26 Yes or No?

  You can also read this chapter in French.


The simplest questions are those where one just answers with a yes or no. Such short answers are, by the way, acceptable in Croatian. In the Standard Croatian, the recipe for such simple questions is quite simple: move the verb to the beginning, if it isn’t already there, and then insert a particle li² to the second position (before all other second-position words):

Idešići u školu.  ▶  You’re going to school.

Idešići li u školu?  ▶  Are you going to the school?

— Da. Yes. / Idemići. I’m going.

— Ne. No. / — Ne idemići. I’m not going.

If the verb in a sentence is present form of the verb biti be (that is, je², sam², etc.) the verb cannot be simply put to the beginning, since it must be in the second position!

Therefore, there are extended (or stressed) forms of the present of the verb biti (je² +), used when the verb must be the first word in a sentence. The forms are:

pers.sing. plur.
1st jesam jesmo
2nd jesi jeste
3rd je jesu

They are quite simple: just add je- to the beginning of usual forms, and you have the forms you need! Again, je² is an exception – it looks exactly the same in its normal and extended form. We can then ask:

Gladni ste. You’re hungry. (to a group/someone you respect)

Jeste li gladni? Are you hungry?

— Da. Yes. / — Jesmo. We are.

— Ne. No. / — Nismo. We aren’t.

Je li žedna? Is she thirsty?

— Da. Yes. / — Je. She is. ®

— Ne. No. / — Nije. She isn’t.

— Možda. Maybe.

— Ne znam. I don’t know.

As you can see, you can answer with either da or ne or with the verb in its extended form. There are no special extended/stressed negative forms – the usual negative forms of biti (je² +) are already stressed.

Note also how she is implied by the feminine form of the adjective (žedna).

Now for the past tense. The past tense is made from two words, but for purpose of making questions, the auxiliary verb – the present tense of biti (je² +) be – is the important word. Grammatically, the past form behaves like a kind of adjective and has no role in making questions. Therefore, we need to move the auxiliary (je², sam², and so on):

Gledala si film. You watched the movie. {to f}

Jesi li gledala film?  ▶  Did you watch the movie? {to f}

— Da. Yes. / — Jesam. I did.

— Ne. No. / — Nisam. I didn’t.

If je² is left out due to se², it must reappear in questions:

Bojao se. He was afraid.

Je li se bojao? Was he afraid?

Everything described so far was in the Standard Croatian. Colloquially, you will also hear and often read other ways of making such questions. The first one, is to just put da li to the front, nothing else is changed, no verbs are moved, the present forms of biti (je² +) don’t get extended, etc:

Da li idešići u školu?  ▶  (colloq.) Are you going to the school?

Da li ste gladni?  ▶  (colloq.) Are you hungry?

Da li si gledala film? (colloq.) Did you watch the movie? {to f}

Da li se bojao? (colloq.) Was he afraid?

I used the abbreviation (colloq.) to remind you that these are colloquial sentences in Croatian ®.

This way of forming questions is heard in speech, e.g. you can hear it on TV from members of the Croatian government, but for some weird reasons, it’s often avoided in writing.

You will sometimes hear and read questions with these two words contracted to dal, or spelled together as dali.

There are more ways, which are much more common in colloquial speech.

The first way is to use the standard way, but without li:

Jesi gledala film? (colloq.) Did you watch the movie? {to f}

Yet another quite colloquial way is to put je li to the front, frequently contracted to just jel (also spelled as je l, je l’):

Jel idešići u školu?  ▶  (colloq.) Are you going to the school?

Jel ste gladni? (colloq.) Are you hungry? (to someone you respect/group)

Jel si gledala film? (colloq.) Did you watch the movie? {to f}

Jel se bojao? (colloq.) Was he afraid?

Also, colloquially, it’s possible to turn normal sentences into a question just by changing their intonation – sentences end on a higher tone, and are spoken faster – no rearrangement of any kind is needed:

Idešići u školu?  ▶  (colloq.)

Gledala si film? (colloq.)

Bojao se? (colloq.)

However, with just the present forms of biti (je² +), there are questions like this often heard:

Jeste gladni?  ▶  (colloq.)

This table sums up this type of questions:

Ways to ask Are you sleeping? in Croatian
form example status
verb + li... Spavaš li? standard, not
frequent in speech
Da li... Da li spavaš? a bit colloquial,®
used sometimes in speech
Je li...
Jel... / Je l'...
Dal.... / Da l'...
Je li spavaš?
Jel spavaš?
Dal spavaš?
quite colloquial,
very common
in speech
Only intonation Spavaš?

All the ways of making questions described above are used in real life, unlike some formal terms that actually nobody uses (e.g. formal hladnjak vs. colloq. frižider fridge). For example, here are some statistics (by Google™ search) from the Croatian discussion site, forum.hr:

jesi li gledala 3280
da li si gledala 1420
jesi gledala 11800

There’s another, special type of questions, asking for advice or an opinion. In English, such questions begin with Should I... or something like it. In Standard Croatian, you can start such questions with da li da + present, but that works for the present tense only:

Da li da gledam taj film? Should I watch that movie?

In the past tense, you have to use the verb trebati need/should + verb in infinitive; questions follow the same pattern as any other yes/no question:

Jesam li trebala gledati taj film? Should I have watched that movie? {f}

(How to use trebati need/should will be explained a bit later.)

Colloquially, da li is very often left out in such opinion questions, and you’ll most of the time hear and see just:

Da gledam taj film? (colloq.) Should I watch that movie?

Sometimes you’ll hear jel instead of da li even in opinion questions:

Jel da gledam taj film? (colloq.) Should I watch that movie?

Such opinion questions are often answered with conditionals and imperatives – verb forms I haven’t introduced yet. Be patient.


® In Serbia and parts of Bosnia, affirmative answers using the verb biti (je² +) be in the 3rd person can be also jeste (besides je). However, this additional stressed form is not used when forming questions – it’s used only in answers and sometimes in regular sentences, meaning roughly is really.

The way of making questions using da li... is considered standard in Bosnia and Serbia, and it’s often considered (or was often considered) standard in Croatia as well.

↓ Something Possibly Interesting (click to show)

↓ Examples (click to show)

↓ Exercise (click to show)

5 Easy Croatian: 26 Yes or No? →   You can also read this chapter in French . N A  DL  G The simplest questions are those where one just answers with...

↓ 17 comments (click to show)