An Introduction to the Present Tense

An Introduction to the Present Tense

We have some good news for you! The present tense in Croatian is a simple tense, meaning that it only consists of one word. Moreover, there is only one form of the present tense, unlike in English – Croatian does not differentiate between present simple and present continuous.

What does the present tense represent?

The present tense is used to talk about:

  1. an action in a present situation:  → I am watching TV now.
  2. a habit or repeated action:  → I often play the guitar.
  3. a wish or command:  → I want to go on vacation.
  4. an action that started at a certain time in the past and continues into the present:  → My sister has been going to Krk in the summer for six years.
  5. expressing the near future:  → Tomorrow I am going to my grandma’s (house).

How is the present tense formed?

In Croatian, we have a few types of verbs depending on the infinitive form’s ending. We have verbs that end in –ati (pjevati, plivati, kuhati), -iti (žuriti, sjediti) and -jeti (vidjeti, voljeti). The simplified pattern, according to the endings attached to the root of the verb, is the following:

 1st person singular2nd person singular3rd person singular1st person plural2nd person plural3rd person plural
pjevati  pjevam pjev pjeva pjevamo pjevate pjevaju
žuriti  žurim žur žuri žurimo žurite žure
vidjeti  vidim vid vidi vidimo vidite vide

A little tip: try to memorise the 1st person singular of the verb in order to create other forms of the same verb (and the same tense) more easily!

As usual, there are some exceptions to the rule. Here’s a common one: verbs ending in -ati are conjugated differently if the ending is preceded by the letters č, ž, j, št, žd: → to run, → to lie (in bed), → to run (away), → to hold…

→ I am lying in the sun.

→ Ana’s holding a child’s hand.

→ Marko’s running a marathon.

What if the subject is omitted?

In the Croatian language, personal pronouns are omitted from most sentences, because the ending already indicates who performs the action. Personal pronouns are mostly used for emphasis. For instance, when we are trying to point somebody distinctive out.

→ You never clean your room!

→ They always listen to loud music!

→ He always starts studying for the test on time!

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How do I form negative sentences?

To form negative present tense, simply put ne in front of the verb.

→ I don't think you are lying.

→ You don't sing well.

→ We are not writing postcards to our friends.

What if I need to ask a question?

To ask questions about the present, don't forget to put the particle li directly after the verb in the present tense.

→ Do I see well?

→ Do you love me?

→ Are you working a lot?

Exercise: How would you say the following in Croatian?

Their sons are learning how to play the piano. Answer Njihovi sinovi uče svirati klavir.

My brother rides a motorbike. Answer Moj brat vozi motor.

I need to sleep eight hours every day. Answer Trebam spavati osam sati svaki dan.

She is thirty years old. Answer Ona ima trideset godina.

Your sister does not clean very well. Answer Tvoja sestra ne čisti baš dobro.

You are not telling the truth. Answer Ti ne govoriš istinu.

Adults don't play games. Answer Odrasli ne igraju igre.

Do you speak French? (singular) Answer Govoriš li francuski?

Do you speak German? (plural or formal) Answer Govorite li njemački?

Do we like winter? Answer Volimo li zimu?

Does she want some tea? Answer Želi li ona čaja?

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