The present tense of the verb to be (biti) in the Croatian language, affirmative
...or how to say I am, you are… in Croatian

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Although to a non-linguist this title, The present tense of the to be, can sound like “What???” it’s much simpler than it sounds. We are simply talking about how to say I am, you are, he/she is

Ready? Let’s learn some Croatian! 🙂

For future reference, be aware that statements such as I am are said to be in the affirmative. Other forms of the present tense are negative (I am not) and interrogative (Are you?). We will also learn about these in our upcoming blog posts.

After learning about the in one of our previous blog posts, learning the present tense of the verb to be shouldn’t be hard at all.

To get to the point without complicating too much, here is how it goes:

Prezent glagola biti (kratki, nenaglašeni)
The present tense of the verb to be (short, unstressed)
Jednina
Singular
Množina
Plural
1. (ja) sam I am 1. (mi) smo we are
2. (ti) si you are 2. (vi) ste you are
3. (on) je
(ona) je
(ono) je
he is
she is
it is
3. (oni) su
(one) su
(ona) su
they (m.) are
they (f.) are
they (n.) are

So:

Ja sam Hrvat. I am a Croat.
Ti si Amerikanac. You (informal*) are an American. 
On je Australac. He is an Australian.
Ona je Australka. She is an Australian.
Ono je dijete. It* is a child.
Mi smo Hrvati. We are Croats.
Vi ste Amerikanci. You are Americans.
Vi ste Amerikanac. You (formal*) are an American. 
Oni su Australci. They (m.) are Australians.
One su Australke. They (f.) are Australians.
Ona su djeca. They (n.*) are children.

*For more information on how to use personal pronouns in Croatian, click here.

Besides the short, unstressed version (above), there is also the long, stressed version:

Prezent glagola biti (dugi, naglašeni)
The present tense of the verb to be (long, stressed)
Jednina
Singular
Množina
Plural
1. (ja) jesam I am 1. (mi) jesmo we are
2. (ti) jesi you are 2. (vi) jeste you are
3. (on) jest
(ona) jest
(ono) jest
he is
she is
it is
3. (oni) jesu
(one) jesu
(ona) jesu
they (m.) are
they (f.) are
they (n.) are

You have probably noticed that the long form is almost the same as the short form, just with the additional initial syllable je-.

So, when should I use the short (unstressed) and when the long (stressed) form of the verb to be?

To simplify the answer as much as possible, we could say that the short form is usually used. The long form is used only in some specific situations, most commonly

(1) as a one-word answer to a yes/no question

For example: 

    • Jesi li gladan (m.) / gladna (f.)? (Are you hungry?) 
    • Jesam. (I am.) 

Some alternative answers to the same question would be: 

    1. Da. (Yes.) 
    2. Da, gladan (m.) / gladna (f.) sam. (Yes, I am hungry.) 
    3. Da, ja sam gladan (m.) / gladna (f.). (Yes, I am hungry.) 

Answering with: “Ja sam.” instead of “Jesam.” is not correct. The short, unstressed form – like ja sam or ti si – can’t stand on its own: it asks for the sentence to be continued or finished. So, saying: “Ja sam gladan/gladna.” is OK.  

(2) to add extra emphasis to the statement.

For example: 

    • Mislim da nisam gladan (m.) / gladna (f.). (I think that I am not hungry.) 
    • Ali, ti JESI gladan (m.) / gladna (f.)!  (But, you ARE hungry!) 

Does this sound like your Croatian grandma? 🙂

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Why are the personal pronouns (ja, ti, on…) put into brackets in the tables above?

Good question! We have put the personal pronouns (ja, ti, on…) in the tables above into brackets because, unlike in English, they can be omitted when it is clear from the context or from the rest of the sentence who the person is. For example:

Unstressed

– Kako si? (How are you?) rather than: Kako si ti?
– Dobro sam. (I am fine.) rather than: Ja sam dobro.

So, there is no need to add the personal pronouns ti (you) or ja (I) here – it is clear from the verb, because si can only go with ti and sam can only go with ja

Perhaps you have also noticed in the sentence above that we said Dobro sam, not Sam dobro. That’s because you can never start the sentence with the short, unstressed form.

Stressed

– Jesu li gladni? (Are they hungry?) rather than: Jesu li oni gladni?
– Jesu. (They are.) rather than: Oni jesu gladni.

Again, provided we know from the context who they (oni) are, we can omit they from both sentences.

Learning Croatian continues… Using the negative form of the verb to be (e.g. I am not) will be the subject of the following blog post next Tuesday and we’ll learn about the interrogative form of the verb to be (e.g. Are you?) the Tuesday after. If you want us to send you an email with new grammar blog posts each week, please leave your email address here.

Are you ready now for an exercise?

Was this an easy-peasy thing to learn?

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