Slovene Modal Verbs

Modal verbs in Slovene are verbs used to express the ability, possibility or necessity of something, such as can, could, must or such. And like English, it is always the combination of two verbs.

Most of the Slovene modal verbs are used with an infinitive verbs, but some are also used with a conjugated verb.

Lahko and ne smeti, ne moči

(+) Lahko (to be able to) + conjugated verb
In Slovene, lahko means “can” or “could” and it remains the same.  It is usually used with the present tense. Also, it is always used with a conjugated verb | i.e. A lahko plavaš? → Are you able to swim?

(-) Ne smeti (to not be allowed) + infinitive verb
One opposite of lahko is ne smeti, which means”to not be allowed” or “to be forbidden“. It also has a suggestive notion such as “should not“. The verb ne smeti is conjugated and used with an infinitive verb | i.e. Ne smem jesti kruha2. → I am not allowed to eat bread ∴ I shouldn’t.

(-) Ne moči (to not be able) + infinitive verb
Another opposite of lahko is ne moči – “to not be able”, but it usually used to  indicate a physical incapacity. The verb ne moči is conjugated and used with an infinitive verb | i.e. Ne morem priti. → I (physically) cannot come.

Please note that the participle of ne moči. used in Past and Future Tense is mogel. For example: nisem mogel, ona ni mogla.

Želeti and ne želeti

(+) Želeti (to wish) + infinitive verb
In Slovene, “to wish” and “to want” are very similar and it is often expressed with the verb želeti | i.e. Želim imeti psa  → I wish/want to have a dog.

(-) Ne želiti (to not wish)+ infinitive verb
Nothing special, just the negative form of želeti.


Hoteti and ne hoteti

(+) Hoteti (to really want) + infinitive verb
The verb hoteti is used to express a very strong feeling of want. Its conjugation in the present tense is irregular | i.e. Hočem potovati na Japonsko → I really want to travel to Japan.

(-) Ne hoteti (to really not want)+ infinitive verb
The conjugation of the negative form of hoteti in the present tense is also irregular | i.e. Nočem iti na morje → I really don’t want to go to the sea.

Please note that the participle of ne hoteti. used in Past and Future Tense is also hotel. For example: nisem hotel, ona ni hotela.

Morati and ni mi treba

(+) Morati (to must, to have to) + infinitive verb
The verb morati is used to express a necessity | Vsak dan moram jesti  → Everyday I must / have to eat.

(-) Ni mi treba (It is not needed for me)+ infinitive verb
The opposite of morati is the phrase ni mijaz3 treba + infinitive verb | Ni mi treba vstati ob šestih vsak dan → It is not needed that I get up everyday at 6am.

Be careful with ni mi treba. If we analyse it a bit further:

  1. ni : negative form of biti
  2. mi : personal pronoun in Third Sklon for jaz
  3. treba : “need” and it always remains the same.

∴ the Past tense is ni mi bilo treba + infinitive verb and the Future Tense is ni bo mi treba + infinitive verb.


I hope I didn’t confused you too much with the modal verbs. As you can see, most of modal verbs are combined with an infinitive verb, except lahko. Don’t forget that ne hoteti becomes nočemAlso, do not confuse ne moči (negative form) and morati (positive form):

  • ne moči → ne morem → nisem mogel
  • morati → moram → sem moral.

If you manage to remember all those little tricks, you will be able to ace the modal verbs in no time, but of course, it takes lots of practice! If you have any questions, other tricks to share or comments, don’t hesitate and let me know!


Discover more Slovene “lessons” that might interest you: Slovene Numbers & Numerals, Slovene Nouns & Pronouns, Slovene Verbs, Slovene AdjectivesSlovene SyntaxSlovenian Idioms.

Let’s learn,
Anna.

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