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Questions

Let’s first look at how questions are formed with question words in Croatian. The following are common question words, some of which you are already familiar with.

tko who
što what
kada when
zašto why
kako how
koliko how many, how much
gdje where
kamo where to

As in English, a question word always comes at the beginning of a question.

Što radi Maja? or Što Maja radi?
What is Maja doing?

Kada izlaziš s posla?
When do you get out of work?

Tko kuha?
Who cooks?

Let’s now look at yes/no questions: questions that can be answered with either a yes or a no. There are two ways to form a yes/no question. One way is to use the question marker li.

Hoće li Darko kajganu? Darko hoće kajganu.
Does Darko want scrambled eggs? < He wants scrambled eggs.

Je li Maja spremna? Maja je spremna.
Is Maja ready? < Maja is ready.

If you compare the questions with the statements in the above examples, you will note that the verb, which normally follows the subject (e.g., Darko and Maja in the above examples), is placed in front of it in questions, at the beginning of the sentence; the question marker li is placed right after the verb. In everyday speech, li is often dropped, e.g., Hoće Darko kajganu? or Je Maja spremna?

If a yes/no question involves the verb biti (to be), the long forms of the verb must be used: jesam, jesi, je(st), jesmo, jeste, jesu.

Jesi li spreman?
Are you ready?

Jeste li spremni?
Are you ready (pl.)?

Yes/no questions can be also formed with the question marker da li.

Da li Darko hoće kajganu? < Darko hoće kajganu.
Does Darko want scrambled eggs? < He wants scrambled eggs.

In da li questions, there is no change in the position of the verb, which follows the subject, just like in statements. An exception to this is the verb biti (to be) and its present tense forms, like je (is). The forms of biti must follow the question marker da li because they are pronounced as part of the words that come before it (these words are called “enclitics”), and therefore they come before the subject.

Da li je Maja spremna? < Maja je spremna.
Is Maja ready? < Maja is ready.

In everyday speech, da li is often abbreviated to dal’.