With the knowledge of the accusative case and a few verbs, we can talk about travel and express destinations. The useful verbs are:
dolaziti come, arrive|
putovati (putuje) travel
ići (ide) go|
There are couple of nouns that we can use with verbs to demonstrate use of destinations:
bolnica ▶ hospital
Hrvatska ▶ Croatia
kafić cafe bar ®
kino cinema ®|
Split (a city)
škola ▶ school
Zagreb (a city)
To express destinations, we have to put the preposition u¨ in front of the noun in accusative, and then we can make sentences like these:
Ana odlazi u Ameriku. Ana is leaving for America.
Ivan putuje u Hrvatsku. ▶ Ivan is traveling to Croatia.
Idem u Zagreb. I’m going to Zagreb.
Goran ide u bolnicu. Goran is going to hospital.
We again see the two dots, introduced with ne¨; their meaning is the same (the word is pronounced with the following word, stress moves to it sometimes, etc.).
While English leave usually uses for instead of to, Croatian verbs use the same prepositions.
The expression ide u školu can mean somebody is a school student, i.e. ‘goes to school’:
Goran ide u školu. Goran goes to school.
However, if you go to an island or mountain, you must use the preposition na¨ instead of u¨. There are names of bigger Croatian islands:
Ana putuje na Krk. Ana is traveling to the island of Krk.
Odlazim na Korčulu. I’m leaving for the island of Korčula.
Of course, this applies to the following nouns as well:
|otok island ®||planina mountain|
The preposition na¨ is used for all destinations that are perceived as surfaces, or when the destination is on top – it’s usually translated as onto or on: you would use it for roofs, tabletops, walls, etc.
Next, it would be great if we could say not just I’m... but also we’re! It’s quite simple: Croatian again prefers not to use personal pronouns (I, we...) but a special verb form, 1st person plural present (for short, pres-1pl). It’s a form quite simple to make, just add an -o to the pres-1 form (one that ends in a -m):
idem I’m going → idemo we’re going
Putujemo na Lošinj. We’re traveling to the island of Lošinj.
Odlazimo u Ameriku. We’re leaving for America.
The preposition na¨ also applies to the following popular destinations:
trg (city) square
Idemo na plažu. We’re going to the beach.
The preposition na¨ must be used with the cardinal points when used as directions:
zapad ▶ west
jug ▶ south
Putujemo na jug. We’re traveling south.
The preposition na¨ is used with many metaphorical destinations (or rather, activities):
na fakultet to university|
na more to the seaside
na posao to work
na praznike to holidays|
na put on a trip
na selo to countryside
(I’ve listed nouns in the phrases above in the accusative case; the form praznike is in accusative plural, a form that will be explained later.) For instance:
Ana ide na posao. ▶ Ana is going to work.
Idemo na more. We’re going to the seaside.
The metaphorical na¨ includes all activities usually done in company, such as meals, meetings and sport events:
na čaj to have a tea|
na kavu to have a coffee
na koncert to a concert
na nogomet to football game ®
na odmor to vacation/break
na pivo to have a beer|
na ples to dance
na ručak to lunch
na sastanak to a meeting
na večeru to supper
When you say na kavu, it requires motion to a destination (where you will have a coffee or more than one), not just drinking coffee wherever you are. The ‘destination’ na nogomet means both playing football or just watching a game (this applies to other sports and public performances as well).
The same holds for celebrations and parties:
na feštu to a local feast/party
na rođendan ▶ to a birthday party
na zabavu to a party
Idem na kavu. I’m going to have a coffee.
Idemo na sastanak. We’re going to a meeting.
(Some of these destinations can be used also with u¨ – it makes their meaning literal, e.g. u more means literally into the sea, to swim or dive, throwing something into the sea, etc. Nouns that require the na¨ are marked in the Core Dictionary.)
Finally, the destination na sunce usually doesn’t imply taking a spaceship, but rather going to an open space, to get exposed to the sunlight:
|na sunce in the sun||na zrak to (fresh) air ®|
Pay attention: everything I’ve explained here are destinations, and not locations. If you say idemo na plažu, you aren’t describing where the action takes place, but where you’re moving to (and you may get there or not). While English often uses the same phrase for both, Croatian strongly distinguishes destinations from locations.
You’ll later see that the preposition na¨ can be regarded as the default preposition in Croatian.
Such sentences can be made more precise if we add one of the following useful adverbs of time:
prekosutra day after tomorrow|
sljedeće godine next year
sljedeći mjesec ▶ next month
sljedeći tjedan next week ®
(As in English, you can talk about events in future and still use the present tense.) Such words and expressions are often used to begin sentence with:
Sutra idem na sastanak. I’m going to a meeting tomorrow.
Danas idemo u kino. We’re going to cinema today.
Sljedeće godine putujemo na Hvar. We’re traveling to the island of Hvar next year.
Finally, there are the following often used generic directions:
blizu close, near|
daleko far away
dalje further, away
natrag / nazad back
van outside ®
tamo / onamo there
Ana uskoro dolazi ovamo. Ana is coming here soon.
To ask where to something or someone goes/travels, just start a question with:
kamo where... to
Nothing else except this word is needed, there’s no change of word order:
Kamo Ana ide? ▶ Where is Ana going to?
— Na posao. To work.
— Ide na posao. She’s going to work.
It’s normal to answer with just a destination, leaving the verb out; you can include the verb if you want to emphasize it. In colloquial communication, especially in some regions, you will hear e.g. gdje or kuda instead of kamo in such questions.®
As you can see, the accusative case is not used only for objects. In fact, almost all cases in Croatian have more than one use. If you find a somewhere on the Internet a table where each case has one use, and even better, where each case “answers to questions”, bear in mind that explains only a small part of the real use. I will introduce other uses of accusative gradually.
® The following words or phrases are usually not used Serbia and most of Bosnia; words or phrases pointed by arrows are used instead:
kino → bioskop
nogomet → fudbal
otok → ostrvo
zrak → vazduh
sljedeći tjedan → sljedeće nedjelje / sljedeće sedmice
Instead of van, napolje prevails in Bosnia and Serbia, and is heard in parts of Croatia as well.
Instead of sutra, a slightly different form, sjutra, is used in Montenegro.
In Bosnia and Serbia, kuda is usually used to ask for destinations, kamo is not used.