21 Origins

  You can also read this chapter in French.


We continue with uses of the genitive case (G), with more prepositions. There are several prepositions that indicate origins, where something or someone comes or came from – opposite to destinations.

The following two prepositions are opposites to u¨ + A and na¨ + A – they represent origin of motion:

iz¨ + G from, off (opposite to u¨ + A)
s¨ / sa¨ + G off of, from (opposite to na¨ + A)

If you express going to a destination with u¨ + A, you should use iz¨ + G for a motion in the opposite direction:

Goran ideići u školu. Goran is going to school.

Goran dolazi iz škole. Goran is coming from school.

This preposition is often used to express someone’s origins:

Josip je iz Rijeke. ‘Josip is from Rijeka.’ (i.e. born and raised there)

However, if you express a destination with na¨ + A, you must express the opposite direction with s¨ / sa¨ + G:

Idemići na posao. I’m going to work.

Idemići s posla. I’m going from work.

Odlazimo na plažu. We’re leaving for the beach.

Vraćamo se s plaže. We’re coming back from the beach.

This preposition has 2 forms: the longer form is used before words starting with s-, š-, z- or ž- (in colloquial Croatian, that rule is not always respected, you will hear and read sa¨ before other words as well).

If you’re now scratching your head, guessing how to pronounce s posla, the s¨ is normally pronounced with the following word, e.g. ‘sposla’, but always written separately.

(German has also two ‘from’ prepositions – von and aus; however, they are not really equivalent to Croatian ones; besides, they use the German Dative case. Croatian uses the genitive case much more often than German.)

English has another possibility – the preposition off, expressing simply that you’re not at some location. Croatian has no such preposition, you’ll have to use negation:

Nisam na poslu. I’m off work.

There’s yet another preposition used in a very similar meaning:

od¨ + G from

It’s used if you’re going from someone, actually from a location that’s described with kod¨ + G:

Ana odlazi od zubara. Ana is leaving the dentist’s office.

To ask where from something or someone goes/comes, just start a question with one of these two words:

odakle / otkud(a) where... from

As usual, nothing else except this word is needed, no change of word order:

Odakle si? Where are you from?

— Iz Rijeke. From Rijeka.

Odakle dolazi ta buka? Where is that noise coming from?

— S plaže. From the beach.

This table nicely summarizes three types of destinations, locations and origins, and the various question-words:

u¨ + A
u sobu
to the room
u¨ + DL
u sobi
in the room
iz¨ + G
iz sobe
from the room
na¨ + A
na plažu
to the beach
na¨ + DL
na plaži
at the beach
s¨ / sa¨ + G
s plaže
from the beach
to dentist’s
kod¨ + G
kod zubara
at dentist’s
od¨ + G
od zubara
from dentist’s
where... to?
where... ?
where... from?

You will hear quite often kod¨ + G used colloquially ® for destinations as well instead of just DL:

Ana ideići kod zubara. (colloq.) Ana going to the dentist’s.

There’s an often used adverb of space standing for a specific origin:

odavde from here

It’s always used to express that meaning, you cannot say "od ovdje".

Prepositions od¨ and do¨ are frequently used to indicate start and end points. They are also used to indicate when something starts and when ends, that is, origin and end in time:

Radim od osam do četiri. I work from 8 to 4.

The ‘endpoint’ prepositions are used for space too:

Vozim od Zagreba do Splita. I’m driving from Zagreb to Split.

On its own, do¨ with time translates as until:

Radim do jutra. I work until the morning.

With time adverbs, there are the following very often used combinations for time origins:

otkad(a) ‘since when‘, from what time
odsad(a) from now, now on
otad(a) from then
odavno since a long time ago
odnedavno recently (since a recent moment)

You will sometimes see the first three spelled separately – od kada, od sada, od tada – that’s not strictly standard in Croatian, but often used.®

The adverbs odavno and odnedavno have no exact English equivalents, but they are easy to understand – something started either a long time ago or a short time ago (of course, the ‘short time’ depends on the context).

The question-word otkad(a) has also no exact English equivalent: it’s used when we want to ask when something ongoing has started (such questions are much more precise than generic “how long”, so Croatian prefers them):

Otkada Goran spava? lit. ‘Since what time is Goran sleeping?’

— Od podneva. Since noon.

Here, we used the noun:

podne (podnev-) noon

It’s sometimes used as indeclinable, so you’ll hear also od podne.

There are matching time end points as well:

dokad(a) ‘until when’
dosad(a) until now
dotad(a) until then
donedavno until recently

(As for origins, the first three adverbs are sometimes spelled separately.) For example:

Odavno ne jedemjesti meso. I haven’t been eating meat ‘since long time ago’.

Dokad danas radiš? lit. ‘Until which time do you work today?’

— Do pet. Until 5 o’clock.

The adverb odavno points to a start point in time. The action or state might still be ongoing: Croatian uses the present tense then.

This is an important thing to remember: English expressions like I’ve been living here for a long time are expressed with the present tense in Croatian. Still ongoing = the present tense in Croatian.

The second sentence cannot be translated to English without rephrasing: it simply asks for the end point in time for raditi work... Even the first sentence sounds awkward for many English speakers – for a long time is preferred. Croatian, however, has a single word meaning “from a distant moment in the past”, so it’s often used.

There’s another, very frequent use of the preposition od¨ – to indicate material (understood broadly) something is made of. English uses nouns-as-adjectives frequently for that purpose, but Croatian does not. For example:

Ovo je sok od jabuke. This is apple juice.

Kuća je od kamena. The house is of stone.

There are two more very useful words (they can be used on their own, but also with nouns in G):

word+ Gon its own

The word poslije is an exception from the usual pronunciation rules: many people pronounce it pos-lje. Both words are very common:

Poslije plaže idemoići na večeru. After the beach, we’re going to supper.

Jedemjesti doručak prije posla. I eat breakfast before work.

Instead of poslije, the word nakon can be used, but it’s always used with a noun in G, while poslije can be used on its own:

Poslije idemoići na večeru. Later, we’re going to supper.

Note: these words don’t completely correspond to English before and after. I’ll explain the details later, in 49 For 7 Hours: Definite Periods.


® Use of kod¨ + G for destinations is standard in Serbia and Bosnia. Spelling od sada, as two words, is acceptable in Standard Serbian.

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