88 Weird Words and Constructions

There are a few details in Croatian which don’t really fit into the overall scheme of things.

First, there’s a phrase which can be used to express color. It uses a color adjective before the noun boja color, but both are the genitive case (singular):

Majica je crvene boje. lit. The T-shirt is ‘of red color’.

Hlače su plave boje. lit. The trousers are ‘of blue color’.

Such expressions are old-fashioned and mostly obsolete. However, they are used in questions, i.e. when you ask what color is something. The answer would be just a color adjective, but in genitive singular (feminine, after boja color):

Koje boje je majica? What color is the T-shirt?

— Crvene. (G fem.) Red.

— Crvena. (N fem.) Red.

Koje boje je auto? What color is the car?

— Crne. (G fem.) Black.

— Crni. (N masc.) Black.

Alternatively, you can answer with an adjective in nominative, matching gender of the thing the question is about, as in the examples above.

This reminds of English expressions like men of honor, book of great importance, and so on. In fact, you will occasionally see more or less the same expressions in Croatian, using od¨ + G:

Knjiga je od velike važnosti. The book is of great importance.

Then, there are expressions – often overlooked in grammars and textbooks – when two nouns are used together, e.g. king George or Hotel California. The last noun is a proper noun, i.e. a name (e.g. California), and a common noun before it describes its title (e.g. king) or kind (e.g. hotel).

Croatian uses such expressions more often than English, e.g. in names of rivers, lakes, cities and countries:

rijeka Sava the Sava river (lit. ‘river Sava’)
jezero Jarun the Jarun lake (lit. ‘lake Jarun’)
Grad Zagreb the City of Zagreb (lit. ‘City Zagreb’)
Republika Hrvatska the Republic of Croatia

Now, in some of these expressions, both nouns change case, and in others, the last word (the name) is ‘frozen’ in N.

If nouns stand for a person (or an animal, as Croatian almost always treats humans as a kind of animal), both nouns always change (examples show the accusative case):

moj prijatelj Igor my friend Igormog prijatelja Igora
teta Ana aunt Anatetu Anu

This also applies to the following nouns:

grad city rijeka river

For example (u¨ + DL):

grad Rijeka the City of Rijekau gradu Rijeci
grad Split the City of Splitu gradu Splitu
rijeka Drava the Drava riveru rijeci Dravi

Since a great majority of rivers have feminine names in Croatian, use of rijeka river with masculine names of rivers is avoided. (Croatian so strongly prefers feminine river names, that even names like the Thames and the Rhine are adapted as feminine Temza and Rajna). You will mostly see ‘frozen’ masc. names of rivers, e.g. u rijeci Dunav:

rijeka Dunav the Danube river → (?) u rijeci Dunavu

After most other nouns, only feminine names can change, but it’s optional – names are usually not changed. Often used nouns are:

hotel hotel
jezero lake
kazalište theater ®
općina municipality ®

For example (again u¨ + DL):

hotel Panoramau hotelu Panorama / u hotelu Panorami
kazalište Komedijau kazalištu Komedija / u kazalištu Komediji

You will see changed feminine names now and then. However, masculine names are always ‘frozen’:

hotel Westinu hotelu Westin
jezero Jarunu jezeru Jarun
kazalište Kerempuhu kazalištu Kerempuh

Bear in mind that ‘freezing’ happens only of a general noun is before the name, if the name is on it’s own, it of course always changes, e.g. u Westinu, u Jarunu, etc.

Occasionally, you’ll see a kind of reversal of the structure described above, where a proper noun (i.e. a name) describes a common noun; an example is this tube of mayonnaise:

Such combinations appear as a kind of indeclinable adjective + a noun, in writing and in speech, where the word majoneza mayonnaise ® is in A, but the name preceding it is not:

Voliš Zvijezda majonezu? Do you like Zvijezda mayonnaise?

(The last sentence is an example from the internet, promoting the product.)

We continue with more ‘weird’ things: end-stressed nouns ®. There’s a number of nouns – all loanwords, that is, words taken from other languages – that end on a stressed vowel (other than a). Despite the ending, they are all masculine, and the end vowel is never dropped – case endings are simply attached to it. Examples are:

file filetu fileu
kanu canoeu kanuu
separe restoran boothu separeu

The two consecutive vowels are pronounced separately, e.g. DL kanuu is pronounced as three syllables: ka-nu-u.

(the rest is coming soon)

® Instead of kazalište, the word pozorište in used Serbia and common in Bosnia; the word opština is used in Serbia and parts of Bosnia, instead of općina.

In Serbia and parts of Bosnia, majonez is used instead of majoneza.

In some regions, and in parts of Serbia and Bosnia, words like kanu etc. are not stressed on the last syllable. There’s a lot of variation among speakers from various regions.

5 Easy Croatian: 88 Weird Words and Constructions There are a few details in Croatian which don’t really fit into the overall scheme of things. First, there’s a phrase which can be used to...

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