51 Approximate Periods, Repetions and References


This chapter will introduce more time expressions.

There are two very frequent words used to express approximate duration of some state or action:

dugo for a long time
kratko for a short time

While English uses both for a long time and long in different sentences (e.g. long is used in questions), Croatian uses only one word in all kinds of sentences. The words can be placed at any position, but they are often found at the first position. For example:

Dugo smo gledali filmove. We watched movies for a long time.

Kratko je padala kiša. It rained for a short time.

It’s possible to modify the meaning, using adverbs of intensity (except for malo); you can also use other intensifiers, such as stvarno really and užasno / strašno terribly:

Jako dugo sam čitao knjigu. I was reading the book for a very long time.

Stvarno dugo učim hrvatski. I’ve been learning Croatian for a really long time.

There are several interesting time expressions. The first group expresses that something repeats regularly.

If you want to say that something happens on Fridays, that is, repeats, you should use weekdays in instrumental singular:

Petkom igramo nogomet. We play football on Fridays. ®

Vikendom idemoići u kino. We go to cinema on weekends. ®

The word vikend weekend is of course not a day of week, but has a similar role.

With day day, noć f night, zima winter and ljeto summer, instrumental case is not used to express this meaning; one option is to use specific adverbs:

danju at day
zimi in winter
u proljeće in spring
noću at night
ljeti in summer
najesen in fall

For example:

Mačke spavaju danju. Cats sleep at day.

Ljeti idemoići na more. We go to the seaside in summer. (regularly, usually)

Another option, becoming more common in speech, is to use po¨ + DL with these parts of day and year:

po¨ + DL      at (e.g. night)
in (e.g. winter)

For example:

Mačke spavaju po danu. Cats sleep at day. (more common in speech)

Rough time periods in I-pl can be also used with the verb trajati (traje) last:

Predavanje je trajalo satima. The lecture lasted for hours.

There’s another, a bit unexpected way to express approximate duration – using short expressions for a day or two, a week or two and so on: just append the number two to the noun, e.g. dan-dva. Of course, the number must be in the right gender, according to the noun it’s after:

Na moru ću biti tjedan-dva. I’ll be at the seaside for a week or two.

Radovi će trajati mjesec-dva. The works will last for a month or two.

Učila sam hrvatski godinu-dvije. I was studying Croatian for a year or two.

(Standard orthography demands they are separated by a hyphen; you’ll also see a comma or other ways.)

Don’t forget that ongoing periods use the present tense in Croatian, and that they’re often emphasized with već already, which is often not translated:

Ana je dugo živjela u Splitu. Ana lived in Split for a long time. (but not now)

Ana dugo živi u Zagrebu. Ana has lived in Zagreb for a long time. (and still does)

Ivan već godinama živi u Zagrebu. Ivan has lived in Zagreb for years.

This table summarizes approximate time periods:

adverb for a short time kratko
for a long time dugo
I-pl for hours
for days
noun-number (A) for an hour or two
for a year or two

When asked how long something lasted, you can answer just with approximate periods:

Koliko dugo si živio tamo? How long did you live there?

— Jako dugo. For a very long time.

Godinama. For years.

Koliko (dugo) ste bili u Hrvatskoj? How long were you in Croatia?

— Kratko. For a short time.

It’s possible to express approximate ‘round-trips’ with na¨ + kratko or dugo, but not with I-pl (e.g. danima for days). Both are used also with vrijeme, e.g. na dugo vrijeme:

Odlazim na jako kratko vrijeme. I’m leaving for a very short time.

Then, there are two relative time references:

ranije earlier kasnije later

This is in relation to something understood from the context, or to the present time:

Ranije sam radio u Splitu. I worked in Split earlier.

If you have a previous time reference, you can also use prije before and poslije after, with G of the pronoun to (i.e. toga):

Radio sam dvije godine u Rijeci. I worked in Rijeka for two years.

Prije toga sam radio u Splitu. I worked in Split before that.

To express how much earlier or later, add a time span before the word ranije (or kasnije):

Radio sam u Splitu dvije godine ranije. I worked in Split two years earlier.

Živio sam u Americi jednu godinu ranije. I lived in America a year earlier.

Also, it’s common to put these references at the front:

Dvije godine ranije radio sam u Splitu. Two years earlier, I worked in Split.

Dvije godine kasnije radio sam u školi. Two years later, I worked in a school.

Pay attention that you have to add a time period right before words ranije and kasnije to express e.g. two years earlier.

If you would place time period right after ranije (or kasnije), or at any place not directly in front of these words, the meaning would be simply a duration of action:

dvije godine ranije
two years earlier
ranije (...) dvije godine
earlier... for two years

Instead of ranije and kasnije you can use prije and poslije with toga – and colloquially without toga – but time periods must come right before them:

Dvije godine prije radio sam u Splitu. (colloq.) Two years earlier, I worked in Split.

Dvije godine poslije radio sam u školi. (colloq.) Two years later, I worked in a school.

Next, it’s possible to say that something happens or is done during something else. If that ‘something else’ is expressed by a noun (with optional adjectives to describe it), the most common way is to use:

za vrijeme + G during

The preposition za¨ + A is also used on special days, parts of week, holidays, etc.:

za vikend on the weekend (British English: at the weekend)
za Novu godinu at the New Year
za Božić at Christmas

It means something like ‘on the occasion of’, it doesn’t imply the whole time period, e.g. za vikend means some part of the weekend.

The most general way to express roughly when something happened or will happen is to use combinations of ‘determiners’ (specific adjectives, really) and nouns for time periods, in A (only A forms are listed, which are identical to N for these nouns and masculine inanimate gender): ®

jedan one
ovaj this
prošli last
sljedeći next *
svaki each
+ tjedan week ®
mjesec month

Instead of sljedeći, sometimes idući is used, without any difference in meaning.

The noun dan day is a partial exception, explained below.

However, with the feminine nouns godina year and noć f night, it’s more common to use phrases in G (all words are here listed in G):

jedne one
ove this
prošle last
sljedeće next *
svake each
+ godine year
noći night

Again, sometimes idući is used. There are two specific (and a bit old-fashioned) adverbs that can be used instead of prošle godine and prošle večeri:

lani last year ® sinoć last evening

For example:

Ove godine putujemoputovati u Pariz. We’re traveling to Paris this year.

Prošli tjedan sam bila bolesna. I was sick last week.

Sljedeći mjesec odlazimo na more. We’re leaving for the seaside next month.

There are exceptions to this pattern: the noun dan day, and jutro morning. With them, adjectives are used in both A and G to get phrases meaning one day, that day, the first day, etc.:

Jednog dana smo jelijesti palačinke s medom. One day we ate pancakes with honey.

Prvi dan nisam razumio ništa. I didn’t understand anything the first day.

You can use any way you like, A or G (of course, A is simpler to create). Of course, you can add additional adjectives to these phrases:

Jednog hladnog zimskog dana smo samo gledali filmove. On one cold winter day, we just watched movies.

You will sometimes see such long time phrases separated by a comma, after which word-counting restarts:

Jednog hladnog zimskog dana, samo smo gledali filmove. (the same meaning)

With special days, holidays etc, za¨ + these expressions in A can be used, but it’s optional:

za ovaj vikend on this weekend
za sljedeću Novu godinu ‘at the next New Year’
za svaki Božić ‘at each Christmas’

Za sljedeći vikend idemoići na izlet. Next weekend we’re going on a field trip.

Sljedeći vikend idemoići na izlet. (the same meaning)


® Instead of tjedan, the word nedjelja is used in parts of Bosnia, colloquially in parts of Croatia, and in the “Ekavian” form nedelja in Serbia; as other feminine time nouns, it prefers G, so you’ll hear and read svake nedjelje. The word sedmica is also used in Bosnia and Serbia.

Instead of nogomet and kino, words fudbal and bioskop are used in Serbia and most of Bosnia for football and cinema.

Use of the accusative case for phrases like prošli mjesec is much more common in Croatia than in Serbia; in Serbia and parts of Bosnia, the genitive case prevails for all nouns, regardless of gender.

The adverb lani has an unexpected “Ekavian” form lane in Serbia.

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5 Easy Croatian: 51 Approximate Periods, Repetions and References N A  DL  G 24 I This chapter will introduce more time expressions. There are two very frequent words used to express approximat...

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