Among those readers who are learning Croatian, who else has asked the following question: Which preposition do we use – “u” or “na” to say that we are at, or going toward, a particular place? Is there any rationality about which one is correct to use?
Well, my teacher Mateja (SpeakCro Learning Centre) has given me some rational guidelines – based more-or-less on the fact that “u” means “in” or “at”, and “na” means “on”.
Here goes …..
When is “u” used?
The preposition “u’ is used mainly in respect of closed spaces (zatvoreni ili ograničeni prostori). That generally includes enclosed buildings, towns and countries. Some examples:
We also use the preposition “u” in respect of banka, bolnica, crkva, garaža, grad, hotel, kazalište, kuhinja, muzej, podrum, stan, škola, trgovina, Knin, Baška Voda, and Meksiko, for example. Straightforward?
But there are some that seem to contradict the guideline about enclosed spaces ....
When is “na” used?
There are several categories:
1. Open spaces (otvoreni prostori), including islands:
And “na” is also used with ulica, sveučilište, tržnica, fakultet, aerodrom, kolodvor, Korčula, .... Yes, we could argue about whether some of these are truly open spaces, but this is just a guideline.
2. Events or occurrences (događaji)
Similarly, we use "na" with events such as posao, zabava, rođendan, film, ispit, večera, pogreb, šetnja, ples, sastanak, skijanje, intervju, pregled, trčanje, predstava, .....
3. Meals or drinks (really a subset of događaji)
[The akuzativ case is really the only case applicable here]
Idem na piče
Idem na pivo
Idem na ručak
Idem na sladoled
Idem na kavu i kolač
Although (isn’t there always an ‘although’?) it does make sense to use the lokativ sometimes:
Vidimo se na kavi
And finally either “u” or “na” can sometimes be used with the same place
In these cases, when we can use either “u” ili “na”, the sentences have different meanings:...
Ja sam u more I am in the sea (getting wet)
Ja sam na more I am at the seaside
Idem u selo I am going to the village
Idem na selo I am going to the countryside
And I am sure that there are variations and subtleties beyond what I am aware of, expressed above.
Can you add to my thoughts?
I acknowledge that the source of some parts of this post is Marinela Aleksovski, another fine Croatian teacher.
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