Did you know that you need a special case in Croatian if you want to call or address someone? Yes, you do. Let me introduce you to the Vocative case!

This article is a part of our Grammatical Cases series that covers each grammatical case in Croatian in great detail. 

Here, you can learn more about the Nominative case, the Genitive case, the Dative case, and the Accusative case. 

In this article you will learn about:

  1. The Vocative case in everyday speech,
  2. When is the Vocative case used,
  3. How to use the Vocative in letters and emails,
  4. How to form the Vocative for common nouns.

So, let’s dig and and begin with the use of the Vocative in everyday speech.

The Vocative case in everyday speech

The Vocative case is a very particular case in Croatian. It is the fifth case, out of seven:

  1. Nominative
  2. Genitive
  3. Dative
  4. Accusative
  5. Vocative (hoj! hej!)
  6. Locative
  7. Instrumental

Its name comes from the Latin word vocare, which means to call. Therefore, this case is used when you want to call or address someone. 

Jesi li dobro, prijatelju?

[Are-you – question particle – well, friend Voc.]

Are you well, friend?

Ivane, zakasnit ćemo!

[John Voc. – to be late – we-will]
John, we’ll be late!

There are no questions that come with the Vocative case, like with all the other cases. Instead, we use exclamation words such as hoj, or hej, meaning hey!

The Vocative case is an independent case, like the Nominative. This means that it stands alone in the sentence, not depending on any other word. 

For this reason, the word in the Vocative case is always separated by a comma, regardless of where it appears in the sentence. 

Gospodine, Vi ste sljedeći. 

[Sir (voc), – you (polite form) – are – next]

Sir, you are next. 

Vi ste sljedeći, gospodine. 

[You (polite form) – are – next, – sir (voc.)]

You are next, Sir. 

Vi ste, gospodine, sljedeći.

[You (polite form) – are, – sir (voc.), – next]

You, Sir, are next. 

Vocative as a sentence

The words in the Vocative case can stand by themselves without any other word or verb. This way they make a one-word sentence that expresses exclamation. 

Ivane!

John! (voc)

Mama!

Mom! (voc)

Profesore!

Professor! (voc)

Konobaru!

Waiter! (voc)

Notice that there’s an exclamation point after each of these sentences. 

When is Vocative used?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the Vocative is used whenever you’re addressing someone. The noun that represents the person you’re addressing will be in the Vocative case. 

These usually include names of people, but could also include their job titles or roles in the family (family members). 

Names

Names in the Vocative case are very common. 

Marko, požuri!

Marko, hurry!

Ivane, zakasnit ćemo!

Ivan (John), we’ll be late!

Oprosti mi, Ana.

Forgive me, Ana.

Hvala ti, Doris.

Thank you, Doris.

Recently, it’s becoming very common to use the Nominative instead of the Vocative. 

Different regions would use different rules so here I will cover the most common rules for the Vocative names. 

No change for “-a names”

This is especially true for the names that end in -a (Marija, Marta, Saša, Jana, Ana, Klara, Marina, Borna, Matija, etc.)

Marija, požuri!

Mary, hurry!

Izvoli, Luka.

Here you go, Luka.

This rule doesn’t apply to names that end on -ica.

There’s an exception to this rule, however. Short female names such as Maja, actually have the form Majo! in the Vocative. This applies to the female names with two syllables that have a “long-rising” accent. 

No change for male names ending in -o, -e

The male names that end on an -o and -e also don’t change the form from the Nominative. Here are some examples: Marko, Franjo, Frano, Martino, Kruno, Ivo, Dado, Ante, Mate, Duje (very common in Dalmatia around Split), etc. 

Martino, pođi sa mnom.

Martino, come with me. 

Duje, pazi!

Duje, watch out!

No change for female names ending on a consonant

Most of the female names ending in -a (Marija, Marta, Klara, Marina, Anita, Marijana, etc.) have the same form in the Vocative and the Nominative.

There are also female names that end in a consonant (Ines, Doris, Nives, Dolores, Karmen, etc.). There are not many names like this, but they don’t change through the cases at all, meaning that the Vocativ case will have the same form as the Nominative. 

Nives, dođi.

Nives, come.

Kako si, Ines?

How are you, Ines?

Male names ending on a consonant

All of the male names that end on a consonant (Ivan, Boris, Darijan, Josip, Filip, Bojan, etc.) add an ending -e in the Vocative case.

Hvala ti, Ivane.

Thank you, Ivan (John).

Kako si, Josipe?

How are you, Josip (Joseph)?

Names ending on -ica

All of the names that end in -ica (Marica, Ivica, Anica, etc.) change the ending -a into -e.

Marica > Marica + -e > Marice

N                                 V

U pravu si, Marice.

[In – right – you-are, – Marica voc.]

You’re right, Marica

Important note:

The ending -ica is used when you form most of the female job titles. For instance:

teacher (m.) – učitelj

teacher (f.) – učitelj + ica = učiteljica

As you will see later, the job titles ending in -ica will follow the same rule as the names mentioned above. 

Titles and forms of address

Another very common use of the Vocative case in Croatian is in the titles and forms of address. 

These refer to special words for family members or different titles expressing respect (like mister, sir, madam, etc.), different jobs (waiter, teacher, doctor, etc.), and the like. Here are some examples:

Family

EnglishCroatian (N)Croatian (V)
mommamamama!
mothermajkamajko!
dadtatatata!
fatherotacoče*!
sistersestrasestro!
brotherbratbrate!
sonsinsine!
daughterkćikćeri!
uncleujak (mom’s brother)ujače*!
stric (dad’s brother)stiče*!
auntteta (mom’s or dad’s sister)teta!
ujna (“ujak’s” wife)ujna!
grandmotherbakabako!
grandfatherdjed (dedo – grandpa)djede (dedo)!
cousinrodica (f.)rodice!
rođak (m.)rođače*!

*Different sound changes appear in these words which are very common in Croatian. 

Keep in mind, however, that words that refer to family members differ from region to region. 

Jobs

EnglishCroatian (N)Croatian (V)
teacheručitelj (m.)učitelju!
učiteljica (f.)učiteljice!
professorprofesor (m.)profesore!
profesorica (f.)profesorice!
waiterkonobar (m.)konobaru!*
konobarica (f.)konobarice!
doctordoktor (m.)doktore!
doktorica (f.)doktorice!
nurse(medicinska) sestrasestro!
policemanpolicajac (m.)policajče!
policajka (f.)policajko!
presidentpredsjednik (m.)predsjedniče!
predsjednica (f.)predsjednice!
directordirektor (m.)direktore!
direktorica (f.)direktorice!
bossšef (m.)šefe!
šefica (f.)šefice!
colleague kolega (m.)kolega!
kolegica (f.)kolegice!

*It’s quite common to use the Nominative form when calling for a waiter. Also, it’s impolite to call after him out loud. Rather just raise your hand to get his/her attention. 

Different forms of respect

EnglishCroatia (N)Croatian (V)
mister, sirgospodingospodine!
madam, missesgospođagospođo!
missgospođicagospođice!

Expressing feelings or personal attitude towards someone

We don’t always address someone by their name or job title. Often we express feelings or even insults using different words. All of these words in Croatian would also have the Vocative form. 

Let’s look at some examples:

Volim te, draga moja! (V, fem.)

[I-love – you, dear – mine.]

I love you, my dear. 

Volim te, dragi moj! (V, masc.)

[I-love – you, dear – mine.]

I love you, my dear. 

Izdajniče! (V)

Traitor!

Letters

Keep in mind that you have to use the Vocative case whenever you are writing letters. 

You open each letter with the Vocative case. Regardless if you’re addressing someone by name, title or nickname, always use the Vocative. 

A very common word to use when starting formal letters is the word “poštovani (m. sing. and pl.)/ poštovana (f. sing.)/ poštovane (f. pl.)”. The literal translation is “respected”. Always use this word preceding the title or the name of the person you’re addressing in your letter. 

So, letters could start like this:

  • Poštovani gospodine + name in Vocative – (respected) mr…
  • Poštovana gospođo + name in Vocative – (respected) mrs…
  • Poštovana gospođice + name in Vocative – (respected) miss…

These titles are usually shortened by abbreviations which also change the case:

  • gospodine (V) – gdine
  • gospođo (V) – gđo
  • gospođice (V) – gđice

In Croatian, for the equivalent for “Whom it may concern” you can use the word “poštovani” as well. 

For informal letters, you would start like this:

  • Dragi prijatelju – dear friend
  • Dragi + name in Vocative – dear…

How to form the Vocative case for common nouns

The form of the Vocative for the common nouns is a bit different than the personal nouns. 

Let’s look at how you form the vocative. 

Nouns

SingularGenderEnding in VocativeNominativeVocative
feminine(nouns that end in -a)-a into -o


-ica into -ice
žena
(woman)
djevojčica(girl)
ženo!

djevojčice!
feminine
(a few nouns that end in consonant)
add -inoć(nigh)
ljubav(love)
noći!

ljubavi!
masculine(nouns that end in a consonant)add -e or -učovjek(man)
kralj(king)
čovječe!*

kralju!
neuter(nouns that end in -o, -e)N = Vjezero(lake)
more(sea)
jezero

more

*Soundchage appears in words that end in -k, -g, -h before the vowel -e and they change into -č, -ž, -š (čovjek + e = čovječe).

PluralGenderEnding in VocativeNominativeVocative
feminineN = Vžene
(women)
noći(nights)
žene!

noći!
masculineN = Vdječaci(boys)dječaci!
neuterN = Vjezera(lakes)
morea(seas)
jezera!

mora!

Adjectives

The only adjectives that change the form from the Nominative are the masculine adjectives. 

SingularGenderEnding in VocativeNominativeVocative
feminineN = Vdraga žena
(dear woman)
mala djevojčica(little girl)
tamna noć(dark nigh)
vječna ljubav(eternal love)
draga ženo!

draga djevojčice!

tamna noći!

vječna ljubavi!
masculineadd -i pošten čovjek(honest man)
veliki kralj(great king)
pošteni čovječe!*

veliki kralju!
neuterN = Vduboko jezero(deep lake)
plavo more(blue sea)
duboko jezero

plavo more

*Soundchage appears in words that end in -k, -g, -h before the vowel -e and they change into -č, -ž, -š (čovjek + e = čovječe).

For the plural adjectives the Vocative form is the same as the Nominative:

PluralGenderEnding in VocativeNominativeVocative
feminineN = Vdrage žene
(dear women)
drage žene!
masculineN = Vpošteni dječaci(honest boys)pošteni dječaci!
neuterN = Vduboka jezera(deep lakes)
plavo more(blue seas)
duboka jezera

plava mora

Pronouns

The only personal pronoun we can use to address someone is the pronoun “you”. This pronoun has the same form in the Nominative and the Vocative case. 

Hej, ti!

Hey, you!

That’s all you need to know about the Vocative case.

I hope this article has been helpful! Please, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact us if you have any questions. 

Happy learning and sretno! 😉