The dative case in Croatian


The dative case might seem tricky because the rules on when to use it are not very straightforward. Fortunately, the noun endings for the dative case are identical to those used in the locative so you only have to learn them once!

The dative is most commonly used without prepositions as an indirect object, mostly describing to whom something is given or for whom something is done:

→ Marko gave a chocolate to his mom

→ Luka bought a toy for his son

→ Maja sent a letter to her friends

Regular noun endings in the dative case

Muški rod
Ženski rod
Srednji rod
Nominative -
Dative -u
Nominative -i
Dative -ima

When is the dative case used?

  1. veseliti se (to look forward to)
    → I’m looking forward to Christmas.
  2. nadati se (to hope)
    → I’m hoping for good news.
  3. nedostajati (to miss)
    → Marko misses Ana.
  4. sviđati se (to like)
    → Ivan likes the life in Zagreb.

With a few prepositions:

  1. k, ka (to)
    → We’re going to Ivan's.
    → I have to go to the dentist.
  2. nasuprot (across from)
    → Across from the hospital is a bakery.
    → Across from the house is a restaurant.
  3. usprkos, unatoč (despite)
    → We went out despite the rain.
    → She came to work despite the illness.

Assibilation in the dative case

(assibilation) is a sound change in Croatian whereby the consonants -k, -g and -h when placed before the vowel -i change into -c, -z and -s. This change can be seen in the singular form of feminine nouns and in the plural form of masculine nouns in the dative case.

Where can assibilation be found?

In feminine nouns in the singular form:

knjiga (book) → knjizi
ruka (hand) → ruci
noga (leg) → nozi

In masculine nouns in the plural form:

radnik (worker) → radnici (nominative plural) → radnicima (dative plural)
junak (hero) → junacijunacima
orah (walnut) → orasiorasima

There are a few exceptions to this rule

Hypocoristics (affectionate names) in the feminine gender:

baka (granny) → baki
seka (little sister) → seki

Nouns that end in -cka, -čka, -tka, -ga:

kocka (cube) → kocki
mačka (cat) → mački
patka (duck) → patki

Declination of the first names

Zrinka → Zrinki
Dubravka → Dubravki

Exercise: how would you say the following in Croatian?

I'm writing a letter to my friend.  Answer Pišem pismo prijatelju.

Ana bought a chocolate for Maja.  Answer Ana je Maji kupila čokoladu.

I gave a book to my colleague.  Answer Dao sam knjigu svojem kolegi.

Across from the school is the playground.  Answer Nasuprot školi je igralište.

I promised my son we would travel together.  Answer Obećao sam sinu da ćemo zajedno putovati.

Marko is helping the firefighters.  Answer Marko pomaže vatrogascima.

The company is hoping for new workers.  Answer Tvrtka se nada novim radnicima.

We went to the beach despite the rain.  Answer Otišli smo na plažu unatoč kiši.

I am looking forward to my birthday.  Answer Veselim se rođendanu.

My Dad bought me a gift.  Answer Tata mi je kupio poklon.