In Croatian, nouns change form depending on the composition of the sentence. This is called declension. Declension has been proved the most difficult to master for people who are learning Croatian. It is very complicated and time consuming to explain it and because of that we will use simpler techniques in this course. However, many languages have noun and pronoun declension including English. In English, though, only pronoun declension remained through the course of years. Let us start by explaining all of the seven Croatian grammatical cases. The technique that is most frequently used in determining grammatical cases (the same technique is used in Croatian schools when taught to children) is by asking yourself a question when you are trying to figure out which case a noun should be in. In Croatian, grammatical cases are called padeži (plural) and padež (singular).

example

In this example you will be shown how to determine a noun’s grammatical case by using the table below.

Krešimir ide u školu. (Krešimir is going to school.)

The question you will ask yourself here is: “Where is Krešimir going?”. And the answer is that he’s going to school. By looking at the table below you will see that the question ‘where’ is used for the Locative case.

Grammatical caseThe question you should ask yourself when determining the grammatical caseExample
Nominativ (Nominative)Tko? Što? (Who or what?)Jabuka je fina. (The apple is delicious.)
Genitiv (Genitive)Koga? Čega? Čiji? (Who or what is missing? Who’s?Ovo radim zbog jabuke. (I’m doing this because of the apple.)
Dativ (Dative)Komu? Čemu? (Whom or what am I going toward?)Idem prema jabuci. (I am going toward the apple.)
Akuzativ (Accusative)Koga? Što? (Whom or what?)Ne vidim jabuku. (I don’t see the apple.)
Vokativ (Vocative)Oj! Ej! (Oi! Hey!)Oj, jabuko! (Oi, apple!)
Lokativ (Locative)Gdje? U komu? U čemu? (Where? In what? In who?)Živim u jabuci. (I live in the apple.)
InstrumentalS kime? S čime? (With whom or with what?)Trčim s jabukom. (I am running with the apple.)

exercise – key

Determine the grammatical case of the underlined nouns in the following sentences:

  1. Zvonimir je u svojoj sobi. (Zvonimir is in his room.)
  2. Domagoj ide kući biciklom. (Domagoj is going home by bike.)
  3. Hrvatska je pobijedila na nogometnom natjecanju. (Croatia won the football tournament.)