08 Weather and General Statements

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

Let’s take a look how you can express general statements in Croatian, such as it’s cold in English. Such statements are often used for weather conditions.

In English, such sentences use ‘dummy’ it and the 3rd person present of the verb to be (is), and that’s mostly shortened to it’s.

In Croatian, no pronouns can be used in such sentences, only the 3rd pers. present of the Croatian version of the verb to be. It’s quite irregular:

biti (je² +) be

I have written a plus sign after je to indicate that other present tense forms cannot be obtained by the usual rules – the forms of this verb must be learned, as in English. (For example, the 1st person form isn’t "jem" but sam.)

There are useful words (called adverbs) that can be used with je² in such expressions:

dosadno  ▶  boring
hladno  ▶  cold
kasno  ▶  late
lijepo  ▶  beautiful
mračno  ▶  dark
oblačno  ▶  cloudy

rano  ▶  early
sunčano  ▶  sunny
toplo  ▶  warm
vedro  ▶  clear
vruće  ▶  hot
zabavno  ▶  entertaining

There’s another important point: as you can probably see from the mark ², the word je² behaves like se² and wants to be at the second place:

Hladno je.  ▶  It’s cold.

Danas je hladno.  ▶  It’s cold today.

Hladno je danas.  ▶  (the same meaning)

Word order in Croatian is quite free – as you can see, words hladno and danas can be exchanged – but it does not apply to some words like se² and je² that must go to a predefined place in a sentence! (Therefore, I have introduced a special mark for such words in 7 Verbs with Obligatory Objects.)

The adverb vedro is opposite of oblačno – it means the skies are clear.

There are a couple of useful words (adverbs of intensity) that can be placed before adverbs above, and a prefix (not a separate word, but something that gets fused with the word following it):

malo  ▶  a bit
jako  ▶  very (not formal) ®
vrlo  ▶  very (more formal)
prilično  ▶  considerably
dosta  ▶  quite
stvarno  ▶  really
pre- too

They must not be placed after the adverb, and are usually placed right before it. For example:

Danas je jako hladno. It’s very cold today.

Jako je hladno danas. (the same, less common order)

Prevruće je. It’s too hot.

The adverb vrlo is a bit formal, it’s mostly used in formal writing, it’s less often heard in spoken communication.

In the Standard stress scheme, when pre- is added to a word, the stress shifts to it; in the ‘western’ scheme, it doesn’t: therefore prevruće. You will sometimes see the prefix pre spelled as a separate word: that’s not standard.

While jako very – and other adverbs of intensity – can be used as the equivalent English words in most cases, there’s a notable exception: they can’t be used before uskoro soon – another word is normally used instead:

rano early
jako rano very early
dosta rano quite early
uskoro soon (also ubrzo, brzo)
jako brzo very soon
dosta brzo quite soon

There are two more adverbs of intensity often used in colloquial, spoken communication:


For example:

Užasno je dosadno.  ▶  It’s terribly boring.

What if you want to say it’s not cold? The rule is a bit different than for ordinary verbs: you should add ni- to the front of je². The resulting word – nije – is not restricted to the second position and is, in fact, usually placed before the adverb:

Nije hladno. It isn’t cold.

Uopće nije hladno. It isn’t cold at all.

Danas nije hladno. It isn’t cold today.

Nije hladno danas. (the same meaning)

There are useful words to express where your statement applies:

ovdje  ▶  here
svugdje  ▶  everywhere
tamo there

tu here
unutra inside
vani outside ®

In everyday, colloquial communication, ovdje and tu are used in the same meaning. These words are often put to the front of sentences:

Ovdje je toplo. It’s warm here.

Vani je oblačno. It’s cloudy outside.

If you want to say it’s raining or it’s snowing, normally you should use the following verb:

padati fall

And these nouns:

kiša rain

snijeg snow

Therefore, you actually say (in Croatian) the rain is falling or the snow is falling. Words can go in any order, and it’s actually more common to put the verb at front:

Pada kiša.  ▶  ‘Rain is falling.’ = It’s raining.

Kiša pada. (the same meaning)

Pada snijeg. ‘Snow is falling.’ = It’s snowing.

Snijeg pada. (the same meaning)

(Don’t forget ije in snijeg is pronounced by most people in Croatia as just je, according to the normal pronunciation rules outlined before.)

There’s a similar expression about wind, using the noun vjetar (vjetr-) wind and the following verb:

puhati (puše) blow ®

Again, words can go in any order, but the verb comes often at front:

Pušepuhati vjetar.  ▶  The wind is blowing.

Vjetar pušepuhati. (the same meaning)

When it’s obvious what you’re talking about, you can use just a verb:

Pada. ‘It’s falling.’ (either rain or snow).

Pušepuhati. The wind is blowing.

You can use adverbs of intensity (except for vrlo) to express intensity of rain, snow and wind:

Malo pada. ‘It’s falling a bit.’ (either rain or snow).

Jako pušepuhati. The wind is blowing strong.

The adverb jako with expressions for rain, wind and snow also corresponds to English heavily. You can use the same adverbs (but not vrlo!) to express intensity of any action where it makes sense:

Jako volim čokoladu. I ‘strongly’ love chocolate.

In Croatian, you can usually use the present tense to talk about future events (like in English we’re leaving tomorrow). However, with weather expressions, you cannot use the present tense in such a way (it’s hard to do it in English as well). However, you can use adverbs of frequency to talk about things that happen anytime:

Često pušepuhati vjetar. The wind blows often.

If you want to ask about the weather, you should use:

Kakvo je vrijeme? What’s the weather like?

— Hladno. Cold.

It can be answered with just an adverb, as above. Such short comments are normal in casual, even in formal communication. It’s also possible to comment on any such sentence:

Stvarno je vruće... It’s really hot...

— Nije jako. lit. ‘Not very.’ = It isn’t very hot.

In Croatian, short comments contain only the difference to what the comment is on. For example, since it’s a comment on vruće, it’s not necessary to repeat that word.

If you want to ask a more generic questions, that can be answered with ‘boring’, you should ask just:

Kako je? How is it?


® In Bosnia and Serbia, the adverb mnogo is used in meaning very as well; for instance, you can hear and read mnogo je hladno in these countries.

Instead of vani, napolju prevails in Bosnia and Serbia, and is also occasionally heard in parts of Croatia. Besides puhati (puše), duvati is also used in Serbia.

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