Written by: Olivera Tolimir

Good for you for asking the question from the title! Do you know why? Because it means you’ve been learning Serbian for some time now.

How do we know this, you might wonder? While introducing Serbian cases, Dative is the one that teachers save for the end. Sometimes, Instrumental comes after it, but Dative is usually at the end of the line.

On the other hand, Locative comes at the very beginning of every process of learning Serbian. It’s because we need it to introduce ourselves.

So, many Serbian students get both thrilled and confused coming to the end of the Serbian cases introduction. It’s right then and there that they realize Dative and Locative have identical forms!

To answer the question from the title right away – although they have the same form, Dative and Locative have distinct meanings. We use them in different situations, which means they aren’t the same grammatical case.

Let’s explain the main differences between them.


Two of the seven Serbian cases never occur with a preposition (Nominative and Vocative). Four Serbian cases appear with or without a preposition, depending on context (Dative is in this group). Locative is the only one that always shows with a preposition.

Prepositions we use with Locative are:

  • (in)
  • na (on/at)
  • (about)
  • po (across/by)
  • pri (the correct translation depends on the context).

Dative can show up with or without a preposition. Its most common prepositions are:

  • k(a) (towards)
  • prema (towards/according)
  • uprkos (despite).

If you’re interested in a complete list of Serbian cases and their prepositions, read our free resources!

When to Use Locative?


As we’ve previously mentioned, Locative answers the question “where”. We use it to say we live in Serbia, an apple is on the table, or a cat is in the box. Here are the examples of these sentences chronologically:

  1. Živimo u Srbiji. (Srbija = Serbia)
  2. Jabuka je na stolu. (sto = table)
  3. Mačka je u kutiji. (kutija = box)


Although its name comes from the word “location”, we can also use it to express time. If you’re talking about a specific event, use the preposition and the month of the year. For example:

  1. julu idemo na more. (jul = July)
  2. Rođendan mi je u martu. (mart = March)

Thinking, Feeling, Considering…

We use Locative after certain verbs that denote thinking and feeling. For example:

  1. Mislim/razmišljam o tebi. (I’m thinking about you.)
  2. Razgovarali smo o njima. (We talked about them.)
  3. Sanjaju o sreći. (They’re dreaming about happiness.)

When to Use Dative?


Dative is the third Serbian case. We often use it to explain to whom something is intended. That’s why we call it the case of goal and intention. For example:

  1. Pozajmiću džemper Maji. (I’ll lend the sweater to Maja.)
  2. Pošalji poruku Darku. (Send the text to Darko.)


Dative can also be a case of direction. If you remember, we’ve mentioned Accusative can also be used to show direction. Well, it’s not the only one. For example:

  1. Idem kući. (I’m going home.)
  2. Krećem se ka vratima. (I’m moving towards the door.)
  3. Auto ide prema nama. (The car is moving towards us.)

The (Logical) Subject of a Sentence

Although Nominative is the only case that can form a grammatical subject, other Serbian cases can make a logical subject. As you can guess, Dative is one of them.

A logical subject is a type of subject that shows who the verb refers to but it’s expressed by cases other than Nominative. We often use it to refer to health problems or feelings about something.

For example:

  1. Mami se spava. (Mom is sleepy.)
  2. Milošu se vrti u glavi. (Miloš is dizzy.)
  3. Mileni se ne ide u školu danas. (Milena doesn’t feel like going to school today.)

Obstacles Overcome

We use Dative to talk about obstacles we overcame. For example:

  1. Otišli su na izlet uprkos kiši. (They went to picnic despite the rain.)
  2. Dobro sam uprkos zdravstvenim problemima. (I’m fine, despite the health issues.)

The Formal Difference between Dative and Locative

Every word has the same form in Dative and Locative. But there’s a crucial difference when we talk about personal pronouns.

Like other types of words, personal pronouns have the same form in Dative and Locative. But as you maybe know, personal pronouns in Serbian have two forms: short and long. While Dative allows the use of both (depending on the sentence), Locative always asks for the long one.

Why is that?

It’s simple: short forms of personal pronouns can’t appear after a preposition. And Locative always shows up with a preposition. Let’s look at some examples:

  • Locative of the personal pronoun ti (you, sg.):

Često mislim o tebi. (I often think about you.)

  • Dative of the personal pronoun ti (you, sg.): 

Doneću ti čašu vode. (I’ll bring you a glass of water.)

Doneću tebi čašu vode, ali ne i njemu. (I’ll bring you a glass of water, but not to him.)

  • Locative of the personal pronoun mi (we):

Često misle o nama. (They often think about us.)

  • Dative of the personal pronoun mi (we):

Doneće nam vodu. (They’ll bring us water.)

Doneće nama vodu, ali ne i njima. (They’ll bring water to us, but not to them.)

Generally, we use longer forms when emphasizing something (you, not him / us, not them).


So, what are the basic similarities and differences between the Serbian cases Dative and Locative?

  • Dative and Locative have identical forms in both singular and plural.
  • Dative is the third Serbian case, while Locative is the seventh (and last).
  • They’re not the same, although they look the same. We can always distinguish which of the two is in a sentence based on the meaning (and prepositions).
  • Dative and Locative have different prepositions. 
  • The crucial prepositions of Dative are: ka, prema, and uprkos.
  • The crucial prepositions of Locative are: u, na, o, po, pri.
  • We use Dative for direction, intention, as a logical subject, and for obstacles that we managed to overcome.
  • We use Locative for location, time, and verbs of feeling and thinking.

If you’d like to learn more about Serbian cases, check out our A2.1 self-paced Serbian course!