Croatian grammar #010
‘Koga nazoveš?’ but ‘Komu telefoniraš?’
Nazoviti + akuzativ, telefonirati + dativ ...... Be consoled by the knowledge that language has no logic.
Note in advance: It was not until I had posted this blog that I realised that I had posted another on the very same subject several months previously, entitled Nazvati nekoga, telefonirati nekomu. Duh!! The previous blog is posted under LEARNING CROATIAN, and this one under CROATIAN GRAMMAR.
Rather than treat this one as superfluous, and delete it, I am letting it stand. Not only will these two posts demonstrate how one person can make a point is such different ways, but you, my reader, might find that one "clicks" better than the other.
In English, the verbs to call and to telephone behave the same grammatically:
I will call him I will telephone him.
They called us. They telephoned us.
Marija called Ivan Marija telephoned Ivan
In these sentences, the words him, us and Ivan are all direct objects of the action (to call, or to telephone).
But we need to think differently when we speak Croatian …..
In Croatian, the corresponding verbs are:
nazvati = to call
telefonirati = to phone, to telephone
And here are the Croatian versions of the English sentences up above.
I will call him. = Nazvat ću ga. [ga is accusative case of on]
I will telephone him. = Telefonirat ću mu. [mu is dative case of on]
They called us. = Oni su nas nazvali. [nas is accusative case of mi]
They telephoned us. = Oni su nam telefonirali. [nam is dative case of mi]
Marija called Ivan. = Marija je nazvala Ivana. [Ivana is accusative case of Ivan]
Marija telephoned Ivan. = Marija je telefonirila Ivanu. [Ivanu is dative case of Ivan]
So, as you can see, the object of the verb nazvati is in the accusative case. It is the direct object of the verb.
But the object of the verb telefonirati is in the dative case. An indirect object!?
Probably, like me, you thought “How can that be? That doesn’t make sense!” But of course it does make sense to Croatians. And of course, we need to accept that što je, tu je, and stop thinking in English. Easy .....
But if we must have an explanation, it goes this way .......
The appropriate translation of telefonirati is not to telephone, but to make a phone call … to someone.
Well now it is apparent that the someone must be in the dative case – but we English speakers need to know that first. It cannot be deduced by some logic – although it can be explained by some logic.
So now we can go back to the example sentences above and re-word the English versions:
Telefonirat ću mu. I will make a phone call to him.
Oni su nam telefonirali. They made a phone call to us.
Marija je telefonirila Ivanu. Marija made a phone call to Ivan.
Let’s compare the more general cases of using nazvati and telefonirati, where the recipient of the call is an undefined someone:
I will call someone. = Nazvat ću nekoga.
I will make a phone call to someone. = Telefonirat ću nekomu.
They called someone. = Oni su nekoga nazvali.
They made a phone call to someone. = Oni su nekomu telefonirali.
This gives us a clue to the questions that we ask, depending upon whether we use the verb nazvati, or the verb telefonirati:
Koga ćeš nazvati? Nazvat ću Mateju.
Komu ćeš telefonirati? Telefonirat ću Mateji.
The Croatian language has many, many verbs which are followed by the dative case of noun or pronoun, but which we English speakers might think should be followed by the accusative case.
Some examples are:
To thank someone = zahvaliti nekomu
n.pr. Zahvalio sam mu. = I thanked him. [I gave thanks to him.]
To help someome = pomoći nekomu
n.pr. Ivan će pomoći Anđelki. = Ivan will help Anđelka. [Ivan will give help to Anđelka.]
To enjoy something = uživati u nečemu.
n.pr. Uživajte u utakmici! = Enjoy the match! [Have enjoyment for the match!]
The last example is rather artificial, and confirms once again that we should try to see through Croatian eyes (Croatian tongues?) rather than to think via English translations.
Ready for a challenge? If you want to test your understanding, here are a few sentences in English to translate. [Use telefonirati for to telephone, and nazvati for to call. And further down, I have provided the correct translations. In case you think I am being pompous, you should know that I had to check my answers with Mateja. Položio sam ispit, ali nažalost nisam postigao baš 100%!
1. She will telephone them.
2. We called you.
3. I am telephoning Dad.
4. I will thank everyone.
5. I saw everyone.
6. They are all helping me.
7. We waited for them.
8. We will telephone our old friends.
9. I am calling my favourite sister.
10. I enjoyed the big concerts.
1. Telefonirat će im (Ona će im telefonirati)
2. Nazvali smo te/vas. (Mi smo te/vas nazvali)
3. Telefoniram Tati/ocu.
4. Zahvalit ću svima.
5. Vidio sam sve. (Ja sam vidio sve)
6. Svi mi pomažu.
7. Čekali smo ih. (Mi smo ih čekali)
8. Telefonirat ćemo našim starim prijateljima.
9. Zovem svoju najdražu sestru.
10. Uživao sam u velikim koncertima.
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