Interrogative pronouns and other question words in Croatian

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If you are the type of person that likes to ask questions, that likes to know about things, especially if you dare to do it in Croatian, that’s fantastic, because it opens a whole new dimension of learning possibilities, both about the language and about the culture. So, just start with an open question and give it a go. Generally, people like to talk about things that they know about and appreciate having somebody who is interested. A win-win situation. Knowing the interrogative pronouns is what you need for that adventure. Ready? Let’s learn some Croatian! 🙂  

PART ONE: Interrogative pronouns 


There are six interrogative pronouns in the Croatian language:

1. Tko? (Who?)

Tko je najbolji hrvatski tenisač? – Who is the best Croatian tennis player?

2. Što? (What?) 

Što ljudi obično jedu za Uskrs? – What do people usually eat for Easter? 

3. Koji? (Which?)

Koje hrvatsko vino preporučuješ? – Which Croatian vine do you recommend? 

(What would you say, why is it koji in the subtitle, and koje in the example that we used above? You can leave your comment below.)

4. Čiji? (Whose?) 

Čiji si ti rođak? – Whose relative are you?

5. Kakav? (What (is something) like?)

Kakve su plaže na otoku Hvaru? – What are the beaches like on the island of Hvar? 

6. Kolik? (How large?)

Kolike su zidine u Stonu? – How large are the city walls in Ston?

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Grammar behind interrogative pronouns in Croatian 

At this point, many of you are probably wondering how much more grammar there is behind interrogative pronouns. Of course, there is more! This is the Croatian language! 🙂 

The two most important grammar facts to learn about the interrogative pronouns are:

(1) all of the interrogative pronouns, except for tko (who) and što (what) have , and
(2)
all of them (including tko and što) change in

In this blog post, we’ll focus on their genders in the nominative case and we’ll leave the other cases for a separate blog post.

OK, here is what it looks like:

The table of genders of interrogative pronouns (nominative case)

Upitne zamjenice (nominativ)
Interrogative pronouns (nominative case)
Jednina
Singular
Množina
Plural
M F N M F N
tko
što
koji koja koje koji koje koja
čiji
čija čije čiji čije čija
kakav
kakva kakvo kakvi kakve kakva
kolik(i)
kolika koliko koliki kolike kolika

Although it might seem a little bit unusual to have genders for interrogative pronouns, as there is no such thing in English, the main principle is quite simple. If the interrogative pronoun that you are using is referring to something feminine (you might want to read again our post about genders in Croatian), the pronoun itself will also be feminine, if you are referring to something masculine, the pronoun will also be masculine, etc.

For example: 

Koji brod ide do Hvara? – Which ship goes to Hvar? 
Koja plaža je najljepša? – Which beach is the nicest? 
Koje pivo želite? – Which beer would you like to have?

Čije je ovo polje? – Whose is this field?
Čija su ova polja? – Whose are these fields?
Čiji je on sin? – Whose son is he?

Kakva je hrana u Hrvatskoj? – What is the food in Croatia like
Kakve su punjene paprike? – What are the stuffed peppers like?
Kakvi su tvoji prijatelji? – What are your friends like

Koliki su krumpiri? – How large are the potatoes
Kolike su jabuke? – How large are the apples?
Koliki je Zagreb? – How large is Zagreb

You might notice that the concept of using genders with interrogative pronouns is pretty much identical to how you use genders with possessive pronouns or adjectives. What is more, all of the “adjective-like” words – , and some numbers – always follow the same concept: they are in the same gender as the that they refer to. We will write more about this in one of our future blog posts. 

Interrogative or relative pronouns?

If you read our post about the types of pronouns in the Croatian language, you might have noticed that we used the term interrogative-relative pronouns for this type of pronouns. That’s because these very same pronouns are called interrogative when we use them for making questions, and relative when we use them as linking words in complex sentences. Here’s an example of what we’re talking about – we will show how koja can be an interrogative pronoun in one sentence, and a relative pronoun in another:

Koja je to žena? – Which woman is that?  
koja interrogative pronoun, because it’s used in a question
To je žena koja pravi najbolji crni rižot. – That is the woman that (who) makes the best black risotto. 
koja relative pronoun, because it’s used as a linker in a complex sentence
 
We will write more about relative pronouns in one of our future posts. 
 
Let’s do some exercises:

Choose the correct answer (interrogative pronoun):

Do you have any questions about the interrogative pronouns in Croatian?

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PART TWO: Other question words

Apart from the interrogative pronouns, you can make questions using “regular” question words like why, when, etc. The good news is that, unlike the interrogative pronouns, there is no additional grammar behind these words. You just need to learn them the way they are; they never change their endings. No genders or cases here. Yay! 

So, here is the list of the question words other than the interrogative pronouns:

Zašto? (Why?)

Zašto učiš hrvatski? – Why do you learn Croatian?

Kad(a)? (When?)

Kada ideš u Hrvatsku? – When do you go to Croatia?

Otkad? (Since when?)

Otkad učiš hrvatski? – Since when have you been learning Croatian?

Dokad? (Until when?)

Dokad ostaješ u Hrvatskoj? – Until when are you staying in Croatia?

Gdje? (Where?)
(asking about location)

Gdje živiš? – Where do you live?

Kamo? (Where to?)
(asking about destination)

Kamo ideš? – Where are you going?

Odakle? (Where from?) 

Odakle su tvoji roditelji? – Where are your parents from? 

Kako? (How?)

Kako tvoja baka pravi ajvar? – How does your grandma make ajvar

Koliko? (How much? OR How many?) 

Koliko vina želiš? – How much wine do you want? 
Koliko haljina si kupila? – How many dresses did you buy?

How much or how many: what’s the catch?

As you can see in the examples above, koliko can mean either how much or how many. The answer is quite simple: if we use a singular noun after koliko, the question is how much. If there’s a plural noun after koliko, then the question is how many. Oh, and one more thing: the noun after koliko will always be in the genitive case. So:

KOLIKO + GENITIVE SINGULAR = HOW MUCH
Koliko kave (genitive singular) želiš? = How much coffee do you want?

KOLIKO + GENITIVE PLURAL = HOW MANY 
Koliko kava (genitive plural) želiš? = How many coffees do you want?

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Koliki/kolika/koliko (interrogative pronoun) vs. koliko (question word): how not to confuse them?

While these two might seem the same at first sight, there is a simple catch:

  • Koliki, kolika or koliko = how large. It refers to the size of a particular object or person, i.e. a noun, which can be either masculine, feminine or neuter.

Koliki je tvoj stan? – How large is your apartment?
Kolika je torta koju si kupila? – How large is the cake that you bought?
Koliko je nojevo jaje? – How large is an ostrich egg?

  • Koliko = how much or how many. It refers to some quantity and therefore has no genders or cases.

Koliko si potrošio na poklone? – How much did you spend on presents?
Koliko jabuka želiš? – How many apples do you want?

Koliko can be combined with a number of other expressions:

Koliko često? (How often?)
Koliko često ideš u teretanu? – How often do you go to the gym?
Koliko daleko? (How far?)
Koliko daleko si spreman ići? – How far are you willing to go? 
Koliko teško? (How hard?)
Koliko je teško položiti ovaj ispit? – How hard is it to pass this exam?
-etc.

How well (ha!) did you understand the difference between koliki and koliko? How would you say how well in Croatian? Tell us in the comment section below!

Learning Croatian continues… Next Tuesday we are learning about using nouns with numbers. If you want us to send you an email with the next Croatian grammar lesson, put your email address here.

If you want to learn Croatian online with a teacher one-on-one, don’t hesitate to book your free trial lesson here.

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