40 Future Tense


We have learned how to make the present tense. We also know how to make the past tense. But what about the future tense? It’s quite easy to make in Croatian. First you need the infinitive form of the verb you want to use. That’s really easy, since infinitive forms are found in any dictionary.

Next, you need forms of an auxiliary verb that’s simply made from present of the verb htjeti (hoće +, htio, htjela) want by dropping the first syllable (ho). It requires placement at the second position and looks like this:

pers.sing. plur.
1st ću² ćemo²
2nd ćeš² ćete²
3rd će² će²

For example:

now future

Goran će jesti. Goran will eat.

Note that we’ve used an impf. process verb. There’s no object, so we can’t use pojesti (...) perf. eat. It’s obviously not important to us how much food Goran will consume. We’re just saying there will be some action in the future, nothing more.

There’s a rather strange rule: if an infinitive on -ti is followed immediately by an future auxiliary (ću², ćeš², etc.) the final -i in the infinitive is dropped:

Jest ću. I’ll eat. ®

This of course also applies to the verb biti (je² +) be:

Bit će hladno. It will be cold.

This doesn’t apply to verbs having infinitives ending in -ći:

Ići ćemo u školu. We’ll go to school.

Colloquially, it’s quite common to leave out -i from the infinitive -ti always, so you’ll hear quite often:

Goran će jest. (colloq.) Goran will eat.

(You’ll also often see, mostly in casual writing, non-standard spellings where the final -i is not dropped, e.g. biti ću, and so on.)

As all other verbal second-position forms – the only exception being je² – all the forms ću², ćeš², će²... come before any second-position pronouns:

Bit će ti hladno. You’ll be cold.

Čut ćemo se.We’ll hear each other.’ (i.e. We’ll be in touch over phone.)

The form će² is ambiguous – it doesn’t distinguish singular and plural:

Vidjet će me. He/She/They will see me.

Of course, you can always add a subject pronoun if the meaning is not clear from the context.

To express negation, use simply negative present forms of the verb htjeti, obtained by adding ne- to the ću², ćeš², etc. The negative forms are not restricted to the second position, they are rather placed before the verb in infinitive:

Neću jesti. I won’t eat.

Nećemo ići u školu. We won’t go to school.

To ask questions about the future, you can use all usual ways to form questions. The standard way of forming yes/no questions requires full forms of the auxiliary verb, that is, putting back the ho:

Hoćemo li ići u školu? Will we go to school?

In colloquial speech, it’s possible to shorten the present of htjeti (hoću, hoćeš, etc.) to just ću², ćeš²... to express that you want to get something right away:

Ja ću pizzu. (colloq.) I’ll take a pizza.

The negative existential construction – which is nema° + G in the present tense – uses the verb biti (je² +) be in the future tense instead (as in the past tense, it must be impersonal, i.e. in the 3rd person singular):

Neće biti piva. There will be no beer.

For scheduled events in the future expressed by event verb pairs, you can use either present tense of the impf. verb or future tense of the perf. verb, without any difference in meaning:

now time

Vraćam se sutra. I’m coming back tomorrow. (impf. in pres.)

Vratit ću se sutra. I’ll come back tomorrow. (perf. in future)

Vraćam se u 5. I’m coming back at 5 (o’clock). (impf. in pres.)

Vratit ću se u 5. I’ll come back at 5 (o’clock). (perf. in future)

Therefore, you have two options, matching English Present Continuous vs Simple Future, which also have same meanings for these verbs. Impf. event verbs are very rare in the future tense. They are basically used for repetitive activities:

Sutra ću kupovati knjige. I’ll be buying books tomorrow.

For process-completion pairs, you have to use completion verbs to specify when an action will be completed, and it’s common to express ‘before some time’:

Pročitat ću članak do 5. I’ll read the article by 5 (o’clock). (perf. in future)

Izgradit će kuću do zime. They are going to build the house before the winter. (perf. in future)

Process verbs are common in the future tense, if you focus on action or are just not specific, which is common if your plans are not completely precise (are you 100% sure how much food you are going to eat?):

now time

Sutra ću čitati članak. I’ll read the article tomorrow. (but I don’t promise I’ll read all of it)

Sutra ćemo jesti u restoranu. We’ll eat in a restaurant tomorrow.

Note that again we have impf. process verbs and English uses Simple Future, so for process-completion pairs there’s no similarity with English continuous tenses.

Like in English, you can also use the present tense, which means you’re really sure it will happen:

Sutra jedemo u restoranu. We’re eating in a restaurant tomorrow.


  • impf. event verbs in the present tense with a future time reference (e.g. vraćam se sutra I’m coming back tomorrow) imply the action will be carried out to its end;
  • impf. process verbs have no such implications, no implied completion.

This gives you a simple way to distinguish these two types of verbs, because this holds in English as well.

Another frequent use of the future tense is expressing things that will be done at unspecified time, e.g. when the following time adverbs are used:

jednog dana one day
jednom once

(The adverb poslije is a bit colloquial, when used on its own; the ending -ije in it is usually pronounced as one syllable.) For example:

Reći ću ti kasnije. I’ll tell you later.

Here the verb reći (reče, rekao, rekla) is a perfective verb meaning say, tell (and, of course, event verb).

There’s one more way of expressing future: with the verb ići (ide, išao, išla) go (in the present tense) + infinitive:

Idemići prati zube. I’ll ‘wash’ my teeth right now. (= brush)

(In Croatian, teeth are ‘washed’, not ‘brushed’.) Such expressions can only be used if somebody is willingly and immediately intending to take an action: the very next thing that person intends to do is grabbing a toothbrush.

This is completely different from the English ‘going-to’ future, which can be used in e.g. it’s going to rain (as a prediction). Such predictions in Croatian can be expressed only with the plain ću², ćeš²... future:

Padat će kiša. It’s going to rain.

(Note how the subject kiša rain comes after the verb, because we don’t talk about a specific rain.)

Wait a second! Why did I use impf. padati in the future tense, when it’s an event verb pair, and I wrote above, literally, impf. event verbs are very rare in the future tense. Is it about repetition? Is the rain going to fall more than once? Maybe. But that wasn’t the reason.

True, when a stone, child or government falls, it’s a kind of bump!, which is the moment something fell. But kiša rain naturally falls for a period of time, the event is ‘stretched’ into a period of time – hours, sometimes days of constant plonk, plonk, plonk – and people tend to use the impf. verb then. Of course, using the perf. verb is not incorrect, it’s simply rarer (about 4 times rarer with rain, statistics says).

For events which take naturally some time, with nothing essential happening at the end (no bump!) people prefer impf. event verbs in all tenses.

For instance, this is very common:

Padala je kiša. It rained. (lit. ‘a rain was falling’)

This can mean it rained once, but also more than once. We don’t say. But if we would say (note how the subject now comes first, we talk about a specific person):

Goran je padao. Goran was falling.

It would normally imply repetition, more than once.

Back to the future tense! It’s also possible to use this kind of future tense in Croatian to suggest people what to do right now:

Idemoići piti pivo. Let’s have beer now.

As you can see, the Croatian sentence has a completely different structure than the English one. Translating it word-for-word – we’re going to drink beer – misses its meaning completely.

Since we’ve now covered all tenses normally used in Croatian, we can summarize their use in a nice table:

used English equivalents
past things happened and
completed in the past
I lived there for years.
I fell. I’ve seen it.
present from past to now
I’ve been living here for years.
anytime It often rains.
ongoing I’m eating. I live here.
scheduled plans I’m leaving tomorrow.
future predictions, forecasts It’s going to rain.
plans I’ll leave tomorrow.
I’ll be back.

Croatian has no concept like English Present Perfect – the only important thing is that something is over, and we use the past tense then.

Now, something unexpected. There’s a very special verb, although it has completely regular forms. It’s an alternative to the verb biti (je² +) be. It has only present forms, and its pres-3 is:

(bude) be (potential, ‘subjunctive’)

It’s impossible to translate it to English out of context; it’s often translated with get, become, etc. and it’s (in the Standard Croatian) mostly used in some special constructions (don’t worry, we’ll learn them soon). The verb (bude) is kind of perfective; however, it can’t be used in past or future tense, unlike other perfective verbs (because it has only present tense forms!) but it can be used in the present tense when we talk about things that happen any time:

Često bude hladno ujutro. It’s often cold in the morning. (or It often gets cold...)

Therefore, Croatian has two forms of the present tense of verb biti: the irregular je² standing for real states and events, and the regular bude used only in special cases where it stands for potential, possible or desired states.®

Using this special verb, we can simply replace the forms of auxiliary je² in the past tense with the forms of bude and create another tense – the potential future tense:

past tense sam², si², je²...
+ past form
potential future budem, budeš, bude...
+ past form

In the Standard Croatian, you cannot simply use the potential future tense or the verb (bude): it’s not a basic tense, and it can (and must) be used only in specific constructions. They will be introduced a bit later.

However, in colloquial speech, especially in northwestern Croatia, including Zagreb, bude forms are often used in ordinary sentences, interchangeably with the standard future forms. Then the verb (bude) is simply understood as the future form of the verb biti (je² +) be. So you will often hear (and sometimes read):

Budemo išliići
u školu.
(colloq. NW Croatia) We’ll go to school. {m/mixed}

This is by no means standard, and such use is restricted to just a part of Croatia (arguably, with about a half of the total population of Croatia).

One final remark: the potential future tense is usually, in textbooks, known as the ‘exact’ future tense or future II. I think these are quite confusing names, so I’ve invented another name which makes more sense to me.


® You will sometimes see in Bosnia, occasionally in casual writing in Croatia, and always in Serbia, that in such a case, these two words are spelled fused together and the t is left out; verbs that end in -sti in infinitive change the consonant sš:

Biće hladno. It will be cold. (← bit + će)

Ješću. I’ll eat. (← jest + ću)

However, this is merely a (weird) spelling. Word order rules still apply, of course, so, effectively, Serbian words like biće and ješću are limited to the first position in the sentence!

It never happens anywhere (at least in standard languages!) to verbs having infinitives in -ći.

Additionally, it’s very common in Serbia, usually in speech, to use da + present tense instead of the infinitive:

Ana će da jedejesti. Ana will eat.

While the same forms of the verbs biti (je² +) and (bude) are used in Serbia, Serbian grammars traditionally classify bude as the present tense of biti, and present tense forms (je² +) as another verb (referred by the form jesam), having no infinitive.

While it’s true that bude-forms sometimes replace je²-forms, regarding je² as a verb different than biti is just absurd. Unfortunately, some materials for foreigners on the Internet repeat this bizarre approach.

A likely background for such an approach is that when da + present tense is used instead of the infinitive biti, bude is used instead of je²:

Ana će da bude gladna. Ana will be hungry.

You’ll later see the exact circumstances when bude-forms replace je²-forms.

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5 Easy Croatian: 40 Future Tense N A  DL  G 24 I We have learned how to make the present tense. We also know how to make the past tense. But what about the futu...

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