61 Cake is Eaten: Passive Adjectives

English is well-known for reusing various verb forms. For instance, the same word (eaten) has two quite different meanings in the following sentences:

Ana has eaten. (what she did)

The cake is eaten. (state of the cake)

Croatian has a different approach – each meaning has a different word. Words corresponding to the second meaning – adjectives for what happened to something or someone are called passive adjectives.

Passive adjectives are verb forms, but not all verbs have a meaningful pass. adjective. Verbs that cannot have an object (e.g. sleep – you cannot sleep something) won’t have an adjective that’s really used.

There are some verbs (and verb pairs) that can have an object, but their pass. adjective is never used. Some of them are:

čuti (čuje) hear
htjeti (hoće +,...) want
imati have
osjećati ~ osjetiti feel
razumjeti (razumije,...) understand

It’s difficult to explain why the pass. adj. of razumjeti (...) isn’t used, while the pass. adj. of shvatiti perf., a verb with a very similar meaning, is used. Likewise, željeti (želi, želio, željela) wish, desire has a used pass. adj., but htjeti (...) doesn’t!

Passive adjectives can be made for both impf. and perf. verbs. However, since perf. verbs indicate that the action is complete, pass. adjectives made from them are used more often. In fact, pass. adjectives of most impf. verbs are not used at all, or are extremely rare. The following impf. verbs have pass. adjectives that are frequently used in speech:

čistiti clean
čitati read
čuvati keep
gledati watch
graditi build
koristiti use
kuhati cook
očekivati (ekuje) expect
peći (peče,…) bake
pratiti follow
pržiti fry
nositi carry/wear
voljeti (voli,…) love
željeti (želi,…) desire

It’s worth knowing that Croatian has one more way of expressing passive, introduced in 64 The Door Opens: Fun with se², with less restrictions.

All passive adjectives in Croatian end in either -n (a vast majority) or -t. Always keep in mind that they are real adjectives, that is, they must adapt to gender, case and number.

For regular verbs that have infinitive ending in -ati, it’s really simple to make a pass. adjective, just replace -ati with -an:

verb pass. adj.
gledati watch gledan watched
napisati (napiše) perf. write napisan written
poslati (pošalje) perf. send poslan sent

As you can see, even verbs that have a bit irregular pres-3 follow this simple pattern if their inf ends in -ati.

Since these words are adjectives, they adapt to nouns as any other adjectives do. For example:

Pismo je napisano i poslano. The letter is written and sent.

For verbs that don’t have infinitives in -ati, the rules are more complicated.

For most verbs that have pres-3 ending in -e, their pass. adjective is simply made by adding -n to the pres-3 (I have omitted all past forms for clarity):

verb pass. adj.
naći (nađe) perf. find nađen found
peći (peče) bake pečen baked
pojesti (pojede) perf. eat pojeden eaten
plesti (plete) knit pleten knitted

Finally we can say:

Kolač je pojeden. The cake is eaten.

Since this adjective is derived from a perfective verb, it’s implied that the cake is no more.

For verbs that have pres-3 ending in -i – and there are many such verbs – the -i is removed and -en is added. Unless they are Croatian-specific or an r, consonants before -en get changed, e.g. t is changed to ć (I have again omitted all past forms for clarity):

verb pass. adj.
naučiti («) perf. learn naučen learned
pržiti fry pržen fried
otvoriti («) perf. open otvoren open
zatvoriti («) perf. close zatvoren closed
platiti perf. pay plaćen paid
shvatiti perf. understand shvaćen understood
vratiti perf. return vraćen returned

For example:

Škola je zatvorena. The school is closed.

Stojim pred otvorenim vratima. I’m standing in front of the open door.

Knjiga je vraćena. The book is returned.

Račun nije bio plaćen. The bill was not paid.

Other consonants and consonant groups undergo more complicated changes. Bear in mind, the infinitive is not important here, but the pres-3:

verb pass. adj.
baciti perf. throw bačen thrown
spasiti perf. rescue spašen rescued
zaraziti perf. infect zaražen infected
vidjeti (vidi) see viđen seen
voljeti (voli) love voljen loved
napuniti perf. fill up napunjen filled up
kupiti perf. buy kupljen bought
napraviti perf. make napravljen made
primiti perf. receive primljen received

For example:

Auto je napravljen u Poljskoj, a kupljen ovdje. The car is made in Poland and bought here.

Poruka je već primljena. The message is already received.

Other verbs that have pres-3 ending in -i follow the patterns of the verbs above; if there are two consonants before the -i, they both undergo the change (however, if the final consonants are st, some verbs get only št, while others get šć):

izmisliti perf. make upizmišljen made up
čistiti cleančišćen cleaned
pustiti perf. let gopušten released, freed

A few verbs with pres-3 ending in -i don’t have the expected shift; the most common is:

zaposliti («) perf. employzaposlen employed

A few verbs have pass. adjectives that don't follow the above rules, e.g.:

skriti (skrije) perf. hideskriven hidden

Since pass. adjectives are often used, you can remember them as separate words, not verb forms.

It’s interesting that most pass. adjectives of perf. verbs have the Standard stress on the first syllable (even if neither present nor infinitive has the stress on the first syllable), and the ‘western’ stress on the same syllable where the inf is stressed:

inf pres-3 pass. adj.
pročitati pročita perf. read pročitan read

However, verbs in -sti and -ći that have a rightward stress shift in the present tense have pass. adjectives stressed like the present tense forms:

ispeći (ispeče,...) perf. bakeispečen

This also applies to some verbs in -sti that have a shift only in the ‘western’ scheme:

pojesti (pojede) perf. eatpojeden

Finally, there are verbs with infinitives in -nuti; they are again simple to transform into pass. adjectives – for almost all of them, just discard the final -i and you have a pass. adjective. Unlike others, it ends in -t and not in -n:

verb pass. adj.
gurnuti (gurne) perf. push gurnut pushed
pokrenuti (pokrene) perf. start, move pokrenut started

The same holds for verbs similar to uzeti:

verb pass. adj.
zauzeti (zauzme) perf. occupy zauzet occupied

Infinitives of these verbs are similar to passive adjectives – actually, N-pl masc. forms of pass. adjectives are identical to infinitives. However, stress distinguishes some verbs from passive adjectives (in the Standard scheme):

pokrenuti verb (inf.)
pokrenuti pass. adj. (N-pl masc.)
zauzeti verb (inf.)
zauzeti pass. adj. (N-pl masc.)

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5 Easy Croatian: 61 Cake is Eaten: Passive Adjectives English is well-known for reusing various verb forms. For instance, the same word ( eaten ) has two quite different meanings in the followin...

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