17 In Cold Scotland: Adjectives in Dative/Locative

  You can also read this chapter in French.


If we want to use adjectives with nouns in dative/locative (DL), we must put them to the DL form as well. Their endings are quite simple, but really different from the noun endings:

gender adj. DLexample
fem. -oj velikoj ribi
big fish
neut. -om
(some -em)
velikom jezeru
big lake
masc. velikom zidu
big wall

As I wrote before – there’s no difference between the two masculine genders (one for people and animals, one for others) – it applies to accusative only. Actually, in most cases (N and A are exceptions), there are only two forms of adjectives: one for feminine gender, another for all others. So, adjective forms are much simpler than they could be: again, you need to remember only two endings.

For example:

Ivan živi u maloj kući. Ivan lives in a small house.

Ana živi u velikom stanu. Ana lives in a big apartment.

The ending -em applies to adjectives that end in a Croatian-specific letter, in exactly the same way as in the accusative case, and neuter nominative.

As in other cases of adjectives, you’ll see sometimes, in writing, longer endings: -omu, -ome and -emu.®

The ending -oj is very specific for fem. DL: if you see it on an adjective, you can be quite sure that it – and the nouns following it – are in DL. Of course, there are few nouns that end in -oj in N (e.g. broj number, stroj machine, etc.)

Like in A, the possessive moj my, besides the expected form mojem in the masc. and neut., has a shortened form mom, which is much more frequent, without any difference in meaning.

Bus and train stations and stops are frequently used locations: terms for them in Croatian combine an adjective (sometimes left out if it’s obvious what kind of station it is) and a noun:

autobusniʷ¹ adj. bus ®
željeznički adj. train
kolodvor station, terminal ®
stanica stop

They are always used with the preposition na¨. For instance:

Čekamo na autobusnomʷ¹ kolodvoru. We’re waiting at the bus station.

The train terminal in Zagreb is called Glavni kolodvor (Main station, again adj. + noun), and a tram stop is tramvajska stanica. Instead of stanica, the word postaja is sometimes used, especially in official announcements.

We can finally solve the mystery of how to say in Croatia in Croatian! The problem is that the word Hrvatska is really an adjective. It’s used as a country name, but it still changes like an adjective (put to the feminine gender). Therefore, we should say:

Ana živi u Hrvatskoj. Ana lives in Croatia.

Some other countries that have a name that’s really a (feminine) adjective are:

Češka Czech Republic
Engleska England
Francuska France
Grčka Greece
Irska Ireland
Mađarska Hungary ®
Nizozemska Netherlands ®
Njemačka Germany
Poljska Poland
Španjolska Spain ®
Švedska Sweden
Švicarska Switzerland ®

From this list, we can get a simple rule:

All country names that end in either -ska, -čka or -ška, like Škotska Scotland, Slovačka Slovakia and Norveška Norway change as feminine adjectives.

For instance:

Madrid je u Španjolskoj. Madrid is in Spain.

Of course, if we put an adjective before a country name that is really an adjective, both words change like an adjective:

Živim u hladnoj Škotskoj. I live in cold Scotland.

The adjective is feminine because the noun (I mean... the adjective-used-as-a-country-name) Škotska Scotland is feminine, and it’s feminine because it (like all other adjectives-used-as-country-names) ends in -a.

Such adjectives-used-as-country-names are historically just shortened forms of e.g. poljska zemlja Polish country. And that’s the reason why all such country names are feminine – the noun zemlja country/ground was left out long ago, but the gender has remained.

Not all countries have such names, many behave as normal nouns, which can be either feminine (if ending in -a) or masculine inanimate (otherwise):

Bosna Bosnia
Brazil (») Brazil
Italija Italy
Kina China
Rusija Russia
Srbija Serbia

It’s interesting that country names in Croatian cannot be neuter; even names like Čile Chile and Monako Monaco are masculine inanimate.

Certain place names in Croatia and neighboring countries behave like adjectives, e.g.:

Makarska → DL Makarskoj
Novi Vinodolski → DL Novom Vinodolskom

Occasionally, a name can consist of two adjectives (e.g. the seaside town Novi Vinodolski above).

Some countries (and cities!) have names that consist of an adjective + a noun. Each will get specific endings. Such names are e.g. Crna Gora Montenegro and Velika Gorica, a city next to Zagreb:

Ivana je u Velikoj Gorici. Ivana is in Velika Gorica.

Predrag živi u Crnoj Gori. Predrag lives in Montenegro.

Names of lakes, seas and oceans in Croatian are also often made of an adjective and a noun:

Jadransko more Adriatic Seau Jadranskom moru

Atlantski ocean Atlantic Oceanu Atlantskom oceanu ®

There are more nouns in Croatian that are (historically) adjectives and therefore change as adjectives. For example, the name of the month of November in Croatian changes as an adjective. To inform you about it, I will indicate such behavior with (adj.) after the noun:

studeni (adj.) November ®

Another very frequent use of nouns-that-are-actually-adjectives are names of languages. The full name of a language is e.g.:

engleski jezik the English language
talijanskiʷ¹ jezik the Italian language

They are very often shortened just to adjectives (e.g. engleski, talijanskiʷ¹) which keep the gender of the noun jezikmasculine inanimate. Such adjectives that stand for countries of origin and languages are:

češki Czech
engleski English
francuski French
hrvatski Croatian
njemački German
ruski Russian
srpski Serbian
španjolski Spanish ®
švedski Swedish
talijanskiʷ¹ Italian

If you compare them to the country names above, you can verify that the country names are actually just feminine versions of these adjectives. For a comprehensive list of country names and associated adjectives, check L2 Countries and Nationalities.

To say that something is in some language, you should use na¨ + adjective in masc. DL:

Knjiga je na njemačkom. The book is in German.

If you want to ask how to say some word on some other language (including Croatian) you should use a sentence like this:

Kako se kaže „carrot” na hrvatskom?

(Such sentences exactly correspond to Italian come si dice and Spanish cómo se dice, so you will find another similarity to those languages.)

If you want to say that you speak or don’t speak a language, you should use the verb znati know:

Učim hrvatski. I’m learning Croatian.

Znam engleski. I ‘know’ English. (= I speak)

Ana ne zna ruski. Ana doesn’t ‘know’ Russian. (= doesn’t speak)

(I hope you remember that this verb shifts the stress to ne¨ in both Standard and ‘western’ stress scheme.)

Adjectives in the three sentences above were in the accusative case; it’s here identical to the nominative, since the noun jezik is a masculine inanimate noun, i.e. not standing for an animal or people (parts of people don’t count!) so it has accusative identical to the nominative case.

Adjectives listed above can be used anywhere where you want to express that something belongs or originates from a country, e.g.:

Amélie je francuski film. Amélie is a French movie.

Adjectives like njemački are often used with the preposition na¨, to mean language lessons: either as directions (going to) or locations (attending):

Goran je na engleskom. Goran is in the English class/lesson.

Sutra idemići na engleski. I’m going to the English class/lesson tomorrow.

The usual distinction of na¨ + A vs. na¨ + DL applies, of course, and adjectives are in the masculine inanimate gender.

However, such adjectives cannot be used on their own to describe persons, you cannot use the word hrvatski for people (e.g. for Croat, or Croatian, a person from Croatia)! Croatian uses specific nouns for that. Here are just ones for Croat, Bosnian and Serb; as you maybe expect, there are specific words for males and females:

male female
Croat Hrvat (») Hrvatica
Bosnian Bosanac (Bosanc-) Bosanka
Serb Srbin Srpkinja

For a comprehensive list of names of persons of various nationalities, check L2 Countries and Nationalities.


® Such longer endings of adjectives are extremely rare in Serbia and Bosnia.

Instead of autobusniʷ¹, a slightly different adjective is used in Serbia: autobuski. Both forms are used in Bosnia.

The word kolodvor is specific to Croatia: in Bosnia and Serbia, just stanica is used.

Instead of ocean (»), a slightly different word okean (») is used in Serbia and most of Bosnia (note that Croatian c is a completely different sound than k).

The word studeni (adj.) for the month of November is used only in Croatia (rarely in Bosnia).

You’ll occassionally see an alternative spelling Madžarska, instead of Mađarska.

Instead of Nizozemska, Španjolska and Švicarska, words Holandija, Španija and Švajcarska are used in Serbia and most of Bosnia, and the first two words behave as normal nouns; instead of španjolski, adjective španski prevails there.

↓ Examples (click to show)

↓ Exercise (click to show)

5 Easy Croatian: 17 In Cold Scotland: Adjectives in Dative/Locative →   You can also read this chapter in French . N A  DL  If we want to use adjectives with nouns in dative/locative (DL), ...

↓ 13 comments (click to show)