Word order

Word order in Croatian takes a bit of getting used to at the start, and it is useful (or it was for me) to look at it in sections.

Looking at individual sentence constructions can help to see the wood from the trees, and understand the whole more intuitively (that is the idea anyway).

You can't learn these rules (I don't think), but rather absorb them through exposure to the language, but it still helps to undertand the why.

NB. This page is permanently under construction but I've tried to keep it usable (for me mainly).

Word order. General

The small parts of the verb (the short form) biti (to be) can not start a sentence.

There is a set word order to Croatian sentences (with some flexibility), and initially it appears more confusing than it is, as it isn't clear (when you start) that the same rule is being applied in all sentences.

I've started with the reflexive as it gives a good example of Croatian word order, and a handy mnemonic.

Word order. Reflexive

The simplest example (where the verb starts the sentence) is :-

Sviđa mi se (I like it or it is liking to me)
Sviđa mi se plivanje

That example reminds me (and you) that the first word is the verb, the second word is the dative (it is liking to me) and the reflexive se follows.

A slightly more complicated sentence starting with a reflexive verb follows the following rule:

verb, li, dative, genitive, accusative, se.

Sviđaju li vam se nogomet i košarka?

Of course, the reflexive verb does not have to be the first word in the sentence.

Kada se żelimo opustiti, treba nam nešto drugo
Kako se zovete?
Mi (u hrvatskoj) se isto volimo družiti

In such sentences, se will be found as the second word (but see below for what this actually means).

Word order. Past

Sam, si, je ... is always in SECOND PLACE where the sentence starts with I, You etc ...

Ja sam svaki tjedan učio hrvatski.

If the sentence doesn't start with a personal pronoun, the sentence starts with the verb (participle).

Rekao me je ... (He told me ...) Nije mi rekao ... (He didn't tell me ...)

But look, the position of the enclitics (small words) in between the verbs is the same.

Želio sam ga dobro govoriti (I wanted to learn it well)

Word order. Questions

The same rule applies with verb, li, dative, genitive, accusative, se.

Jesam li ti rekla koliko dugo ..? (Did I tell you how long ..?)

Word order. Short sentences

Examples of short sentences to help get the feel of the language.

Sviđa mi se
Vozio sam se
Ne sjećam se
Ne sviđaju mi se
Situacija se nije promjenila
Promjenit ćemo planove za odmor
To će se promjeniti
Ja sam se vozio
Ja ću se voziti
On im je rekao ...

There is an exception for third person singular

Ja sam ga nazvao but On ga je nazvao.

Position of words

As mentioned already, in understanding how Croatian sentences work grammatically, you need to know the position of the word in the sentence.

For example, when using the past tense, the small parts of the short form of the verb biti (normally) are the second word in a sentence, and so when learning it is useful to know the positions of words within a sentence. This isn't always obvious, as some words reset the position.

Some groups of words, count as a sinlge position, and some words reset the sentence. This is easier illustrated than explained and makes sense.

These words start a new sentence

... meaning that the short form can not follow.

Isto tako
Isto tako, htjela sam naučiti ...

Telefonirao je prijateljima i rekli su mu da nisu htjeli putovati s njim.

These words count as position 1

This means that the short forms of biti can follow.

Da counts as position 1.
Siguran sam da se sjećaš te knjige.
Junak je odlučio DA (position one) se (position two) treba pripremiti za putovanje

Ali counts as position 1.
Ali je završila najteža faza ...

Koji counts as position 1.
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