66 Smoking is Dangerous: Verbal Nouns

English uses -ing forms for more than one purpose. Compare the sentences:

1. I am swimming.

2. I like swimming.

3. Swimming is healthy.

In sentences #2 and #3, swimming can be replaced with to swim or even apples (I like apples, apples are healthy.). The word swimming behaves similar to a noun in these two sentences. Croatian has a special noun (derived from verbs) that’s used in sentences like #2 and #3: verbal noun or gerund.

It’s basically derived from the pass. adjective. Most of them end in -n; we change it to -nje and that’s the noun we need:

Volim plivanje. I like swimming.

Plivanje je zdravo. Swimming is healthy.

But there’s really no passive adjective ‘plivan’, right? Right. The passive adjective is just a formal step. You can skip it if you think it’s meaningless, but it’s worth remembering that differences between pass. adjectives and gerunds are small, especially when you recall all consonant alternations in passive adjectives. Formally it goes like this:

verb pass. adj. gerund
pušiti smoke pušen pušenje
čistiti clean čišćen čišćenje

We can summarize rules for pass. adjectives and gerunds in one nice table:

inf pres-3 pass. adj. gerund
-ati doesn’t
-an -anje
-nuti -nut -nuće
-eti -et -eće
other -e -en -enje
-i *-en *-enje

The verbs ending in -jeti (e.g. vidjeti) fall into the ‘other’ row.

The asterisk (*) in the table above signalizes a shift of the preceding consonant(s), e.g. tć, cč, etc. Of course, not all words that can be derived according to this scheme are really used.

Gerunds enables us to say:

Pušenje je opasno. Smoking is dangerous.

Trčanje je zdravo. Running is healthy.

When a verb uses an object in accusative, the matching gerund, if it has a noun serving as an object, will use the genitive case instead:

Perem kosu. (A) I’m washing my hair.

Pranje kose je dosadno. (G) Washing hair is boring.

The opposite holds for verbs that cannot have objects at all – the noun in genitive after the gerund stands for a subject:

Lišće pada. (N) Leaves are falling.

Volim padanje lišća. (G) ‘I like falling of leaves.’

Objects in other cases are sometimes changed to na¨ + A:

Sjećam se nje. (G) I remember her.

sjećanje na nju (na¨ + A) memory of her

Some gerunds have specific meanings and are no longer felt connected to verbs. Common ones are:

iznenađenje surprise
mišljenje opinion
objašnjenje explanation
obećanje promise
olakšanje relief
opravdanje excuse
osvježenje refreshment
pitanje question
upozorenje warning
uzbuđenje excitement
značenje meaning
znanje knowledge

There are more, this is not an exhaustive list by any means. The same thing happened to some English forms, e.g. painting is derived from paint, but it has a specific meaning as well.

For some reasons I never really understood, some verbs don’t use this pattern at all. For instance, you would expect that from the verb patiti suffer there’s a gerund ‘paćenje’, but there isn’t. There are a couple of other patterns to get gerund-like nouns. One is to add -nja to the verb, after discarding -ti and the vowel before it:

mrziti hatemržnja
patiti sufferpatnja
paziti be carefulpažnja
raditi workradnja
šetati strollšetnja
voziti drivevožnja

Two more verbs have such gerund-like nouns:

štedjeti/štediti (štedi) save (money) → štednja
šutjeti/šutiti (šuti) be silentšutnja

Another way is to change verbs ending in -avati (pres-3 -aje) to -aja:

prodavati (prodaje) sellprodaja
udavati (udaje) se² marry (woman to man) → udaja

Impf. verbs derived from ići (...) go and similar motion verbs have usually gerund-like nouns in -ak which turns into just an -k- before any case ending:

dolaziti comedolazak (dolask-) arrival
odlaziti leaveodlazak (dolask-) departure

There are more common verbs that follow this pattern, some of them perfective:

početi (počne) perf. beginpočetak (početk-) beginning
rastati (rastane) se² perf. separaterastanak (rastank-) parting, farewell
sastati (sastane) se² perf. meetsastanak (sastank-) meeting

Therefore, sastanak (sastank-) meeting is just a gerund-like noun derived from a verb.

The transport verbs (ones derived from nositi carry, voditi lead and voziti drive) often have root verbal nouns, that is, with forms having just -nos, -vod and -voz, without any additional ending:

odnositi («) se² relateodnos relation
ponositi («) se² be proudponos pride
izvoziti («) exportizvoz export (noun)

If the underlying verbs have the prefix pre-, it’s changed to prije- in the verbal nouns:

prevoditi («) translateprijevod translation
prevoziti («) transportprijevoz transport (noun)

However, the noun prijevod really means the result, and not the process – there’s the regular verbal noun prevođenje for the process – therefore, it’s really another type of the verbal noun, associated with the perfective aspect, the outcome.

There are more verb pairs which have two associated verbal nouns – the ‘perfective’ one is usually a root noun:

impf.   perf.
verbs padati pasti (padne, pao) fall
nouns padanje falling pad fall (noun)

Similar ‘perf.’ root verbal nouns are:

doprinos contribution
ispit exam
napad attack
potpis signature
razvod divorce
uvod introduction

There are no underlying rules which method should be used for a verb, so it’s better to just remember verbal nouns as words on their own, more or less connected to the base verb.

Objects of napasti (...) attack are changed with na¨ + A when you use the ‘perfective’ verbal noun (this is the same as in English):

Napoleon je napao Rusiju. (A) Napoleon attacked Russia.

napad na Rusiju (na¨ + A) attack on Russia

It seems that relational adjectives can usually be derived from such ‘perfective’, root verbal nouns by adding -ni:

ispit examispitni
uvod introductionuvodni
izvoz export (noun) → izvozni

However, relational adjectives cannot be derived from ordinary, ‘imperfective’ verbal nouns. Nouns that are used-for-something are described with za¨ + verbal noun:

naočale za čitanje reading glasses
daska za peglanje ironing board (lit. ‘plank’)
papir za pečenje baking paper

The first expression literally means glasses for reading, the second one plank for ironing, and the third one paper for baking.

Verbal nouns or derived relational adjectives are not used for expressions like English flying saucers (saucers that fly): for that, so-called present adjectives are used. They will be introduced in 80 Present Adverbs and Adjectives.

5 Easy Croatian: 66 Smoking is Dangerous: Verbal Nouns English uses - ing forms for more than one purpose. Compare the sentences: 1. I am swimming. 2. I like swimming. 3. Swimming is heal...

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