Learn How And When To Use The Dative Case In Croatian

Are you ready to grapple with the third grammatical case in Croatian? 

The third grammatical case is called the Dative case and in this article, I want to help you learn when and how to use it in sentences and your everyday speech. 

So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!

The Third Grammatical Case

As you already know, the Dative case is the third grammatical case out of seven that exist in Croatian.

  1. Nominative 
  2. Genitive 
  3. Dative (to whom? towards what?)
  4. Accusative
  5. Vocative
  6. Locative
  7. Instrumental

Dative is the grammatical case that expresses transfer and direction.  

The easiest way to remember and learn the Dative case is to think of it as a case of giving, donating, selling, transferring something to someone, moving towards someone or something

So, let’s dig deeper…

The Dative Case in the Sentence

Ok, so we’ve learned that Dative is used whenever we want to express some sort of transfer or movement towards someone or something. 

Remember the questions that accompany this case? To whom? Towards what? These can help you determine when you need to use this case. 

Before we look at some examples of the Dative case, I would like to show you how to transform a noun and an adjective from a Nominative to the Dative case.

Note: In these articles about the cases, you will always learn how to transform a noun/adjective from the Nominative case because the Nominative case is the basic form of the word. This means that whenever you learn a new word, you’ll learn it in the Nominative case. From the Nominative, you transform words into other cases following different rules for different declensions in Croatian. 

The Endings of Dative Nouns

This is how you would make any noun from Nominative to Dative. The nouns in the Dative case have the following endings:

NounsThe ending in DativeNominativeDative
feminine nouns (that end with -a)– ižena(woman)ženi
feminine nouns (that end on a consonant)*– inoć(night)noći
masculine nouns (end on a consonant)– učovjek(man)čovjeku
neuter nouns (end with -o, -e)– ujezero(lake)
more(sea)
jezeru

moru

*The majority of feminine nouns in Croatian ends on -a. However, there are several nouns that end on a consonant (which is usually the rule for masculine nouns). To learn more, take a look at our article about Croatian genders.

As you can see, it’s simple to form a word in the Dative case. 

Feminine nouns 

All of the feminine nouns have an ending -i. You only need to be careful when to simply add the -i, and when to transform the last letters. 

If you look closely at the feminine nouns, notice that for the nouns that end with an -a in Nominative, you need to transform that -a into and -i to make the Dative. 

žen  žena + i   >   ženi
N                                 D

However, for feminine nouns that end on a consonant, you would simply add the -i at the end of the noun in the Nominative:

noć  >   noć + i   >  noći
N                            D 

The masculine and neuter nouns have the same ending in Dative, the ending -u. But, also pay attention to how you transform these nouns. 

Masculine nouns

For the masculine nouns, you would simply add the ending to the word in the Nominative case. 

čovjek   čovjek + u   >   čovjeku
N                                       D

Neuter nouns

But, for the neuter nouns, which end on a vowel, you would transform the last letter in the Nominative into the ending for the Dative case – u.

jezer  jezero + u   >   jezeru
N                                       D

more    more + u   >   moru
N                                      D

The easiest way to remember this is to simply think of the following:

  • if the noun ends on a vowel a  –  transform it into the ending -i
  • if the noun ends on a vowel o, u  –  transform it into the ending -u
  • if the noun ends on a consonant  –  add the ending -i or -u (depending on the gender)

But, what about adjectives? Adjectives in the Dative case have different endings than the nouns. Let’s look at the table below.

Adjectives ascribed to nouns that are:The ending in Dative (for adjectives)NominativeDative
feminine (that end with -a)– ojlijepa žena(beautiful woman)lijepoj ženi
feminine (that end on a consonant)*– ojmračna noć(dark night)mračnoj noći
masculine (end on a consonant)– om(u)dobar čovjek(good man)dobrom(u) čovjeku
neuter (end with -o, -e)– om(u)duboko jezero(deep lake)
plavo more(blue sea)
dubokom(u) jezeru

plavom(u) moru

As you can see, the ending for adjectives in the Dative case is -oj for all the feminine adjectives, and -om(u) for all the masculine and neuter adjectives. 

Note: Notice the letter (u) in the brackets? This is sometimes added to the adjective to emphasize it. It’s not usually used in everyday speech. 


The endings for Dative nouns are -i (feminine nouns), -u (masculine and neuter nouns);
-oj (feminine adjectives), -om (masculine and neuter adjectives)

Ok, now that we know how to turn the words from the Nominative into the Dative case, let’s look at the instances where you’ll need to do that.

When to use the Dative case?

So, remember that the Dative case is the case for expressing the transfer or direction? 

This basically means that you use the Dative whenever you want to say that you intend to give, offer, sell, donate something to someone, or if you’re moving toward something.

For instance:

Poslao sam pismo prijatelju.
I sent a letter to a friend.

Kupio sam sestri poklon.
I bought my sister a gift. 

Idem kući.

I’m going home

This is the most basic rule, but let’s look at the Dative in detail.


Grammar Monster

Use the Dative case to express the indirect object

As the image above shows, the indirect object in the sentence is the receiver of the direct object. This is the instance when you’re transferring something to someone. 

Poslao sam pismo prijatelju.
I sent a letter to my friend.

(A letter is a direct object, my friend is the indirect object.)

In English, you can also put the indirect object in the middle of the sentence. In this case, you lose the word to:

I sent my friend a letter. 

But, in Croatian, you can also change the word order, but nothing else in the sentence will change:

Poslao sam pismo prijatelju.

Poslao sam prijatelju pismo.
I sent my friend a letter. 

Use the Dative to express direction

This rule is easy. Whenever you want to express movement toward something or someone, use the Dative case. Think of direction. Here are some examples:

Želim ići kući.

I want to go home.

Moram otići liječniku.

I have to go to the doctor

Možete li me uputiti prema hotelu?

Can you direct me to the hotel?

But, be careful. There’s a preposition which is used in Croatian when you want to say you’re going somewhere, like to the movies, to the store, to town, etc. In these instances, you would use a preposition u (into), instead of to or towards

This preposition ‘u’ requires you to use the Accusative case… So, basically, if you express the intention of going somewhere and you use this preposition, remember to use the Accusative case, instead of Dative. 

So, what is the difference between these two?

Maybe the easiest way to remember it is if you’re expressing actual movement toward something (direction), without engaging with it or entering it, then use the Dative. 

If you will enter the facility, per se, or if you’re going into something, use the Accusative. 

Use the Dative with these prepositions

There are several prepositions which require you to use the noun in the Dative case. These prepositions are:

K(a) – towards 

Idem k prijatelju.

I’m going to a friend.

Idem ka graničnom prijelazu.

I’m going towards a border crossing.

This preposition is used to express direction, although you can often leave it out of the sentence when talking about people. 

Idem k prijatelju.    OR    Idem prijatelju.  (I’m going to my friend.)

When do you use k and when do you use ka?

The actual preposition is k, but if the preposition comes before a noun that starts with a consonant k, g, or h, you need to add the a (ka) for easier pronunciation. The same rule applies if the following words start with the groups of letters such as sk, zg, sh, sf.

Prema – towards

You might have noticed by now that there are several words in English that can be translated in several different ways into Croatian. 

This is especially true for prepositions, such as the preposition towards. 

You can use these two prepositions pretty interchangeably because they both express direction

Sjedi okrenut prema prozoru.

He’s sitting facing (toward) the window

Usprkos, unatoč – in spite of

Another two prepositions that you can use interchangeably are usprkos and unatoč. They both have the same meaning – in spite of. 

Uspjet ću unatoč/usprkos poteškoći. 

I’ll succeed in spite of the difficulty.  

There are a few more prepositions which require dative but these are less common. 

Use the Dative with the word ‘resembling’

There are several different ways to express comparison, and you’ve seen them used with the Nominative case (the word kao – like, or such as).

If you choose the verb resembling (slična / sličan / slično), remember to always use dative. 

On je sličan mami.

He resembles mom

Use the Dative with these verbs

There are several verbs that require you to use the Dative case. Here are the most common ones and their examples:

Činiti se – to seem 

Čini mi se da si u pravu.

It seems to me that you are right. 

Nedostajati – to miss (someone)

Nedostaješ mi.

(The literal translation is: You are missing to me or from me.

Actual translation: I miss you.)

Pomagati – to help

Pomozi mi!

Help me!

Rado ću pomoći prijatelju.

I’ll gladly help a friend.

Svidjeti se – to like

Sviđaš mi se. 

I like you. 

Similarly to the verb to miss someone, this verb also translates as – I like you to me. 

Vjerovati – to believe, to trust

Vjerujem svom prijatelju.

I believe my friend.

Are Dative and Locative the same case?

You will notice, if you haven’t already, that the nouns in the Dative and the Locative case have the same form and look the same. In some instances there are slight differences in pronunciation of the word, but it’s hardly noticeable. However, their use is different. 

The Dative case, as you have learned, expresses movement toward something, while the Locative case expresses the location

Now, the difference is that the Dative case expresses movement and is dynamic, but the Locative case expresses location and is static. 

That it! That’s pretty much all you need to know about the Dative case. 

I hope this article has been helpful! Remember to use the Dative when expressing the indirect object (transferring something to someone) and movement towards something or someone. 

If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact us. I’ll be here for you. 

Good luck with learning Croatian!

Sretno 😉

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