71 Suggestions, Permissions and More Verbs


This explains how to say let me go there and similar things.

Common verbs used are:

davati (daje) ~ dati give (+ DL)
dopuštati («) ~ dopustiti («) allow (+ DL)
predlagati (predlaže) ~ predložiti («) propose, suggest (+ DL)
savjetovati (savjetuje) advise, suggest (+ DL)
zabranjivati (-uje «) ~ zabraniti («) forbid (+ DL)

These verbs are used with da-clauses which contains verbs in the present tense. As in other such atemporal clauses, both impf. and perf. verbs can be used. All of them have a ‘recipient’ in DL – the person who will/should/may do something.

All such verbs are very similar to give in Croatian – you suggest/allow/etc. something (the whole thing after the da) to someone (who is in the DL case, as the recipient). English uses another construction here (that + subjunctive) – unlike wait. Croatian uses the same grammar over and over:

Savjetovao sam Ani da odeotići ranije. I suggested (that) Ana leave earlier. {m}

The next two verbs are about giving orders, not in a restaurant, or ordering stuff over Internet, but as a boss to your subordinates:

naređivati (-uje «) ~ narediti («) order (+ DL)
zapovjeđivati (-uje «) ~ zapovijediti («) order (+ DL)

They use the same grammar as other verbs.

There’s, however, a group of verbs with similar meanings, but they use A instead of the DL case:

nagovarati («) ~ nagovoriti («) talk into (+ A)
tjerati ~ na- force (+ A)

Now, there are several constructions in Croatian – often a bit colloquial – where the verb dati perf. give has a special role. In these constructions, the verb is used in the present tense as well, meaning true present (i.e. right now, ongoing) despite being a perf. verb.

First, in speech, but also in writing, it’s very common to express that someone doesn’t allow someone else to do something by the negative present of dati perf. give:

Ana ne da Goranu [da jedejesti sladoled]. Ana doesn’t let Goran eat ice-cream. (lit. ‘Ana doesn’t give Goran [that he eats...])

The first da is a form of the verb dati; the second one is a conjunction. They are usually not distinguished in writing. However, since the vowel in da from dati is long, while the conjunction has a short vowel, the verbal form is occasionally distinguished by writing a circumflex sign over the vowel: (or, even rarer, a macron: ).

It’s also quite common to use this construction in imperative:

Ne daj mu [da jedejesti sladoled]. Don’t let him eat ice-cream. (lit. ‘Don’t give him [that he eats...])

If you aren’t preventing somebody doing something, but you want to prevent something to happen (where someone can be the subject, but not in control of the action, e.g. falling), you use it without the DL:

Ne daj [da čaša padnepasti]. Don’t let the glass fall.

Then, the verb dati used in some mediopassive constructions. Besides common uses, already explained, it’s also common to use more complex sentences in mediopassive. For example, a door or window can (or cannot) be opened (you see, it’s also passive in English). In Croatian it’s quite simple:

Vrata se ne mogumoći
The door cannot be opened.

Prozor se možemoći
The window can be opened.

As you can see, and I hope expect, nouns vrata n pl. door and prozor window are subjects here. The particle se² makes the whole sentence passive, i.e. it’s about what can be done to the door or window.

These sentences have something in common with the permissions above. If something cannot be done, colloquially, the verb dati perf. give can be used instead of moći (...) can: ®

Vrata se ne daju otvoriti. (colloq.) The door cannot be opened. ®

Prozor se ne da otvoriti. (colloq.) The window cannot be opened.

The last sentence literally says ‘the door isn’t being given to open’, but the real meaning is cannot + passive. Again you see that vrata and prozor are subjects: the verb dati is in pres-3pl in the first sentence, and in singular pres-3 in the second one. You will sometimes hear such sentences without negation, i.e. with meaning can, that’ even more colloquial (any maybe restricted to some areas?):

Vrata se daju otvoriti. (colloq.) The door can be opened. ®

There’s yet another unexpected phrase using the verb dati perf. give, and it’s superficially similar to ne da... da:

negation + dati° se² + DL + inf = DL can’t be bothered to inf ®

The meaning of this construction – we could call it ‘the lazy construction’ – is very similar to mediopassive + DL, i.e. ne jede mi se pizza I don’t feel like eating pizza, but the phrase with dati is normally used when someone avoids duties, chores, any activity found hard or boring. For example:

Ani se ne da prati suđe navečer. Ana can’t be bothered to wash dishes in the evening.

The translation uses a phrase more common in British English, but I hope everyone gets the meaning: she cannot force/make/allow herself to do it. This is mostly used in the spoken language, the construction is a bit colloquial.

In this construction, the verb in inf is actually the subject. As in other examples when infinitives (with possible objects, etc.) are subjects, they will be highlighted with a blue frame if you place your mouse over an example, or touch it (on touchscreens). Try the examples above!

This construction is never used with activities generally considered pleasing (eating chocolate, drinking fine drinks, sleeping) – it’s rather used for waiting in lines, spending time in waiting rooms, cleaning, studying and so on. The verb used is imperfective, as we’re focusing on the activity, and not an outcome.

Since prati suđe is the subject, the verb dati perf. give is neuter singular in the past:

Ani se nije dalo prati suđe. Ana couldn’t be bothered to wash dishes.

As you can see, the usual rules about placement of DL experiencers hold – the person in DL is at the front. Of course, personal pronouns are frequently used:

Ne da mi se čekati satima. I can’t be bothered to wait for hours.

This construction is sometimes used without negation; it then roughly corresponds to make oneself (but it implies a bit less pressure):

Jel ti se da čekati u redu? (colloq.) Can you make yourself wait in line?

Finally, let’s introduce another important verb family, derived from the pair:

puštati ~ pustiti release, let go

All derived pairs look the one we have already seen above:

dopuštati («) ~ dopustiti («) allow

All derived pairs have meanings related to releasing (except for one). The common ones are:

prefix used with meaning
(none) A release, let go
DL + clause allow (colloq.)
do- DL + clause allow
po- DL give in
(A) loosen
pre- A DL relinquish, give over
is- A drop, let drop, emit
na- A abandon, leave behind
o- A relax (body, mind)
pro- A miss, skip
s- A lower, descend

The most straightforward verb pair is derived with o-. It means relax, but only body, someone’s behavior or a body part; an object in A is mandatory, so you’ll often need a se²:

Ana se opušta. Ana is relaxing.

If you are relaxing something else (grip on something, belt, laws...) you have to use another verb.

The na- pair means abandon, and is simply used with objects in A:

Vlasnici su napustili kuću. The owners abandoned the house.

The pro- pair basically means ‘fail to catch something’ - either what was said, or a bus, or any opportunity:

Propustio si dobar film jučer. You missed a good movie yesterday. {to m}

The is- pair is mostly used when something is dropped in a sequence, i.e. you dropped a letter when typing or writing. However, it’s also used to describe emitting sounds and smells.

The pair derived with s- has a completely unrelated meaning: it means lower:

Spustio sam rolete. I lowered the blinds. {m} ®

The noun roleta (window) blind often used in plural, even when it refers to a single thing, but it can be used in singular too.


® The construction (ne) dati se² + inf = passive can seems to be almost completely unknown in Serbia, where infinitives are rare anyway. Without an infinitive, a da-clause would be used, and this would likely collide with the construction which means allow, and is common in Serbia too.

The construction ne dati° se² + DL seems to be almost completely unknown in Serbia. Instead, another verb is used, also impersonally, but not negated: mrziti hate. In the “Ekavian” pronunciation, standard in Serbia, the verb has the form mrzeti (mrzi). Besides, the person involved is not in DL, but in A:

Anu mrzi da uveče pere sudove. Ana can’t be bothered to wash dishes in the evening.

As usual, instead of the infinitive clause, in Serbia da + present is used. Instead of navečer, the word uveče is common in Serbia and Bosnia.

Conversely, the construction mrzeti (mrzi)° + A + da is unknown in Croatia, and even misunderstood sometimes.

The word roleta (window) blind is used in a slightly different form roletna in Serbia.

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5 Easy Croatian: 71 Suggestions, Permissions and More Verbs N A  DL  G 24 I This explains how to say let me go there and similar things. Common verbs used are: davati ( daje ) ~ dati...

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