Welcome to the final article in our Croatian grammatical cases series!
In this article, you will learn more about the final, seventh grammatical case in Croatian – the Instrumental case.
As you can tell from its name, the Instrumental case is used to express a means, tools, or instrument for doing something, but it also has other uses.
This article will cover several important aspects of the Instrumental case:
- Two uses of the Instrumental case
- When to use the Instrumental case in a sentence
- How to form words in the Instrumental case
So, let’s dig in and learn more!
The Two Uses of the Instrumental Case
The name of this case comes from Latin – instrumentum = means, tools, instrument.
Its name immediately tells us that this case is used to express the means or tools for doing something.
However, in Croatian, it also expresses companionship.
These two uses, means and companionship, are important to remember if you want to use the Instrumental case correctly.
Use the Instrumental case to express companionship.
The easiest way to recognize the Instrumental case in the sentence is by the preposition s/sa (with). When the word in the Instrumental case comes with this proposition, then it expresses companionship and not the tools or means of doing something.
Razgovaram s prijateljem.
[I’m-talking – with – friend (I.)]
I’m talking with a friend.
Sa susjedom sam očistio garažu.
[With – neighbor (I.) – am – cleaned – garage.]
I cleaned the garage with the neighbor.
Whenever you want to express companionship, use the preposition s/sa (with).
Notice that this preposition has a so-called “disappearing a”? Yes, a “disappearing a” is a real thing in Croatian and it’s actually quite common.
The “a” sometimes appears and disappears, depending on the surrounding letters/sounds. The same happens in the case of our proposition s(a).
The preposition in its original form is s (with), but if the following word starts with a letter/sound s, š, z, ž, or sound groups ps, pš, ks, mn then you need to add the “disappearing a”. Here are some examples:
sa susjedom – with a neighbor
sa šefom – with the boss
sa zadrškom – with apprehension
sa ženom – with a woman/wife
sa psom – with a dog
sa Ksenijom – with Ksenija
This happens because of the ease of pronunciation. It would be quite difficult to pronounce this preposition without adding the “a” in the examples above.
Keep in mind that this preposition isn’t used only to express “companionship” with living beings. It can be used on several different occasions even when expressing abstract nouns like sa zadrškom (with apprehension), sa ljubavlju/ljubavi (with love), etc.
Notice that the noun ljubav (love) has two forms? More about that in the section How to form the words in the Instrumental case.
When expressing the means or tools of doing something, the Instrumental words don’t use a preposition in Croatian.
Let’s look at some examples of the Instrumental expressing the means of doing something.
Na posao idem autom.
[On – work – I-go – by-car (I.)]
I go to work by car.
Rado putujem vlakom.
[Gladly – I-travel – by-train (I.)]
I like to travel by train.
Pismo pišem olovkom.
[Letter – I-write – with-pencil (I.)]
I write a letter with a pencil.
You can often hear native speakers use the prepositions “s(a)” when expressing means or tools. So, you will often hear them say na posao idem s autom, rado putujem s vlakom, etc. However, this is incorrect use, even though it’s quite common.
Another common verb that is used with the Instrumental case is the verb baviti se (to do, to engage in, to pursue). Even though it’s a bit hard to translate correctly, it simply expresses an action which the person is engaged in, usually long-term.
So, if you want to say things like I like doing sports, in Croatian you would use the verb baviti se.
Volim se baviti sportom. (I – sing.)
[I-love – my self – to do – sport.]
I like doing sports.
On se bavi politikom. (I – sing.)
[He – himself – is-engaged-in – politics.]
He’s in politics.
Bavi se tuđim problemima. (I – pl.)
[He’s-engaged-in – himself – other people’s – problems.]
He’s putting his nose in other people’s problems.
Just a heads up. You can also express tools with the Genitive case, but this happens when you use the verb pomoću (with the help of). So, the verb pomoću comes with a Genitive noun.
Snalazim se pomoću karte. (G)
[I-find-my-way – self – with-a-help-of – map.]
I find my way with the help of a map.
Use the Instrumental case to express the means or tools for doing something.
When to use the Instrumental case in a sentence
As you’ve learned above, the two uses of the Instrumental case are to express companionship or the means or tools of doing something.
The Instrumental case can have different roles in the sentence such as an indirect object, adverb of place, time, means, cause, etc.
But, memorizing these isn’t helpful so let’s look at the instances when you need to use the Instrumental case.
First of all, you need to know that the Instrumental case can come with or without prepositions.
Instrumental case without prepositions
In most cases, the Instrumental without prepositions is used to express tools, or means of movement, or adverb of time or place. Let’s look at some examples:
Često putujem zrakoplovom.
[Often – I-travel – by-plane (I).]
I often travel by plane.
Volim šetati šumom.
[I-like – to walk – through the woods (I).]
I like to walk through the woods.
Nedjeljom se odmaramo.
[On-Sundays (I) – ourself – we-rest.]
We rest on Sundays.
[I’m-walking – on the road.(I)]
I’m walking on the road.
[I’m-sailing – on the sea. (I)]
I’m sailing on the sea.
[I-travel – by night. (I)]
I travel by night.
If you’ve read our previous article about the Locative, you might have noticed a similar example – It’s better to travel by day.
In this instance, you can use both the Instrumental and Locative, but it depends on the preposition you use.
If you are going to use the preposition by (po), then you have to use the Locative. However, without the preposition, use the Instrumental.
It’s better to travel by day.
|Bolje je putovati po danu.||Bolje je putovati danom.|
Instrumental case with prepositions
The Instrumental case uses several prepositions, just like the majority of the other cases in Croatian.
However, be careful if you’re learning the Instrumental case with the prepositions because the Instrumental case “shares” several prepositions with the Accusative case.
So, let’s check out each preposition that you can use with the Instrumental.
With (s/sa) is the most common preposition with the Instrumental case and it expressess companionship of both living beings or inanimate objects.
Preposition s(a) – with
You have already learned about his preposition above. It translates “with” and you use it whenever you want to express some sort of “companionship”. This companionship can refer to both living beings or inanimate objects.
Let’s look at some common examples:
Molim Vas, jednu kavu s mlijekom.
[I’m-asking – you (polite), one coffee (A.) – with – milk (I.)]
One coffee with milk, please.
Ne želim razgovarati s njim.
[Not – I-want – to talk – with – him (I.)]
I don’t want to talk to him.
Želiš li popiti kavu sa mnom?
[You-want – question word – to drink – coffee (A.) – with – me (I)?]
Do you want to have coffee with me?
Želim jedan sendvič sa sirom.
[I-want – one – sandwich (A.) – with – cheese(I.)]
I want a cheese sandwich.
The following prepositions are quite common with the Instrumental case. However, Instrumental shares these prepositions with the Accusative. The difference is that the Accusative would express an action that is finished. Let’s look at some
Preposition pred(a) – in front of
|Stao je pred mene.[He stepped – is – in front of – me (acc.)]|
He stepped in front of me.
Izađi pred zgradu.
[Come-out – in front of – building. (I)]
Come out in front of the building.
|Stoji preda* mnom.[He’s standing – in front of – me (I.)]He’s standing in front of me.|
Čekam te pred zgradom.[I’m waiting – you (A.) – in front of – building (I).]I’m waiting for you in front of the building.
*We add the “a” for easier pronunciation.
Preposition za – for, after
|Učinila bih sve za tebe.|
[I did – would – all – for – you (acc.)]
I would do anything for you.
Imaš li pismo za mene?[You-have – question word – letter – for – me (I)?]Do you have a letter for me?
|Ona tuguje za tobom.[She – she-grieves – for – you (I).]She’s grieving for you. |
Pođi za mnom.[Go – after – me.(I)]
Come after me. (Follow me)
This preposition is a little tricky. This preposition can be translated in different ways in English because it can mean different things in Croatian.
When you need to use this preposition with the Accusative case, then think of a direct object – something is for someone.
When you want to use this preposition with the Instrumental case, think of it as after rather than for.
So, in our first example of grieving, you are literally saying “he is grieving after you”.
Preposition nad(a)- above
|Oblaci su se nadvili nad grad.[Clouds – are – themselves – hovered – above – town (acc.)]|
The clouds hovered over the town.
Postavi ukras nad stol.[Place – decoration – above – table (acc.)]Place the decoration above the table.
|Nad gradom kruže oblaci. [Above – town (I) – are-circling – clouds.]The clouds are circling above the town. |
Ukras visi nad stolom.[Decoration – is-hanging – above – table (I)]The decoration hangs above the table.
Preposition pod(a) – under
|Stavio je njenu sliku pod jastuk.|
[He placed – is – her (acc.) – photo (acc.) – under – pillow (acc.)]
He placed her photo under the pillow.
Stavi podmetač pod čašu.
[Place – coaster (acc.) – under – glass (acc.)]
Place a coaster under the glass.
|Drži njenu sliku pod jastukom.[He-keeps – her – photo (acc.) – under – pillow (I)]He keeps her photo under his pillow.|
Podmetač je pod čašom.[Coaster – is – under – glass (I)]The coaster is under the glass.
Preposition među – among, in the midst of
|Odjednom je došao među nas.|
[All of a sudden – is – came – among – us (acc.)]
All of a sudden he came among us.
Pao je među trnje.[He fell – is – among – thorns (acc.)]He fell among thorns.
|On se nalazi među nama. [He – himself – to be found – among – us (I).]He’s among us. (In our midst)|
Ruže rastu među trnjem.[Roses – they grow – amongst – thorns (I)]The roses grow in the midst of thorns.
Remember that these prepositions are usually more common with the Instrumental case. However, if the verb in the sentence expresses an action which is finished, then go with the Accusative.
How to form words in the Instrumental case
Like with any other case, the words that change cases are nouns, adjectives and pronouns.
Let’s look at each one of those.
|Singular||Nouns||The ending in Instrumental||Nominative||Instrumental|
|feminine nouns (that end with -a)||-om||žena(woman)||ženom|
|feminine nouns (that end on a consonant)||-ju / -i||ljubav(love)||ljubavi|
masculine nouns (end on a consonant)
|-om / -em||dječak(boy)|
|neuter nouns (end with -o, -e)||-om / -em||jezero(lake)|
So, the most common ending for Instrumental nouns is -om. However, feminine nouns that end on a consonant have a double ending – ju / -i. Both are correct and can be used interchangeably.
Masculine and neuter nouns also have the ending -om. However. if the masculine noun ends on č, ć, đ, dž, lj, nj, š, ž, j, then you have to use the ending -em.
Masculine nouns that have an -e before one of the above mentioned letters will also have the ending -om. (Beč – Bečom; padež – padežom).
For neuter nouns use -om, except for the nouns that already end in -e.
If you want to learn more about grammatical genders in Croatian, please visit our article.
|Plural||Nouns||The ending in Instrumental||Nominative||Instrumental|
feminine nouns (that end with -a)
|-ama / -ima||žene(women)||ženama|
|feminine nouns (that end on a consonant)||-ama / -ima||ljubavi(loves)||ljubavima|
|masculine nouns (end on a consonant)||-ama / -ima||dječaci(boys)|
|neuter nouns (end with -o, -e)||-ama / -ima||jezera(lakes)|
The Instrumental plural nouns have the same ending, regardless of the gender. So, all three genders have an ending -ama / -ima.
Use the ending -ama for feminine nouns that end in -a, and use -ima for all the other Instrumental plural nouns.
The Instrumental adjectives have the following endings:
|Singular||Adjectives ascribed to nouns that are:||The ending in Instrumental|
|feminine||– om||lijepa žena|
The adjectives have to match the case of the noun. So, all the feminine adjectives will have the ending -om, and all the masculine and neuter adjectives will have the ending -im.
|Plural||Adjectives ascribed to nouns that are:||The ending in Instrumental|
|– im||lijepe žene(beautiful women)|
vječne ljubavi(eternal loves)
|masculine||– im||dobri dječaci|
|neuter||– im||duboka jezera|
plava mora (blue seas)
|dubokim jezerima |
All the plural adjectives have the same ending -im in the Instrumental case.
As is the case with all the pronouns, the declension is irregular. Here are the personal pronouns in the Instrumental case:
|Singular||Nominative Pronouns||Instrumental Pronouns|
(you – plural), (you – polite singular and plural)
|oni (m.), one (f.), ona (n.)|
they (masc., fem., neut.)
*Note: In Croatian, there’s a difference when you’re addressing someone informally and formally. If you’re addressing someone informally you would simply say – ti, tebe, but if you’re being formal, or as a sign of respect, you wouldn’t use the form ti (you), but the from Vi (you – polite). In this instance, the pronoun is always written with a capital V.
Ok, that’s it! That’s all the basics that you need to know in order to use the Instrumental case. Remember that the Instrumental case most often has two uses – companionship and tools/means for doing something.
I hope this article has been helpful! If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact us. I’ll be here for you.
Good luck with learning Croatian!