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Learning Serbian: The Definitive Chart of Serbian Cases πŸ‡·πŸ‡Έ

Serbian is a hard language for native English speakers. Reading and writing Serbian is super easy (since its spelling is fully phonetic, and it can be written in Latin script in addition to Cyrillic), but like other Slavic languages, the grammar is no joke. The US Department of State has been teaching languages to US diplomats for 70+ years, and based on their experience they helpfully break down the average duration needed for students to achieve proficiency in 66 different languages. Serbian (listed as Serbo-Croatian) is a “category 3 language,” surpassed in difficulty only by Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. While Italian or Spanish, for example, take English speakers ~600 class hours on average to learn to a reasonable level, Serbian takes ~1,100.

Since I’m also learning Japanese, I’ll note that contrary to popular belief, spoken Japanese is easy compared to many other languagesβ€”certainly easier than Serbian. What’s not to love about a language with no cases, genders, plurals (!), or tones, almost no use of pronouns (pronouns in Serbian are hard), only two tenses (past and present/future), verb conjugation that works the same for all subjects, almost no irregular verbs, and a simple pronunciation system. The challenge and reputation of Japanese comes mostly from how it’s just so different than English, and from reading and writing all those damn kanji. 幸運をη₯ˆγ‚‹οΌ

Perhaps the thing that makes Serbian the most difficult for English speakers is its seven cases (English has none, except with pronouns where you get e.g. they/them/theirs). Having so many cases would be hard enough on its own, but then the cases go and mix with Serbian’s three different genders and singular vs plural. Plus there are different case declensions for nouns and adjectives.

I’m still very much a beginner in Serbian, but while studying Serbian grammar under fabulous teacher Neda Djurovic at the Serbian Language and Culture Workshop in Belgrade, I gradually built up my own chart to fully capture the details I needed. I made this since I couldn’t find existing charts that were easy to follow but also comprehensive. It includes singular and plural word endings for the seven cases and three genders, along with exceptions, prepositions, and more. Numerous Serbian natives and language learners have told me it’s the most comprehensive and well organized chart on Serbian cases they’ve ever seen.

Here it is, in hopes that it helps you, too. I’m sharing this under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, which means you should feel free to give it away, reuse it, or adapt it with appropriate credit.

Serbian Cases Chart PDF (or PPTX for editing)

How can I improve this in future versions? Did I make any mistakes? Are there important aspects missing? Leave a comment to let me know!

Here are a couple fun, related videos from friend, YouTuber, and Serbian language lover Liz Duong (the videos are in Serbian, so turn on English subtitles): 10 Reasons Why Serbian is Difficult for English Speakers and 10 Reasons Why Serbian is Better Than English.

5 thoughts on “Learning Serbian: The Definitive Chart of Serbian Cases πŸ‡·πŸ‡Έ”

  1. Reddit
    It already looks really great I’d say! And it is a really good idea.

    There are only three things coming to my mind.

    1. I didn’t see female words in there that end with a consonant. They have their own declination but it doesn’t have many endings and is relatively easy (eg. stvar).
    2. There are two declinations of adjectives but you don’t need the other one often, as far as my teacher said.
    3. I wouldn’t say that drvo, ime and such are irregular, they just follow a different declination pattern which is regular in itself.

    But I think it would maybe lose its comprehensiveness if you would include these so I would just leave it like that.

  2. Reddit
    Saved a copy for myself lol I’m Serbian but even I mess them up sometimes πŸ˜…

    Great work

  3. Reddit
    Ha ha ha, this is nuts! Hats off for making the effort, I would never be able to do so.

    I learned Russian it was a part of my middle school (grade 5-8) curriculum. I remember how frustrating it was having a vocabulary that is so similar but also having to re-learn cases, adverbs, preposition rules. It drove me nuts. Nothing caught on at the end.

    Good luck to you!

  4. Reddit
    Hey Steve! Fancy seeing you here 😁 I got to say, this has got to be the most comprehensive and well organised list I’ve seen on cases ever!

    I would also include the declensions for dece and brate because they have quite unique exceptions that just have to be rote learnt.

    Also would agree with the comment for the feminine words ending in consonants like, ljubav, um and most words that end in “OST”.

    Also I vaguely remember that there are a group of words that include oči for example that have some rules in the genitive form that make it become očiju.

    You should post your final version in the Serbian language subreddit too!

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