We now know how to say Ana is watching TV, but how to say Ana isn't watching TV?
It is quite simple: just put a word ne¨ right before the verb. This is the default and main way to make negation in Croatian (in English, you can also put no right in front of a noun, e.g. I need no coffee, but it does not work in Croatian):
According to the Standard pronunciation, the word ne¨ is pronounced together with the verb that follows it, and for many verbs – but not for all – the ne¨ gets stressed instead of the verb. That almost never happens in the ‘western’ pronunciation, where the stress almost never moves in such circumstances. We could therefore write the above combination as ne-gleda.
The two dots (¨) after the ne¨ are just a reminder that this word must be placed always right before the verb, and that it gets pronounced together with the verb; they are just my markings, of course they are not normally written, please don’t write them when you write in Croatian.
The verb imati have behaves a bit specially: its present tense forms get always fused with ne¨ into nema, nemam, etc.:
Nemam čašu. I don’t have a glass.
Croatian has two words that correspond to English glass (to drink from, not what is used for windows) and cup, and they divide the world a bit differently:
čaša glass, (paper) cup (no handle)
šalica cup, mug (has a handle) ®
Basically, čaša is made of glass or some thin material (e.g. plastic, paper) and šalica is heavy and has a handle.
Back to negative sentences: they can mean that something is not happening right now or it never happens. If you want to emphasize that something never happens, you should add the following adverb in the sentence – the most common place is before the ne¨ – but without removing the negation:
nikad(a) never (use with negation!)
This is different than in English, where you have to remove negation if you use never. The word can appear as either nikad or nikada, there’s no difference in meaning and the shorter form is more common in everyday communication (there are many words in Croatian with this feature). For example:
Ana nikad ne gleda televiziju. Ana never watches TV.
Nikad ne pijem kavu. I never drink coffee.
There are more words like nikad(a) in Croatian: whenever any of them is used, the verb must be negated. Most of them start with ni-.
There’s another special adverb that emphasizes the negation:
uopće + negation not... at all ®
As in other Croatian words that have vowels without a consonant between, vowels are pronounced separately. Therefore, the word has three syllables: u-op-će. (Besides, the word is stressed on the first syllable in the Standard scheme, and on the second syllable in the ‘western’ scheme.) For example:
Goran uopće ne spava. Goran isn’t sleeping at all.
Futhermore, we can use the following combinations of adverbs and ne¨ to express that something is over or still didn’t begin:
još + negation not... yet
više + negation not... anymore
Goran još ne spava. Goran isn’t sleeping yet.
Više ne pijem kavu. I don’t drink coffee anymore.
(It’s not obligatory to put the words nikad(a), uopće, još and više right before ne¨, that’s just the most frequent position.)
It’s also useful to tell how often something happens. There are following useful words:
stalno all the time
Such words are often placed before the verb, and svaki dan is often found at the end of the sentence as well. Word order is quite free in Croatian and you can place many words as you like.
ijetko gleda televiziju.
Ana watches TV rarely.
Ponekad pijem kavu. I drink coffee sometimes.
Ivan pije kavu svaki dan. Ivan drinks coffee every day.
There’s another useful word: skoro almost (it has other meanings as well). Used with nikad(a), it expresses almost never. However, you still have to use negation:
Skoro nikad ne pijem kavu. I almost never drink coffee.
There are more useful words. For example when you say that someone is doing something, you could be perfectly sure, or just guess. That’s where these words come into play:
sigurno for sure
Such words are again usually put before the verb. For example:
Goran možda spava. ▶ Goran is maybe sleeping.
Ivan sigurno pije kavu. Ivan is drinking coffee for sure.
There are couple of words to indicate that something repeats or happens for the first time:
opet / ponovo / ponovno again
prvi put for the first time
There’s really no difference among the three words meaning again. The word opet is the most frequent one in everyday life:
Ana opet spava. Ana is sleeping again.
Goran prvi put čita knjigu. Goran is reading a book for the first time.
You will sometimes hear and read prvi puta, e.g. in newspapers. (Some people think that form is not acceptable as standard, but it can be seen in publications issued by the Croatian government!) It’s basically the same variation as nikad vs. nikada.
If you are asked what you’re doing, and you aren’t doing anything in particular, you can answer with:
Što radiš? What are you doing?
— Ništa. Nothing.
If you want to use ništa nothing with a verb, the verb must be negated too:
Ivan često ne radi ništa. Ivan frequently does nothing. (lit. ‘isn’t doing nothing’)
This is again quite unlike English. In English, there’s at most one negation in a sentence; in Croatian, it’s always either all negative – including the verb – or nothing. The following sentence negates the verb and has two additional negative words:
Ivan nikad ne radi ništa. Ivan never does anything. (lit. ‘doesn’t never do nothing’)
Such ‘multiple negations’ in Croatian are mandatory.
® Instead of šalica, šolja is used in Bosnia and Serbia. Instead of uopće, uopšte is used in Serbia and parts of Bosnia. Instead of vjerojatno, vjerovatno is common in Bosnia and Serbia, and colloquially in parts of Croatia.