Written by: Olivera Tolimir

If you’ve been following our work for some time, you know we’ve already talked about learning Serban with music. In our first musical lesson, we focused on learning Serbian tenses with the help of our hits.

Today, we’ll give you examples of grammatical cases using a similar principle.

Learning Serbian Cases 101

Before we start learning Serbian cases with music, let’s say a few words about Serbian cases in general.

The Serbian language has seven grammatical cases, namely:

  1. Nominative
  2. Genitive
  3. Dative
  4. Accusative
  5. Vocative
  6. Instrumental
  7. Locative.

Grammatical cases are different forms of some words. Every grammatical case shows that word’s function in a sentence. Think of it as of differentiation between who whom.

We’ve talked more about grammatical cases here.

Now, let’s start with our first grammatical case!

Learning Serbian with Music: Nominative

Our first grammatical case is Nominative. As its name suggests, we use it to name a class of nouns, adjectives, numbers, or pronouns.

We’ll find interesting examples of Nominative cases in the song Crna dama (The Black Lady) by the band Smak.

Smak was one of the most influential Serbian and ex-Yugoslav rock bandsThey were madly popular in the 1970s. The band’s guitarist Radomir Mihajlović, nicknamed Točak (The Wheel) was particularly praised for his extraordinary guitar skills.

But let’s go back to our song. The song Crna dama is about a woman using a man for his money. To put it in today’s terms – she’s a gold digger. He’s aware of her true nature but struggles to let her go.

Možda nisam ja ko Apolon lep.

Crna dama zna, al’ voli moj džep.

Viski i bunde i ruž i nobl svet;

Haljine duge i lov, afera splet.

Kako da prekinem to i pobedim zlo,

Moćna i raskošna crna damo?

(Maybe I am not as handsome as Apollo.

The Black Lady knows but likes my pocket.

Whiskeyfur coatslipstick, and the noble world;

Long dresses i hunt, a tangle of affairs.

How do I stop it and beat the evil,

Powerful and sumptuous black lady?)

Learning Serbian with Music: Genitive

The second Serbian grammatical case is Genitive. It indicates possession, origin, or quantity, or it can have multiple other meanings. Pay attention to the prepositions used in both Serbian and English versions of the song. These prepositions are generally used with the genitive case.

Our examples are from another rock band’s song. The band’s name is Babe (Grandmas), and the song is called Noć bez sna (A Sleepless Night). It’s about a man suffering through the night after his love has left him.

Ova je noć bez sna,

A pakla cigareta prazna je,

Prazne su ulice.

Ispijen sam do dna i iz početka mora počinje,

Padam sa stolice.

(This is a night without sleep,

And a package of cigarettes is empty,

The streets are empty.

I’m sunken to the bottom, and from the beginning, the nightmare starts,

I’m falling off the chair.)

Learning Serbian with Music: Dative

We’re staying at the topic of a man suffering for his beloved woman who left him. But we’re moving to a whole other genre!

The song Pozdravi je, pozdravi (Say Hello to Her) by Miroslav Ilić is a beautiful old folk song. 

Pričaj mi o njoj,

pričaj sve što znaš,

reci da l’ je boli

sad rastanak naš.

Ali nemoj lažnu nadu

Da mi daš.

(…)

Eh, da mogu

poslati joj suze,

suze bi joj rekle sve.

We use dative to express an indirect object or direction.

(Tell me about her,

tell me all you know,

say if our breakup

hurts her.

But don’t give me

false hope.

(…)

Oh, if I could

send her the tears,

the tears would tell her everything.)

Have you ever been to a Serbian band or singer's concert?
Have you ever been to a Serbian band or singer’s concert?

Learning Serbian with Music: Accusative

We’re going back to learning Serbian with rock songs! The next song is made and sung by another high-quality band named EKV. The song’s name is Zid (Wall).

Most of the band crew died young. In honor of the singer Milan Mladenović, a passage in Novi Sad (the 2nd biggest city in Serbia) now bears his name!

Poljubi prvo one nesrećne,

pa onda smiri one nemirne.

Lutkama sašij male haljine

i lovcima zategni lukove.

Pronađi me, pronađi me

u sobi gde umire dan.

(…)

Pomiri pse i mačke rečima,

nahrani glad u svojim očima.

Dodirni dlanom nedodirljive

i spasi nas, neuhvatljive.

(First, kiss the unfortunate ones,

then calm the restless ones.

Sew small dresses for the dolls,

and tighten the hunter’s bow.

Find me, find me

in the room where the day dies.

(…)

Reconcile dogs and cats with words,

feed the hunger in your eyes.

Touch the untouchables with your palm,

and save us, elusive ones.

Learning Serbian with Music: Vocative

The Vocative is the grammatical use used for invoking or addressing. 

The Croatian singer Tereza Kesovija lists many vocatives in the chorus of her song Moja posljednja i prva ljubavi:

Zlato moje, sunce moje

dušo moja, moj živote, ljubavi,

srećo moja, tugo moja,

moja posljednja i prva ljubavi!

These are all pet names for her beloved man, but we’ll translate them literally.

(My gold, my sun,

my soul, my life, love,

my happiness, my sadness,

my last and first love!)

Learning Serbian with Music: Instrumental

Another famous Serbian rock band is Galija (Galley). One of their most famous songs is Kotor, which is a town in Montenegro.

The singer shares his memory of a tender woman and her magical ways of expressing love.

U zemlju snova smo otišli,

kupine poljupcima delili.

Bila je kraljica dodira,

moja radost noćima.

Kako usnama miluje,

Kako prstima šapuće…

(We went to the land of dreams

and shared blackberries with kisses.

She was the queen of touch,

my happiness on nights.

How she caresses with the lips,

how she whispers with the fingers)

Instrumental is mostly used for expressing means to do something (kisseslipsfingers), or company (for living beings). It’s also often used to show the time flow (nights).

Learning Serbian with Music: Locative

Last but not least: the locative case! Locative is often used for location, or as an indirect object.

In this text about learning Serbian with music, we had one folk piece, and the rest were rock songs. Now, you’ll get the chance to listen to one Serbian pop song.

The singer is Tijana Dapčević and the song is called Negativ (Negative).

Svaki put kada ostaneš sam,

budi siguran da tu sam ja –

vazduhu, u stvarima,

senkama koje donose dan.

(Every time you stay alone,

be sure that I’m there –

in the air, in stuff,

in shadows that bring the day.)