42 More Prepositions


It might be a surprise to you that in Croatian, most prepositions require nouns in genitive.

There are various spatial prepositions that indicate closeness; they are shown here from the closest to the most distant:

do¨ + G by
uz¨ + A next to
oko¨ + G around
pored¨ + G beside
kod¨ + G at, by
blizu + G near

Not all prepositions listed above use the genitive case, but are listed here because they belong to this group. The word blizu is not strictly a preposition, as it can be used on its own.

There a very interesting preposition that indicates (when used with DL, you’ll see other uses later!) that a motion is along surface, broadly understood:

po¨ + DL on the surface of

For example, if somebody (e.g. a child) is crawling on the floor – Croatian has the verb puzati (puže) – you would use this preposition to indicate space where the motion happens. It’s not a direction (you don’t indicate what the goal is) but a kind of location:

Dijete pužepuzati po podu. The child is crawling on the floor.

The preposition na¨ + DL is not used when you describe motion.

Another classic use of this preposition with DL is to describe a motion that’s constantly against some surface, e.g. jumping or banging:

Goran skačeskakati po krevetu. Goran is jumping on the bed.

The difference between na¨ + A and po¨ + DL when expressing motion can be nicely illustrated with the following sentences:

Trčimtrčati na plažu. (A) I’m running to the beach.

Trčimtrčati po plaži. (DL) I’m running on the beach.

The first sentence expresses destination, the second location (as a surface) where the entire motion happens. Another common use of po¨ + DL is when someone is traveling across a country, i.e. visiting many parts (regardless of the country not perceived as a surface):

Putujemoputovati po Europi. We’re traveling across Europe. ®

Then, there are some prepositions we’re already familiar with, used in unexpected ways. The first one is 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:

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

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 use of na¨ + A is, a bit paradoxically, used to express ways of entering or leaving – which door to use – e.g. on this notice (I found it on a bakery) that the entrance is through the other door:

This is a bit unexpected if you consider it a location. But it’s not – it’s how to enter, and the ‘modal’ na¨ + A is used.

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.

Then, there are many verbs that use na¨ + A as ‘secondary object’ (sometimes because the main object is blocked by se²). It often corresponds to English at, but not always:

podsjećati A1 (na¨ + A2) remind A1 (of A2)
ljutiti se² (na¨ + A) be angry (at/with A)
vikati (viče) (na¨ + A) yell (at A)

Here A, A1 and A2 are Croatian nouns or pronouns in A, and the corresponding English words. You’ll find more verbs that use ‘secondary objects’ as you learn them.

There’s another preposition:

prema + DL towards / according to

This preposition is used to describe orientation or direction, not a destination, e.g. when you tell someone to move two steps in the direction of something, or you turn towards something (which can be a cardinal direction).

It’s also used to express ‘according to’, either a person or something else:

Ovo nije prema pravilima. This is not according to the rules.

Prema karti, imamo još dva kilometra do vrha. According to the map, we have two kilometers more to the top.

Together with the generic pronoun to, it’s used in a frequent phrase to start a sentence:

Prema tome,...According to that,...’ = Therefore,...

Some nouns have specific meanings with prepositions. One of most common is red. This noun has one generic meaning: order. For instance, the TV series Law & Order is translated as Zakon i red.

A common phrase that includes a preposition and this word is:

u redu alright, OK

This is, for example, used in a frequent phrase:

Sve je u redu. Everything is OK.

However, there’s a derived meaning of this noun: an order of waiting, either a physical waiting line, or a waiting list. When you are waiting and someone else is also waiting, there are specific meanings with prepositions u¨ and na¨:

u¨ + red (DL / A) waiting, in line
na¨ + red (DL / A) at the front, about to be served

I wrote (DL / A) to remind you that the usual distinction of location (DL) vs. destination (A) applies here as well, no matter how metaphorical the place is. For instance, when you want to tell someone that it’s his or her turn to be served, you should say (politely, or to a group):

Vi ste na redu. You’re next.

(The Croatian expression is also used when people are talking turns, it corresponds to It’s your turn. then.). However, there’s another way (a bit rarer) to express this, which used ‘rotated’ cases, now one who is about to be served is expressed with na¨ + A:

Red je na vas. (the same meaning)

Another example, if you ask who should be served (you can hear it in shops, when more than one person is waiting at one counter):

Tko je na redu? Who’s next?

There’s yet another preposition which is used in waiting:

preko reda bypassing the line

There’s another often used preposition:

o¨ + DL about

It’s mostly used with the following verbs:

brinuti (brine) se² care
ovisiti depend
pisati (piše) write
razgovarati («) talk

For example (recall, you must use a stressed pronoun with a preposition):

Sve ovisi o njemu. Everything depends on him.

However, with the verb misliti think, this preposition is not used in the way you maybe expect. It’s rather:

    + na¨ + A think about
    + A + o¨ + DL have opinion on

For example:

Ne mislim na nju. I’m not thinking about her.

There are more ‘quasi-locations’. One example, which corresponds to an English phrase, is:

u obliku + G in the shape of

(The word oblik (oblik-) is an exception to stress-shift rules.) For example:

Imam kutiju u obliku srca. I have a heart-shaped box.

Another interesting construction uses two prepositions, and can be roughly translated as unlike:

za razliku od + G unlike X, Y

It’s usually used to contrast subject of the sentence with something else. An example will make it clearer:

Za razliku od Austrije, Hrvatska ima more. Unlike Austria, Croatia has the sea.

There’s something interesting when prepositions are used with indefinite pronouns and adverbs. When they are used with ones starting with ni-, the prefix ni- gets detached and becomes a separate word that is placed before the preposition. As you can see from the table, this doesn’t happen for other indefinite pronouns, and it doesn’t happen when the preposition bez¨ without is used – something unexpected happens then:

preposition +
nešto something
preposition +
ništa nothing
od nečega ni od čega
za nešto ni za što
o nečemu ni o čemu
bez nečega bez ičega

The same holds for e.g. nitko nobody and adverbs like nikuda. However, in colloquial communication, the ‘split pronoun rule’ is not really respected, so you’ll hear and see od ničega quite often.


® Instead of Europa, a slightly different word Evropa is used in Serbia.

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

5 Easy Croatian: 42 More Prepositions N A  DL  G 24 I It might be a surprise to you that in Croatian, most prepositions require nouns in genitive . There are various...

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