Grammatical Cases Trip No 2

Language Thoughts

Grammatical Cases Trip No 2

This text is about the grammatical cases Dative and Locative in the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian language(s).

To understand how to use Nominative and Accusative in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, look at my previous text. As that is the 1st text out of 3 dealing with this topic, you can read more about what cases do in the BCS language and how we use them. This text is, however, about Dative and Locative.

The two cases always have the same endings (Singular vs Plural and then Masculine vs Feminine vs Neuter). We need to learn step by step, even by heart, how to use them combined with or without certain prepositions and verbs. One single verb sometimes needs either a Dative noun or a Locative noun. The meanings of those sentences composed of the same verbs and nouns might differentiate. Let me start with noun endings. After that, we will see a few examples.


Dative and Locative Endings

  • Masculine Singular
    Automobil – Automobilu
  • Masculine Plural
    Automobili – Automobilima
  • Feminine Singular
    Fotografija – Fotografiji
  • Feminine Plural
    Fotografije – Fotografijama
  • Neuter Singular
    Vino – Vinu
  • Neuter Plural
    Vina – Vinima


Mr. Locative says ‘Hi’

Now, there is a simple explanation we need to adopt. The Locative case usually goes with the prepositions ‘in’/’at’ (‘u’), ‘on’ (‘na’) and ‘about’ (‘o’). If you were/had been/have been, are or will be ‘in’/’at’/’on’ some place, that place was/is/will be your location. Then you use the Locative case.

  • I was in Madrid three years ago.
    Ja sam bio u Madridu prije/pre tri godine.

Villages, cities and countries usually need the preposition ‘in’ (‘u’), although there are some geographical locations that need the preposition ‘on’ (‘na’), such as ‘Sicilija’, ‘Tajland’, ‘Madagaskar’ etc. Some nouns need the preposition ‘in’, but some the preposition ‘on’. This phenomenon exists in each language. We know that in English, we are sometimes ‘at’ (the) school/hospital, sometimes ‘in’ etc. People do some things ‘in’ the sea or ‘on’ the sea. There are some nouns such as ‘restaurant’ that exclusively require the preposition ‘at’. In BCS, some nouns go either with ‘u’ or ‘na’.

You should remember that whatever preposition we use in this context, we need to change our noun into Locative. Look at these examples in which ‘Asia’ (‘Azija’, feminine) and ‘Thailand’ (‘Tajland’, masculine) need Locative although the first location needs the preposition ‘in’ and the second one the preposition ‘on’.

  • My sister was in Asia last winter.
    Moja sestra je bila u Aziji prošle zime.
  • My friends will be in Thailand in a few days.
    Moji prijatelji će biti na Tajlandu za nekoliko dana.

Besides these pure ‘locational’ examples, we use the Locative case when we think, talk, write, or speak… ‘about’ something or someone. Then we use the preposition ‘o’ and after this preposition we need Locative. Just out of curiosity: in BCS we can also ‘think on someone/something’, but if we want to think ‘on’ someone rather than ‘about’ someone, we need Accusative. Both forms are correct. It is up to you to decide how you want to express your point. Here you have a few ‘about’ examples.

  • He writes about school.
    On piše o školi.
  • They speak about lessons.
    Oni pričaju o lekcijama.


Mr. Dative says ‘Hi’

As I have said before, Dative has the same endings as Locative. However, Dative rarely needs prepositions. It sometimes does, but it is mostly about directions. We need Dative when for example we speak, explain, send and what not to someone. If we send a letter to a friend, the letter is the object of our activity and we need Accusative. Do you remember it? However, we send the object to someone and this direction needs Dative. Although it is not perfectly correct to say that we often need Dative nouns when we use ‘to’ or ‘towards’ in English, this kind of logic can slightly help at this stage of learning. Look at these examples.

  • He explains to a student.
    On objašnjava studentu.
  • He talks to a woman.
    On govori ženi.
  • They are heading to Split.
    Oni idu ka Splitu.


It’s time for you to excel

Let me see what you have understood. You can complete a few sentences and share them with me via email. If you are already my learner, contact me via Slack. You can type or write. If you write take a screenshot and let me see your ‘homework’.

  • Ovi ljudi daju poklon svojim _____ (prijatelj).
    These people give a gift to their friends.
  • Oni pišu o _____ (grad).
    They write about the city.
  • Ona ide ka _____ (plaža).
    She is heading to the beach.
  • Mladi ljudi maštaju o _____ (vino) i _____ (život).
    Young people dream about wine and life.

NOTICE: This text is not peer-reviewed. It aims to inspire and motivate language learners of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian to think about possible cultural patterns when learning this/these language(s).