Serbo-Croatian grammar

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Serbo-Croatian is a South Slavic language that has, like most other Slavic languages, an extensive system of inflection. This article describes exclusively the grammar of the Shtokavian dialect, which is a part of the South Slavic dialect continuum[1] and the basis for the Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian standard variants of Serbo-Croatian.[2]

Pronouns, nouns, adjectives and some numerals decline (change the word ending to reflect case, the grammatical category and function) whereas verbs conjugate for person and tense. As in other Slavic languages, the basic word order is subject–verb–object (SVO); but the declensions show sentence structure and so word order is not as important as in more analytic languages, such as English or Chinese. Deviations from the standard SVO order are stylistically marked and may be employed to convey a particular emphasis, mood or overall tone, according to the intentions of the speaker or writer. Often, such deviations will sound literary, poetical or archaic.

Nouns have three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine and neuter) that correspond, to a certain extent, with the word ending so most nouns with -a are feminine, -o and -e neuter, and the rest mostly masculine but with some feminine. The grammatical gender of a noun affects the morphology of other parts of speech (adjectives, pronouns, and verbs) attached to it. Nouns are declined into seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, locative, and instrumental.

Verbs are divided into two broad classes according to their aspect, which can be either perfective (signifying a completed action) or imperfective (action is incomplete or repetitive). There are seven tenses, four of which (present, perfect, future I and II) are used in contemporary Serbo-Croatian, and the other three (aorist, imperfect and pluperfect) used much less frequently. The pluperfect is generally limited to written language and some more educated speakers, and the aorist and imperfect are considered stylistically marked and rather archaic. However, some nonstandard dialects make considerable (and thus unremarked) use of those tenses.

All Serbo-Croatian lexemes in this article are spelled in accented form in the Latin alphabet as well as in both accents (Ijekavian and Ekavian, with Ijekavian bracketed) when these differ (see Serbo-Croatian phonology.)


Serbo-Croatian makes a distinction between three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter) seven cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, locative, instrumental) and two numbers (singular and plural).


Serbo-Croatian has three main declensional types, traditionally called a-type, e-type and i-type respectively, according to their genitive singular ending.

a-type nouns[edit]

This type reflects Proto-Slavic o-stems, and is characterized by the endings (-o), (-e), or zero (-Ø) in the nominative singular, and (-a) in genitive singular. It includes most of the masculine and all of the neuter nouns.

The category of animacy is important for choosing of accusative singular of o-stems, and of personal pronouns. Animate nouns have the accusative case like the genitive, and inanimate nouns have the accusative case like the nominative. This is also important for adjectives and numerals that agree with masculine nouns in case.

This type has two sets of case endings: one for masculine, and the other for neuter gender:

The zero ending -Ø is for masculine nouns that end in consonant in nominative singular. Most masculine monosyllabic and some bisyllabic words receive an additional suffix -ov- or -ev- throughout the plural (bor – borovi 'pine', panj – panjevi 'stump').

The choice of -o- and -e- endings in the nominative, vocative and instrumental singular, as well as the plural suffix -ov-/-ev-, is governed by the stem-final consonant: if it is a "soft" (chiefly palatal consonant – c, č, ć, đ, j, lj, nj, š, ž, št, and sometimes r), -e- endings are used, and -o endings otherwise; however, there are exceptions.

Some loanwords, chiefly of French origin, preserve the ending vowel (-e, -i, -o, -u) as part of the stem; those ending in -i receive an additional epenthetic -j- suffix in oblique cases: kàfē – kafèi 'café', pànō – panòi 'billboard', kànū – kanùi 'canoe', tàksi – taksiji 'taxi'. They are always of masculine gender; loanwords ending in -a are typically of the e-declension class (feminine); neuter nouns are basically a closed class.

Masculine nouns[edit]

Masculine nouns belonging to this declension class are those that are not hypocorisms, and do not end in -a, which undergo e-type declension.

According to the nominative singular forms they are divided in two classes:

  1. nouns having the zero ending -Ø in nominative singular (twelve declensional patterns)
  2. nouns having the ending -o or -e in nominative singular (two declensional patterns)
Pattern 4 Nouns ending in -k Nouns ending in -g Nouns ending in -h
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
N vòjnīk vojníc-i bùbreg bùbrez-i tr̀buh tr̀bus-i
G vojník-a vojník-ā̄ bùbreg-a bȕbrēg-ā̄ tr̀buh-a tȑbūh-ā̄
D vojník-u vojníc-ima bùbreg-u bùbrez-ima tr̀buh-u tr̀bus-ima
A vojník-a vojník-e bùbreg-a bùbreg-e tr̀buh-a tr̀buh-e
V vȍjnīč-e vojníc-i bùbrež-e bùbrez-i tr̀buš-e tr̀bus-i
L vojník-u vojníc-ima bùbreg-u bùbrez-ima tr̀buh-u tr̀bus-ima
I vojník-om vojníc-ima bùbreg-om bùbrez-ima tr̀buh-om tr̀bus-ima
Pattern 5 - Nouns ending in -(a)k
Case Singular Plural
N čvór-a-k čvórc-i
G čvórk-a čvȏr-ā-k-ā̄
D čvórk-u čvórc-ima
A čvórk-a čvórk-e
V čvȏrč-e čvórc-i
L čvórk-u čvórc-ima
I čvórk-om čvórc-ima
Pattern 6 - Nouns ending in a palatal
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
N pȃnj pánj-ev-i sȗž-a-nj sȗžnj-i prȋšt príšt-ev-i
G pánj-a pánj-ēv-ā̄ sȗžnj-a sȗž-ā-nj-ā̄ príšt-a príšt-ēv-ā̄
D pánj-u pánj-ev-ima sȗžnj-u sȗžnj-ima príšt-u príšt-ev-ima
A pȃnj pánj-ev-e sȗž-a-nj sȗžnj-e prȋšt príšt-ev-e
V pȃnj-u pánj-ev-i sȗžnj-u sȗžnj-i prȋšt-u príšt-ev-i
L pánj-u pánj-ev-ima sȗžnj-u sȗžnj-ima príšt-u príšt-ev-ima
I pánj-em pánj-ev-ima sȗžnj-em sȗžnj-ima príšt-em príšt-ev-ima

Masculine nouns ending in -o or -e present a special case. They generally comprise personal names, hypocorisms and certain foreign-language borrowings.

Neuter nouns[edit]
  singular plural
Nominative -o/e -a
Genitive -a -a
Dative/Locative -u -ima
Accusative -o/e -a
Vocative -o/e -a
Instrumental -om/em -ima

Some neuter nouns add 'n' or 't' before the declension.

  singular plural
Nominative -e -(n/t)a
Genitive -(n/t)a -(n/t)a
Dative/Locative -(n/t)u -(n/t)ima
Accusative -e -(n/t)a
Vocative -e -(n/t)a
Instrumental -(n/t)om -(n/t)ima

e-type nouns[edit]

This type reflects Proto-Slavic a-stems, and is characterized by the ending -a in nominative singular and -ē in genitive singular. It contains most of the feminine nouns, and a small number of masculines.

  singular plural
Nominative -a -e
Genitive -e -a
Dative/Locative -i -ama
Accusative -u -e
Vocative -o/a -e
Instrumental -om -ama

i-type nouns[edit]

This type reflects Proto-Slavic i-stems, and is characterized by the zero ending in nominative singular and -i in genitive singular. It contains the rest of feminine nouns, i.e., those that are not contained in the e-type nouns (a-stems).

singular plural
Nominative - -i
Genitive -i -i
Dative/Locative -i -ima
Accusative - -i
Vocative -i -i
Instrumental -i/ju -ima

Some nouns appear only in the plural form and do not have a singular variant (see plurale tantum). The gender of these nouns is either feminine (e.g. hlače "trousers", gaće "pants", grudi "chest") or neuter (e.g. kola "car", leđa "back", usta "mouth").[3]


Serbo-Croatian allows deletion of the subject pronoun (see pro-drop language).[4] Example:

Bojim se. "I am afraid."
Možeš reći što god hoćeš. "You can say whatever you want."

Personal pronouns

Case 1st sg. 2nd sg. 3rd sg. (m/f/n) 1st pl. 2nd pl. 3rd pl.
Nominative ja ti on / ona / ono mi vi oni / one / ona
Genitive mene tebe njega / nje / njega nas vas njih
Dative meni tebi njemu / njoj / njemu nama vama njima
Accusative mene tebe njega / nju / njega nas vas njih
Vocative -- ti -- -- vi --
Locative (o) meni (o) tebi (o) njemu / njoj / njemu (o) nama (o) vama (o) njima
Instrumental (sa) mnom (sa) tobom (sa) njim / njom / njim (sa) nama (sa) vama (sa) njima


Some of the declensions for adjectives are the same as for nouns: velika kuća (sing. fem. nom.), veliku kuću (sing. fem. acc.). Others differ: jednim klikom ("with one click", sing. masc. instrum.).

  singular plural
  masculine feminine neuter masculine feminine neuter
Nominative -i -a -o -i -e -a
Genitive -og -e -og -ih -ih -ih
Dative/Locative ! -om -oj -om -im -im -im
Accusative -i/-og* -u -o -e -e -a
Vocative -i -a -o -i -e -a
Instrumental -im -om -im -im -im -im

* same as nominative if a word is marking inanimate object; same as genitive if a word is marking animate object.


Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative velik ("big") velika veliko
Genitive velikog velike velikog
Dative velikom velikoj velikom
Accusative velik veliku veliko
Vocative veliki velika veliko
Locative velikom velikoj velikom
Instrumental velikim velikom velikim


Case Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative veliki ("big") velike velika
Genitive velikih velikih velikih
Dative velikim velikim velikim
Accusative velike velike velika
Vocative veliki velike velika
Locative velikim velikim velikim
Instrumental velikim velikim velikim
  • Note: animate objects (people and animals) are treated differently in the singular masculine accusative. In this case, it is the same as singular masculine genitive. It is considered accusative even though it looks like the genitive. Example: Vidim velikog psa ("I see a big dog").
  • Note: most adjectives ending in consonant-'a'-consonant (for example: dobar, "good"), the 'a' disappears when any letter is added. Dobar becomes, for example, dobri, dobra, dobrog, dobru, dobrim, dobrom, dobre, and dobrih, according to case and number.



Like those of other Slavic languages, Serbo-Croatian verbs have a property of aspect: the perfective and the imperfective. Perfective indicates an action that is completed or sudden, while the imperfective denotes continuous, repeated, or habitual action. Aspect compensates for a relative lack of tenses compared with e.g. Germanic or Romance languages: the verb already contains the information whether the action is completed or lasting, so there is no general distinction between continuous and perfect tenses.

Slavic verbs in general are characterized by a relatively low number of stems, from which a wide variety of meanings is achieved by prefixation.


The indicative has seven tenses: present, past, futures I and II, pluperfect, aorist and imperfect. The latter two are not used often in daily speech (more often in Bosnia and Herzegovina than in Croatia and Serbia), especially the imperfect. The present, aorist, and imperfect are inflected, the other tenses are periphrastic:

  • Past uses the present of biti ("to be") plus the perfect participle, e.g. radio sam (or sam radio, order depending on the sentence).
  • Future I uses the (reduced) present of htjeti ("will" or "to want") plus the infinitive, e.g. ćemo kuhati (or kuhat ćemo, in which case the -i of the infinitive marker -ti is elided).
  • Future II uses the perfective future of biti (the only verb with a simple future) plus the perfect participle, e.g. budu išli.
  • Pluperfect, which is not often used, uses the composite past tense of biti plus the perfect participle, e.g. bio sam došao, or (archaic) imperfect of biti plus the participle, e.g. bijah došao

Future tense can also be formed with (reduced) present of хтети plus the conjunction да and the present of the main verb, e.g. ћеш да куваш in Serbian, but this form is incorrect in Croatian. Also, whereas in Croatian it would be "radit ćemo", in Serbian the "t" can be omitted and the verbs merged into "radićemo".


Book cover of Snježana Kordić’s Grammar book Serbo-Croatian 1st pub. 1997, 2nd pub. 2006 (Contents)

Besides the indicative, Serbo-Croatian uses the imperative, conditional, and the optative. Imperative forms vary according to the type of the verb, and is formed by adding the appropriate morpheme to a verbal stem. The conditional I (present) uses the aorist of biti plus perfect participle, while conditional II (past) consists of the perfect participle of biti, the aorist of the same verb, and the perfect participle of the main verb. Some grammars classify future II as a conditional tense, or even a mood of its own.

Optative is in its form identical to the perfect participle. It is used by speakers to express a strong wish, e.g. Živio predsjednik! 'Long live the president!', Dabogda ti se sjeme zatrlo! (an archaic and dialectal curse), etc. The optative may be translated into English by an imperative construction, with set phrases (such as the already exemplified 'long live'), or by use of the modal verb may.

Some authors[who?] suggest existence of subjunctive mood, realized as da plus the present of indicative, but most grammars treat it as present indicative.


Verbal aspect is distinguished in English by using the simple or progressive (continuous) forms. 'He washed the dishes' indicates that the action was finished; 'He was washing the dishes' indicates that the action was ongoing (progressive). Serbo-Croatian, like all Slavic languages, has the aspect built into the verbs, rather than expressing it with different tenses.

To compare the meanings of the different aspects with verbal aspect in English, one should know three basic aspects: completed (may be called preterit, aorist, or perfect according to the language in question), progressive (on-going but not completed yet, durative), and iterative (habitual or repeated). English uses one aspect for completed and iterative and another for progressive. Serbo-Croatian uses one for completed and another for iterative and progressive.

Aspect is the most challenging part of Serbo-Croatian grammar. Although aspect exists in all other Slavic languages, learners of Serbo-Croatian who already know even one of several other Slavic languages may never learn to use aspect correctly, though they will be understood with only rare problems. While there are bi-aspectual verbs as well, primarily those derived by adding the suffix -irati or -ovati, the majority of verbs not derived in such a manner are either perfective (svršeni) or imperfective (nesvršeni). Almost all of the single aspectual verbs are part of a perfective–imperfective pair of verbs. When learning a verb, one must learn its verbal aspect, and the other verb for the opposite verbal aspect, e.g. prati ("to wash", imperfective) goes with oprati ("to wash", perfective). The pairing, however, is not always one to one: some verbs simply don't have a counterpart on a semantic level, such as izgledati ("seem") or sadržati ("contain"). In others, there are several perfective alternatives with slightly different meanings.

There are two paradigms concerning formation of verb pairs. In one paradigm, the base verb is imperfective, such as prati ("to wash"). In this case the perfective is formed by adding a prefix, in this case o, as in oprati. In the other paradigm, the root verb is perfective, and the imperfective is formed either by modifying the root: dignutidizati ("to lift") or adding an interfix statistajati ("to stop", "to stand").

A pattern which often arises can be illustrated with pisati, "to write". Pisati is imperfective, so a prefix is needed to make it perfective, in this case na-: napisati. But if other prefixes are added, modifying the meaning, the verb becomes perfective: zapisati ("to write down") or prepisati ("to copy by hand"). Since these basic verbs are perfective, an interfix is needed to make them imperfective: zapisivati and prepisivati. In some cases, this could be continued by adding a prefix: pozapisivati and isprepisivati which are again perfective.

Conjugation of verbs[edit]

There are three conjugations of verbs:

  1. 'a': almost all verbs that have this conjugation end in '-ati'.
  2. 'e': verbs ending in '-nuti' and all irregular verbs (as in the example below). Verbs ending in '-ovati', '-ivati' become 'uje' when conjugated (trovati, "to poison", is trujem, truje etc.)
  3. 'i': almost all verbs ending in '-jeti' or '-iti' use this conjugation.
Person čitati prati (irregular) vidjeti (-jeti or -iti)
singular plural singular plural singular plural
First person čitam čitamo perem peremo vidim vidimo
Second person čitaš čitate pereš perete vidiš vidite
Third person čita čitaju pere peru vidi vide
Auxiliary verbs[edit]

As in most other Indo-European languages including English, the Indo-European copula ('to be') is used as an auxiliary verb. It is universally irregular, because conjugations of two proto-forms *h1es- (>English is) and *bʰuH- (>English be) merged, producing mixed paradigms: the former being used in the present, and the latter in the other tenses. In Serbo-Croatian, however, there are two present forms surviving: jesam ('I am') and budem ('I be'). Because of that dualism, some grammars (chiefly Serbian ones) treat jesam as a defective verb having only present tense. Others treat these forms as two realizations of the same irregular verb biti, jesam being imperfective and budem perfective.[5]

Jesam has the following declension in the present tense. It has long and clitic (short) forms (without leading je), while its negative form is written as one word, unlike other verbs (compare English isisn't). The short and the negative forms are used as auxiliary, while the long form is marked.[5]

Pronoun Present Present (negative forms)
Long (stressed) form Short (unstressed) form
(I) jesam sam nisam
ti (you) jesi si nisi
on, ona, ono (he, she, it) jeste je nije
mi (we) jesmo smo nismo
vi (you pl.) jeste ste niste
oni, one, ona (they) jesu su nisu

The copulative use of the verb јеsam matches that of the verb "to be" in English (e.g. He is a student – On је učenik), of course, in the present tense only. The 'true' forms present of the verb biti, (budem) have a limited use (in formation of the future exact tense, or in conditional clauses referring to the future, e.g. ako budemif I am).[5]

Verb biti is conjugated as follows:

Pronoun Present Future Past tense
1st 2nd perfect aorist imperfect pluperfect
(I) budem ću biti / biću / bit ću budem bio/bila sam bio/bila; bio/bila sam bih bijah / bejah / beh bio/bila sam bio/bila
ti (you) budeš ćeš biti / bićeš / bit ćeš budeš bio/bila si bio/bila; bio/bila si bi bijaše / bejaše / beše bio/bila si bio/bila
on, ona, ono (he, she, it) bude će biti / biće / bit će bude bio/bila/bilo je bio/bila/bilo; bio/bila/bilo je bi bijaše / bejaše / beše bio/bila/bilo je bio/bila/bilo
mi (we) budemo ćemo biti / bićemo / bit ćemo budemo bili/bile smo bili/bile; bili/bile smo bismo bijasmo / bejasmo / besmo bili/bile smo bili/bile
vi (you pl.) budete ćete biti / bićete / bit ćete budete bili/bile ste bili/bile; bili/bile ste biste / beste biјaste / bejaste / beste bili/bile ste bili/bile
oni, one, ona (they) budu će biti / biće / bit će budu bili/bile su bili/bile/bila; bili/bile/bila su bi / biše biјahu / bejahu / behu bili/bile/bila su bili/bile/bila
Regular verbs[edit]

The conjugation system of regular verbs is rather complex. There are several classes of verbs distinguished according to certain features verbs within a class share.
The verb is raditi (To work)

Pronoun Present Future Past tense
1st 2nd perfect aorist imperfect pluperfect
ja (I) radim ću raditi budem radio/la sam radio/la; radio/la sam radih rad+jah>rađah bio/la sam radio/la
ti (you) radiš ćeš raditi budeš radio/la si radio/la; radio/la si radi rad+jaše>rađaše bio/la si radio/la
on, ona, ono (he, she, it) radi će raditi bude radio/la/lo je radio/la/lo; radio/la/lo je radi rad+jaše>rađaše bio/la/lo je radio/la/lo
mi (we) radimo ćemo raditi budemo radili/le smo radili/le; radili/le smo radismo rad+jasmo>rađasmo bili/le smo radili/le
vi (you pl.) radite ćete raditi budete radili/le ste radili/le; radili/le ste radiste rad+jaste>rađaste bili/le ste radili/le
oni, one, ona (they) rade će raditi budu radili/le/la su radili/radile/radila; radili/le/la su radiše rad+jahu>rađahu bili/le/la su radili/le/la

This paradigm applies to verbs such as:
vidjeti (to see)
hodati (to walk)
pričati (to talk)
morati (must)

Irregular verbs[edit]

Irregular verbs are more complex to conjugate than regular verbs, for example the verb moći (can, to be able to)

Pronoun Present Future Past tense
1st 2nd perfect aorist imperfect pluperfect
ja (I) mogu ću moći budem mogao/la sam mogao/la; mogao/la sam mogoh mogah bio/la sam mogao/la
ti (you) možeš ćeš moći budeš mogao/la si mogao/la; mogao/la si može mogaše bio/la si mogao/la
on, ona, ono (he, she, it) može će moći bude mogao/la/lo je mogao/la/lo; mogao/la/lo je može mogaše bio/la/lo je mogao/la/lo
mi (we) možemo ćemo moći budemo mogli/le smo mogli/le; mogli/le smo mogosmo mogasmo bili/le smo mogli/le
vi (you pl.) možete ćete moći budete mogli/le ste mogli/le; mogli/le ste mogoste mogaste bili/le ste mogli/le
oni, one, ona (they) mogu će moći budu mogli/le/la su mogli/mogle/mogla; mogli/le/la su mogoše mogahu bili/le/la su mogli/le/la


Adverbs in Serbo-Croatian are, unlike nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns and numbers, and like prepositions, conjunctions, exclamations and particles, immutable words. Adverbs are, thus, immutable words given to verbs to determine the time, place, manner, cause, point and the amount of the action of the verb. There are seven types of adverbs in Serbo-Croatian:

Place adverbs[edit]

Place adverbs (Serbo-Croatian: mjesni prilozi) answer the questions where? (gdje?), to where? (kamo?), which way? (kuda?), from where? (otkuda?, odakle?) and to where? (dokle?, dokud?).[6] Examples for each type are:

gde/gdje? (where)
ovde/ovdje (here),
negde/negdje (somewhere),
nigde/nigdje (nowhere),
igde/igdje (anywhere),
gore (up),
doe/dolje (down),
odpozadi/straga (from behind),
napolju/vani (outside)
blizu (close by);
kuda/kamo? (to where)
ovamo (to here)
napred/naprijed (forwards)
nazad (backwards);
kuda? (which way)
ovuda (this way),
kojekuda (otišli su kojekuda - they dispersed),
otkuda? (from where)
odavde (from here),
niotkuda (from nowhere),
izdaleka (from far away)
dokle? (to where):
dotle (to here, also used as "in the mean time", dotle su oni čekali),
donekle (up to a point).

Temporal adverbs[edit]

Temporal adverbs, or "vremenski prilozi", answer the questions when? (kada?), from when? (otkad?), until when? (dokad?). Examples are: kada (when) - sada (now), tada (then), nikada (never), ponekad (sometimes),uvijek (always), jučer (yesterday), danas (today), sutra (tomorrow), prekosutra (the day after tomorrow), lani (last year), večeras (tonight), odmah/smjesta (now/at once), zatim (then), uskoro (soon), napokon (at last); otkad (from when) - odsad (from now on), oduvijek (from always - oduvijek sam te volio - I have (from) always loved you); dokad (until when) - dosad (until now), dogodine (next year).


Each preposition has an assigned case. If an inflectable word follows a preposition, the word is declined in the same case as the preposition's assigned case.

Genitive prepositions:

od, do, iz, s(a), ispred, iza, izvan, van, unutar, iznad, ispod, više, poviše, niže, prije, uoči, poslije, nakon, za, tijekom, tokom, dno (podno, nadno, odno), vrh (povrh, navrh, uvrh, zavrh), čelo, nakraj, onkraj, krajem, potkraj, sred (nasred, posred, usred), oko, okolo, blizu, kod, kraj, pokraj, pored, nadomak, nadohvat, i, u, mimo, duž, uzduž, širom, diljem, preko, bez, osim, mjesto (umjesto, namjesto), uime, putem, (s) pomoću, posredstvom, između, (na)spram, put, protiv, nasuprot, usuprot, usprkos, unatoč, zbog, uslijed, radi (zaradi, poradi), glede, prigodom, prilikom, povodom

Dative prepositions:

k(a), prema, naprama, nadomak, nadohvat, nasuprot, usuprot, usprkos, unatoč, protiv

Accusative prepositions:

kroz, niz, uz, na, o, po, u, mimo, među, nad, pod, pred, za

Locative prepositions:

na, o, po, prema, pri, u

Instrumental prepositions:

s(a), pred, za, nad(a), pod(a), među

Dynamic v. Static Some prepositions fall in two or more cases. The ones that fall in both the accusative and locative cases, the preposition is accusative if it is dynamic and is locative if it is static. Dynamic means that the preposition shows motion while static does not.


Ja idem u školu. I am going to school. (dynamic)
Ja sam u školi. I am in school. (static)

Conjunctions and particles[edit]


Word order[edit]

Serbo-Croatian has a rich case structure that is reflected in the declension of nouns and adjectives. That allows for a great deal of freedom in word order. In English, for example, the word order shows a difference in meaning between "Man bites dog" and "Dog bites man". In Serbo-Croatian, Čovjek grize psa and Čovjeka grize pas have the same word order, but the meanings are shown by the noun endings. Any order of the three constituents is grammatically correct, and the meaning is clear because of the declensions. However, the usual order is subject–verb–object, as in English.

Serbo-Croatian closely observes the Wackernagel's Law that clitics (unstressed functional words) are placed in the second position in all clauses. The first element may be a single word or a noun phrase: Taj je čovjek rekao, "That man (has) said", or Taj čovjek je rekao'. Multiple clitics are grouped in the following fixed order:

  1. question word (only li),
  2. verbs: clitic forms of "to be" except je (sam, si, smo, ste, su, bih, bi, bismo, biste), and of "will" (ću, ćeš, će, ćemo, and ćete)
  3. dative pronouns (mi, ti, mu, joj, nam, vam, im, si),
  4. accusative pronouns (me, te, ga, je, ju, nas, vas, ih),
  5. the reflexive accusative pronoun (only se),
  6. clitic form of the third-person singular present of "to be" (je).[7]

Relative clauses[edit]

Relative clauses are frequent in modern Serbo-Croatian since they have expanded as attributes at the expense of the participles performing that function.[8]

Znam pacijenta koji je upravo ušao.
know:PR.1.SG patient:ACC.m.SG which:NOM.m.SG be:AUX.3.SG just come in:AP.m.SG
"I know the patient who has just come in."
Frequency of relativizers

The most frequent relativizer is the relative pronoun koji. It has the greatest range of antecedents, which, however, are mostly nouns or personal pronouns. Nouns are the word class with attributes, and the relative clause is most frequently an attributive clause. The frequency of the adjectival pronoun koji is greater than those relative pronouns that cannot have an antecedent noun (tko ʻwhoʼ and the declinable type of što 'what'). Also, it occurs much more frequently than other adjectival relative pronouns: in comparison with their specialized semantic functions such as possessiveness (čiji 'whose'), quality (kakav 'what sort of') or quantity (koliki 'how large'), the pronoun koji has the broadest scope of reference and identification with the referent.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alexander, Ronelle (2000). In honor of diversity: the linguistic resources of the Balkans. Kenneth E. Naylor memorial lecture series in South Slavic linguistics; vol. 2. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University, Dept. of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures. p. 4. OCLC 47186443. 
  2. ^ Kordić, Snježana (2010). Jezik i nacionalizam [Language and Nationalism] (PDF). Rotulus Universitas (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb: Durieux. pp. 69–77. ISBN 978-953-188-311-5. LCCN 2011520778. OCLC 729837512. OL 15270636W. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Kordić, Snježana (2005). "Gramatička kategorija broja" [Grammatical category of number] (PDF). In Tatarin, Milovan. Zavičajnik: zbornik Stanislava Marijanovića: povodom sedamdesetogodišnjice života i četrdesetpetogodišnjice znanstvenoga rada (in Serbo-Croatian). Osijek: Sveučilište Josipa Jurja Strossmayera, Filozofski fakultet. pp. 192–193. ISBN 953-6456-54-0. OCLC 68777865. Archived from the original on 24 August 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Kordić, Snježana (2002). Riječi na granici punoznačnosti [Words on the Border Between Lexicon and Grammar] (PDF) (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb: Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada. pp. 12–14. ISBN 953-169-073-1. LCCN 2009386657. OCLC 54680648. OL 2863537W. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Mišeska Tomić, Olga (2006). Balkan Sprachbund morpho-syntactic features. Springer. p. 490. ISBN 978-1-4020-4487-8. 
  6. ^ Kordić, Snježana (2004). "Prilozi gd(j)e, kamo, kuda" [Adverbs gd(j)e, kamo, kuda] (PDF). In Okuka, Miloš; Schweier, Ulrich. Germano-Slavistische Beiträge: Festschrift für Peter Rehder zum 65. Geburtstag. Die Welt der Slaven, Sammelbände – Sborniki ; vol. 21 (in Serbo-Croatian). Munich: Otto Sagner. pp. 113–120. ISBN 3-87690-874-4. OCLC 55018584. Archived from the original on 24 August 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Kordić, Snježana (2006) [1st pub. 1997]. Serbo-Croatian. Languages of the World/Materials ; 148. Munich & Newcastle: Lincom Europa. p. 46. ISBN 3-89586-161-8. OCLC 37959860. OL 2863538W.  [Grammar book]. Contents. Summary.
  8. ^ Kordić, Snježana (1995). Relativna rečenica [Relative Clauses] (PDF). Znanstvena biblioteka Hrvatskog filološkog društva ; 25 (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb: Matica hrvatska & Hrvatsko filološko društvo. pp. 277–281. ISBN 953-6050-04-8. LCCN 97154457. OCLC 37606491. OL 2863536W. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 9 April 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Alexander, Ronelle (2006). Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian: A Grammar with Sociolinguistic Commentary. Medison: The University of Wisconsin Press. p. 464. OCLC 67384305. 
  • Aljović, Nadira (2002). "Long adjectival inflection and specificity in Serbo-Croatian". Recherches linguistiques de Vincennes. 31: 27–42. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  • Barić, Eugenija; Lončarić, Mijo; Malić, Dragica; Znika, Marija; Zečević, Vesna; Pavešić, Slavko; Peti, Mirko (1997). Hrvatska gramatika [Croatian Grammar] (in Serbo-Croatian). Školska knjiga. p. 697. ISBN 953-0-40010-1. 
  • Bibović, Ljiljana (1971). "Some remarks on the factive and non-factive complements in English and Serbo-Croatian". In Filipović, Rudolf. The Yugoslav Serbo-Croatian – English contrastive project. Studies ; vol. 3. Zagreb: Institute of Linguistics, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb. pp. 37–48. OCLC 424957265. 
  • Browne, Wayles (1993). "Serbo-Croat". In Comrie, Bernard; Corbett, Greville G. The Slavonic Languages. Routledge language family descriptions. London & New York: Routledge. pp. 306–387. ISBN 978-0-415-28078-5. OCLC 24796613. 
  • Bujas, Željko (1973). "Demonstratives in Serbo-Croat to English Translational Conversion". In Filipović, Rudolf. The Yugoslav Serbo-Croatian – English contrastive project. Reports ; vol. 8. Zagreb: Institute of Linguistics, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb. pp. 21–51. OCLC 424957282. 
  • Dezső, László (1982). Typological Studies in Old Serbo-Croatian Syntax. Slavistische Forschungen ; vol. 38. Köln: Böhlau. p. 392. ISBN 341202581X. OCLC 239744814. 
  • Feleszko, Kazimierz (1970). Składnia genetiwu i wyrażeń przyimkowych z genetiwem w języku serbsko-chorwackim. Monografie slawistyczne ; vol. 21 (in Polish). Wrocław: Komitet słowianoznawstva Polskiej akademii nauk. p. 186. OCLC 63410897. 
  • Filipović, Luna (2010). "The importance of being a prefix : prefixal morphology and the lexicalization of motion events in Serbo-Croatian". In Hasko, Victoria & Perelmutter, Renee. New Approaches to Slavic Verbs of Motion. Studies in Language Companion Series ; vol. 115. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 247–266. ISBN 978-90-272-0582-7. OCLC 804991090. Lay summary. 
  • Ivir, Vladimir (1983). A contrastive analysis of English adjectives and their Serbo-Croatian correspondents. The Yugoslav Serbo-Croatian – English contrastive project. New studies ; vol. 2. Zagreb: Institute of Linguistics, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb. p. 284. OCLC 11266437. 
  • Kordić, Snježana (2004) [1st pub. 1997]. Kroatisch-Serbisch: ein Lehrbuch für Fortgeschrittene mit Grammatik [Serbo-Croatian: A Textbook for Advanced Students with Grammar] (in Serbo-Croatian). Hamburg: Buske. p. 196. ISBN 3-87548-382-0. OL 15270855W.  [1st pub ISBN 3-87548-162-3]
  • Kordić, Snježana (1997). "Neprofesionalno obavljen posao: recenzija knjige Josipa Silića, Morfologija hrvatskoga jezika" [Unprofessional results: Review of the book Josip Silić, Croatian Morphology] (PDF). Republika (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb. 53 (1–2): 190–199. ISSN 0350-1337. ZDB-ID 400820-0. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2015.  (CROLIB).
  • Kordić, Snježana (1997). "Nova hrvatska gramatika: recenzija knjige Dragutina Raguža, Praktična hrvatska gramatika" [A new Croatian grammar book: Review of the book Dragutin Raguž, Practical Croatian Grammar] (PDF). Republika (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb. 53 (11–12): 212–225. ISSN 0350-1337. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2014.  (CROLIB).
  • Kordić, Snježana (1998). "Diletantski napisana gramatika: recenzija knjige Vinka Grubišića, Croatian Grammar" [An amateurish grammar book: Review of the book Vinko Grubišić, Croatian Grammar] (PDF). Republika (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb. 54 (1–2): 253–258. ISSN 0350-1337. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2013.  (CROLIB).
  • Kordić, Snježana (1999). Der Relativsatz im Serbokroatischen [Relative Clauses in Serbo-Croatian]. Studies in Slavic Linguistics ; 10 (in German). Munich: Lincom Europa. p. 330. ISBN 3-89586-573-7. OCLC 42422661. OL 2863535W.  Contents. Summary.
  • Kordić, Snježana (2001). Wörter im Grenzbereich von Lexikon und Grammatik im Serbokroatischen [Serbo-Croatian Words on the Border Between Lexicon and Grammar]. Studies in Slavic Linguistics ; 18 (in German). Munich: Lincom Europa. p. 280. ISBN 3-89586-954-6. LCCN 2005530313. OCLC 47905097. OL 2863539W.  Summary.
  • Kordić, Snježana (2009). "Neprimjeren opis jezika: recenzija knjige Josipa Silića i Ive Pranjkovića, Gramatika hrvatskoga jezika" [An inappropriate description of language: Review of the book Josip Silić and Ivo Pranjković, Croatian Grammar] (PDF). Znakovi i poruke (in Serbo-Croatian). 2 (1): 93–110. ISSN 1840-3239. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  • Kordić, Snježana (2009). "Komplexe Satzmuster" [Complex sentences] (PDF). In Kempgen, Sebastian; Kosta, Peter; Berger, Tilman; et al. The Slavic Languages: an International Handbook of their Structure, their History and their Investigation: Band I. Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science ; vol. 32/1 (in German). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 592–607. ISBN 978-3-11-015660-7. OCLC 793132320. Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2015.  (ÖNB).
  • Laškova, Lili (2001). Sărbo-chărvatska gramatika [Serbo-Croatian Grammar] (in Bulgarian). Sofija: Emas. p. 359. OCLC 635194865. 
  • Ličen, Marina; Dahl, Johannes (1981). "Die Modalpartikeln ja und doch und ihre serbo-kroatischen Entsprechungen". In Weydt, Harald. Partikeln und Deutschunterricht [The modal particles ja and doch and their Serbo-Croatian equivalents] (in German). Heidelberg: Groos. pp. 213–223. OCLC 164627155. 
  • Hamm, Josip (1967). Grammatik der serbokroatischen Sprache [Serbo-Croatian Grammar]. Slavistische Studienbücher ; vol. 5 (in German). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. p. 123. OCLC 7498971. 
  • Kocher, Margaret (1967). "Second Person Pronouns in Serbo-Croatian". Language. 43 (3): 725–741. doi:10.2307/411813. ISSN 0097-8507. OCLC 1361911. 
  • Magner, Thomas F. (1998). Introduction to the Croatian and Serbian Language. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 388. OCLC 40859905. 
  • Mihailović, Ljiljana (1985). "Existential Sentences in English and Serbo-Croatian". In Filipović, Rudolf. The Yugoslav Serbo-Croatian – English contrastive project. Studies ; vol. 5. Zagreb: Institute of Linguistics, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb. pp. 453–492. OCLC 424957257. 
  • Mønnesland, Svein (1972). "Semantic factors in the syntax of nominal subordinate clauses in Serbo-Croatian". Scando-Slavica. 18: 145–157. ISSN 1600-082X. 
  • Mørk, Henning (2000). Serbokroatisk grammatik: verbets morfologi [Serbo-Croatian Grammar: Verbal Morphology]. Arbejdspapirer ; vol. 1 (in Danish). Århus: Slavisk Institut, Århus Universitet. p. 113. OCLC 48719984. 
  • Mørk, Henning (2002). Serbokroatisk grammatik: substantivets morfologi [Serbo-Croatian Grammar: Noun Morphology]. Arbejdspapirer ; vol. 1 (in Danish). Århus: Slavisk Institut, Århus Universitet. p. 140. OCLC 471591123. 
  • Progovac, L (2005). A syntax of Serbian: Clausal architecture. Slavica Publishers. 
  • Rathmayr, Renate (1992). "Nominale Anrede im gesprochenen Russischen, Serbokroatischen und Tschechischen" [Nominal address in the spoken Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Czech]. In Reuther, Tilmann. Slavistische Linguistik 1991. Slavistische beiträge ; vol. 292 (in German). Munich: Otto Sagner. pp. 265–309. ISBN 3876905281. OCLC 80022463. 
  • Szybińska, Małgorzata (1991). "Formy adresatywne w języku polskim i serbsko-chorwackim (wybrane zagadnienia)" [Forms of address in Polish and Serbo-Croatian]. Język polski (in Polish). 71 (1): 35–41. ISSN 0021-6941. 
  • Thomas, George (2010). "Serbo-Croatian as a bridge between the Balkan and Central European Sprachbünde". Balkanistica. 23: 371–388. ISSN 0360-2206. OCLC 2244309. 
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