Quickly Learn How To Use The Genitive Case In Croatian

People on a mission to learn Croatian often say that cases are the hardest aspect of the language to master. But, it’s not impossible! In a set of articles, I’ll cover each one in detail to give you a hand and help you understand when you need to use each case in the sentence.

In the previous article, I covered the Nominative case in detail. If you would like to learn more about the cases in Croatian in general, visit here.  

Now let’s look at the second grammatical case in detail – the Genitive case (G for short).

The Second Grammatical Case

As you may know, there are seven different cases in Croatian, and genitive is the second case:

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

As an English speaker, you’re actually already familiar with the genitive case. Every time you want to express possession, you use the genitive case. 

That’s mom’s book. 

In the sentence above, genitive expresses possession – mom’s. Each time you add the “‘s” to a noun, you’re using the genitive case. 

So, as you can see, in English the genitive case is used to express possession. However, in Croatian, the genitive has much wider use.

When do you use Genitive?

In our previous article about the Nominative case, we learned that it’s the basic form of the word and it’s often the subject in the sentence. As such it doesn’t depend on any other words.

However, nouns in the Genitive case depend on other words in the sentence, such as verbs, adjectives, or adverbs. This means that nouns in genitive can’t stand alone. Let’s look at a few examples (using words for water, praise, and luck):

N – voda (water)
G – vode

Nema vode na stolu. (depended on the verb)
There’s no water on the table.

N – hvala (praise)
G – hvale

On je vrijedan hvale. (depended on the adjective)
He is worthy of praise.

N – sreća (luck)
G – sreće

Trebam malo sreće. (depended on the adverb)
I need a little bit of luck.

The Endings of Genitive Nouns

Before we learn about all the instances where you need to use the Genetive case, let’s look at the way how the Genetive case is formed. 

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

NounsThe ending in GenitiveNominativeGenitive
feminine nouns (that end with -a)– ežena
(woman)
žene
feminine nouns (that end on a consonant)*– inoć
(night)
noći
masculine nouns (end on a consonant)– ačovjek
(man)
čovjeka
neuter nouns (end with -o, -e)– ajezero(lake)
more(sea)
jezera

mora

*The majority of feminine nouns in Croatian ends on -a. However, there’s a number of 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 Genitive case. 

Simply remember that all masculine and neuter nouns have the ending -a, and the feminine nouns end on -e, or -i in genetive. Unfortunately, this is where it’s important to know the gender of the noun. 

But, what about adjectives? Adjectives might have slightly different endings. Let’s look at the table below.

Adjectives ascribed to nouns that are:The ending in Genitive (for adjectives)NominativeGenitive
feminine (that end with -a)– elijepa žena
(beautiful woman)
lijepe žene
feminine (that end on a consonant)*– emračna noć
(dark night)
mračne noći
masculine (end on a consonant)– og(a)dobar čovjek
(good man)
dobrog(a) čovjeka
neuter (end with -o, -e)– og(a)duboko jezero
(deep lake)
plavo more
(blue sea)
dubokog(a) jezera

plavog(a) mora

As you can see, the ending for adjectives in the genitive case are -e for all the feminine adjectives, and -og(a) for all the masculine and neuter adjectives. The same endings apply to pronouns. 

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

When to use the Genitive case?

As I’ve said earlier, there’s wide use of the genitive case in Croatian. It doesn’t only express possession, but also partiality, the build of something, the absence of something, the belonging, origin, time, characteristic, place, etc. 

Let’s look at the use of Genitive in these instances. 

Use genitive to express belonging, partiality or quantity

Ok, so what does this mean? Let’s look at a few examples:

Belonging

Car Keys

N – auto (car, masc.)
G – auta 

ključevi auta
car keys (the keys of a car)

N – telefon (telephone, masc.)
G – telefona

broj telefona
telephone number (the number of a telephone)

Mountain

N – planina (mountain, fem.)
G – planine

vrh planine
mountain top (the top of the mountain)

N – svijet (world, masc.)
G – svijeta

karta svijeta
map of the world (world map)

N – jezero (lake, neut.)
G – jezera 

dno jezera
the bottom of the lake

Partiality

N – voda (water, fem.)
G – vode 

čaša vode
a glass of water 

Bread

N – kruh (bread, masc.)
G – kruha

šnita kruha
a slice of bread

Quantity

Similarly to partiality or belonging, whenever you want to express the quantity of something, use the genitive case. This would be helpful in composing your shopping list!

N – mlijeko (milk, neut.)
G – mlijeka

litra mlijeka
a liter of milk

Fish

N – riba (fish, fem.)
G – ribe

kilogram ribe
a kilogram of fish 

As you can see, whenever you have phrases that indicate something of something, you would use the Genitive case. 

Notice that in Croatian the noun in genitive always comes second, after the first noun (vrh planine instead of planine vrh, čaša vode instead of vode čaša). Well, the incorrect word order in these phrases is used sometimes, but only in poetry. 

Use the Genitive case to express belonging or partiality (vrh planine – mountain top).

So far I’ve been giving you examples of phrases where the first noun is in the nominative case (N). The second noun is in the genitive (G). But, in reality, the first noun won’t always be in the nominative. 

Remember! Even if the first noun changes its case, the second noun in the genitive remains unchanged and is always in genitive. Look at this example:

vrh planine (top of the mountain)
 N      G

I saw him on the top of the mountain.
Vidio sam  ga na vrhu planine.
                              L        G

As you can see, the word vrh is no longer in the Nominative case, but in the Locative case (indicating location). However, the word indicating belonging stays in the Genitive case. 

Let’s look at more examples.

ključevi auta (car keys)
    N, pl.   G

I saw the car keys on the table.
Vidio sam ključeve auta na stolu.
                  A, pl.    G

čaša vode (a glass of water)
   N      G

Bring me a glass of water.
Donesi mi čašu vode.
                  A     G

dno jezera (the bottom of the lake)
  N      G

I was at the bottom of the lake.
Bio sam na dnu jezera.
          L       G

As you can see, in these phrases you use two nouns. What this means is that in English, in phrases like mountain top or telephone number, the words expressing belonging are adjectives (mountain, telephone), but in Croatian, they are nouns in genitive.

However, in Croatian, you can often also use adjectives instead of nouns in these expressions. If you choose to use an adjective to describe the noun (planinski vrh instead of vrh planine – mountain top; telefonski broj instead of broj telefona – telephone number) then the adjective has to adapt and match the case of the noun. 

In these instances, you won’t use genitive any more, but whichever case the sentence requires. 

planinski vrh (mountain top)
     N        N 

na planinskom vrhu (at the mountain top)
           L             L

Use genitive with most prepositions

Probably the widest use of genitive is with the prepositions. There are some prepositions where other cases are used (such as locative), but genitive has the widest use. 

Here are examples of some commonly used prepositions:

  • od (from)

Volim sok od naranče.
I like orange juice. (juice made from an orange)

  • do (until, next to)

Radim do kraja godine.
I work until the end of the year.

Sjedim do najbolje prijateljice.
I’m sitting next to my best friend. 

  • iz (from)

Ja sam iz Hrvatske.
I’m from Croatia. 

  • ispred (in front of), iza (behind), ispod (under, below), iznad (above)

Imam vrt ispred kuće.
I have a yard in front of the house.

Mačka je iza drveta.
The cat is behind the tree.

Olovka je pala ispod stola.
A pencil fell under the table.

Postavi sliku iznad kreveta.
Place the painting above the bed.

  • prije (before), poslije, nakon (after), tijekom (druing)

Operi zube prije spavanja.
Brush your teeth before sleeping.

Poslije kiše dođe sunce.
The sun comes after the rain.

Vrijeme se mijenja tijekom dana.
The weather changes during the day. 

  • radi, zbog (because of)

Ne možemo šetati zbog kiše.
We can’t go for a walk because of the rain.

  • umjesto (instead of)

Idi ti umesto mene.
You go instead of me. 

There is a vast variety of other similar prepositions and they are all followed by a noun/pronoun/adjective in the genitive case. 

Think of it this way – if you see a preposition, just use genitive. More often than not, you would be correct.

Note: There are prepositions that are followed by a word in a different case. For example, these prepositions are: u (in), na (on) which are followed by Locative nouns, and the prepositions s, sa (with) followed by Instrumental nouns. 

When introducing yourself and saying where you’re from, use the genitive case. I’m from Croatia – Ja sam iz Hrvatske. 

What about expressing possession?

I’ve said earlier that you use the genitive case in English when you want to express possession. So, in a sentence that’s mom’s car, the words mom’s expresses possession. 

To translate these phrases into Croatian, we could use the preposition “od” (from) and say:

To je auto od mame.

We’ve already learned that the noun following a preposition od has to be in genitive case. 

However, these expressions, even though somewhat common in colloquialism, aren’t correct. 

To express possession in these instances, you would always use the possessive adjective

Instead of saying:

To je auto od mame. (That’s a car ‘from’ mom.),

you would say:

To je mamin auto. (That’s mom’s car)

Now, remember that adjectives have to adapt to the noun? This means that the possessive adjective mamin has to adapt to the noun auto. Even though this adjective expresses possession, it’s no longer in the genitive case. 

However, when you need to use more words to describe the ‘possessor’ of something, then you would use the genitive. 

For example:

To je pas moje sestre.
                 G         G
That’s my sister’s dog. (Both the pronoun and the noun are in genitive case.) 

Another instance of expressing possession is in the examples when you want to say that you’re visiting someone, or that someone has something at the moment. For these purposes, you would use the preposition kod.

For example, if you want to say you’re at your friend’s house, you will say:

Ja sam kod prijateljice. (kod + G)
I am at a friend’s (house). 

If you want to say you’re going to visit someone, you also use the same preposition following with the noun in genitive. For example:

Idem kod zubara.
I’m going to the dentist’s. 

If you want to say you left your keys with your friend and she now has them (temporarily), you would say:

Ključevi su kod prijateljice.
The keys are ‘at my friend’s’.

Also, you would use genitive in the instances where you would use preposition by in English. For example:

To je knjiga slavnog pisca. (G, G)
That’s a book by a famous writer.

These instances also indicate possession or belonging. 

Summary

The Genitive case is present in English grammar, and it is used when wanting to express possession (mom’s keys). In Croatian, even though it’s also used to express possession or belonging, its use is much wider.

The easiest way to master the Genitive case is to remember that it goes with the vast variety of prepositions. If there’s a preposition in the sentence, it will more than likely be followed by a word in genitive case. 

The Genitive case is also used to express belonging, partiality, quantity, characteristics, etc. 

I hope this article has been helpful! If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact us. 

Good luck with learning Croatian!

Sretno 😉

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