06 Destinations

  You can also read this chapter in French, German or Spanish or Finnish.

With the knowledge of the accusative case and a few verbs, we can talk about travel and express destinations. The useful verbs are:

dolaziti come, arrive
putovati (putuje) travel
ići (ide) go
odlaziti leave

There are couple of nouns that we can use with verbs to demonstrate use of destinations:

Amerika America
bolnica  ▶  hospital
hotel (») hotel
Hrvatska  ▶  Croatia
grad city
kafіć (») cafe bar
kino cinema ®
park park
Split (a city)
restoran (») restaurant
škola  ▶  school
Zagreb (a city)

(As you can see, some nouns are marked with (»); this will be important later.)

To express destinations, we have to put the preposition u¨ in front of the noun in accusative, and then we can make sentences like these:

Ana odlazi u Ameriku. Ana is leaving for America.

Ivan putujeputovati u Hrvatsku.  ▶  Ivan is traveling to Croatia.

Idemići u Zagreb. I’m going to Zagreb.

Goran ideići u bolnicu. Goran is going to hospital.

We again see the two dots, introduced with ne¨; their meaning is the same (the word is pronounced with the following word, stress moves to it in some words, for some speakers).

However, I won’t specially mark words and forms where stress moves to u¨, as it would be too complicated; besides, this feature doesn’t completely overlap with the standard stress area. You can just leave the stress on the noun, but be prepared to hear the stress moved from some speakers (e.g. u + vodu = u vodu.)®

While English leave usually uses for instead of to, Croatian verbs use the same prepositions.

The expression ide u školu can mean somebody is a school student, i.e. ‘goes to school’:

Goran ideići u školu. Goran goes to school.

However, if you go to an island or mountain, you must use the preposition na¨ instead of u¨. There are names of bigger Croatian islands:

Cres  ▶ 
Hvar  ▶ 
Krk  ▶ 

For instance:

Ana putujeputovati na Krk. Ana is traveling to the island of Krk.

Odlazim na Korčulu. I’m leaving for the island of Korčula.

Of course, this applies to the following nouns as well:

otok island ® planina mountain

The preposition na¨ is used for all destinations that are perceived as surfaces, or when the destination is on top – it’s usually translated as onto or on: you would use it for roofs, tabletops, walls, etc.

Next, it would be great if we could say not just I’m... but also we’re! It’s quite simple: Croatian again prefers not to use personal pronouns (I, we...) but a special verb form, 1st person plural present (for short, pres-1pl). It’s a form quite simple to make, just add an -o to the pres-1 form (one that ends in a -m):

idem I’m goingidemo we’re going

For instance:

Putujemoputovati na Lošinj. We’re traveling to the island of Lošinj.

Odlazimo u Ameriku. We’re leaving for America.

The preposition na¨ also applies to the following popular destinations:

plaža beach

trg (city) square

For example:

Idemoići na plažu. We’re going to the beach.

The preposition na¨ must be used with the cardinal points when used as directions:

sjever  ▶  north
zapad  ▶  west
istok  ▶  east
jug  ▶  south

For example:

Putujemoputovati na jug. We’re traveling south.

The preposition na¨ is used with many metaphorical destinations (or rather, activities):

na fakultet to university
na more to the seaside
na posao to work
na praznike to holidays
na put on a trip
na selo to countryside

(I’ve listed nouns in the phrases above in the accusative case; the form praznike is in accusative plural, a form that will be explained later.) For instance:

Ana ideići na posao.  ▶  Ana is going to work.

Idemoići na more. We’re going to the seaside.

(Some of these destinations can be used also with u¨ – it makes their meaning literal, e.g. u more means literally into the sea, to swim or dive, throwing something into the sea, etc. Nouns that require the na¨ are marked in the Core Dictionary.)

The metaphorical na¨ includes all ‘activities’, such as meals, meetings and sport events:

na čaj to have a tea
na kavu to have a coffee ®
na koncert to a concert
na nogomet to football game ®
na odmor to vacation/break
na pivo to have a beer
na ples to dance
na ručak to lunch
na sastanak to a meeting
na večeru to supper

When you say na kavu, it requires motion to a destination (where you will have a coffee or more than one), not just drinking coffee wherever you are. The ‘destination’ na nogomet means both playing football or just watching a game (this applies to other sports and public performances as well).

The same holds for celebrations and parties:

na feštu to a local feast/party
na rođendan  ▶  to a birthday party
na zabavu to a party

For instance:

Idemići na kavu. I’m going to have a coffee.

Idemoići na sastanak. We’re going to a meeting.

If it’s a bit confusing what ‘activities’ are, they are simply not literally places. Consider this:

not true places true places
concert concert hall
dinner restaurant
football playground
meeting meeting room
movie premiere cinema

Finally, the ‘destination’ na sunce usually doesn’t imply taking a spaceship, but rather going to an open space, to get exposed to the sunlight:

na sunce in the sun na zrak to (fresh) air ®

Pay attention: everything I’ve explained here are destinations, and not locations. If you say idemo na plažu, you aren’t describing where the action takes place, but where you’re heading to (and you may get there or not). To help you distinguish locations vs destinations, consider the following sentences:

I’m running to the gym.
(You aren’t in the gym,
just want to get there.)
= a destination
I’m running in the gym.
(You are in the gym,
and running there.)
= a location

If you feel that the word to is a better fit in English, it’s definitely a destination. Confusingly, English uses on in e.g. going on vacation, when you’re actually not on vacation yet – but Croatian treats this case as a destination too. While English sometimes uses the same grammar for both, Croatian strongly distinguishes destinations from locations.

So, what about locations? You will have to wait a while, since we have to learn another noun form to express them. Destinations come cheap, if you know how to make the accusative case.

The sentences above can be made more precise if we add one of the following useful adverbs of time:

sad(a) now
danas  ▶  today
sutra tomorrow ®
uskoro  ▶  soon
prekosutra day after tomorrow
sljedeće godine next year
sljedeći mjesec  ▶  next month
sljedeći tjedan next week ®

(As in English, you can talk about events in future and still use the present tense.) Such words and expressions are often used to begin sentence with:

Sutra idemići na sastanak. I’m going to a meeting tomorrow.

Danas idemoići u kino. We’re going to cinema today.

Sljedeće godine putujemoputovati na Hvar. We’re traveling to the island of Hvar next year.

Finally, there are the following often used generic directions:

blizu close, near
daleko far away
dalje further, away
unutra inside
ovamo here
natrag / nazad back
van outside ®
tamo / onamo there

For example:

Ana uskoro dolazi ovamo. Ana is coming here soon.

To ask where to something or someone goes/travels, just start a question with:

kamo where... to

Nothing else except this word is needed, there’s no change of word order:

Kamo Ana ideići?  ▶  Where is Ana going to?

— Na posao. To work.

Ideići na posao. She’s going to work.

It’s normal to answer with just a destination, leaving the verb out; you can include the verb if you want to emphasize it. In colloquial communication, especially in some regions, you will hear e.g. gdje or kuda instead of kamo in such questions.®

As you can see, the accusative case is not used only for objects. In fact, almost all cases in Croatian have more than one use. If you find somewhere on the Internet a table where each case has one use, and even better, where each case “answers to questions”, bear in mind that explains only a small part of the real use. I will introduce other uses of accusative gradually.


® The following words or phrases are usually not used Serbia and most of Bosnia; words or phrases pointed by arrows are used instead:

sljedeći tjedansljedeće nedjelje / sljedeće sedmice

In Bosnia, in parts where Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) live, kahva is used for coffee as well.

The word napolje is heard in parts of Croatia as well.

The stress moves to prepositions like u¨ and na¨ – only with specific nouns! – in Bosnia, parts of Croatia (Dalmatia and Slavonia), and western parts of Serbia (not including Belgrade) and western parts of Montenegro.

Instead of sutra, a slightly different form, sjutra, is used in Montenegro.

In Bosnia and Serbia, kuda is usually used to ask for destinations, kamo is not used. Also, especially in speech, gdje (in Serbia gde) is frequently used in these countries.

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