7 Essential Serbian Verbs Which Will Help You Understand Serbian Culture

learning, friends

The Serbian language isn’t as hard as you may think. Yes, some Serbian phrases can be challenging to understand sometimes, but if you learn some of the most frequent Serbian verbs, even the phrases from a nightmare will become a piece of cake!

We won’t talk about verbs such as biti (to be), imati (to have), or živeti (to live)., We’ll try to cover lesser-known verbs that you need to grasp if you want to understand your Serbian friends and Serbian culture.

Serbs are joyful and positive, and they enjoy small things in life. They love their family and friends, and, above all, they enjoy a good party. So, along with learning these important verbs, you’ll gain a better understanding of Serbian culture.

1. ŠALITI SE (to joke)

There’s a reason why this verb is the first one on our list. Serbs love to joke, and their humor is something that can be easily recognized. In the very first conversation with a Serb, you’ll probably hear a good joke – in many cases related to you. Don’t get mad when Serbs start teasing you, it’s only their way of showing that you’re accepted as one of them.

Also, their humor is often dark, so foreigners often have a hard time trying to understand what’s so funny. Here’s one example of a Serbian joke that brings everyone to tears: A man without one hand entered a store. He asked: Is this a second-hand shop?

You’ll get used to this kind of joke, we promise.

 

Present tense:
Singular:

Ja se šalim (šalim se) – I joke

Ti se šališ (šališ se) – You joke

On/ona se šali (šali se) – He/she jokes

 

Plural:

Mi se šalimo (šalimo se) – We joke

Vi se šalite (šalite se) – You joke

Oni/one se šale (šale se) – They joke

 

 

You will hear this verb often in the sentences like these:

Opusti se, samo se šalim!

(Relax, I’m just kidding!)

 

Mora da se šališ!

(You gotta be kidding!)

Also, pay attention to another verb Serbian people use in everyday conversation: zezati se.

It means the same as šaliti se, but it’s a more colloquial form.

 

2. SMEJATI SE (to laugh)

Serbs wouldn’t survive everything that happened to them throughout history if they didn’t learn how to laugh at pretty much everything. Once you get acquainted with a Serb, you’ll understand what lies behind that laugh. Serbs are kind,  and fun, and they are deeply connected to their families, friends, and loved ones. They love hanging out with people they like, chatting with them, and laughing with them.

One situation will help you understand Serbian mentality: during the war at the end of the last century, when bombs were falling everywhere and when Belgrade was attacked, Serbs didn’t hide in the basements. They went out and threw parties on many of Belgrade’s bridges. Many famous singers and artists were performing on bridges, and everyone danced, laughed, and celebrated life while bombs were falling all around them. So, laughter is one of the most important aspects of Serbian mentality.

Present tense:

Singular:

Ja se smejem (smejem se) – I laugh

Ti se smeješ (smeješ se) – You laugh

On/ona se smeje (smeje se) – He/she laughs

Plural:

Mi se smejemo (smejemo se) – We laugh

Vi se smejete (smejete se) – You laugh

Oni/one se smeju (smeju se) – They laugh

laugh, friends
Nothing is better than a good laughter with a friend

3. VOLETI (to love)

Serbs are loyal to their friends and family, and they love them unconditionally. In Serbia, it’s common for a kid to live with their parents until their thirties and sometimes even start their own family in the same house.

Parents are often over-caring, and family connections are very deep. For example, when a Serb speaks about their cousins, they’ll say brat od tetke (brother on the side of an aunt) or sestra od strica (sister on the uncle’s side). So, they’re all brothers and sisters, and for most Serbs, cousins are only distant ones. Like, the son of a brother of your grandmother’s cousin. And yes, there are a lot of distant cousins in Serbia. You’ll need more time than you think to understand who is who in a Serbian family. Don’t worry, most Serbians also don’t know who are jetrva (a wife of your husband’s brother) or askurđel (great-great-great-great grandfather), so nobody expects that from you either.

Friendships are also strong. When you need a favor, a kidney, or a life from your friends, don’t doubt them – they’ll do everything in their power to help you. So, it’s a real blessing having a friend from Serbia.

Present tense:

Singular:

Ja volim – I love

Ti voliš – You love

On/ona voli – He/she/ loves

Plural:

Mi volimo – We love

Vi volite – You love

Oni/one vole – They love

4. PITI (to drink)

Serbs aren’t alcoholics, in most cases, but they surely love to drink a good beverage. Serbs love to party, and Serbian kafana is always full of people who want to have a good time and drink something with their friends. Every Serbian will offer you rakija and kafa (coffee), and we recommend you try them.

Even drinking coffee is a ritual itself. Serbs rarely drink Starbucks or other takeaways. We sit in a coffee shop for hours, drink domestic coffee (also known as Turkish coffee), and chat with our friends.

Pro tip: if someone in Serbia asks you Hoćeš li na kafu? (Do you want to go for a coffee?), nobody expects to take a walk with a coffee cup in their hands. Nobody even expects you to really drink coffee. You can drink whatever you want, but the main point is to sit in a coffee shop and chat. There’s a common joke in Serbia that the first sign of spring is people who sit in the patios of coffee shops – and it can’t be more true!

coffee, friends
The best coffee is the one you drink with your friends! 🙂

Present tense:

Singular:

Ja pijem – I drink

Ti piješ – You drink

On/ona pije – He/she drinks

Plural:

Mi pijemo – We drink

Vi pijete – You drink

Oni/one piju – They drink

5. PROVODITI SE (to party; to have a good time)

When in Serbia, don’t miss the parties! Belgrade is famous for its amazing pubs, clubs, and fantastic nightlife. Try rakija and vinjak, relax, and get loose!

Even if you don’t like popular Serbian folk music, you can find something for yourself – but in Serbia, no one gets bored!

Still, our recommendation is to visit Skadarlija. It’s a district in Belgrade with many bars and pubs with Serbian traditional music, which is often performed by tamburaši (performers who play Serbian traditional music on tambourines).

If you want something more modern, there are many rafts (splavovi) on the shores of the Sava and Danube rivers where you can enjoy rave parties, modern R&B tones, and whatever you can imagine.

Present tense:

Singular:

Ja se provodim (provodim se) – I party

Ti se provodiš (provodiš se) – You party

On/ona se provodi (provodi se) – He/she parties

Plural:

Mi se provodimo (provodimo se) – We party

Vi se provodite (provodite se) – You party

Oni/one/ona se provode (provode se) – They party

 

Very often you will hear this verb in its perfective form: provesti se, especially in these situations:

Lepo se provedi(te)!

(Have a good time!)

 

Jesi se dobro proveo/-la?

(Did you have a good time?)

6. RADITI (to work)

After all of the fun, there comes the work. Serbs are hard workers, and they are aware that a lot of effort is required if they want to succeed in life. From rural areas in the country, where people are working in the fields from dawn to night, to Belgrade and other big cities, where young people often have two or more jobs – everyone is ready to work hard.

Even the biggest countries in the world recognize that, so Serbia is among the European countries with the highest number of freelancers and remote workers who work for markets such as the USA or Canada.

Present tense:

Singular:

Ja radim – I work

Ti radiš – You work

On/ona radi – He/she works

Plural:

Mi radimo – We work

Vi radite – You work

Oni/one/ona rade – They work

If you want to be successful, you need to zasučeš rukave (roll up your sleeves)

7. PONOSITI SE (to be proud)

Serbs are a proud nation. They’re proud of their history and tradition above all. If you want to please a Serb, you can start talking about Serbian history – everyone will appreciate it.

But be careful – they can be offended easily, and they won’t forgive you an insult.

Remember: in Serbia, everything Serbian is the best: food, beverage, nightlife, girls, and, of course, people. On the other hand, we’re sure that will be your opinion too – just give Serbian people a chance, and you won’t be disappointed!

Present tense:

Singular:

Ja se ponosim (ponosim se) – I am proud

Ti se ponosiš (ponosiš se) – You are proud

On/ona se ponosi (ponosi se) – He/she is proud

Plural:

Mi se ponosimo (ponosimo se) – We are proud

Vi se ponosite (ponosite se) – You are proud

Oni/one se ponose (ponose se) – They are proud

 

If you want to understand your Serbian friends better, and not to mention, have an amazing time in Serbian kafana and understand all famous love songs, we recommend our group Serbian conversation lessons. You’ll need it when the time comes – and after that, you’ll be able to enjoy a chat over a coffee with your Serbian friend!

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