Aha! Learning Croatian: Vocabulary #004
Prefixes that modify the meanings of verbs
A perfect(ive) storm!
Firstly, for context ....
Modifying the meanings of verbs in English
In English, sometimes different prefixes on verbs convey different meanings of the verbs. For example:
ascend = go up
descend = go down
transcend = go across/over
But compared with the Croatian language, I think that this use of prefixes is not so common. We more often use an adverb (of location) after the basic verb, or another word altogether. For example, apart from “go up”, “go down” and go across” mentioned above, some other examples are:
go out (or exit)
go in (or enter)
go away (or depart)
go faster (or hasten)
go slower (or slow down)
go around (circumnavigate?)
go around (revolve)
go back and forth (oscillate)
go back (return)
You get the idea? We commonly don’t change the word “go”: rather we pack a descriptive adverb with it. Or we use an entirely different verb.
But in Croatian?
Croatians use prefixes
But if you are learning Croatian (as am I, so slowly) you will quickly come to realise that in the Croatian language prefixes are added to the verb “go” (ići) – sometimes with substitution of the first “i” - to produce a whole range of different verbs, each with particular meaning:
doći to come, to arrive
izići to go out, to leave
mimoići to pass by, to pass over, to miss
naići to come across, to encounter
otići to leave, to depart
poći to set out, to go forth
preći to go across, to go over
pridoći to intervene, to join in
prići to come up to, to approach
proizići to follow on, to emerge from
proći to pass through, to pass by
razići se to break up
sići to descend, to alight
ući to enter
zaobići to go around, to detour
This is probably not a complete list! I have not included alternative meanings of the verbs – some slightly different, and some apparently unrelated!
And two notes of caution:
to make a mistake: griješiti (impf.), pogriješiti (pf.)
to make angry: ljutiti (impf.), naljutiti (pf.)
So, we learners are faced with a labyrinth of verbs, all looking somewhat similar, but with different, and specific, meanings. It's a jungle in which it is easy to get lost!
And it can even be galling when you realise that to a Croatian, poći and proći are as different as are think and jump to us!
Meanings of the prefixes
Things are not entirely random. When a given prefix is used with different verbs, it usually conveys a similar change of meaning. Not always exactly the same, of course: By definition, every rule in Croatian has many exceptions!
Here are simplified meanings of some of the most common prefixes:
do- to, toward
iz- out of, from
na- on, onto
nad- above, over
od- away from
po- over, all over
pod- under, off
pre- over, excessiveness
pred- pre, prior
pri- addition, onto
pro- through, passing
raz- separation, spreading apart
s- with, from
su- together, with, co-
u- in, into
uz- with, up
za- in, at
You will find some variations from grammar book to grammar book.
Don’t think that these prefixes change just the base verb ići. There are thousands of such verbs, and for all that I know, every one of them has variations brought about by prefixes.
Just as a further example, here are some verbs derived from the base verb ljetiti (to fly) by the addition of prefixes. The meanings given are very concise.
doljetiti to fly to
izljetiti to fly from
nadljetiti to fly aboves
obljetiti to fly around
odljetiti to fly off
podljetiti to fly under
poljetiti to start flying
preljetiti to fly across
proljetiti to fly by
razljetiti se to fly apart
saljetiti to harass
sljetiti to land
uzljetiti to fly up
zaljetiti se to start flying
The base verb stati
In another post (Prefixes with base verb stati) I have compiled a list of verbs which are derived from the base perfective verb stati (as well as the corresponding verbs derived from the imperfective stajati).
In this case, I have gathered a rather comprehensive set of meanings, so that you can see that there are even significantly different meanings of the same word.
It certainly takes a long while to get one’s head around all of this. At least it did for me! And it is an ongoing process.
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