41 Somewhere, Nobody, Something...


There are couple of very useful words – usually called indefinite pronouns – that generally derive from question-words by adding a ne-. They don’t mean negation, but some-. Two of them are derived from pronouns meaning who and what:

netko (nek-) someone nešto (neč-) something

They change exactly as the words they are derived from, i.e. G of nešto is nečeg(a), etc. Also, they behave grammatically as the pronouns they’re derived from, that is, netko as masc. sing., nešto as neut. sing.:

Netko je bio tamo. Someone was there. (masc. sg. always!)

Nešto je bilo tamo. Something was there. (neut. sg. always!)

Netko spava. Someone is sleeping.

This is quite different than in English: these pronouns literally translate as some-who and some-what, but of course, the word somewhat has a completely different meaning in English.

Colloquially, netko is often simplified to neko ®.

With indefinite pronouns as objects, there’s almost no difference in process and completion verbs in the past tense:

Jela sam nešto. I ate/was eating something. {f} (process)

Pojela sam nešto. I ate something. {f} (completion)

Of course, you have to use impf. process verbs if you are talking about a background action (I was eating something, when suddenly...) or what you were doing at a precise moment. On the other hand, you would likely use perf. completion verbs if you a describing a sequence of actions (I ate something, then I went to...), but that’s not mandatory.

With indefinite pronouns, you can express phrases like something nice. As in English, the adjective follows the pronoun, and the only thing you need to pay attention to is to adjust the case of both the pronoun and the adjective, and, of course, the gender of the adjective must match the pronoun:

Kupila sam nešto lijepo. I bought something nice. {f}

Vidio je nekog novog. He saw somebody new. {m}

Another thing you can express is something else and somebody else. Croatian has no universal word for else – the adjective drugi second/another is used instead. Again, it comes after the pronoun, and must match the case and gender of the pronoun:

Kupila sam nešto drugo. I bought something else. {f}

Vidio je nekog drugog. He saw somebody else. {m}

Pišem nekom drugom. I’m writing to somebody else.

To express plural of persons, use neki some with drugi:

Neki drugi spavaju. Some other people are sleeping.

Razgovarao sam s nekim drugima. I talked to some other people. {m}

The next set of pronouns are negative pronouns. If you want to express just the opposite, that is, nobody is sleeping, in Croatian, you have only one option: you have to use negation (that is, the verb must be put to negative), and you must negate the pronoun as well. Croatian uses double negation as a rule.

It’s very simple to make negative from indefinite pronouns: change ne- to ni-:

Nitko ne spava. Nobody is sleeping.

Nema° nikog. Nobody is there. (lit. ‘There isn’t nobody.’)

Unfortunately, there’s an irregularity: you would expect ništo, but the pronoun is actually ništa (other cases are as expected):

Nemam ništa. I don’t have anything. (lit. ‘I don’t have nothing.’)

Nema° ničeg. Nothing is there. (lit. ‘There isn’t nothing.’)

The adjective drugi second/another is used with negative pronouns in the same way:

Nema° ničeg drugog. Nothing else is there. (lit. ‘There isn’t nothing other.’)

There’s an often used phrase, used when you look you might be hurt, but you aren’t (or just pretend you aren't):

Nije° mi ništa. I’m fine. (lit. ‘It’s nothing to me.’)

Of course, instead of mi², you can use any noun or pronoun in the DL case. Since ništa is really the subject, it behaves like što, therefore 3rd pers. neut. sing. is used in the past tense:

Nije joj bilo ništa. She was fine.

This table summarizes the four pronouns:

indefinite negative
netko (nek-)
nitko (nik-)
nešto (neč-)
ništa (nič-)

Now, something completely unexpected. One of the first things you’ve learned is that multiple negation is mandatory in Croatian, and I’ve repeated it above. While it is generally true, there are few partial exceptions. One of them applies to nešto (neč-) something + an adjective. Sometimes you’ll see it not negated in negative sentences:

Nisam nikad vidio ništa slično. I haven’t ever seen something like it. (lit. ‘something similar’) {m}

Nisam nikad vidio nešto slično. (a bit rarer, the same meaning; nešto is not negated)

The all-negative version is a bit more common. You can safely use the all-negative version, but don’t panic if you hear or see the other version – there’s no difference in meaning.

These are indefinite adverbs:

nekamo somewhere (destination)
negdje somewhere (location)
odnekud from somewhere (origin)

These words are used as generic locations, destinations or origins:

Auto je negdje. The car is somewhere.

To express somewhere else, Croatian uses a else-word drugdje, which is also an adverb, i.e. it doesn’t change:

Ana je negdje drugdje. Ana is somewhere else.

In principle, there is a specific else-word for destinations, drugamo, but the symmetry is usually broken, and you’ll very often hear nekamo drugdje and negdje drugdje for destinations!

To negate indefinite adverbs, again replace ne- with ni-, moving it to the beginning of the word:

nikamo nowhere (destination)
nigdje nowhere (location)
niotkud from nowhere (origin)

Again, all these ni-words require negation of the verb as well:

Nikamo ne idemići. I’m not going anywhere. (lit. ‘I don’t go nowhere.’)

Again drugdje is used with negative adverbs as well.

There are also adverbs for manner and time and are derived from the question-word kako how and kad(a) when in the same way:

nekako somehow
nekad(a) sometimes
nikad(a) never

We have already encountered nikad(a) never. The word nekad(a) also means some time ago, in the past.

The word nikako is hard to translate to English, but it basically means no way, no matter how I/you try, and so on, and it basically makes the sentence absolutely negative (of course, it’s used along the negation of the verb):

Nikako ne mogumoći
otvoriti vrata.
I can’t open the door, no matter how I try.

The indefinite adverb nekako somehow has a specific, unexpected else-word drugačije. This word can be used on its own, meaning in another way.

To ask questions, it’s normal in Croatian to use the same pronouns as in usual sentences:

Je li me netko tražio? Was anyone looking for me?

Je li negdje jeftinije? Is anywhere cheaper?

However, in writing, sometimes in formal speech, instead of indefinite pronouns in such questions, questions pronouns can be used, with indefinite meaning:

Je li me tko tražio? (the same meaning as above)

Je li gdje jeftinije?

Actually, Standard Croatian prefers such use – sentences like je li me netko... are considered colloquial in Standard Croatian!


® The form niko is considered standard in Serbia and most of Bosnia.

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5 Easy Croatian: 41 Somewhere, Nobody, Something... N A  DL  G 24 I There are couple of very useful words – usually called indefinite pronouns – that generally derive from questi...

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