12 Simple Conversations

  You can also read this chapter in French, Spanish or Finnish.

Let’s see how a simple conversation looks in Croatian. First, when you meet someone, enter a shop, etc. you should greet people. The formal greetings are:

dobro jutro  ▶  good morning
dobar dan  ▶  good day/afternoon
dobra večer  ▶  good evening ®

The noun večer f evening is a feminine noun ending in a consonant, so the feminine form of adjective should be used. (You will also often hear a slightly corrupted form dobar večer, dobro večer, and other worn out variants; in Dalmatia, you’ll often hear dobro veče.)

The informal greetings vary. The most common ones are:

bok  ▶  (Zagreb, Northwestern Croatia) ®
ćao (coast, other areas)
ej (Dalmatia, other areas)

Warning. These words are not colloquial: they are informal, i.e. used among friends and in the family. You cannot enter a random shop and address people working there with bok. You can use informal words only with people you’re close with.

The conversation would proceed depending on the level of familiarity. For example, you can greet your grandmother with a formal dobar dan, but proceed in the familiar mode.

Croatian has two second person forms of the verb and two pronouns: one for (familiar) singular and another for plural. The forms are easily obtained from the pres-3; the forms for the verb biti (je² +) are listed as well:

pres-2 pres-2pl
regular verbs -te
biti (je² +) be si² ste²

For example:

Čekaš vlak.  ▶  You’re waiting for the train. (one person)

Čekate vlak.  ▶  You’re waiting for the train. (a group, or with respect)

When you are talking formally to persons you don’t know very well, to your superiors, etc., you should address them in plural, as if you were talking to a group.

You can then ask about how is someone doing. This is a real question, not just formal as English how do you do:

Kako si?  ▶  (fam.) Kako ste?  ▶  (resp./group)

(Colloquially, you’ll often hear other questions with this meaning, e.g. šta ima, kako ide, di si etc., depending on the region.) You can answer with e.g.:

Dobro, hvala. Fine, thank you.

Since the word hvala is very common in speech, it’s often simplified to fala.

It’s common to ask about family and close persons; the usual way is:

Kako je … (N) ? How is … doing?

This is quite simple, since you don’t have to do anything with the name of person you are asking about – the nominative, default case is used. You can answer with a short sentence, giving just the most important information, or a whole story:

Kako je Damir? How is Damir doing?

— Dobro je. He/she’s fine.

— Bolestan je. He’s sick.

— Ne znam. I don’t know.

To ask back (after you have answered) you have to use personal pronouns (I will explain them fully in the next chapter):

Kako si ti?  ▶  (fam.) Kako ste Vi?  ▶  (resp./group)

Why do you have to use personal pronouns now? It’s mandatory when you switch the subject, and someone else becomes the subject. It’s also common to start such back questions with A kako… (actually, the word a emphasizes the change of topic).

English has only one pronoun for both meanings – you – and verb forms are always the same. However, English once had such a difference, but it was lost. Southern US varieties have now colloquially you (singular) vs. y’all (plural). It’s important to remember that Croatian vi is used also to address single people you respect or you’re not familiar with, while ti is used only for individuals you’re close with.

You can use the word kako to ask about someone’s name. The sentence uses the same grammar as French, Italian or Spanish, and it’s actually simpler – se² is always used:

(French)Comment t’appelles-tu?      lit.
How do you call yourself?
(Italian)Come ti chiami?
(Spanish)¿Cómo te llamas?
Kako se zovešzvati?

All sentences above are informal, of course: you would use them with e.g. children. For adults you’re not familiar with – and you wouldn’t ask for their name if you were familiar with them – you need plural: kako se zovetezvati.

You can comment how somebody looks. The most common way is to use the verb:

izgledati (izgleda) appear, seem, look

This verb has – only in the Standard scheme – a different syllable stressed in the present compared to the infinitive: one syllable to the left. Actually, such shift in the present tense happens to many verbs, about 13% of verbs listed in the Core Dictionary.

Since it would be too much to list all pres-3 forms that differ from infinitives just by a stress mark, I’ve invented the following shorthand notation: instead of writing a completely regular pres-3 form with just a shifted Standard stress, I’ll simply write the symbol «:

Shorthand for Standard stress shift
instead of izgledati (izgleda)
I’ll write just izgledati («)

That symbol means: in the Standard scheme, the stress moves one syllable left in the present tense forms, compared to infinitive. In the ‘western’ scheme, the stress does not move (I personally pronounce it on the same syllable in both inf and pres-3).

Therefore, I’ll list such verbs simply as:

izgledati («) appear, seem, look

The verb izgledati («) is used with adverbs or adjectives in neuter singular (they are quite similar in Croatian anyway). For example:

Izgledaš odlično. You look great. (fam.)

More adverbs that are commonly used with this verb are super (colloq.) great, lijepo nice and umorno tired.

If you are asking someone to give you something, you should use the verb moliti kindly ask (which covers English meaning please):

Molim te (fam.) Molim Vas (resp./group)

After that, a word in accusative should be used, e.g.:

čašu vode a glass of water
jedan čaj a cup of tea
jednu kavu a cup of coffee
jedan sendvič a sandwich
kartu za vlak a train ticket
kartu za Zadar a ticket to Zadar

(I listed words and phrases in A, for convenience; some of them use grammar features that will be explained a bit later. Also, forms te and Vas above are accusatives of ti and Vi; they will be explained in the next chapter.)

When you are introduced to someone, you can say:

Drago mi je.  ▶  I’m glad (to meet you).

When you are in company, and the others are about to start eating, you can say:

Dobar tek. (like French bon appétit) ®

If you are giving a thing to someone (a gift, whatever) you should use one of the following words:

Izvoli.  ▶  (fam.) Izvolite.  ▶  (resp./group)

The word izvolite also means how can I help you. For instance, if you come to a bank, a clerk will use the word to ask you what he or she can do for you. The same word will be used by a waiter in a bar, restaurant, etc.

If you are given something, you should respond with:

Hvala.  ▶  Thank you.

It’s often strengthened and made even more polite with lijepo (sometimes lijepa) or a bit more colloquially, puno:

Hvala lijepo.  ▶  Thank you. (politely)

If you want to say that someone is welcome, use the following expressions (they depend on the gender of the person you’re talking to, unless you’re talking formally or to a group:

Dobro došao. (to a male you’re familiar with)
Dobro došla. (to a female you’re familiar with)
Dobro došli. (to someone you aren’t familiar with, or to a group)

(The words došao, etc. are adjective-like forms of the verb, which are otherwise used to form the past tense; it will be explained a bit later.)

If you want to express where someone is welcome to, use destinations, i.e. u¨ / na¨ + A (English uses to, i.e. destinations as well):

Dobro došli u Hrvatsku! Welcome to Croatia! (to a group / not fam.)

You will often see the two words are spelled together, e.g. dobrodošao and like.

When leaving, you can use the following farewells:

do viđenja  ▶  goodbye
laku noć good night

The farewell do viđenja – often spelled as doviđenja – is quite formal. The following expressions are a bit less formal:

vidimo se  ▶  see you
čujemo se (the same, but over the phone)
pozdrav bye

The following words are quite informal:

bok  ▶  (Zagreb, Northwest Croatia)
ćao (coast, other areas)
adio (Dalmatia, other areas)

(These geographical differences are not absolute, you will hear ćao occasionally from people in Zagreb, bok in Dalmatia, etc.)

If someone is not just leaving, but departing, that is, he or she will travel, you should always use:

sretan put  ▶  nice journey (French bon voyage)


® Instead of dobra večer, dobro veče is common in most parts of Bosnia and Serbia, and heard in Croatia as well; zdravo is a common greeting in these countries, and sometimes it’s heard in Croatia as well. The greeting ćao is very common in Serbia.

Instead of dobar tek, in Serbia and Bosnia usually prijatno is used, also heard in some parts of Croatia.

5 Easy Croatian: 12 Simple Conversations →   You can also read this chapter in French , Spanish or Finnish . Let’s see how a simple conversation looks in Croatian. F...

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