86 More Verbs and Standing Outcomes


I’ll explain several useful verbs and verb families here, and also introduce a couple of advanced topics.

The first verb family is derived in this pattern:

o-tvarati («) ~ o-tvoriti («)

The base verb, tvoriti, is quite rare. The derived pairs are not:

prefix used with meaning
o- A open
pri- A leave ajar (‘almost close’)
za- A close
pre- A (u¨ A) transform
s- A create
se² show up (colloq.)

There’s not much to say about the first three verbs: they express open and close – either literal (window, shop), or metaphoric (discussion, person).

The last two verbs have specific meanings. The pre- verb is similar to transport verbs derived by pre-: it uses destinations (expressed by u¨ + A) and optionally also origins (expressed by iz¨ + G, matching the destination). The verb is used with either an object in A, or a se² (mediopassively, if something transforms ‘on its own’):

Mali problem se pretvorio u veliki. A small problem has transformed into a big one.

The verb pair otvarati («) ~ otvoriti («) open can illustrate a fine point when perfective verbs are used and where not. If you opened a window, and then closed it – and it’s a bit cold now in the room – and you want to express with a single verb what you did, you would use the imperfective verb:

Otvarao sam prozor. I opened the window. {m} (It’s maybe closed now.)

If you use the impf. verb, it doesn’t imply that the window is open now, or that it remained open for some time – but such things would be implied if you would use the perf. verb:

Otvorio sam prozor. I’ve opened the window. {m} (And it’s open now.)

This is the ‘standing outcome’ principle. This is because perf. verbs focus on the outcome, but the outcome – state of the window – is not relevant here (or not expected). It’s important that you touched it. An obvious way to say it’s not open anymore is this:

Otvorio sam prozor i poslije ga zatvorio. {m} I’ve opened the window and closed it later.

So, the second verb ‘undoes’ the first. It’s actually more general: only the last perfective verb in the sequence counts. That is, if you say:

Otvorio sam prozor i oprao ga. I’ve opened the window and washed it. {m}

It would imply only it’s washed now, not whether it’s open or closed. This is a very subtle, but important principle: only the last outcome in a sequence ‘stands’. We could paraphrase it as the last outcome standing! This likely sounds extremely complicated, but an example will make it (hopefully) clear (‘standing outcomes’ are in red):

sam u trgovinu.

I was going/went to the shop. {f}
no implications whatsoever
sam u trgovinu.

I’ve gone to the shop. {f}
(I’m in the shop)
sam u trgovinu i kupila pivo.

I went to the shop and bought beer. {f}
(I have some beer)
sam u trgovinu, kupila pivo i popila ga.

I went to the shop, bought beer and drank it. {f}
(no beer; I might be drunk)

I fell. {f}
involuntary event!
no implications

However, the ‘standing outcome’ doesn’t apply to all perf. verbs – only to voluntary ones. Check the last row: pala sam doesn’t imply I’m still on the floor: it’s not something I did voluntary. It just happened.

Note that the impf. verb doesn’t really say we got to the shop at all. It just says we were going there, there was some action. But if we don’t say there were some problems on the way there, it’s enough. So the default, shortest way of saying something with a ‘standing outcome’ – if the ‘standing outcome’ doesn’t hold anymore – would be actually using the impf. verb.

Therefore, perf. involuntary verbs are used much more often than voluntary ones.

In real life, this rule is not completely clear-cut: you will hear both just išla sam u trgovinu and otišla sam u trgovinu for completed actions in the past and for speaker being obviously not in the shop anymore.

The important thing is that you will hear impf. verbs where you would naively – due to completion – expect perf. ones. Always keep in mind that perf. verbs are not just about completed actions, but also about the outcomes, especially for voluntary actions – and the outcome of going somewhere is being there.

There’s another way to distance yourself from a past action expressed by a voluntary perfective verb – by using another tense, not yet described: the so-called plusquamperfect tense (in English, the name is often simplified to pluperfect tense). It roughly corresponds to he had opened and like.

The tense is formed like the common past tense, but there’s an extra past form of the verb biti (je² +), in the same gender and number as the other past form:

Gledala sam film. I watched the movie. {f}

Bila sam gledala film. (pluperfect)

You can visualize it as putting the verb in the past twice:

presentgledam I’m watching
  ↓  ...put the verb gledati into the past
pastgledala sam I was watching
  ↓  ...put the verb biti (je² +) into the past
pluperfectbila sam gledala I had been watching

Using this tense, we can put a distance from the action – there’s no ‘standing outcome’:

Bio sam otvorio prozor. I had opened the window. {m} (But it was maybe closed later.)

It also serves to emphasize actions and states, like I was really doing it, I really did it, it has really happened:

Bila sam gledala film. I was really watching the movie. {f}

Bio sam otvorio prozor. I did open the window. {m} (despite it being closed now)

However, this tense is actually rare in speech, just check these Google™ results (in thousands, from the .hr domain):

kupio sam 142
bio sam kupio
kupio sam bio

You will find this tense occasionally in literature. There are actually even more tenses you’ll see sometimes in writing; they will be described in 99 Aorist Tense and Other Marginal Features.

Let’s go back to verbs. The next family is weird – there’s no base verb (or pair) – all verbs have prefixes. They are made attaching prefixes to this:

-premati («) ~ -premiti («)

Common verbs in this family are:

prefix used with meaning
o- A equip
pos- A (dest) tidy, put to place
pri- A (za¨ A1) prepare
s- A (dest) put to its place ®
make ready *
do- A (dest) deliver

The pair derived with pri- has a simple meaning, prepare. It’s used with an object or with a se²:

Pripremio sam ručak. I’ve prepared lunch. {m}

Pripremio sam se. I’ve prepared (myself). {m}

You can express what for the preparation was with za¨ + A:

Pripremio sam se za put. I’ve prepared for the trip. {m}

The most interesting verb pair is spremati ~ spremiti (since the prefix is merely a consonant, the stress shift in the present tense is not possible – the stress is always on the first syllable).

This verb pair has the basic meaning: bring something/someone to the optimal/requested state ®. It’s basically used for three things. First, to put things back to their places, e.g. if a book is out of its usual place (shelf), a toy is out of the box, etc.:

Spremio sam knjige. I’ve put the books back in place. {m}

If the place is expressed, it’s a destination:

Spremio sam knjige na policu. I've put the books back to the shelf. {m}

Then, this pair covers the meanings expressed by the pri- pair:

Spremio sam ručak. I’ve prepared lunch. {m}

Spremio sam se. I’ve prepared (myself). i.e. I’ve got ready. {m}

Finally, the third meaning is tidy:

Spremio sam sobu. I’ve tidied the room {m}

Next, there are two interesting verb families. One is derived like this:

do-vršavati («) ~ do-vršiti («)

The base verb is sometimes used, in meaning do, make. Three derived pairs are quite common:

prefix used with meaning
do- A finalize, complete
iz- A carry out, execute
za- A end, terminate

One derived pair matches the meaning of a phase verb pair I’ve already introduced:

počinjati (počinje / počinje) ~ početi (počne, počeo) start
završavati («) ~ završiti («) end

This verb pair is very useful:

navikavati («) ~ naviknuti (navikne) (AX / se²) (na YA) get/become used (X) (to Y)

You’ll see this pair with the prefix pri- with roughly the same meaning, and with the prefix od- in the opposite meaning, like colloquial English ‘get unused’.

Next, there are four common verb pairs derived from this ‘pair’:

-ključivati (-ključuje) ~ -ključiti («)

Common verbs in this family are:

prefix used with meaning
is- A (orig) exclude, switch off
pri- A (dest) join, connect, plug in
u- A (dest) include, switch on
za- A / CC conclude

(The rest is coming soon)


® In Serbia, the verb pair spremati ~ spremiti means only prepare, never put to its place; with se², it means get ready.

5 Easy Croatian: 86 More Verbs and Standing Outcomes N A  DL  G 24 I V I’ll explain several useful verbs and verb families here, and also introduce a couple of advanced topics. Th...

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