99 Aorist Tense and Other Marginal Features


There are features in Croatian that you will see used from time to time. You don't need them in everyday life, but some people use them, and you'll see them in literature (but they are rare even in books).

First, there are several rarely used verb tenses.

The aorist tense is traditionally a past tense, but today it's usually used for events that have happened moments ago, or are about to happen right now. It's usually formed for perfective verbs, but it can be used with impf. verbs as well.

The aorist tense is a single word, usually formed from the infinitive. For verbs ending in -ti, the ending is replaced with the following personal endings:

person sing. plur.
1st -h -smo
2nd - -ste
3rd - -še

I'll use abbreviations like aor-1, aor-3pl for various aorist forms, in the same way as for the present tense forms. Here are forms for several verbs (pres-3 and past forms are not shown, as they're not important for forming the aorist if verbs have -ti in inf):

naučiti perf. learnaor-1 naučih
pozvati perf. call, inviteaor-1 pozvah
uzeti perf. takeaor-1 uzeh
vidjeti seeaor-1 vidjeh

Observe that it's not important if the verb is ‘regular’ or not: only the inf ending matters.

For 2nd and 3rd person in singular, the ending is ‘empty’, so we get nauči and uze.

Verbs with inf ending in -sti and -ći insert a vowel before the aorist endings, -o- in aor-1 and plural, and -e- in aor-23 (the form common to the 2nd and 3rd person):

person sing. plur.
1st -oh -osmo
2nd -e -oste
3rd -e -oše

For such verbs, aorist forms aren't derived from inf. If they have past-m in -ao, it's removed, and aorist forms are derived from it; otherwise, they are derived from pres-3, after discarding the final vowel (which is always -e for such verbs):

pojesti (pojede, pojeo) perf. eataor-1 pojedoh
reći (reče, rekao, rekla) perf. sayaor-1 rekoh

Verbs on -ći that have past-m in -kao or -gao shift the final consonant in aor-23 to the consonant used in pres-3:

aor-1 rekoh (past-m rekao)
aor-23 reče (pres-3 reče)

Verbs derived from ići don't fit into this scheme: their aorist forms are always derived from pres-3 (but they're quite irregular anyway):

naći (nađe, našao, našla) perf. findaor-1 nađoh
otići (ode, otišao, otišla) perf. leaveaor-1 odoh

The aorist forms are normally stressed like forms they're derived from: if they are derived from inf, on the same syllable as inf; if from pres-3, like it, etc.

However, in the standard stress scheme, aor-23 is always stressed on the first syllable, regardless of stress of other forms:

aor-1 pojedoh
aor-23 pojede
aor-1pl pojedosmo

The use of aorist is very rare in western parts of Croatia; in more eastern regions, it can be heard in storytelling and expressing immediate action, e.g.:

Ja odoh. I'm leaving now.

Another past form (similar to the plusquamperfect tense) is the past conditional. It's like conditional, but has an extra past form of the verb biti (je² +), in the same gender and number as the other past form:

Gledala bih film. I would watch the movie. (fem. speaking)

Bila bih gledala film. I would have watched the movie.

This form was used to express intentions and opportunities in the past, but today it's optional, and almost everybody uses just the common conditional.

Then, there's yet another past tense: the imperfect tense. As its name says, it's formed from impf. verbs. It's so rare that I don't recall its endings. I think I've never used it in my life. If you are really want to learn its endings, look into Wikipedia.

Similar to present adverbs derived from verbs, there are also past adverbs. They correspond to English having seen it, she decided to.... They are normally formed from the past-f form of the verb, replacing the final -la with -vši:

see vidjelavidjevši
eat (perf.) pojelapojevši

For verbs where past-m form has an additional -a- in comparison to the past-f form, it's derived from the past-m form, replacing -o with -vši:

can mogao m, mogla f → mogavši
grow up (perf.) odrastao m, odrasla f → odrastavši

They are very rare in speech, and rarely used in writing:

Vidjevši da neće uspjeti, odustala je. Having seen she wasn't going to succeed, she gave up.

This meaning is usually expressed with kad when or nakon after instead of this rare form.

However, the past adverb bivši, derived from the verb biti (je² +) be is often used, but it's true adjective, with the meaning former, ex:

Vidjela je bivšeg muža. She saw her ex-husband.

As in English, the adjective bivši is used colloquially on its own, meaning ex-husband/boyfriend, or ex-wife/girlfriend, depending on the gender, but it still changes like an adjective.

There's an interesting feature that was historically much more common: use of indefinite adjectives. So far, I've explained only so-called definite adjectives, which are usually used.

However, most adjectives also had indefinite forms. They could have different stress and case endings. I won't go into details of stress, but the endings in singular are:

gender N A DL G I
neuter -o
= N -u -a -om
(not p/a)
dict. = N
dict. -a

As you can see, these look exactly like the noun endings.

Standard Croatian still insists on use of indefinite adjectives. They should be used with indefinite nouns, i.e. when you would use the indefinite article in English:

Vidim crna konja. A see a black horse. (very rare in use)

Then, some adjectives, according to Standard Croatian, have only indefinite forms, regardless of definiteness, and that includes all possessives in -ov or -ev, including njegov his:

Vidim njegova brata. I see his brother. (Standard, but very rare)

Vidim njegovog brata. (this is almost always used)

However, you'll see forms like above in some newspapers, on TV news, and in poetry.

Then, Standard Croatian insists that numbers 2-4 change according to case. You will sometimes see in writing DLI forms for numbers 2 and both in feminine gender and for 3:

number DLI
obje f both objema
dvije f two dvjema
tri three trima

If numbers change, nouns also change, into DLI-pl. For example:

Posjet dvjema farmama A visit to two farms (rare)

(If you check Google™, u dvije is about 30 times more frequent than u dvjema.) Other forms – including masc. gender – exist in grammar books, but are very rare in use. You will sometimes see the forms above used for G as well.

5 Easy Croatian: 99 Aorist Tense and Other Marginal Features N A  DL  G 24 I V There are features in Croatian that you will see used from time to time. You don't need them in everyda...

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