36 Dative/Locative and Instrumental Plural

  You can also read this chapter in French.


We know now how to form the nominative plural of nouns, and how to form the accusative in plural, but we still don’t know how to make the dative/locative plural (DL-pl) or the plural of the case we introduced in the previous chapter, the instrumental case.

Both cases are quite simple to form, and they are always equal in plural ®. Nouns get the following endings:

noun type (N) DLI-pl
nouns in -a (≈ fem.) -a-ama
neuter nouns (≈ in -o, -e) -o, -e-ima
masc. nouns not in -a N-pl + ma
fem. not in -a (e.g. noć) N-pl + ma

As you can see, all nouns end in either -ama or -ima in DLI-pl. There are no additional sound changes in this case: if you know how to make N-pl, you know how to make these two cases as well!

For example:

Putujemoputovati rođacima. We’re traveling to our relatives.

Ptice sjede na granama. Birds are sitting on branches.

In the following example you’ll see how DL = I in plural:

Pišempisati poruku prijateljima. I’m writing a message to my friends.

U kinu sam s prijateljima. I’m in the movie theater with my friends. ®

Of course, we must be able to put adjectives into DLI-pl as well. It’s simpler than you probably would expect:

gender adj. DLI-pl example
fem. -im velikim ribama
big fishes
neut. velikim jezerima
big lakes
masc. velikim stolovima
big tables

What about pronouns? We have already seen DL case of personal pronouns, both in singular and in plural, and instrumental case in singular. The instrumental case in plural is identical to the DL-pl forms, but only stressed forms are used – there are no unstressed forms of instrumental. Pronouns tko (k-) who and što (č-) what have singular forms only anyway.

Something quite special happens with adjectives used as nouns or pronouns. For example, the ‘noun’ mladi m pl. (adj.) is actually an adjective, short for mladi ljudi young people or the young. Look what happens when it’s used in DLI-pl:

Na mladim ljudima svijet ostajeostajati. The world is left to the young people.

Na mladima svijet ostajeostajati. (the same meaning)

The verb ostajati (ostaje) means remain.

As you can see, if an adjective is used as a noun, it gets an additional -a in DLI-pl, essentially giving it the same ending as any masc. or neuter noun. This happens only in the DLI-pl.

The second, shorter sentence is a common proverb in Croatian, corresponding to English the young shall inherit the earth.

An exception to this rule are ordinal numbers in plural that refer to decades. The otherwise obligatory -a in DLI-pl is optional for them and often left out:

Beatlesi su bili popularni u šezdesetim. The Beatles were popular in the sixties.

U 80-im sam bio u vrtiću. I was in the kindergarten in 80’s. {m}

(Note how the English name Beatles gets a Croatian case ending for N-pl.)

Now, there’s an extraordinary use of DLI-pl with units of time. It means how long something took, without any preposition, just a single word in DLI-pl:

Spavala sam satima. I slept for hours. {f}

Putovali smo danima. We traveled for days. {m/mixed}

You can’t use DLI-pl of units of time to express e.g. for two days, only indefinite for days.

The following preposition is used with instrumental when you have more than one thing:

među among

For example:

Tražim pismo među papirima. I looking for the letter among the papers.

The preposition među can be used with A as well, then it stands for a destination.

This is maybe the right place to list prepositions using instrumental or accusative:

prepositions using I or A
in front of
nad¨ above
među among
pod¨ under

With these prepositions, you have to use I for locations, and A for destinations:

Idemići pred publiku. (A = dest.) ‘I’m going in front of the audience.

Plešemplesati pred publikom. (I = loc.) I’m dancing in front of the audience.

Stojimstajati pred vratima. (I = loc.) I’m standing in front the door.

(Recall that the noun vrata n pl. door is neuter plural only.)

However, za¨ + A usually means for, so za¨ + A is almost never used as a destination – iza + G is much more preferred, while za¨ + I is used only in some set expressions, or meaning following, after, with the verbs of motion:

Trčimtrčati za tebe. (A) I’m running for you. (not behind you)

Trčimtrčati za tobom. (I) I’m running after you. (i.e. following you)

Trčali smo za njom. (I) We were running after her. {m/mixed}

The set expressions of za¨ + I are used with verbs biti (je² +) be and sjediti sit:

za stolom at the table
za volanom      behind the
(steering) wheel
za upravljačem

(Both volan (») and upravljač (») mean steering wheel; the former noun is colloquial, the latter one is standard.)

These 5 prepositions are similar to u¨ and na¨ – which use DL for locations, and A for destinations – and even more in plural, since the DL case (used for u¨ and na¨) and the I case for the 5 prepositions above coincide then:

preposition loc. dest.
u¨ in, into
na¨ on, at, to
 DL  A
nad¨ above
pred¨ in front of
među among
pod¨ under
(za¨ behind)
 I  A

The 5 prepositions listed above have longer versions, which are used with G, and don’t distinguish location vs. destination. The longer prepositions, starting with iz- or is- are more common in speech and mean the same when talking about spatial relations (i.e. locations and destinations):

longer prepositions (always use G)
in front of
iznad above
između between
ispod under

For example:

Auto je iza kuće. The car is behind the house.

However, there is an important difference between ispred + G and pred¨ + I/A: the latter combination includes temporal and metaphoric relations as well, so it’s only possible to use pred¨ in the following expressions (here expressing metaphorical ‘locations’, so using I):

pred publikom before the audience
pred sudom before the court

The same applies to other prepositions, e.g. you can only use pod¨ to express that someone is ‘under pressure’ (pod pritiskom), while you can use both pod¨ and ispod to express that something is under the bed – and ispod is more common in such non-metaphorical uses.

Something different happens when using pred¨ in the temporal sense, like English before, the accusative case must be used always:

pred jutro before the morning
pred kišu before the rain
pred zimu before the winter

Actually, this isn’t that strange – the preposition u¨ is also used only with A in temporal sense, e.g. u ponoć. (But it is strange that some Standard Croatian manuals discourage use of pred¨ + A in the temporal sense, since it has been used for centuries in speech and literature.)

There’s yet another difference: među is mostly used when there are more than two things or persons (i.e. among) while između usually means between, i.e. when there are two things or persons.

Now you know how to create almost all forms of nouns. There are only two cases left unexplained: genitive plural and the vocative case. They will be explained in 44 Genitive Plural and 72 Addressing and Vocative Case.


® There are certain dialects in Croatia where DL is not equal to I in plural, actually, where D, L and I are have different endings. They will be briefly summarized in the section A8 Dialects.

Instead of kino, bioskop is used for cinema in Serbia and most of Bosnia.

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