We’re now able to say two, able to say apples, but do we know how to say two apples in Croatian? Sadly, not really. So let’s learn it!
Surprisingly, Croatian uses two different ways of counting things: one for numbers 2-4, and another for larger numbers! I’ll show how to count less than 5 things first.
Words for some numbers adapt to the gender of the noun you count:
I have included the Croatian words for both since it behaves identically as word for two.
But what form of nouns comes after the number? It’s genitive singular (although it’s more than one thing). We can count apples and ships now!
dvije jabuke two apples
dva broda two ships
dva prijatelja two friends
But what about using them in a sentence? Do they change as single nouns, e.g. in accusative, etc.? No, such forms number-noun normally not change at all:
Imam dvije jabuke. I have two apples.
Vidim dva broda. I see two ships.
However, Standard Croatian insists that numbers 2-4 also change. You will sometimes see in writing DLI forms for numbers 2 and both in feminine gender and for 3:
|obje f both||objema|
|dvije f two||dvjema|
If numbers change, nouns also change, into DLI-pl. For example:
Posjet dvjema farmama A visit to two farms (rare)
(If you check Google™, u dvije is about 30 times more frequent than u dvjema.) Other forms – including masc. gender – exist in grammar books, but are very rare in use. You will sometimes see the forms above used for G as well.
What about using adjectives (red, my) with counted nouns? Somehow, a special thing happens: adjectives get special endings:
It’s simple to remember, since the endings are identical to noun endings for the majority of nouns, and to the end vowels of the number two:
Imam dvije crvene jabuke. I have two red apples.
Vidim dva crvena broda. I see two red ships.
Of course, the endings are different if you take masculine nouns in -a or feminine nouns in a consonant:
Ovo su dvije duge r
iječi. These are two long words.
When such counted nouns are subjects, verbs come in plural:
Dva prijatelja me čekaju. Two friends are waiting for me.
Since past forms of verbs are really a sort of adjectives, they get special endings as well:
Dva prijatelja su me čekala. Two (male) friends were waiting for me.
Dvije prijateljice su me čekale. Two (female) friends were waiting for me.
As in English, possessives often come before the number; since they are really adjectives, they must get special endings as well:
Tvoje dvije knjige su kod Ane. Your two books are at Ana’s place.
Moja tri prijatelja su ovdje. My three friends are here.
Sometimes you don’t know the exact number, it could be 2, it could be 3; one way to express it is by joining numbers:
Imam dva-tri piva. I have two or three beers.
Imam dvije-tri jabuke. I have two or three apples.
You will see this written with a comma instead of hyphen, e.g. dva, tri. It’s also common to join numbers 3 and 4 (tri-četiri).
You are maybe puzzled: why adjectives get the special endings? Why not just G forms? Actually, I oversimplified things a bit. After these numbers, nouns and adjectives really have a special, so-called ‘dual’ form (also called ‘paucal’ form). It historically had specific endings, but today its endings – for nouns – look like G endings. However, if we were paying attention to vowel length, we’d see that the G ending for nouns ending in -a, e.g. bez žene is a long vowel e, while the ending in e.g. dvije žene is a short e. The forms just look the same in writing. However, since many people in Croatia don’t distinguish short from long vowels, these endings often coincide in speech as well. But ‘deep down’, the forms after numbers 2, 3, 4 and both are not plain G forms. Adjectives still have specific endings.
There’s a twist: I’ve written above that numbers adapt to the gender of the noun. And I’ve written that dva prijatelja means two friends. That’s not the full story. Numbers described above cannot adapt in some circumstances.
In the case of mixed groups of people, where masculine nouns are used as a default (e.g. when you use prijatelji friends for a group of friends of mixed sex), you cannot use the numbers I have just described! This restriction holds even for četiri, a form common for both genders.
That’s because Croatian has a specific set of numbers used for mixed groups or people: they are described in detail in 68 Counting Children and Brothers. Therefore:
|(both male)||dva prijatelja two friends|
|(both female)||dvije prijateljice two friends|
|(mixed)||? → will be explained|
However, if you are talking about animals, you can and should use the numbers above even for mixed groups. For example, konji horses can mean an all-male group, or a mixed group, so you’re free to say:
dva konja two horses (all-male or mixed)
Now, there’s a word that’s quite common in Croatian: još. We have seen it long ago. It’s also used with numbers: you can place if before any quantity, to indicate it’s an additional quantity:
Želim dvije jabuke I want two apples.
Želim još dvije jabuke I want two apples more.
Don’t forget, if you place it before a verb, it has another meaning: still:
Još želim dvije jabuke I still want two apples.
(the rest is coming soon).