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
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:
očekivati (očekuje) expect|
peći (peče,…) bake
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:
|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):
|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):
|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|
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:
|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|
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 up
→ izmišljen made up
čistiti clean → čišćen cleaned
pustiti perf. let go → pušten released, freed
A few verbs with pres-3 ending in -i don’t have the expected shift; the most common is:
zaposliti («) perf. employ → zaposlen employed
A few verbs have pass. adjectives that don't follow the above rules, e.g.:
skriti (skrije) perf. hide → skriven 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:
|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. bake → ispečen
This also applies to some verbs in -sti that have a shift only in the ‘western’ scheme:
pojesti (pojede) perf. eat → pojeden
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:
|gurnuti (gurne) perf. push||gurnut pushed|
|pokrenuti (pokrene) perf. start, move||pokrenut started|
The same holds for verbs similar to uzeti:
|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.)