A3 Verbs

The dictionary form of verbs is infinitive. For a great majority of verbs, past forms can be simply derived from the infinitive. Another very important form is the 3rd pers. present singular (pres-3), the form to derive all other present forms from (except for three irregular verbs).

Based on their endings in infinitive and pres-3, verb are divided into verb classes. Various textbooks use different divisions. The division presented here is useful for someone learning Croatian as a foreign language.

Present tense forms

All forms of the present tense have always the same endings (except for three irregular verbs) – only the pres-3pl depends on the vowel pres-3 ends in:

pres-1 -a-m -i-m -e-m
pres-2 -a-š -i-š -e-š
pres-3 -a -i -e
pres-1pl -a-mo -i-mo -e-mo
pres-2pl -a-te -i-te -e-te
pres-3pl -aju -e -u

Two verbs have (fully regular) present forms only:

(bude) perf. be, get, become
(veli) say

While (bude) is one of most important verbs in Croatian, the verb (veli) is often used only in certain regions.

Aorist forms

The aorist tense is not frequently used. It's a past tense, sometimes used for events that are about to happen right now. Usually it's formed for perfective verbs, but it can be used with imperfective verbs as well. Its forms are:

aor-1 -h -o-h
aor-23 - -e
aor-1pl -smo -o-smo
aor-2pl -ste -o-ste
aor-3pl -še -o-še

The endings with a vowel (-o-h, etc.) are used only with verbs that have infinitives ending in -sti or -ći. For all other verbs, the aorist forms are simply formed from the infinitive by discarding -ti and adding aorist endings:

inf aor-1
naučiti perf. learn naučih
uzeti perf. take uzeh
pojesti perf. eat pojedoh

For more information about forming the aorist tense for verbs in -sti or -ći, check With possible sound shifts in infinitive and present below.

Simple verb classes

These are the easiest verb classes:

  inf pres-3 past-m
a -a-ti -a -a-o
i -i-ti -i -i-o
n -nu-ti -n-e -nu-o
ova/uje -ova-ti -uj-e -ova-o

Two out of four classes are completely determined by their infinitive form: all verbs with infinitives in -nuti belong to the n-verbs, and all verbs with infinitives in -ovati belong to ova/uje-verbs.

Unfortunately, it doesn't hold for verbs ending in -ati or -iti: they are not all a-verbs or i-verbs.

A great majority of verbs belong to these four verb classes. Past forms are simply obtained from the infinitive. Unprefixed a-verbs are more or less all imperfective, as almost all ova/uje-verbs. Virtually all n-verbs are perfective, except for the following verbs:

brinuti worry
čeznuti yearn
ginuti perish, die
tonuti sink
trnuti numb
trunuti rot
venuti wither

The a-verbs are the default class of verbs: all new verbs that are adapted into Croatian (mostly colloquially) are adapted as a-verbs:

četati chat (over Internet)
printati print (from a PC)

(It seems that in Serbia ova/uje is the default verb class.)

Unpredictable classes, without shifts

A bit more difficult classes are unpredictable, without sound shifts. You basically have to remember both infinitive and pres-3 form; however, there are no sound shifts. There are 7 classes in this group, divided into 2 subgroups. The first four are:

  inf pres-3 past-m
ava/aje -ava-ti -aj-e -ava-o
eva/uje -eva-ti -uj-e -eva-o
iva/uje -iva-ti -uj-e -iva-o
uva/uje -uva-ti -uj-e -uva-o

They all have -ati in the infinitive and are overall similar to a-verbs, except for the present forms. Three classes (ava/aje, eva/uje, uva/uje) out of the 4 above contain only a handful of of verbs. Common ones are:

davati (daje) give
-znavati (-znaje)
carevati (caruje) rule as an emperor
kraljevati (kraljuje) rule as a king
bljuvati (bljuje) vomit
pljuvati (pljuje) spit

All verbs listed are imperfective. Of course, verbs derived by prefixing those listed above belong to the same class, but some are perfective. Often used are ones derived from davati (daje), e.g. do-davati (do-daje). The "verb" -znavati (-znaje) is not used on its own, only verbs derived from it by prefixing are used, e.g. po-znavati (po-znaje).

Unfortunately, verbs ending in -ivati can be either a-verbs – e.g. plivati, pozivati – or iva/uje-verbs – e.g. dokazivati (dokazuje), etc. There are many iva/uje-verbs – too much to list here.

The next three classes are a bit more complicated, as two of them have a (predictable) alternation in the past forms. It's interesting that for some of them, Standard forms are different from forms used in speech and casual writing most of the time:

  inf pres-3 past-m past-f
a/i -a-ti -i -a-o -a-la
je/i -je-ti -i -i-o -je-la
je/ije -je-ti -ij-e -i-o -je-la

Only a limited number of verbs belong to the a/i-verbs. Some of them have general, quite basic meanings:

bježati run away
bojati paint (wall, fence) *
bojati se² be afraid
brojati count *
čučati squat
držati hold
ležati lay
klečati kneel
trčati run
spati sleep
stajati (stoji) stand
strujati stream *

(Only infinitives are listed, pres-3 forms end in -i!) The verb stajati (stoji) stand is irregular. This does not apply to verb derived from it, which have regular forms from -stojati. The verb spati (spi) sleep is quite archaic, but still used in some regions (however, verbs derived from it are common). Besides it, all a/i-verb feature Croatian-specific consonants.

The rest of a/i-verbs in common use stand for various sounds (again, I list only infinitives):

bečati cry (baby)
blejati bleat
brujati hum
cvrčati chirr
hučati boom
ječati cry, shrill
pištati squeak, beep
pljuštati rain heavily, shower
režati growl
šuštati rustle, murmur
vrištati scream
zujati buzz *
zvečati twang
zviždati whistle
zvučati sound

All a/i-verbs listed here are imperfective, and verbs derived from by prefixing are also a/i-verbs, but perfective, e.g. dotrčati (dotrči), zaspati (zaspi)...

As a rule, a/i-verbs have the stress fixed on the first syllable in the present tense, i.e. the stress doesn't shift to negation in the standard stress scheme:

bježati (bježi) run away
. . .
vrištati (vrišti) scream
. . .

The only exception is the verb spati (spi) sleep.

Four a/i-verbs above are marked with an asterisk (*). They also exist as plain i-verbs, in fact, Standard Croatian insists on them being just plain i-verbs, although a/i versions prevail in use:

mostly used Std. Cro.
bojati (boji) bojiti
brojati (broji) brojiti
strujati (struji) strujiti
zujati (zuji) zujiti

(Google™ search of the .hr domain will show you the a/i-verb forms of these four verbs are 3-4 times more common than the i-verb forms.)

All verbs that end in infinitive in -jeti belong to the je/i-verbs, except for the following common verbs, which belong to the je/ije-verbs:

dospjeti (dospije, dospio, dospjela) perf. end up
razumjeti (razumije, razumio, razumjela) understand
smjeti (smije, smio, smjela) be allowed
uspjeti (uspije, uspio, uspjela) perf. succeed

However, many verbs that in Standard Croatian belong to the je/i-verbs are reshaped as plain i-verbs in colloquial communication, even in newspapers. This does not affect their present forms, only the infinitive and past forms. The following verbs are seldom seen with -je- in infinitive and past, -i- forms prevail even in newspapers (only infinitives are listed for sake of brevity, you can work out other forms):

gnjiljeti rot
hlapjeti evaporate
starjeti age, grow old
strepjeti fear, quail
šumjeti whirr, hum
tamnjeti darken

(For example, Google™ gives 1250 hits for hlapiti on the .hr domain, but just 87 for hlapjeti.) Therefore, don't be surprised that Standard Croatian dictionaries list only forms starjeti, starjeli, but you hear are read just stariti and starili all the time. Of course, this applies to all verbs derived by prefixing from the verbs above, e.g. instead of ostarjeti you will mostly see just ostariti.

For the following common verbs, i-forms prevail in casual communication, while je/i-forms prevail in written communication, newspapers, etc. (again, only infinitives are listed):

gorjeti burn
grmjeti thunder
smrdjeti stink
štedjeti save (money)
šutjeti be quiet
trpjeti suffer
vrtjeti spin, turn
visjeti hang
vrvjeti swarm
žudjeti yearn

With a possible sound shift in present

This is a class (or two classes, if you like it) that contains a lot of verbs. Its characteristic is -ati in the infinitive, and e in the pres-3, with a possible sound shift. The shift does not happen if the consonants before -ati are Croatian-specific (usually j) or r:

  inf pres-3 past-m
a/*e -ja-ti -j-e -ja-o

Common verbs that fall into this class without a sound shift are:

brijati (brije) shave
češati (češe) scratch
derati (dere) tear
grijati (grije) heat
kašljati (kašlje) cough
lajati (laje) bark
orati (ore) till
penjati (penje) se² climb
sijati (sije) sow
smijati (smije) se² laugh
stajati (staje) stop, stand
stenjati (stenje) groan
trajati (traje) last

There are many common verbs with a sound shift. Here are verbs with the shift k or cč, e.g. skakati (skače) – only infinitives are listed for brevity:

hrkati snore
micati move
nicati sprout
plakati cry, shed tears
klicati shout, cheer
skakati jump
srkati sip (while eating)
urlikati scream
ticati touch
vikati yell
žvakati chew

The following verbs have change h or sš, e.g. pisati (piše):

brisati wipe, clear
kihati sneeze
klesati chisel
kresati trim
jahati ride (animal)
mahati wave
mirisati («) smell
njihati sway, wobble
pisati write
puhati blow
sisati suck

The following verbs have change g or zž, e.g. rezati (reže):

kazati say, tell
klizati slide, skate
lagati lie, tell lies
lizati lick
mazati spread (on bread, skin)
pomagati help
puzati crawl
rezati cut
stizati arrive, make on time
vagati weigh
vezati tie

(to be expanded)


This class is the simplest one historically, there's just -ti in infinitive and -je in pres-3:

  inf pres-3 past-m
vowel-root -ti -j-e -o

Only a limited number of verbs fall into this class:

biti (bije) beat
čuti (čuje) hear
kriti (krije) hide
piti (pije) drink
šiti (šije) sew
viti (vije) wave

The verb biti (bije) is rare in Croatia nowadays, but verbs derived from it – e.g. ubiti (ubije) perf. kill – are common. The same holds for viti (vije). One more verb – šiti (šije) – is archaic, šivati is much more frequent in meaning sew – but verbs derived from it are not.

Additionally, two perfective verbs also fall into this class:

obuti (obuje) perf. put on (shoes)
umiti (umije) perf. wash (face)

With possible sound shifts in infinitive and present

This set of classes is basically the same as vowel-root, but they historically didn't have a vowel before -ti in infinitive, so all kinds of sound assimilations happened in the infinitive as well as in the present! Verbs belonging to this class often have different consonants in all three main forms (infinitive, present, past). Most verbs in this group have -ao in past-m.

It's possible to group verbs based on their (historic) final consonants. Following classes don't have major alternations; they characteristically have -sti in the infinitive, and their historic final consonant is revealed in present forms:

  inf pres-3 past-m past-f
s-root -s-ti -s-e -s-a-o -s-la
st-root -s-ti -st-e -st-a-o -s-la
b-root -ps-ti -b-e -b-a-o -b-la
z-root -s-ti -z-e -z-a-o -z-la
d/t-root -s-ti -d-e -o -la
-s-ti -t-e -o -la

Except for d/t-root verbs, only a handful of verbs fall into these classes. They are:

grepsti (grebe, grebao, grebla) scratch
gristi (grize, grizao, grizla) bite
musti (muze, muzao, muzla) milk
rasti (raste, rastao, rasla) grow
tresti (trese, tresao, tresla) shake, shiver
vesti (veze, vezao, vezla) embroider
-vesti (-veze, -vezao, -vezla)

The second -vesti (etc.) is a base many verbs are derived from, with the basic meaning drive, e.g. odvesti (etc.) drive away. The verb grepsti (etc.) is rare, more common is variant grebati (grebe). Of course, verbs are derived from the other verbs listed above too, e.g. odrasti (etc.).

The following verbs belong to the d/t-root verbs:

bosti (bode, bo / boo, bola) stab, prod
jesti (jede, jeo, jela) eat
krasti (krade, krao, krala) steal
presti (prede, preo, prela) spin (yarn); purr
-vesti (-vede, -veo, -vela)
cvasti (cvate, cvao, cvala) blossom
mesti (mete, meo, mela) sweep
plesti (plete, pleo, plela) knit

Again, many verbs are derived from them, and the base -vesti (etc.) is used only to derive verbs from, with the basic meaning lead.

The following class has major alternations:

  inf pres-3 past-m past-f
k/g-root -ći -č-e -k-a-o -k-la

This class is called k/g-root for historical reasons – there are no g-root verbs in common use today. All alternations in various forms are shown here, with vući pull as an example (again, the original k is seen in past-m and pres-3pl):

inf vu-ći
pres-3 vu-če
pres-3pl vu-ku
past-m vu-kao
past-f vu-kla
imper-2 vu-ci
pass. adj. vu-čen

Such verbs are (only infinitives are listed for brevity):

obući perf. wear (clothes)
peći bake
reći perf. say
sjeći (siječe) cut
teći flow
tući beat
vući pull

Of course, there are also verbs derived from them. The verb sjeći has ije instead of je in present forms.

Verbs in all these classes, from s-root to k/g-root have a rightward stress shift in the present tense (in the Standard scheme) if they have at least three syllables:

odrasti (odraste)
ispeći (ispeče)
obući (obuče)

All these classes have the aor-1 in -oh, with their historic final consonants:

  inf   aor-1
d/t-root pojesti pres-3 pojede pojed-oh
k/g-root reći past-m rekao rek-oh

In aor-23, the consonant before the ending -e changes like in pres forms:

rekoh aor-1reče aor-23

With vowel alternation

These classes have their pres-3 different from inf/past not by change of consonants, but vowels. They are further divided into three subclasses. The first one has infinitive on -ati; it contains the following common verbs:

brati (bere) pick (fruits)
klati (kolje) slaughter
prati (pere) wash
srati (sere) shit (impolite!)
slati (šalje) send
zvati (zove) call

All these verbs are imperfective, verbs derived from them by prefixing are all perfective; both have have pass. adj. ending in -an (e.g. pozvan invited).

The next class has infinitives in -eti and -uti:

kleti (kune) curse
mljeti (melje) mill
žeti (žanje) rip, harvest
naduti (nadme) perf. bloat
oteti (otme) perf. hijack
uzeti (uzme) perf. take

The following roots also fall into this class; they are used to derive several important verbs, all perfective:

-četi (-čne):
  početi (počne) perf. begin
  začeti (začne) perf. conceive
-peti (-pne):
  napeti (napne) perf. wind up
  popeti (popne) se² perf. climb
  raspeti (raspne) perf. crucify
  zapeti (zapne) perf. stumble
-suti (-spe):
  nasuti (naspe) perf. cover
  rasuti (raspe) perf. dissipate

The verbs from this class have pass. adj. obtained just by removing -i from the infinitive (e.g. počet, napet, rasut, otet). This all also holds for verbs derived from them by prefixing.

Finally, these two verbs are today quite archaic, but verbs derived from them are common:

mrijeti (mre, mro) die
strijeti (stre, stro) spread

The second verb has another possible infinitive form: strti. These verbs are imperfective; verbs derived from them by prefixing (e.g. u-mrijeti) are perfective, and still belong to this class. To get impf. pairs of the prefixed verbs, use verbs ending on -irati (-ire), e.g. um-irati (um-ire).

With inserted n in present

Certain verbs have present like n-verbs, but have infinitives without n, leading to all possible sound shifts in infinitive and past forms. All such verbs are perfective.

This is the only verb in this class without sound shifts (and all verbs derived from it, most of them very frequent!):

stati (stane) perf. stop

The following verbs behave as d/t-root in the past and infinitive:

pasti (padne, pao) perf. fall
sjesti (sjedne, sjeo) perf. sit
sresti (sretne, sreo) perf. encounter

The following verbs behave as k/g-root in the past and infinitive, and some of them also appear as regular n-verbs:

-bjeći (-bjegne, -bjegao, -bjegla):
  izbjeći (izbjegne, izbjegao, izbjegla) perf. avoid
  pobjeći (pobjegne, pobjegao, pobjegla) perf. run away
leći (legne, legao, legla) perf. lie (down)
pomoći (pomogne, pomogao, pomogla) perf. help
stići (stigne, stigao, stigla) perf. arrive (on time)
dići (digne, digao, digla) perf. raise
  also dignuti (digne)
nići (nikne, nikao, nikla) perf. sprout
  also niknuti (nikne)
pući (pukne, pukao, pukla) perf. break, burst
  also puknuti (pukne)
taći (takne, takao, takla) perf. touch
  also taknuti (takne)

The root -bjeći is not used on its own, it's used to derive verbs, listed above.

Of course, all this applies also to verbs derived by prefixing from the above verbs, e.g. po-taknuti / po-taći.

Irregular past

These verbs have past, inf and pres-3 quite different, but forms of the present tense are normally derived from their pres-3. They are:

ići (ide, išao, išla) go
otići (ode, otišao, otišla) perf. leave
-ći (-đe, -šao, -šla)
-nijeti (-nesem, -nio, -nijela)

From the root -ći (etc.) perfective verbs of motion and naći (etc.) are derived; from -nijeti (etc.), perfective verbs derived from bring, e.g. od-nijeti (od-nesem, od-nio, od-nijela) perf. take away.

Irregular present

There are three verbs with specific forms in the present tense, their inf and past forms are kind of expected. They are be, will and can:

inf biti htjeti moći
past-m bio htio mogao
past-f bila htjela mogla
pres-1 sam² ću² mogu
pres-1 si² ćeš² možeš
pres-3 je² će² može
pres-1pl smo² ćemo² možemo
pres-2pl ste² ćete² možete
pres-3pl su² će² mogu
imper-2 budi

Present tense forms of biti and htjeti also have stressed (longer) forms.

5 Easy Croatian: A3 Verbs The dictionary form of verbs is infinitive . For a great majority of verbs, past forms can be simply derived from the infinitive. Another ve...

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