57 School Yard: Relational Adjectives

Croatian contains a big number of adjectives derived from nouns (and sometimes from other words too) that are often represented in English as nouns-used-as-adjectives. Here's what I mean:

school yard

Here school is actually used as an adjective, it describes what kind of yard it is, what it belongs to. Such adjectives are sometimes called relational or quasi-possessive adjectives. It's interesting that such adjectives in English cannot have a comparative (you cannot say more school) or even cannot be used as a property (you cannot say the yard is school).

In Croatian, you cannot simply use nouns as adjectives – you have to turn them into adjectives. It holds for some nouns in English too: you cannot use e.g. person as an adjective (e.g. 'person space') you have to turn it into an adjective – personal.

The main way to turn nouns into adjectives in Croatian is to append -ski as if it were a case ending (it's not a case ending!):

brod shipbrodski
grad citygradski
more seamorski
škola schoolškolski

The resulting word is an adjective, so it must adapt to the noun case and gender. Since dvorište yard is neuter (as expected) we have to use it accordingly:

Ovo je školsko dvorište. This is a school yard.

Bili smo u školskom dvorištu. We were at the school yard.

In some words that add -ski, the s gets fused with neighboring consonants and vowels, and we sometimes get -ški, -čki or even -ćki, or other irregularities:

pošta postpoštanski postal
putnik passengerputnički

Adjectives for cities, regions and countries are often irregular (and they are not uppercase):


Such adjectives are also created for cities having more than one word (e.g. Banja Luka, a city in Bosnia-Herzegovina) and foreign ones, respelled according to pronunciation:

Banja Lukabanjalučki New Yorknjujorški

Recall, words like Hrvatska Croatia or Njemačka Germany are already adjectives, just used as nouns – there's no need to make adjectives from them.

Not all words form their relational adjective by adding -ski; many words add -ni instead, and there's no real rule which noun uses what ending, as you can see for adjectives derived from seasons – you have to remember it:

jesen f autumnjesenski
zima winterzimski
proljeće springproljetni
ljeto summerljetni

Common adjectives that are derived with -ni are:

cvijet flowercvjetni
kiša rainkišni
kuća housekućni
ljubav f loveljubavni
osoba personosobni ®
rad workradni
rat warratni
soba roomsobni
stol table, deskstolni
voće fruit(s) → voćni
vrt gardenvrtni
zid wallzidni

Observe that adjective cvjetni has just je instead of ije. Consonants change before this ending, e.g. k or cč and so on, as in these examples:

brak marriagebračni
krug circlekružni
mlijeko milkmliječni
ruka handručni
noga legnožni
oko eyeočni
trbuh bellytrbušni
ulica streetulični

(English has specific adjectives personal, marital and circular, but there's no specific adjective for many other nouns in English, e.g. hand is simply used as an adjective in hand brake. English usually has specific adjectives if a noun is of French or Latin origin, since these two languages have specific adjectives). Adjectives derived from cardinal directions also follow this pattern:

sjeverni northern
zapadni western
istočni eastern
južni southern

It's interesting that relational adjectives cannot be derived from days of week, except for Sunday:

nedjelja Sundaynedjeljni

(You will occasionally see and hear adjective subotnji adj. Saturday, but it's quite rare.)

For other days of week use either I (for something that's regular) or od¨ + G (for something related to "this" day of week), both after the noun you describe:

utakmice petkom Friday games (every Friday)

utakmica od petka this Friday game

It's very useful to learn relational adjectives derived from time nouns (like English daydaily, monthmonthly); some of them are quite irregular:

dan daydnevni
noć f nightnoćni
jutro morningjutarnji
večer f eveningvečernji
mjesec monthmjesečni
godina yeargodišnji

For the nouns tjedan (tjedn-) week, ponoć f midnight and podne (podnev-) noon, adjectives are derived regularly by adding the -ni. For example:

Ovo je moj mjesečni prihod. This is my monthly income.

Kupi neke dnevne novine. Buy a daily newspaper.

The adjective godišnji annual is used in a common phrase:

godišnji odmor annual leave, paid vacation

(Each employee in Croatia has at least 4 weeks of paid vacation, often more.) The phrase is often – in speech and casual writing – shortened to just godišnji: the noun odmor is assumed. So, you'll often hear (and read):

Ivan je na godišnjem. Ivan is on (paid) vacation.

Of course, even when used on its own, the word godišnji behaves like any adjective and keeps the gender of the omitted noun (here: masculine inanimate). Therefore, it got the DL ending -em here (for "activity as location").

It's also possible to derive relational adjectives from many adverbs, e.g. sad(a) now, jučer yesterday, gore up and so on: they will be explained in 76 Inner and Outer: More on Space and Time.

Few nouns have relational adjectives on -ji, again with (specific) consonant alternations; they include most animals:

djeca coll. childrendječji ®
mačka catmačji
miš mousemišji
ptica birdptičji
riba fishriblji
zec rabbitzečji

There are frequently used adjectives to indicate what kind of meat something is made of:

goveđi adj. beef
janjeći adj. lamb
pileći adj. chicken
teleći adj. beef (veal)

Since relational adjectives cannot be simply derived from nouns, they will be listed with nouns in the Core Dictionary.

Certain terms in Croatian are not expressed in this way, especially when we describe the purpose of something, e.g. where something is applied or where it's used. Then, the preposition za¨ + a noun in A are put after the noun. Common examples are:

čaša za vino wine glass
četka za kosu hair brush
krema za ruke hand cream
lak za nokte nail polish
pasta za zube toothpaste
šalica za čaj tea cup

Some of these terms also have alternative versions, with relative adjectives (e.g. zubna pasta).

Certain types of nouns, e.g. gerunds like čitanje reading don't have relational adjectives at all. To express reading glasses in Croatian, you have to use the same construction:

naočale za čitanje reading glasses
štap za pecanje fishing rod

(More about gerunds in 66 Smoking is Dangerous: Verbal Nouns.)

The -ski is the default suffix for relational adjectives: new words that are adopted into Croatian use it (translation for the words below is, I hope, not necessary):

atomatomski laserlaserski

® Instead of proljetni, regular adjective proljećni is used in Serbia and Montenegro, and sometimes in Bosnia; instead of osobaosobni, licelični covers that meaning in Serbia and Bosnia.

Adjectives ending in -ji (e.g. dječji) have alternative forms ending in -iji (e.g. dječiji) that actually prevail in Serbia and Bosnia and are accepted in standard there. They are sometimes seen in Croatia as well.

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5 Easy Croatian: 57 School Yard: Relational Adjectives Croatian contains a big number of adjectives derived from nouns (and sometimes from other words too) that are often represented in English a...

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