The imperative form in the Croatian language, affirmative
...or how to give commands, orders or requests

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Come here! Take more! Give me a coffee! All of you who have spent some time amongst Croats are probably already used to hearing orders like that. Or maybe you can’t get used to it? Oh, yeah… Croats love the ! Not that many please, could you, excuse me… but quite a lot of commands, instructions, requests, or requirements.

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Some Croats use the imperative form more, some less… People’s background and age play a certain role in it. Younger generations tend to use the imperative less. Still, even a moderate use from the Croatian point of view can sometimes be too much for English speakers. Depending on circumstances, sometimes it can be viewed as too raw and disrespectful even from many Croats’ point of view, and sometimes it’s just the shortest and simplest way to express what we want without making it too complicated, especially with the people we are the closest with, especially in the domestic context. It’s much easier to say: 

Daj mi kavu. – Give me the coffee. 

than it is to say: 

Možeš li mi, molim te, dodati kavu? – Can you, please, pass me the coffee? 

Sometimes the use of the imperative is inevitable, even in English: 

Pozovite hitnu (pomoć)! – Call an ambulance! 
Razbijte jaje i dodajte malo šećera. – Crack an egg and add some sugar.

How to form the imperative in the Croatian language

There are a few different ways of how the imperative can be formed. Here we’ll explain the simplest one in four easy steps. 

In order to feel comfortable with forming the imperative form, you should be pretty comfortable with the present tense in the Croatian language because you need to do this: 

STEP 1: take the third person plural of the present (the “oni/one/ona form”).

čekati – čekaju 
gledati – gledaju
raditi – rade
ići – idu

STEP 2: remove the last letter.

čekaju
gledaju
rade
idu

Congratulations, you have just successfully formed the stem for the imperative! It will end either in -j or some other consonant, so… 

STEP 3: Does your stem end in -j or not?

↳ 3a: stem ends in –j: Congratulations, your imperative for the second person singular (the “ti form”) is ready!

čekaj – Čekaj! (Wait!)
gledaj – Gledaj! (Look!)

↳ 3b: stem doesn’t end in -j: → add –i. Now you also have the imperative for the second person singular (the “ti form”)!

rad + i = Radi! (Work!) 
id + i = Idi! (Go!) 

We told you that was easy! Here’s also the short summary of the first 3 steps in the form of a flowchart:

Imperativ - flowchart.png

Now that you know how to make the “main” imperative form, for the second person singular (the “ti form”), you are probably already guessing what the final step is:

STEP 4: How to make the other imperative forms?
Piece of cake – just take a look at this table:

Imperativ
The imperative
Jednina
Singular
Množina
Plural
1. -* 1. mo
2. (-j or -i)** 2. te
3. neka + the present tense*** 3. neka + the present tense***

*There is no imperative form for the first person singular. For more info on why that is, see the paragraph below: Why is that one spot in the table above blank?
**This is the form you got in Step 3. 
***There is no “real” imperative form for the third person singular (he/she/it) or plural (they), since you can’t give a direct command to the third person. For more info on this, see the paragraph below: What’s the catch with the neka form? 

So, let’s quickly take a look at the imperative forms on the example of the čekati (to wait):

Imperativ glagola čekati
The imperative of the verb to wait
Jednina
Singular
Množina
Plural
1. 1. čekajmo let’s wait
2. čekaj wait 2. čekajte wait
3. neka čeka have him/her/it wait
(get him/her/it to wait)
OR:
let him/her/it wait
OR: 
may he/she/it wait
3. neka čekaju have them wait 
(get them to wait)
OR:
let them wait
OR:
may they wait

And finally, let’s see some more examples of the imperative forms in sentences and analyze how we got there:

Uzmi još! – Take some more!
Steps from uzeti (to take) to uzmi:
Step 1 – third person plural of the present tense: uzmu
Step 2 – remove the last letter: uzm
Step 3 – does the stem end in -j? No.
Step 3b – add -i: uzmi

Skuhajte jaja. – Boil the eggs.
Steps from skuhati (to cook / to boil) to skuhajte:
Step 1 – third person plural of the present tense: skuhaju
Step 2 – remove the last letter: skuhaj
Step 3 – does the stem end in -j? Yes.
Step 4 – add -te to get the second person plural imperative form: skuhajte

Nazdravimo za nove početke! – Let’s make a toast to new beginnings!
Steps from nazdraviti (to make a toast) to nazdravimo:
Step 1 – third person plural of the present tense: nazdrave
Step 2 – remove the last letter: nazdrav
Step 3 – does the stem end in -j? No.
Step 3b – add -i: nazdravi
Step 4 – add -mo to get the first person plural imperative form: nazdravimo

Unesi lozinku. – Insert your password.
Steps from unijeti (to insert, to enter something) to unesi:
Step 1 – third person plural of the present tense: unesu
Step 2 – remove the last letter: unes
Step 3 – does the stem end in -j? No.
Step 3b – add -i: unesi

Nakon 100 metara skrenite lijevo. – After 100 meters, turn left.
Steps from skrenuti (to turn) to skrenite:
Step 1 – third person plural of the present tense: skrenu
Step 2 – remove the last letter: skren
Step 3 – does the stem end in -j? No.
Step 3b – add -i: skreni
Step 4 – add -te to get the second person plural imperative form: skrenite

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Why is that one spot in the table above blank?

There is one blank cell in the table with all the imperative forms: the spot for ja (first person singular). That’s because the imperative form for ja doesn’t exist. Even if we want to give a command to ourselves, we usually speak to ourselves as if we were speaking to another person. For example, my name is Antonia and if I want to tell myself to calm down, I’ll say it like this:

Antonia, smiri se! – Antonia, calm down! 

So, I would say it in exactly the same way as if I were speaking to another person whose name happens to be the same as mine.

The imperative forms of the verb biti (to be)

You might be wondering how to say, for example, Be good! or Be quiet! or Be still! in Croatian. In order to say that, we need the imperative form of the auxiliary verb to be (biti). So, here it is:

Imperativ glagola biti
The imperative of the verb to be
Jednina
Singular
Množina
Plural
1. 1. budimo let’s be
2. budi be 2. budite be
3. neka bude have him/her/it be
(get him/her/it to be)
OR:
let him/her/it be
OR:
may he/she/it be
3. neka budu have them be
(get them to be)
OR: 
let them be
OR: 
may they be

For example: 

Budi oprezan! – Be careful!
Budite kod kuće u ponoć! – Be at home at midnight!
Neka budu tihi! – Get them to be quiet! / May they be quiet! 

Do Croats use too much imperative? How do you feel about that? Share your thoughts below. 

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

Exercise: Insert the imperative form of the verbs in brackets. There is a personal pronoun in brackets (ti, vi, mi…) telling you which person the imperative is directed at:

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

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