31 First, Second: Ordinals and Months

  You can also read this chapter in French.


We have just learned how to count things – at least up to 4 things. But there’s another way of counting, with words first, second etc. They are usually called ordinals or ordinal numbers, and behave as adjectives in Croatian. Their forms are:

1 prvi first
2 drugi second
3 treći third
4 četvrti fourth
5 peti fifth
6 šesti sixth
7 sedmi seventh
8 osmi eighth

Of course, the adjective drugi also means other.

For higher numbers, you should just add -i to them, if they consist of only one word:

17 sedamnaestsedamnaesti
40 četrdesetčetrdeseti

If a number consists of more than one word, just change the last word into the ordinal form; if a number is in a compact form (without the i) just change the last part:

31 trideset i jedantrideset i prvi
31 tridesetjedantridesetprvi

Pay attention that all ordinals are adjectives, i.e. they change case, gender and number when needed:

17th sedamnaesti (masc. N)
        sedamnaestom (masc. DL)
        sedamnaestu (fem. A) etc.

One thing the ordinal numbers are used for in Croatian is for dates. In Croatian, e.g. the year 1932 is understood as the ‘1932nd year’ or just the ‘thirty-second’ year.

In Croatian, when you want to say that something happened (or happens, or will happen) on a given day, month or year (expressed as a date), you should put the date in the genitive case.

Bilo je to trideset i druge (godine). lit. ‘It was in the 32nd (year).’ = It was in thirty-two.

Also, days in a month are referred to as the first, the second (the same is in English, but in the genitive case), and Croatian treats months in the same way: the first month (in a year), the second... ®. Normally people would just say:

Rođen sam petog osmog. ‘I am born on the fifth of the eighth.’ = I am born on the fifth of August. {m}

Of course, both petog and osmog are genitives of ordinal adjectives peti and osmi (in masc.), since it’s just short for petog dana and osmog mjeseca – and both dan and mjesec are masculine.

In the Croatian writing of numbers, ordinal numbers are abbreviated to just number + a period, so it’s usually written:

Rođen sam 5. 8.

This is the word used to describe a specific date:

datum date

If you want to talk about a date related to an event, you add the event in the genitive case:

datum rođenja date of birth

To say that something happened/happens sometime in a given month, use u¨ + DL:

Rođen sam u osmom mjesecu. I’m born in August. {m}

The word mjesec is sometimes abbreviated as mj.; colloquially, even mjesec month can be left out:®

Idemoići na more u sedmom. We’re going to seaside in July. ®

There are also names of months in Croatian, but they are mostly used in formal writing, books, etc.; they are normally not capitalized (similar to days of week):®

1 siječanj (siječnj-) January
2 veljača February
3 ožujak (ožujk-) March
4 travanj (travnj-) April
5 svibanj (svibnj-) May
6 lipanj (lipnj-) June
7 srpanj (srpnj-) July
8 kolovoz August
9 rujan (rujn-) September
10 listopad October
11 studeni (adj.) November
12 prosinac (prosinc-) December

Of course, they must be also put to genitive when used in the above meaning (when something happened/happens):

Rođen sam petog kolovoza. (formal) I am born on the fifth of August. {m}

Rođen sam u kolovozu. (formal) I am born in August. {m}

When the date is the subject, the first word should be in nominative, but the rest of the date must stay in the genitive case, since you are actually talking about the Xth day of some month of some year and all those of’s correspond to the Croatian genitive case:

Peti kolovoza je bio vruć. (formal) The fifth of August was hot.

Again, the expression above is actually about peti dan the fifth day – therefore, the past form is in masculine.

This table summarizes the 4 temporal expressions we’ve covered so far expressing when something happened or is going to happen:

used for example
u¨ + A time of day at noon
u podne
day of week on Saturday
u subotu
u¨ + DL month in June
u šestom (mjesecu)
u lipnju (formal) ®
G date on April 5th
petog četvrtog (colloq.)
petog travnja (formal) ®
(usually 5. for petog)

If you want to talk about decades (i.e. the seventies) you can simply use ordinal adjectives in feminine plural (since you’re really talking about godine years, and it’s feminine plural).

Sedamdesete su bile davno. The seventies were long ago.

If a decade is the subject, as above, the verb goes into plural, and past forms and adjectives are feminine, as expected. Decades are often written as a combination of a number and a case ending, connected by a hyphen:

70-e su bile davno. The 70’s were long ago.

Another very frequent use of ordinal numbers is talking about levels in a building. Croatian uses the same scheme as British English – the floor above the ground level is the first floor:

drugi katthe second floor ®
prvi katthe first floor
prizemljethe ground floor

The word kat ® means only storey, level in a bulding, not surface you walk on (the other meaning of English floor). For surfaces, the word pod is used.

If you use only na katu (or direction na kat), the first floor is assumed:

Kupaonica je na katu. The bathroom is on the first floor. ®

For prizemlje and podrum, you should use the preposition u¨; for all levels above, the preposition na¨ is used:

Kutija je u podrumu. The box is in the basement.

Ured je na drugom katu. The office is on the second floor. ®

Igračke su na tavanu. The toys are in the attic.

For attic, there are two terms: potkrovlje is more formal.

The adjective prvi is often used in spatial arrangements, when English usually uses front instead:

prvi red front row (lit. ‘first row’)
prva crta front line (lit. ‘first line’)

When you have two (or more) things of the same type having different ordinals (two floors, two months) you would naturally link them with i¨ and. Then, something interesting happens: the noun comes in singular:

Prvi i drugi kat su prazni. The first and the second floors are empty. (lit. ‘the first and the second floor’)

Sedmi i osmi mjesec su vrući. July and August are hot.

If you have two or more things of the same type, distinguished by an ordinal (or some other defining adjective), when you omit all nouns except the last, the last noun doesn’t go to plural automatically in Croatian.

The whole thing, of course, behaves like plural, so the verb and the adjective in the descriptions above are in plural (prazni, etc.).

There’s one instance when ordinals are used less than in English: when you just enumerate things in no particular order, e.g. when you talk about your sisters:

Imam tri sestre. I have three sisters.

Jedna radi u banci. One works in a bank.

Druga studira. Another is in university.

Treća je još u školi. The third one is still in school.

The first word is just an numeral adjective (used as a pronoun). The second one means both another and second. After it, there’s no other option but to use ordinal adjectives. The point is: there’s no first sister. But there’s the third one. You’ll find out that native speakers prefer also speaking about one son and the other one, rather than about the first son and the second one, and so on. You should use the ordinal prvi first only when you want really to say that someone or somebody is at the first position. After it, it doesn’t matter, since there’s no difference in Croatian.

The opposites of prvi first are:


(The adjective posljednji is a bit more formal.) An example for zadnji:

Ana živi na zadnjem katu. Ana lives on the top floor. (lit. ‘last floor’)

While in English, you can just use first as an adverb (e.g. first, you mix flour with eggs...), in Croatian you must use its ‘adverbial’ form, that is, neuter singular prvo. Instead of posljednje, the form na kraju is used in meaning finally.

However, in English, finally can also mean after so much time, after a long wait and so on, like in we’re finally done. In that meaning, Croatian uses another word:

konačno finally (after a long time)
na kraju finally (as the last step)

This corresponds to Spanish por fin (konačno) vs. finalmente (na kraju).


® In Serbia, ordinal numbers are usually not used for months (except when reading dates written as numbers); specific names – different than Croatian – are used even in the colloquial speech:

1 januar January
2 februar February
3 mart March
4 april April
5 maj May
6 jun / juni June
7 jul / juli July
8 avgust August
9 septembar (septembr-) September
10 oktobar (oktobr-) October
11 novembar (novembr-) November
12 decembar (decembr-) December

As you can see, these names are similar to the English names. Those names also prevail in Bosnia and Montenegro, and are sometimes used in Croatia too. Ordinal numbers for months are infrequent in Bosnia and sometimes used in Montenegro.

The following words are less often used in Serbia and Bosnia (words more common there are listed on the right side of arrows):


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