68 Counting Children, Brothers and Us


So far we have learned cardinal numbers (one, two), ordinal numbers (first, second), fractional numbers (half, third).

Croatian has more numbers. There’s a set of universal numbers, also known as collective numbers.

Recall that Croatian numbers 2-4 (dva/dvije, etc.) can be used only with genitive singular (actually, historically ‘dual’ forms). Therefore, they cannot be used with e.g. noun ljudi m pl. people. Also, numbers larger than 4 (pet, šest, etc.) can be used with nouns genitive plural only. That caused problems for nouns like djeca (coll.) children since they are actually in singular! There was no way to count less than 5 people or more than 4 children.

Luckily, this set of numbers has no restrictions and can count any number of people and children. Each number has two forms – an adverb and a noun. They are listed here:

adverb noun
both oboje obojica
2 dvoje dvojica
3 troje trojica
4 četvero četvorica
5 petero petorica
6 šestero šestorica
7 sedm-ero sedm-orica

The pattern for larger numbers is: take an ordinal adjective (e.g. osm-i), remove the final -i and add either -ero or -orica.

You will sometimes hear versions of adverbs with -oro (e.g. četvoro). They are very common in Bosnia and Serbia, and heard in Croatia as well.

How to use the words we have just learned? First, the adverbs are used to count nouns ljudi, djeca and braća:

Imam petero djece. I have five children.

Razgovarao sam s troje ljudi. I talked to three people.

Despite being universal, the collective adverbs are kind of secondary: if you can use the normal numbers (as with most numbers) you will not use the collective adverbs! Therefore, they are mostly used to count those three nouns (ljudi, djeca and braća), but even with braća you will very often hear and read:

Imam dva brata. I have two brothers.

Collective adverbs can be used, but for some reason people prefer dva brata to dvoje braće. (Of course, for numbers greater than 4 there’s no other option, but to use collective adverbs with the noun braća, since it’s a mass noun.)

However, when you have e.g. two friends or two guests of opposite sex, you have to use collective adverbs:

2 friends 2 guests
all-male dva prijatelja dva gosta
all-female dvije prijateljice dvije gošće
mixed (G-pl!) dvoje prijatelja dvoje gostiju

This is the solution to the ‘mixed-sex’ problem in counting. Pay attention that the last form is in G-pl, while the first two are just ordinary forms used with numbers 2-4 (like G for nouns). They coincide with G-pl for the noun prijatelj friend (in writing, not for those who have different vowel length in speech), but not for e.g. the noun gost guest.

The collective adverbs can be used on their own, and they imply a number of people, of mixed or unknown sex. They behave as other adverbs, as if in neuter singular, but you’ll sometimes see masculine plural as well:

Oboje je otišlootići
Both left.

Oboje su otišliotići
(sometimes used)

The noun dvojica really stands for two men (or two boys — two males of any kind really). The same holds for all other nouns listed above. The nouns are mass nouns, i.e. they are in singular, despite meaning plurality, and change like any other singular nouns on -a:

Razgovarao sam s obojicom. I talked to both men. (or both boys)

Actually, the nouns obojica, dvojica, etc. behave exactly like djeca and braća: they require verbs in plural, despite being in feminine singular. Compare:

Djeca su otišlaotići
Children left.

Obojica su otišlaotići
Both men left.

It’s very frequent, but kind of colloquial, to use dvoje and other adverbs for any groups of people, including male-only groups and female-only groups.

The collective numbers give us another possibility: you can express counted pronouns, like us two. As you probably expect, the pronoun will be in the genitive case, and the form of the number will depend on the gender, but there’s one twist you probably didn’t expect: pronouns come before numbers. The forms are:

all-male mixed all-female
nas obojica nas oboje nas obje
nas dvojica nas dvoje nas dvije
nas trojica nas troje nas tri

You get the system: for all-male groups, the specific mass nouns listed above are used; for all-female groups, regular (cardinal) numbers in the feminine gender; for mixed groups, the mass adverbs listed above. Colloquially, the mixed sex pattern is very often used even for all-male and all-female groups.

The constructs above can mean either e.g. us two or two of us. However, there’s a variation, if two of us stands for two out of a larger group of us (e.g. there are five of us in total, and two of us should do something...). In such a case you can use either:

dvoje nas two of us, out of a larger group

dvoje od nas (the same, but a bit more precise)

Of course, instead of nas, you can use vas or njih (stressed forms must be used) to get various expressions:

njih trojica three of them (all male)

vas obje both of you (all female)

You can also use other quantity adverbs, and quantity adjectives, to quantify personal pronouns. When you use neki and similar words with pronouns, the rules change, you have to use od¨ + G:

nitko od nas none of us
jedan od nas one of us
netko od nas somebody of us
neki od nas some of us
mnogi od nas many of us
svatko od nas each of us
nekoliko nas several of us
mnogo nas many of us
dosta nas quite a few of us
puno nas a lot of us
svi mi all of us

Of course, you can use the pronoun oni and so on. The rule is: pronoun-like words require od¨ + G, adverbs just G, while svi behaves like an adjective in such expressions, and both words change.

5 Easy Croatian: 68 Counting Children, Brothers and Us N A  DL  G 24 I So far we have learned cardinal numbers ( one , two ), ordinal numbers ( first , second ), fractional numbers ...

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