09 Numbers and Time

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

Let’s introduce numbers in Croatian. They are actually a diverse group of words, some of them behave like adjectives, others like nouns, most like adverbs. I will show just the simplest use, how to express 59 or some time in a day.

The numbers 0-9 are:

0 nula  ▶ 
1 jedan  ▶ 
2 dva  ▶ 
3 tri  ▶ 
4 četiri  ▶ 

5 pet  ▶ 
6 šest  ▶ 
7 sedam  ▶ 
8 osam  ▶ 
9 devet  ▶ 

The number 0 is never pronounced like the letter o, unlike in English. (The number 4 is often colloquially shortened to četri.) Numbers 10-19 are:

10 deset  ▶ 
11 jedanaest  ▶ 
12 dvanaest  ▶ 
13 trinaest  ▶ 
14 četrnaest  ▶ 

15 petnaest  ▶ 
16 šesnaest  ▶ 
17 sedamnaest
18 osamnaest
19 devetnaest

They are basically just 1-9 + -naest, with četiri shortened a bit. Most people pronounce just an e in sequences -ae- in the words listed above.

Then, there are special words for 20, 30, etc, made in a similar pattern (but note the stress marks):

20 dvadeset  ▶ 
30 trideset  ▶ 
40 četrdeset  ▶ 
50 pedeset  ▶ 
60 šezdeset  ▶ 
70 sedamdeset
80 osamdeset
90 devedeset

To express numbers like 35, use the following construction with i¨ and:

35 trideset i pet

It’s often shortened so these two numbers just get ‘glued together’:

35 tridesetpet

We can use those numbers to tell time. If you want to say that something happens or will happen at some time, use just u¨ + number that specifies the hour:

Vlak dolazi u tri. The train comes at three o’clock. ®

You can, as in English, use the present tense for things that will happen in the near future, especially if their time is known.

To specify where a train/bus/airplane is going to, use the preposition za¨ + A (specifying the destination) just after the noun meaning train/bus/airplane:

Vlak za Rijeku odlazi u pet. The train to Rijeka leaves at five o’clock.

Autobus za Split odlazi u sedam. The bus to Split leaves at seven o’clock.

You can use za¨ + A instead of u¨ + A when you express destination of travel by a vehicle:

Putujemo za Rijeku. We’re travelling to Rijeka.

The use of za¨ + A when traveling by vehicle is optional – you can use normal u¨ + A or na¨ + A – however, in expressions like train to Split, bus to Pula, use of za¨ is mandatory.

If you want to use more precise time, you can specify minutes:

Vlak dolazi u tri i dvadeset. The train arrives at 3:20.

Officially, Croatian uses 24-hour system, that is, 3 pm is 15:00. In schedules, and radno vrijeme working hours, time is usually shown as 15:20 or 15.20, sometimes with appended h. Sometimes, in handwriting, time is written as 1520, that is, with minutes in superscript:

Colloquially, people would just use tri 3 even without telling is it in the morning or afternoon.

To ask what the time is, use the following expression. It’s normal in Croatian to give a quite short answer:

Koliko je sati?  ▶  What’s the time? (lit. ‘How many hours is it?’)

— Tri i dvadeset.  ▶  It’s 20 minutes past three.

— Šest. Six o’clock.

Such short, basic answers or short comments are very common in speech, and I will explain them regularly. They are not impolite.

The word koliko is also frequently pronounced with stress on the first syllable (koliko).

The word skoro can be used before any time (or more generally, any measure). For example:

Koliko je sati?  ▶  What’s the time?

Skoro pet.  ▶  Almost five.

(It’s interesting that Standard Croatian prefers another word, gotovo, instead of skoro which completely prevails in speech and casual writing!)

It’s, of course, possible to ask when something will happen; to ask, just put the following word to beginning of a sentence, nothing else is needed:

kad(a) when

For example (you should always include a preposition when you answer such questions):

Kada dolazi vlak za Osijek? When does the train to Osijek arrive?

U četiri i dvadeset. At 20 minutes past four.

There are two common adverbs you can use with time expressions:

tek not earlier than, only
već already, as early as

The adverbs relate to expectations: tek is having more time than one would expect, while već is having less time than one would expect (i.e. already, as early as). For example:

Vlak dolazi već u dva. The train arrives as early as two o’clock.

Vlak dolazi tek u osam. The train arrives not sooner than at eight o’clock.

These two words normally cannot be placed after the words standing for time (e.g. u dva).

If you don’t know the precise time, you can use the preposition oko¨ instead of u¨:

Vlak dolazi oko dva. The train arrives around two o’clock.

A short answer to the previous question could be:

Oko dva. Around two o’clock.

If you want to emphasize that some time is exact, add točno exactly ® before the usual expression:

Vlak dolazi točno u tri. The train arrives at exactly 3 o’clock.

There are words for noon and midnight:

podne noon ponoć midnight

Again, use u¨ + A to specify something happening at that time (for both words A = N):

Autobusʷ¹ odlazi u podne. The bus leaves at noon.

You can simply say:

Ponoć je. It’s midnight.

Sad je podne. It’s noon.

Točno je podne. It’s exactly noon.

Of course, the word sad(a) is optional. The word točno cannot be right before the time here, since they don’t make a closely connected expression, so the word je² occupies the second position. You cannot use any personal pronouns in such sentences; in fact, podne serves as the subject.

What if you want to tell it’s almost midnight, or already midnight? Again the word je² will come between two words:

Skoro je ponoć. It’s almost midnight.

Već je ponoć. It’s already midnight. (it came earlier than expected)

Tek je podne. It’s only noon. (not later)

As you can see, već here really means you have less time available (you lost track of time, and expected it’s only 11 or so). The same happens when it’s used with time references in the future, e.g. već u dva at 2 o’clock already – you expected it leaves later, you have less time available than you expected. Such expressions are very common in Croatian (Google™ for "već je podne")

Of course, the same holds if you use pet 5 instead of ponoć, etc.

Colloquially, time is often expressed in halves:

Brod dolazi u tri i pol. The ship comes at half past three. (‘three and a half’)

(In colloquial speech, there are several quite different ways to express time by halves and quarters, and there are different ways according to region; see the chapter on Variations: Colloquial and Formal).

Here are days of week in Croatian:

ponedjeljak (ponedjeljk-) Monday
utorak (utork-) Tuesday
srijeda Wednesday
četvrtak (četvrtk-) Thursday
petak (petk-) Friday
subota Saturday
nedjelja Sunday

The week always starts on Monday. Days of week are normal nouns in Croatian, they are not always capitalized as in English. (As other nouns, they change according to their role, by means of case endings!)

We can simply say:

Danas je srijeda.  ▶  Today is Wednesday.

If you want to say that something happens or will happen on a weekday, use again u¨ + A:

U srijedu se vraćamo u Zagreb. We’re going back to Zagreb on Wednesday.

Kada Ana odlazi u Split? When is Ana leaving for Split?

— U subotu. On Saturday.

This quite familiar word can also be used:

vikend weekend

If something is going to happen on/over the weekend, use za¨ + vikend:

Idemo na Brač za vikend. We’re going to the island of Brač over the weekend.

Finally, if you’re curious how to say e.g. the train is leaving in 5 minutes, a small disappointment: it requires some word forms (that, is cases) I haven’t introduced yet. We still don’t know how to say three apples, actually. And I’ll introduce an important feature dividing the words minute and hour right in the next chapter.


® In Serbia and often in Bosnia, a slightly different word tačno is used. Instead of vlak, voz is common in these countries.

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