44 Genitive Plural


It’s finally the time to learn the genitive case in plural! Unfortunately, it’s not a simple form to create. For start, nouns get the following endings:

noun type G-pl
nouns in -a (≈ fem.) -a-a* (or -i)
neuter nouns (≈ in -o, -e) -o, -e-a*
masc. nouns not in -a N-pl -i-a*
fem. not in -a (e.g. noć) add -i

For example:

Goran se bojibojati se mrava. Goran is afraid of ants.

As this form coincides with G singular, the sentence could also mean Goran is afraid of an ant.

In the beginning, I wrote I will disregard vowel length, i.e. differences between long and short vowels, since many people in Croatia don’t have that difference in their speech. However, those that keep the difference, and Standard Croatian, have the -a in G-pl always long – while -a in other case endings is always short – so forms mrava (G) and mrava (G-pl) are not really pronounced the same. That specific length in G-pl is sometimes indicated in writing by putting a circumflex sign over the long vowel: mravâ. It’s by no means mandatory, you will see it from time to time. (A recent Croatian orthography manual recommends using a macron – a line over vowel – instead, e.g. mravā; it’s still very rare.)

There are no twists for nouns ending in -a, -o or -e preceded by only one consonant: nouns just get -a in G-pl.

Other nouns can get a kind of ‘lengthening’ (I indicated it by an asterisk).

How does it work? If a neuter or feminine noun would have two consecutive consonants just before the genitive plural -a, an additional a gets inserted between those consonants:

pjesma songpjesama
sestra sistersestara
zemlja ground, countryzemalja
carstvo empirecarstava
društvo societydruštava
pismo letterpisama

Some nouns (e.g. sestra sister and zemlja ground, country listed above) move the stress to the inserted -a-. There’s only a small number of them, and a good dictionary should list such stress shift.

Observe that before the two final consonants there may be more consonants (e.g. sestra): they play no role here. Also, pay attention that lj, nj and are single consonants.

This insertion never happens if those last two consonants are either st, št, šć, zd, žd or žđ (so-called non-splittable sequences):

zvijezda starzvijezda mjesto placemjesta

Masculine nouns that get short plural endings, and end in a consonant, get the -a always attached to their nominative form, even if they have a specific case-base:

kolač (») cakekolača
magarac (magarc-) donkeymagaraca
pas (ps-) dogpasa
vrabac (vrapc-) sparrowvrabaca

This makes their G-pl form distinct from the singular genitive. For example:

Ana se bojala pasa. Ana was afraid of dogs.

Ana se bojala psa. Ana was afraid of the dog.

Few masculine nouns that end in two consonants which are not a non-splittable sequence, get an additional a in the same way as feminine and neuter nouns:

bicikl bicyclebicikala
koncert concertkoncerata
dokument documentdokumenata

However, masculine nouns that end in a vowel (in N) and get short plural endings, only add an -a to their case-base, as in any other case (therefore, they have G = G-pl):

anđeo (anđel-) m angelanđela
auto (aut-) m carauta

Some nouns on -a preceded by two or more consonants can have both -a in gen. plural (with an additional a inserted) and -i. Both are used, but versions with -i prevail in everyday speech, at least in larger cities in Croatia:

daska plankdasaka / daski
karta card, map, ticketkarata / karti ®
olovka penolovaka / olovki
školjka shellškoljaka / školjki
voćka fruit treevoćaka / voćki

These nouns can have both -a and -i but they never get an additional a inserted; they mostly end in -da or -nja:

nepravda injustice
panda panda
sekunda second ®
pažnja care, attention
prijetnja threat
šetnja walk

The ending -i is more common in spoken language, and it seems it’s getting more common in writing as well. The following often used nouns have just -i in G-pl:

bajka fairy tale
borba struggle
lopta ball
majka mother
maska mask
molba plea
palma palm
petlja loop
plahta bed sheet ®
tajna secret
torba bag, big purse
žalba complaint, appeal

This also applies to a couple of masculine nouns; a frequent example is (recall, it shifts its stress in plural):

mjesec month/moonmjeseci

The noun čovjek man/human has the irregular plural ljudi people; its G-pl is also just ljudi.

The noun sat – when meaning hour – has G-pl sati.

Some nouns get an -u or something similar, instead of the endings listed above. These three nouns get always -u:

noga leg ruka arm sluga m servant

This noun gets -iju:

gost guestgostiju

The strange plurals of oko eye and uho ear get -iju as well:

oči f pl. eyesiju uši f pl. earsiju

The following nouns can have both -a (or -i) and -iju:

kost f bonekosti / kostiju
prst finger/toeprsta / prstiju
nokat (nokt-) fingernail, toenailnokata / noktiju
vrata n. pl. doorvrata / vratiju

Additionally, the following colloquial noun can get both -i and -iju, but the latter ending is seen as very colloquial:

dečko (dečk-) m boydečki / dečkiju ®

All such unexpected forms in the G-pl are listed in the Core Dictionary.

Compared to all the twists I had to explain for nouns, the genitive plural forms of adjectives are as simple as possible:

gender adj. G-plexample
fem. -ih velikih riba
big fishes
neut. velikih jezera
big lakes
masc. velikih stolova
big tables

The adjective-often-used-as-pronoun sav (sv- +) has an alternative, non-standard form that’s sometimes seen is G-pl: sviju, besides the expected svih.

We can review endings of adjectives in DL, G and I cases in both singular and plural:

adj. gender DL I G
sing. fem. -oj -om -e
-im -og
plur. all    -im(+a) -ih

As you can see, they are much simpler than they could be in principle.

In the following chapters, we’ll see many uses of G-pl in counting and measuring.


® Instead of karta, the word for map in Serbia is usually mapa, while karta means only playing card or ticket.

In some parts of Croatia, such as Dalmatia, and in Bosnia and Serbia, the word sekund is more common than sekunda.

Besides plahta, words čaršav or čaršaf are often used in Bosnia and completely prevail in Serbia, in meaning thin sheets, while plahta is used for thick covers.

The noun dečko is less common outside Croatia, and it’s not even used in some Croatian regions; it’s most common in Zagreb and surrounding areas.

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5 Easy Croatian: 44 Genitive Plural N A  DL  G 24 I It’s finally the time to learn the genitive case in plural! Unfortunately, it’s not a simple form to create. For ...

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