The Nominative Case: Reflecting The Basic Form Of Every Noun

In the previous article, I spoke about the grammatical cases in general, but in the next few articles, I want to cover each one in detail. 

Let’s start with the first one – nominative. 

The basic form of the word

If you’ve read the previous article about the cases in Croatian, you have seen that words change their form as they change their role in the sentence. This means that any given word can transform into 7 different forms in Croatian, and these are called cases. 

The nominative case is the easiest for you to learn. Each new noun you learn is in the nominative case. This means that the nominative case reflects the basic form of every noun.  

Let’s look at some examples:

mama – mom

djevojčica – girl

trgovina – shop

auto – car

stan – apartment

Each of the listed words is in its basic, nominative form. 

The nominative case in Croatian is also known as the first case. It is the first case among seven.

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

The subject of the sentence

So, we’ve learned that the words change their form as they change their role in the sentence. 

The nominative case is the easiest because each word in the nominative case will be the subject of the sentence. Or the other way around – when you identify the subject of the sentence, you’ll know that word needs to be in its basic form, the nominative case. 

Let’s look at some examples and identify the subjects of these sentences. 

Mama čita. 

Mom is reading.

Ivan trči.  

John is running.

Mačka spava.

A cat is sleeping.

The subject in the sentence is the one performing the action in the sentence.

To identify a subject of the sentence, we need to ask who or what is performing the action in the sentence. These are also the corresponding questions for the nominative case.

For example, in the first sentence Mom is reading, if we ask who is reading?, we get an answer mom. Mom is the subject. Mom is in the nominative case.

In the second sentence, John is running, if we ask who is running? we get an answer, John. John is the subject. John is in the nominative case. 

Are there exceptions?

The predicate of the sentence

The predicate is the main part of the sentence and it’s common for the predicate of the sentence to be a verb, like the example sentences above. 

However, there are sentences where the predicate isn’t a verb, but a noun or an adjective. 

For example:

Mama je lijepa.

Mom is beautiful.

Ivan je učenik.

John is a student.

Hrana je skupa.

The food is expensive.

In the above sentences (know as copular sentences), the predicates are nouns (student), or adjectives (is beautiful, is expensive). (These predicates are known as predicate nouns in Croatian – imenski predikat.) 

In these sentences, the nouns or adjectives that make up the predicate are also in the nominative case, corresponding to the subject. 

Note: Keep in mind that the nous and adjectives can come in three grammatical genders. The adjective that describes the noun in the sentence has to match the noun’s gender and case.

The nominative case doesn’t appear only in the subject or the predicate of the sentence. Let’s check out the other instances where words in the nominative case appear.

Other uses of the nominative case

Nominative case is used in several other instances in Croatian:

  • together with conjunctions kao (like, as), and nego (a form of the conjunction but)

Ona je lijepa kao anđeo.

She is beautiful like an angel.

On je dobar kao kruh.

He is good like bread.

Note: ‘Good like bread’ (dobar kao kruh) is a common phrase in Croatian to commend someone’s goodness.

To nije mačka, nego pas!

That isn’t a cat, but a dog!

To nije sok, nego vino.

That isn’t a juice, but wine.

  • any adjective or pronoun referring to a noun in the nominative case

To je Marija, vesela i pametna osoba.

That is Mary, a joyful and smart person.

Opasni, veliki, crni pas je lajao.

Dangerous, big, black dog was barking.

Summary

The nominative case is the basic form of every noun in Croatian. Each noun (adjective, pronoun) you find in the dictionary is in its nominative case. 

When used in the sentences, the nominative is used in a subject of the sentence, or a predicate noun (the predicate is a noun or adjective, together will the auxiliary verb to be – is expensive, is a teacher, etc.)

Words in nominative case also come with conjunctions kao and nego.

Each adjective or pronoun referring to a noun in a nominative case must be in the nominative case as well.

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

Sretno! (Good luck!)

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