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We have it perfectly clear that the majority of you who want to learn Croatian as a second language are not linguists and that in the process of learning you hear about different things like personal pronouns and possessive pronouns and demonstrative pronouns and… And you kind of get it, but don’t really have a clear picture… And that’s OK! So, we decided to write a short overview of what kinds of pronouns there are, and what they really are.
So, here we go… Let’s learn some Croatian! 🙂
What are pronouns?
A pronoun is a word used to replace another word, especially a . Pronouns are used to make sentences less cumbersome and less repetitive.
For example, instead of saying
Ivan je iz Hrvatske. Ivan voli jesti sarmu.
Ivan is from Croatia. Ivan likes to eat cabbage rolls.
we can say
Ivan je iz Hrvatske. On voli jesti sarmu.
Ivan is from Croatia. He likes to eat cabbage rolls.
In the second example, we used the pronoun on (he) to replace the noun Ivan.
How many different types of pronouns are there in Croatian?
There are 7 types of pronouns in the Croatian language: (1) personal pronouns, (2) possessive pronouns, (3) interrogative-relative pronouns, (4) demonstrative pronouns, (5) reflexive pronoun sebe/se, (6) possessive-reflexive pronoun svoj, and (7) indefinite pronouns.
1. Personal pronouns are the words that we can use instead of a noun. The personal pronouns in Croatian (in the nominative case*) are: ja (I), ti (you, singular), on (he), ona (she), ono (it), mi (we), vi (you, plural or formal), oni (they, masculine), one (they, feminine), and ona (they, neuter).
*These pronouns (and all the other types of pronouns) change in cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, locative, or instrumental.
For example, we can say:
Ana je nazvala Ivana. Ivan se javio i Ana i Ivan su razgovarali pola sata.
Ana called Ivan on the phone. Ivan answered and Ana and Ivan talked for half an hour.
Instead of using their names, we can use personal pronouns:
Ona ga je nazvala. On se javio i oni su razgovarali pola sata.
She called him on the phone. He answered and they talked for half an hour.
And another example:
Dječak je dao loptu djevojčici.
The boy gave the ball to the girl.
On joj ju je dao.
He gave it to her.
Can you pick the pronouns that are not in the nominative case? Can you identify their cases? (If not, that’s OK, we’ll be writing about it in more detail in our future blog posts.)
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2. Possessive pronouns are used to refer to a specific person(s) or thing(s) belonging to someone. These are: moj (my/mine), tvoj (your(s), singular), njegov (his), njezin (her(s)), naš (our(s)), vaš (your(s), plural or formal), and njihov (their(s)).
Gdje je vaš auto? Naš auto je ovdje. – Where is your car? Our car is here.
3. Interrogative-relative pronouns.
We use interrogative pronouns to make questions. The interrogative pronouns represent the things that we don’t know and want to ask about.
When we use these very same pronouns as linking words between the two clauses in a complex sentence, we call them relative pronouns.
The interrogative-relative pronouns are: tko (who), što (what), koji (which), čiji (whose), kakav (what (is something) like), and kolik (how big).
Tko je ona? – Who is she?
tko – interrogative pronoun, because it’s used to make a question
Tko prvi završi, dobit će bonus. – (The one) who finishes first will get a bonus.
tko – relative pronoun, because it’s used as a linking word
Čija je ova kuća? – Whose house is this?
čija – interrogative pronoun, because it’s used to make a question
Ovo je žena čija kuća je pokraj mora. – This is the woman whose house is next to the sea.
čija – relative pronoun, because it’s used as a linking word
4. Demonstrative pronouns show where a person, an object or an event is in relation to the speaker. There are three types of demonstrative pronouns:
A. Demonstrative pronouns used to answer the question koji? (which (one)?):
ovaj – this one (close to me)
taj – that one (close to you)
onaj – that one over there (farther away from both me and you)
B. Demonstrative pronouns used to answer the question kakav? (what (is something) like?):
ovakav – like this one
takav – like that one
onakav – like that one over there
C. Demonstrative pronouns used to answer the question kolik(i)? (how big?):
ovolik(i) – this big
tolik(i) – that big
onolik(i) – big like that (one) over there
Ova stolica bi dobro izgledala pokraj onog stola.
This chair would look good next to that table over there.
Sviđa mi se tvoj auto, i ja želim kupiti takav.
I like your car, I also want to buy one like that.
Torba koju sam naručila nije izgledala ovolika na slici.
The bag that I ordered didn’t look this big in the picture.
5. Reflexive pronoun. We use the reflexive pronoun when we want to refer back to the subject. There is only one reflexive pronoun: sebe/se, and it is equivalent to the English pronouns ending in -self: myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself; ourselves, yourselves, or themselves.
Vidjela sam se u ogledalu. – I saw myself in a mirror.
Oni se ne zamaraju time. – They don’t bother themselves with that.
6. Possessive-reflexive pronoun. There is only one possessive-reflexive pronoun: svoj, and it can roughly be translated as one’s own. Svoj is used to express that something belongs to the subject – and, as such, replaces any possessive pronoun, which is why some of our students call it the “superpossessive”. And we like it!
Ja imam svoje vino, a ti imaš svoje. – I have my (own) wine, and you have yours.
On ima svoje vino. – He has his (own) wine.
7. Indefinite pronouns are used to refer to non-specific being(s) or thing(s). Some of them are:
- netko (someone), nešto (something), neki (some), nečiji (someone’s), nekakav (some kind of)…;
- nitko (no one), ništa (nothing), nikoji (none, not any), ničiji (no one’s), nikakav (no kind of)…
- itko (anyone), išta (anything), ikoji (any), ičiji (anyone’s), ikakav (any kind of)…
Netko je na vratima. – Someone is at the door.
Nitko nije na vratima. – No one is at the door.
Je li itko na vratima? – Is there anyone at the door?
Did you find this post useful? Let us know what parts of the Croatian language are giving you trouble, what you would like us to write about.
Learning Croatian continues… Next Tuesday we are learning about possessive pronouns in the Croatian language. If you want us to send you an email with the next Croatian grammar lesson, put your email address here.
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