84 Make It in Time, Get Things Done: More Verbs


I will now introduce a couple of very useful verbs and their families.

The first verb pair is quite common, but there’s no exact English translation:

stizati (stiže) ~ stići (stigne, stigao, stigla) get, arrive, make on time

This verb pair means, basically get to the destination, i.e. arrive. For example:

Pismo je stiglostići
The letter has arrived.

(In the above example, definiteness of the letter is implied by placing the subject first, therefore the letter.)

However, this verb pair has another, very frequent meaning, do something, come somewhere on time. For example:

smo na sastanak.
We got to the meeting on time. {m/mixed}

Sometimes the meaning can be ambiguous, it could be simply arrive, but it could be also get on time, so a phrase na vrijeme on time can be added to make it clear:

smo na sastanak na vrijeme.
We got to the meeting on time. {m/mixed} (no ambiguity)

Then, this pair can mean have time to do something – of course, usually used in negative, since people mostly don't have time to do something – and the action you were able to do (or weren't) is in inf:

Nisam stiglastići
pročitati knjigu.
I didn’t have time to read the book (all of it). {f} ®

Note that the perf. verb means you weren't able to read it to the end, but you maybe did read a bit of it; using an impf. verb expresses you didn’t have time for any reading:

Nisam stiglastići
čitati knjigu.
I didn’t have time to read the book (at all). {f} ®

As you can see, mostly the perf. verb stići (stigne, stigao, stigla) is used, to express past or future; the impf. verb is used for ongoing things or repeated things in the future and past.

There are a couple of verbs derived from this pair:

prefix used with meaning
do- A catch up
po- A / CC achieve
pre- A overtake
pri- arrive

The pairs with do- and pre- are related to running after someone, and catching up. Both pairs are quite common.

The verb pair derived with po- has a specific meaning: achieve, accomplish, and it’s frequently used with clauses as objects; it often corresponds to English make, reach with specific objects:

EU i Britanija su postiglepostići
EU and Britain have reached an agreement. (lit. ‘achieved’)

je uspjeh.
He achieved success.

(In many verb families, the pair derived with po- is special in some way.)

The last verb pair, derived with pri-, means only arrive, there’s no meaning have time to do something. However, it’s less common than the base, multi-purpose verb.

The opposite pair is, of course, being late:

kasniti ~ za- («) be late, run late

For example:

Zakasnio sam na sastanak. I was late for the meeting. {m}

Kasnim! I’m running late!

There’s an event verb pair which has a similar meaning to stizati, but without the implication it was on time – simply, some things are done:

obavljati ~ obaviti do, make something done

For example:

Obavila sam neke stvari. I got some things done. {f}

Ana je obavila sve. Ana got everything done.

This pair is mostly used for limited tasks done outside of home, such as going to the bank, shopping for necessary things, paperwork, visit to a dentist and job interviews. Within home, it’s mostly used for chores, like laundry. It’s never used for things which you do purely for fun.

Then, there’s a perfective verb with a similar meaning, which has no true impf. counterpart:

napraviti perf. do, make

There’s a difference between this verb and the previous pair. This verb has emphasis on creating something. For instance:

Napravila sam popis. I’ve made a list. {f} ®

This verb is also used when you simply do something:

Napravio sam nešto glupo. I did something stupid. {m} ®

The English verb make has many meanings, which are covered with various Croatian verbs and verb pairs – some covered with the verbs I have described above:

English make Croatian verb(s)
I made a toybox. napraviti perf. do, make
He made me do it. tjerati ~ na- force
They make a nice couple. biti (je²) be
I made ten points in the game. postizati (postiže) ~ postići (...) achieve
osvajati («) ~ osvojiti («) win, conquer
I don’t know what to make of it. shvaćati ® ~~ shvatiti understand
He made her cry.
It makes me happy.
use specific verbs

This is maybe the right time to mention two more groups of verbs. Recall that I wrote some time ago that there’s no completion of hugging in Croatian, just the inchoative zagrliti. Well, there is a kind of completion, when you do it over the top, and it’s derived with iz- instead of za-. Two common verbs like that are:

izgrliti perf. hug
izljubiti («) perf. kiss  
    all over, vigorously, thoroughly

They imply the process was thorough. There are only a few such verbs commonly used, so they don’t have a special name.

The other group is similar, but larger: for some process verbs (and impf. event verbs), there are perfective verbs that indicate the process is done to the point that the subject had enough. It can mean he or she is satisfied, full, but also that the subject is fed up. Such verbs are always created by prefixing na- and adding the particle se². Common examples are:

najesti (najede, najeo) se² perf. feed up
napiti (napije) se² perf. drink (until full)
nagledati se² perf. watch (to the personal limit)
naslušati se² perf. listen (to the personal limit)
naspavati («) se² perf. sleep (as much as needed)

These are just the most common ones. For example:

Nisam se naspavala. I didn’t have enough sleep. {f}

To express objects, all these verbs use the G case:

Najela se kolača. She ate cakes. (until she was full)

Naslušao sam se priča. I’ve heard so many stories. (I’m fed up) {m}

Such perf. verbs have a fancy name: satiative verbs, literally feed-up verbs. They usually have no matching impf. verbs.


® In Serbia, infinitives are less often used in speech (and they get rarer more you go southeast), the form da + present prevails. In Serbia, it would be much more common to say:

Nisam stiglastići
da pročitam knjigu.
I didn’t have time to read the book (all of it). {f}

Nisam stiglastići
da čitam knjigu.
I didn’t have time to read the book (at all). {f}

In Serbia, the verb uraditi («) is frequently used instead of napraviti, especially when meaning do.

Although popis is used in Serbia and Bosnia, the word spisak (spisk-) is more common in the meaning list in these countries.

Instead of shvaćati, a slightly different form of the verb, shvatati, is used in Serbia and most of Bosnia. The perf. verb is the same everywhere.

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5 Easy Croatian: 84 Make It in Time, Get Things Done: More Verbs N A  DL  G 24 I V I will now introduce a couple of very useful verbs and their families. The first verb pair is quite common, ...

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