Get the world’s best learner’s chart for the seven cases of Serbian/Croatian grammar: nominative, accusative, genitive, locative, dative, instrumental, and vocative. Designed for both comprehensiveness and ease of use.
See also: Serbian verbs.
Serbian is a hard language for native English speakers. Reading and writing Serbian is easy since its spelling is phonetic and it can be written in Latin script (in addition to Cyrillic), but like other Slavic languages, Serbian 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 languages—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. 幸運を祈る！
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 both plurality and Serbian’s three different genders. Plus there are different case declensions for nouns and adjectives.
I’m still 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 all the singular and plural word endings for the seven cases and three genders, along with many exceptions, prepositions, and more. Numerous Serbian natives and language learners have told me it’s the most comprehensive and well organized chart for 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. Click the image to view the full PDF.
The chart is focused on comprehensiveness, simplicity, and ease of use. How can I improve it in future versions? Did I make any mistakes? Are there important aspects missing? Leave a comment to let me know.
Bonus: 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.
- V2.0 (2021-07-14): Corrections, changed the order of cases, and other tweaks.
- V3.1 (2021-07-21): Added the -i declension, complications for genitive plurals, more details for vocative and instrumental, and more.