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The verb biti (to be) in the present tense

The verb biti (to be) is an irregular verb in Croatian. When a verb is irregular, it means that its conjugation—the way the verb changes based on person (e.g., I am, she is) and time reference (e.g., I was, she will be)—is not easily determined through a formula, and instead must be memorized. Usually, irregular verbs use different roots in different forms. Here, you’ll learn the present tense forms of the verb biti.

Singular Plural
ja sam I am mi smo we are
ti si you are vi ste you are
on/ona/ono je he/she/it is oni/one/ona su they are

Verbs are often used in Croatian without the subject pronouns. The verb form itself indicates the doer of an action or state. This is one of the important distinctions between Croatian and English sentence structures. So you’ll hear

Kako si?
How are you?

where the subject ti (you) is implicit, more often than

Kako si ti?
How are you?

A closer translation for the latter example is And how are you? where the very presence of ti in Croatian means special emphasis.

The verb biti also has long forms, used in questions and for emphasis. Only one other verb—htjeti (to want)—is like biti in this respect. You will learn about htjeti in Lesson 5. Note that all long forms of biti begin with je-.

Singular Plural
ja jesam I am mi jesmo we are
ti jesi you are vi jeste you are
on/ona/ono jest he/she/it is oni/one/ona jesu they are

Here’s an example where a long form of biti is used for emphasis.

Ja jesam dobro.
As for me, I’m indeed well.

You will learn how to use the long forms of biti in questions later in this lesson.