How to Talk About Your Wishes in Serbian: The Conditional Form

A woman blowing colorful dust into the air.

Many people see daydreaming as a waste of time. Others (including us) believe that all great things begin as a daydream. If you agree and want to level up your language practice, it’s time to learn how to talk about your wishes in Serbian.

To assist you, we’ll show you what expressions to use, the necessary grammar, and, of course, plenty of examples. So, dive in and dream on!

Wishes and Daydreaming

Before we get into details, let’s see a few examples of how we can express our desires.

So, if you were a child musing about a future career, you could say:

Volela bih da budem astronaut kada porastem.

(I’d like to be an astronaut when I grow up.)

Or, if you’re feeling peckish, but your fridge is empty, you might say:

Baš bih pojela nešto, ali me mrzi da idem u prodavnicu.

(I’d really like to eat something, but I don’t feel like going to a shop.)

And for a bit of pop culture, an ex-yu rock band Crvena jabuka, made a song titled:

Voleo bih da si tu.

(I wish you were here.)

And while you’re relaxing with music, let’s get into everyone’s least favorite part — grammar.

The Conditional Form in the Serbian Language

Before you can talk about your wishes in Serbian, you’ll need to get the hang of the necessary sentence pattern. And although that means tackling some grammar, there’s no need to fret. We’ll make it as brief and straightforward as possible.

So, the grammatical form we’re talking about is the conditional form or potencijal in Serbian. It’s a verb form that expresses a wish, an ability, an intention, or a condition. However, we’ll only focus on the first one in this article.

Formation

As for the formation, we’ll need two things — the verb to be and the main verb.

First, we’ll show you what the verb to be looks like in the potential form:

 

Singular

Plural

1.

Ja bih

Mi bismo

2.

Ti bi

Vi biste

3.

On bi/ona bi/ono bi

Oni bi/one bi/ona bi

Once you’ve memorized these, it’s time to put the main verb into the active past participle.

To do this, we’ll need the infinitive stem of the verb you’d like to use. In short, you just have to omit the ending -ti, from the infinitive form (the one you’ll find in the dictionary). For example, the infinitive stem of the verb hteti (to want) is hte-.

Next, you’ll add these endings to the infinitive stem:

Gender

Singular

Plural

Masculine

-o

-li

Feminine

-la

-le

Neuter

-lo

-la

Since we’ve got everything we need, let’s see how it works in practice using the verb hteti. For the sake of convenience, we’ll only show you examples of feminine and masculine forms.

Also, the phrases in parentheses are short forms. People typically use these as it’s quick and effortless. As a result, short forms sound more natural in most cases.

 

Singular

Plural

Person

masculine

feminine

masculine

feminine

1.

Ja bih hteo

(Hteo bih)

Ja bih htela

(Htela bih)

Mi bismo hteli

(Hteli bismo)

Mi bismo htele

(Htele bismo)

2.

Ti bi hteo

(Hteo bi)

Ti bi htela

(Htela bi)

Vi biste hteli

(Hteli biste)

Vi biste htele

(Htele biste)

3.

On bi hteo

(Hteo bi)

Ona bi htela

(Htela bi)

Oni bi hteli

(Hteli bi)

One bi htele

(Htele bi)

Keep in mind that some verbs are a bit different — those that end with -ći and -sti. But, it’s best to memorize these through examples. Of course, we’ll provide a few.

IĆI – to go

Past participle: išao/išla

For example:

Išla bih na plažu. (I’d like to go to the beach.)

 

Išao bih na plažu. (I’d like to go to the beach.)

JESTI – to eat

Past participle: jeo/jela

For example:

Jela bih nešto slatko. (I’d eat something sweet.)

 Jeo bih nešto slatko. (I’d eat something sweet.)

A woman sitting on the floor holding her head with one hand and a wine glass in the other.
She’s sick of studying grammar too!

Luckily, we got all the pesky grammar out of the way. Finally, let’s see how you can use all this to talk about your wishes in Serbian.

How to Talk About Your Wishes in Serbian

Before we get into the examples, there are three key verbs you’ll need to know — voleti (to love/like), želeti (to desire/want), and hteti (to want). All of them are often used when talking about wishes.

Voleti

Volela bih da naučim italijanski.

(I’d like to learn Italian.)

 Voleo bih da te vidim ponovo.

(I’d like to see you again.)

 Voleli bismo da vas posetimo uskoro.

(We’d like to visit you soon.)

Želeti

Želeo bih da te upoznam sa mojim roditeljima.

(I’d like to introduce you to my parents.)

 Želela bih da probam srpsku hranu.

I’d like to try Serbian food.

 

Hteti

Htela bih da ti kažem nešto.

(I‘d like to tell you something.)

 Hteo bih da te bolje upoznam.

(I’d like to get to know you better.)

Note that hteo bih/htela bih have the same meaning as hoću (I want to). So, you could also say:

Hoću da ti kažem nešto.

But although they mean the same, the potential form is more indirect, and therefore more polite. That’s why you can use it to communicate your wishes, without being pushy.

A man giving a white flower to a woman.
Voleo bih da te bolje upoznam 😍

Other Verbs

In addition, you can use the potential with other verbs as well. We’ll show you how with examples.

  • Jesti (to eat)

Jela bih neke grickalice.

(I’d like to eat some snacks.)

Also, you can intensify this using the word baš (very much, really):

Baš bih jela neke grickalice.

(I’d really like to eat some snacks.)

  • Gledati (to watch)

Gledala bih neki zanimljiv film večeras.

(I’d like to watch an interesting movie tonight.)

And although there’s no verb voleti (like) in these examples, the use of potential implies it.

Hypothetical Wishes

If you use the potential form as a part of a conditional sentence, you can talk about unfulfilled or unrealistic wishes. For example:

  • Putovati (to travel)

 

Putovao bih po celom svetu kad bih imao novca.

(I’d travel around the world if I had the money.)

A man holding an empty wallet.

Questions

In case of questions, we can use the potential form to ask about people’s plans. But like before, these questions imply what we wished people to do. Let’s see how that works:

  • Doći (to come)

 

Da li bi došla kod mene sledeći vikend?

(Would you come to my place next weekend?)

Obviously, this question isn’t a mere inquiry. It clearly communicates that we’d like the person to visit us, without being too direct.

Negative Form

Now let’s talk about the negative form of the potential in the Serbian language. We often use it to say that it’s not our intention to do something, hoping to downplay a hurtful or unpleasant thing that we’re about to say. For example:

 

  • Biti grub (to be insensitive)

 

Ne bih da budem grub, ali ne sviđa mi se tvoje društvo.

(I don’t want to be insensitive, but I don’t like your friends.)

 

  • Uvrediti (to offend)

 

Ne bih da te uvredim, ali užasno ti stoji ta haljina.

(I don’t want to offend you, but that dress looks terrible on you.)

Of course, most people will still be offended, but you get the point.

Daydream and Practice Serban

Finally, you have the necessary tools to talk about your wishes in Serbian. All that remains is to let your imagination roam and daydream as you usually would. But, this time, try it in Serbian.

And if you’re eager to learn more sentence patterns and everyday expressions through enjoyable video lessons and interactive exercises, be sure to explore our Pre-intermediate course. It will allow you to study anywhere, at any time, at your own pace.

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