6 Simple Ways to Ask How Are You in Serbian

how are you

Believe it or not, there are many ways to say a simple phrase such as Kako si? (How are you?)  in Serbian, depending on the social circle, the context, and the person you’re talking to.

To avoid confusion, we prepared some of the most frequent ways to ask someone how they’re doing and if everything is alright in their lives.

1. Kako si? (How are you?)

It’s the most common, most plain way to ask How are you? in Serbian. You can’t go wrong with this question, but you need to be careful who you’re talking to. If it’s, for example, your university professor, or your partner’s mom, you’d need to use the formal version of the question. In that case, you should ask Kako ste?

When speaking to your friend or in informal situations, you’re good to go with simple Kako si?

Pro tip: in most cases, nobody will give you the real answer. And nobody expects you to do such a thing. You can answer Dobro (I’m good) or Nije loše (Not bad). If you start talking about your real problems, e.g. how your back hurts or how you’re annoyed since parking tickets are so expensive, Serbian people will just tune out. So, keep it light, and pretend everything’s okay even if it isn’t.

-Hej, ćao, nismo se dugo videli. Kako si? (Hi, we haven’t seen each other for a long time. How are you?)

-Dobro, hvala. (I’m good, thanks)

2. Šta ima (novo)? (What's new/What's up?)

This is an informal question that you’ll be asked pretty often in Serbia. It’s a common question among acquaintances, and it also comes in a shorter version: Šta ima?

The answer to this question depends on how close you’re to the person who is asking. If your close friend asks you šta ima novo, they probably know a lot about your life and expect an honest answer. But if someone who is only an acquaintance asks you the same, you don’t have to explain everything that has happened in your life since the last time you met. So, when you want to keep the answer brief, you can respond with Ništa (Nothing), or Ništa specijalno (Nothing special).

hey what's up
Hej, gde si, šta ima?

Whatever response you choose, it’s always great to ask them Kod tebe? (And in your life?)

-Ćao, Marija, odavno se nismo čule. Šta ima novo? (Hi, Maria, I haven’t heard from you for a long time. What’s new?)

Ništa specijalno.

3. Kako ide? (How's it going?)

This question often doesn’t need an answer at all. People tend to ask it to start a conversation, break the ice, or even instead of regular Zdravo or Ćao. If you want, you can answer Evo. The literal translation of evo would be here but don’t confuse this context with the literal meaning of the word. In this context, the word evo cannot be translated. It can mean whatever you think at the moment: I am good, I will survive, I am bad, I’ve had better days, etc. Nobody knows the real feeling behind your evo. And, news flash: nobody cares!

-Ćao, kako ide?

-Evo.

face palm monument
When someone asks me: 'How's it going?'

4. Jesi dobro? (Are you okay?)

Apart from a usual greeting or a common question, you’ll hear often in Serbia, this Serbian phrase can be used in more serious situations. For example, you won’t ask an acquaintance you’ve just met on the street if they’re okay. But if your friend has had an accident or an emotional breakdown, you can check in on them using this question.

The question often requires a more serious and complex answer. If you’re really okay, you can say it, but if you aren’t, feel free to speak about it. The person who will ask you such a genuine question really cares about how you feel, so you can speak freely.

Izgledaš tužno, jesi dobro? (You look sad, are you okay?)

One more variation of this question is Jesi mi dobar? But be careful whom you’re talking to. It is an acceptable way to start a conversation with someone you’re close to or an acquaintance about the same age as yours. 

5. Kako se osećaš? (How are you feeling?)

This is one more genuine question. If someone asks you how you are feeling, they probably really want to know the answer. Also, this question will be used if a person who is asking knows, or at least supposes, that you have a problem, so a negative answer won’t cause any harm.

Čula sam da si bolestan, kako se osećaš? (I heard you were sick, how are you feeling?)

friendship, support
It's important to have a friend who will often ask you Kako si?

6. Kako se držiš? (How are you holding up?)

This question is common among close friends. If a friend knows that you are going through a rough patch, they’d use this question to show their support, The verb držati se, means to hold on to something, but we often use it to also encourage someone to stay strong. A Serbian friend might tell you Drži se (Stay strong!) when life gets hard.

Čula sam za otkaze u tvojoj firmi, kako se držiš? (I heard about the layoffs at your company, how are you holding up?)

There are plenty of ways to ask someone how they are in Serbian. As you probably already know, Serbs are pretty creative, especially when it comes to their friendships and close relations, so they invent something new on an almost daily basis. So, the best way to be up to date with the Serbian phrases is to start taking our Individual lessons. We’ll teach you how to communicate in different situations!

One Response

  1. Draga Sanja,
    I enjoyed much this piece.
    I am a second generation American, and my parents only spoke Serbian when they didn’t want us to understand ! That was the the custom of the time : “Be American now!” Nevertheless, I sat at my Baba’s table on holidays especially, and listened as everyone chatted in Serbian. I loved just listening and learned a bit that way.
    But on occasion my mother, Milka (Millie) would tell us something important to remember in Serbian. She also said that if she could not comprehend something in her VERY perfect English, she would THINK in Serbian (her first language, as a child). Then she would comprehend.
    I always remember two words : “Nedaj se !” (don’t give in). It has always helped me in some difficult times.
    Hvala lepa !
    Betsy
    (Jelisaveta)

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