A5 Word Order

The word order consists of two 'components':

  • mandatory order
  • non-mandatory order

Words that have mandatory order cannot be tweaked to emphasize something or carry some information; words with non-mandatory order can be.

Non-mandatory order

The default order in sentences like Ana is watching TV is the same as in English (SVO):

Ana gleda televiziju.

In sentences of type X is PLACE, there are two equally used word orders:

  • when PLACE is first, it's about PLACE and a something new (X) was introduced;
  • when X is first, it's about X, which is something already known.

This roughly corresponds to definiteness:

Pismo je na stolu. The letter is on the table.

Na stolu je pismo. A letter is on the table. / There's a letter on the table.

This also holds for the verb nalazi se² is found, is placed.

The same holds for sentences of type subject + verb (SV). The subject comes first if it's something known, and comes after the verb if it's a new thing introduced:

Film počinje.The movie is starting.

Počinje film.A movie is starting.

However, the word order can be changed as well to emphasize something.

The default order of nouns with adjectives is possessive adjective - adjective - noun:

tvoja plava košulja your blue shirt

moja ljubav my love

In poetry and songs, the order can be changed:

tvoja košulja plava

ljubav moja

In the vocative case, the default order of nouns and adjectives is reversed:

ljubavi moja! o my love!

The default order or nouns with genitive attribute is noun - noun in G; it's very rarely tweaked in poetry and songs:

kraj filma end of the movie

With counting, the most common order is possessive adjective - number - adjective - noun:

moje dvije crvene jabuke my two red apples

Mandatory order: enclitics

All second-position words come always in predefined order, in one block:

bih², bi², bismo², biste² (conditional verb)
sam², si², smo², ste², su² (all except je²)
ću², ćeš², ćemo², ćete²
mi², ti²,... (pronouns in DL)
me², te²,... (pronouns in A and G)
je² (usually left out if se² is present)

Before second-position word, there's one or more words in the "first position". Words like i¨, ni¨ and a¨ (which all translate as and), prepositions (e.g. u¨, na¨, pod¨, etc.) and the negative particle ne¨ don't "count", and cannot fill the first position on their own:

Gladan sam. I'm hungry.

I ja sam gladan. I'm hungry too.

Two or more words that count, if they form a phrase, can together occupy the first position:

Moj prijatelj je ovdje. My friend is here.

Standard Croatian manuals often suggest breaking down such phrases and placing the second-position words mechanically; this is very rare in speech (except on Public Radio and TV):

Moj je prijatelj ovdje. (the same meaning; rare)

Clauses have their own second position; if they start with a conjunction (e.g. jer in the following example), any second-position words come right after it:

Trava¹ je² mokra [jer¹ je² padala kiša]. The grass is wet because it has rained.

(the rest is coming soon)...

5 Easy Croatian: A5 Word Order The word order consists of two 'components': mandatory order non-mandatory order Words that have mandatory order cannot be tw...

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