The -i declension in the Croatian language
...or how to change feminine nouns that end with a consonant

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If you have come far enough in learning Croatian to be reading about the -i and thought that this might be yet another exception in Croatian grammar – you are right. However, before you roll your eyes, here’s the good news: this one is so simple and easy that you will wish there were more exceptions like this one. We promise!

So, here we go… Let’s learn some Croatian! 🙂

In the lesson about genders in the Croatian language, we said that feminine nouns normally have the -a ending, and that’s true for the great majority of them, but there are some feminine nouns that end in a

For example:

ljubav – love
noć – night
mladost – youth

At first sight, these look like they are masculine nouns, but they are not. The good news is that there are not so many of them, and they can basically be learned by heart. You can find the list of the most common ones below. 

The fact that they are feminine nouns that end in a consonant wouldn’t be such a big deal if nouns didn’t change through cases in the Croatian language, but they do and that is where the plot thickens… As they don’t end with –a, like other feminine nouns, we can’t decline them (change them in ) in the same way that we change other feminine nouns. That’s why they have a different declension: the –i declension. The good news about the i-declension is that it’s quite easy to remember:

The –i declension of feminine nouns

THE -i DECLENSION
(The declension of feminine nouns that end in a consonant)

SINGULAR PLURAL
N. -∅ riječ N. -i riječi
G. -i riječi G. -i riječi
D.
-i riječi D. -ima riječima
A. -∅ riječ A. -i riječi
V.
-i riječi V. -i riječi
L.
-i riječi L. -ima riječima
I.
-i (-ju*) riječi / riječju I. -ima riječima

*There are two possible endings in the instrumental singular form, but my recommendation is to simplify your life by using the -i ending. Now you see why it is called the -i declension!

So, all the cases in singular have the -i ending, except for nominative and accusative. All plural cases have the -i ending except for dative, locative and instrumental (but even these begin with -i). Quite obvious why it’s called the –i declension! 🙂

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How to match the gender of an accompanying adjective (or adjective-like word) with an –i declension noun? 

Adjective-like words – , and (some) numbers – that match -i declension nouns are the same as the ones that match “standard” feminine nouns. So they are in the same feminine form as you would use them with any other feminine noun. How come? Don’t forget that an -i declension noun is a feminine noun – it just looks like it’s not. Just take a look at these two examples:

obitelj (feminine noun ending in a consonant)
Volim našu veliku obitelj. – I love our big family.

kuća (“standard” feminine noun, ending in -a)
Volim našu veliku kuću. – I love our big house.

našu – our (possessive pronoun, feminine, accusative singular)
veliku –  big (adjective, feminine, accusative singular)
obitelj – family (noun, feminine, accusative singular)

stick-speak-cro72

So, the “accompanying” words – adjectives, pronouns and (some) numbers – get the “standard” feminine forms. That’s not so bad, is it?

The most common i-declension nouns: 

bol* – pain
cijev – pipe
čast – honor, respect, homage
čeljust – jawbone
četvrt – quarter
žuč – bile
ćud – temper, mood
divljač – venison
dob – age
dobit – profit
dobrobit – benefit
glad* – hunger
ispovijed – confession
jesen – autumn, fall
kap – drop
kokoš – hen, chicken
korist – profit, benefit
krv – blood
laž – lie
ljubav – love
mast – fat, grease
mladež – young people
moć – power
napast – temptation
narav – nature, character
noć – night
obitelj – family
pamet – mind, reason
peć – stove, oven
pelud* – pollen
pomoć – help, support
ponoć – midnight
propast – destruction
propovijed – sermon
punomoć – power of attorney
put – complexion
raskoš – luxury
riječ – word
smrt – death
sol – salt
splav* – raft
srž – essence, marrow
strast – passion
stvar – thing
varoš* – town, borough
večer – evening
vlast – authority, rule
zapovijed – command, order
zavist – envy
zvijer – beast
zob – oat
žeđ – thirst

*The nouns bol (pain), glad (hunger), pelud (pollen), splav (raft) and varoš (town, borough) are some of the very few nouns in the Croatian language that can be seen both as feminine and masculine. The noun splav is preferred to be used as a feminine noun in the Croatian language. The other three nouns – glad, pelud and varoš – can be used as either feminine or masculine; often varying from region to region. We prefer to use them as feminine nouns. 

Most nouns that end in -ost and -est

aktivnost – activity
bliskost – (emotional) closeness
bolest – sickness
budućnost – future
dostupnost – availability
dužnost – duty
književnost – literature
kost – bone
ludost – craziness
milost – mercy
mladost – youth
mudrost – wisdom
nesvijest – unconsciousness
novost – piece of news
odgovornost – responsibility
odlučnost – determination
opasnost – danger
osobnost – personality
pismenost – literacy
povijest – history
pričest – communion
prošlost – past radost – joy
sadašnjost – present
savjest – conscience
sigurnost – safety, security
starost – old age
stvarnost – reality
svijest – consciousness
svjetlost – light
vijest – piece of news
udaljenost – distance
umjetnost – art
znanost – science
žalost – sorrow

Collective nouns that end in -ad: 
Don’t get confused by the fact that these are all plural nouns – you treat and change them like other feminine nouns ending in consonants! 

dojenčad – infants
janjad – lambs
majmunčad – little monkeys
momčad – (sports) team
perad – poultry
pilad – chicken
prasad – piglets
siročad – orphans
telad – calves
unučad – grandchildren

Is this how you change female names that end in a consonant, too?

Our students often ask if this is how you’d change female names ending in a consonant, like Carol, Janet, Kim, Ingrid, Ines, etc. The answer is no – and that’s because you don’t change female names that end in a consonant at all. Ha! And you thought it can’t get any easier than the -i declension?

The declension of female names that end in a consonant
SINGULAR
N. Ines
G. Ines
D. Ines
A. Ines
V. Ines
L. Ines
I. Ines

Do you have any questions about the -i declension nouns? Feel free to ask in the comments below. 

Exercise: put the feminine nouns in brackets into a suitable case. The abbreviation pl. means that you need to use a suitable plural case.

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Learning Croatian continues! Next Tuesday we are learning about prepositions in the Croatian language. If you would like us to send you an email with the next Croatian grammar lesson, put your email address here.

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