the first day, etc.:

Jednog dana smo jelijesti palačinke s medom. One day we ate pancakes with honey.

Prvi dan nisam razumio ništa. I didn’t understand anything the first day.

You can use any way you like, A or G (of course, A is simpler to create).


® Instead of tjedan, the word nedjelja is used in parts of Bosnia, colloquially in parts of Croatia, and in the “Ekavian” form nedelja in Serbia; as other feminine time nouns, it prefers G, so you’ll hear and read svake nedjelje. The word sedmica is also used in Bosnia and Serbia.

Instead of nogomet and kino, words fudbal and bioskop are used in Serbia and most of Bosnia for football and cinema.

Use of the accusative case for phrases like prošli mjesec is much more common in Croatia than in Serbia; in Serbia and parts of Bosnia, the genitive case prevails for all nouns, regardless of gender.

The adverb lani has an unexpected “Ekavian” form lane in Serbia.

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5 Easy Croatian: 39 For Days: Indefinite Periods N A  DL  G 24 I There are two very frequent words used to express relative duration of some state or action: dugo for a long...

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