53 Giving Orders


Croatian has special forms of verbs used to give orders: imperatives (imper for short). In English, the imperative is just a verb without a personal pronoun:

Wait for me!

In Croatian, there’s a special verb form (it’s quite similar to the present tense forms):

Čekaj me1 A! Wait for me!

Imperatives exist only for the 2nd person (I can give orders to you) and for the 1st person plural (I can give orders to us).

If you know the imper-2 form, it’s very easy to get other forms – all are regular – and it’s easy to get the imper-2 if you know its pres-3pl:

pres-3pl imper-2 imper-1pl imper-2pl
-u, -e -i -imo -ite
-ju, (-je) -j -jmo -jte
-ku -ci -cimo -cite

For example, here are the imper-2 forms of some frequent verbs:

gledati watchgledaj
učiti learnuči
pisati (piše) writepiši
ići (ide, išao, išla) goidi

The imperative gledaj watch! is often shortened to just gle. There’s one completely irregular imperative:

biti (je² +) bebudi

Only a handful of otherwise ‘irregular’ verbs have the pres-3pl ending in -ku. Such commonly used verbs are:

reći (reče, rekao, rekla) perf. tellreci
tući (tuče, tukao, tukla) beat, smacktuci
vući (vuče, vukao, vukla) pullvuci

The verb reći is almost never used in the present tense, but its imperative is often used:

Reci mi1 DL, gdje si bio? Tell me, where have you been?

Other very often used imperatives are (I have listed only their imper-2 forms):

čekaj! wait!
dođi! come here!
pazi! take care!
stani! stop!

As you can see, imperative forms of perfective verbs are often used.

Only a few verbs end in -je in pres-3pl; some get imperatives on -j, others on -ji:

bojati (boji) paintboji ®
brojati (broji) countbroji ®
bojati (boji) se² be afraidboj se²

(The verb brojati (broji) is very common, although the Standard Croatian has a slightly different verb brojiti. The same goes for bojati (boji) – the Standard, but seldom used verb is bojiti. For more details, check 58 Colloquial and Formal.)

For verbs that end in -je in pres-3pl, the imper-2 form is listed in the Core Dictionary.

Negation (don’t sing!) can be constructed in two ways. First, by simply putting the usual word ne¨ in front of the imperative:

Ne čekajte me1 A! Don’t wait for me! (pl.)

Ne pjevaj! Don’t sing!

For instance, this sign is written above the door of a building in Zagreb, saying don’t park – the verb is parkirati («) park – and the hyphen between words is likely just decorative:

This works for imperfective verbs, but not for most perfective verbs.

Another method is to use a special negative imperative verb and the infinitive of the verb. This special verb has only imperatives: its imper-2 is nemoj. This works for all verbs:

Nemojte me1 A čekati! Don’t wait for me! (pl.)

Nemoj otići! Don’t leave!

If you were careful, you could see that the combination ne¨ + verb behaves as one unit (as usual) so mi², me² etc. come right after it, but nemoj is a word on its own and words that want to be at the second position come right after it (but the verb in infinitive cannot come before it).

If a verb requires the word se², it’s required in imperative as well:

Ne boj se! Don’t be afraid!

As in English, there’s no special imperative form for the 3rd person, but you can use neka + verb in present, similar to English let, but without changes in case (English changes case: it’s not let she but let her):

Neka uđe. Let him/her come in.

Neka Ana vozi. Let Ana drive.

The word neka doesn’t change. It has no connection to neki adj. some. You will sometimes see and hear it shortened to nek.

There is another "special verb" – hajde – also having only imperative forms, that is used to encourage (like c’mon!):

Hajde, dođi! C’mon, come!

Both special verbs can be used on their own in speech:

Nemoj! Don’t!

Hajde! C’mon!

The verb hajde has slightly irregular forms and also has several colloquial forms. They are all listed here, together with forms of the verb nemoj:

verb imper-2 imper-1pl imper-2pl
negative nemoj nemojmo nemojte

There’s another verb that can be used colloquially to encourage or strengthen imperatives:

dati perf. give

This is a perfective verb, and its imperative is used together the imperative of the main verb. For example:

Daj, čekaj me1 A! C’mon, wait for me!

There are few exceptions to the rules above, relating to the 1st person plural. For the verb ići (ide, išao, išla) go, instead of the expected idimo, the present tense form idemo is used; it applies only to the imper-1pl – other forms are as expected:

imper-2 imper-1pl imper-2pl
idi idemo idite

Furthermore, in colloquial speech, imper-1pl forms aren’t often used. Instead, hajdemo / ajmo + inf is more common.

There are more things you can do with the negative imperative verb: you can use it for warnings like don’t make me...:

neg. imp. verb + da + morati + inf. = don’t make + obj. + inf.

While English construct uses a object-with-infinitive (e.g. don’t make me clean), Croatian uses the normal present tense:

Nemoj da moram čistiti pod! Don’t make me clean the floor!

This is an example of a very common clause in Croatian, da + present tense clause. In such clauses, there’s no special treatment of subjects (e.g. in English you use me instead of I) but perfective verbs can be freely used; also, there’s no special word order, you can place adverbs or subjects after da:

Nemojte da moram otvoriti prozor! Don’t make me open the window! (to more than one person)

Nemoj da opet moram čistiti pod! Don’t make me clean the floor again!

The word da is mandatory, it cannot be left out. It takes the first position in the clause, the second position words come right after it:

Nemoj [da¹ se² moramo vraćati]! Don’t make us come back!

Don’t forget the verb morati, in the proper present form: it’s also mandatory. Personal pronouns are omitted as usual.

There’s a frequent expression in English make me laugh (or someone else). When translated to Croatian, the construct I’ve just explained is not used, since Croatian has a specific verb pair that means make laugh:

nasmijavati («) ~ nasmijati («) make laugh

The impf. verb is usually used. The one who is laughing is expressed in A, therefore the Croatian sentences look a bit similar to English:

Nemoj me1 A nasmijavati! Don’t make me laugh!

Finally, there’s another way to give a strong command (usually to somebody you’re close to, e.g. to your child, especially if previous commands had little effect): use da + past tense (in the 2nd person, of course):

Da si odmah ugasila kompjuter! Shut down the computer immediately! (to a female)

The word odmah is not obligatory, but it’s frequently used to stress that an immediate response is expected.

® Standard Serbian insists on the imper-2 forms boj and broj, which are rare in speech, while Croatian allows boji and broji.

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5 Easy Croatian: 53 Giving Orders N A  DL  G 24 I Croatian has special forms of verbs used to give orders: imperatives ( imper for short). In English, the impera...

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