Written by: Olivera Tolimir

Serbian cases are the thing people fear the most when learning Serbian. But if you go step by step and focus on one grammatical case at a time, you won’t have any problems with them. The trick is to learn and practice each case individually and then jointly. 

Even if you’ve just started learning Serbian, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of accusative. It’s one of the first Serbian cases to learn. If you don’t know anything about Accusative yet, let’s say a few words about it.

A wooden table with many open notebooks, a calculator, a cup of tea, cereal, books, and marker.
You won’t need a calculator to learn Serbian cases, but they will certainly feel like a math problem!

The 4th of 7 Serbian Cases: Accusative

Accusative is one of the first Serbian cases to learn because you need it in many everyday situations. We use it after the verbs to want, to love, to see, to watch, to hear, to listen, to ask, to (dis)like, to have, and countless more.

It’s not a coincidence we chose the mentioned verbs as examples. All of them are necessary in restaurants, shops, boutiques, and for small talk.

Accusative is the verb of direct object. It means we use it to explain to whom or to what someone did something. The direct object receives the action. There’s never a preposition before a direct object!

For example, if you say, I ate the sandwich, the sandwich is the object you did something to (you ate it). 

Of course, the Accusative is not only used as a direct object in Serbian. We use it to explain time, place, indirect objects, and for many more purposes. But in this text, we’ll keep our examples simple. So, you’ll be able to follow the differences in Accusative based on grammatical gender and other word characteristics.

First, we’ll shortly explain how Serbian cases and grammatical genders work. Then, we’ll specifically discuss the strange case of masculine gender in the Accusative in Serbian.

So, let’s go through Serbian Accusative together! You’ll see it’s nothing to be afraid about!

A man and a woman sitting at the bench and talking. He's wearing a cap and an apron while holding a cup of coffee. She's wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. They're smiling.
It’s difficult to have a small talk in Serbian without Accusative!

Serbian Cases and Grammatical Gender

Serbian has seven grammatical cases. There are also three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter) in singular in plural.

It means that words with declension (nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and some numbers) come in three genders.

Some types of words don’t change their grammatical gender (for example, nouns). It means that a noun restoran (restaurant) is always masculine gender. This noun can have forms in both singular and plural (Sg: restoran; Pl: restorani). Most Serbian masculine nouns end in a consonant (the mentioned noun is not an exception: restoran).

Serbian Cases: The Strange Case of Masculine Gender in the Accusative

Masculine nouns that end in consonant (such as restoran) form plural by adding an -i at the end. So, the plural form of the noun restoran is restorani. It isn’t difficult, is it?

The forms restoran and restorani are singular and plural forms of Nominative. Nominative is a basic form of every word with a declension. It’s the form you’ll find in a dictionary. But do you know how to make Nominative into Accusative?

We’ll start with the plural form. We’ve mentioned that the Nominative plural ends in -i. To make it into Accusative, simply turn -i into -e.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Volim kineskrestorane. (I like Chinese restaurants.)
  • Prodajem polovntelevizore(I sell used TVs.)
  • Milica i Marko jašu pitomkonje. (Milica and Marko ride timid horses.)
Two people eating Chinese food using chopsticks.
Try saying what kinds of restaurants you like in Serbian!

You see, the adjective and the noun end in -e. There’s nothing tricky about it. But what about masculine gender singular in Accusative? To use a word in this form, you first have to answer one question: Does the word represent a living being or an inanimate object?

If a masculine word in Accusative singular represents an inanimate object, it will keep the Nominative form. There won’t be any changes. It sounds easy, but keep an eye on this rule. Students often feel the need to emphasize the distinction between Accusative and Nominative, so they randomly add a suffix. Don’t do it. Keep it simple. Here are some correct examples:

  • Kupiću zelenčaj(I’ll buy green tea.)
  • Prodajem startelefon(I’m selling the old phone.)

As you can see, the constructions zeleni čaj and stari telefon are keeping their Nominative form in Accusative. But what happens with words denoting living beings?

If a masculine word in Accusative singular marks a living being, it has the same form as in Genitive. We add an -a to nouns, and -og/-eg to adjectives. Here are some examples:

  • Jašem pitomog konja. (I’m riding a timid horse.)
  • Ne slušam vašeg profesora(I don’t listen to your professor.)

To conclude, if a masculine word in Accusative singular marks an inanimate object, keep its Nominative form. If a masculine word in Accusative singular marks a living being, use its Genitive form. That’s the whole philosophy! 

Students usually make a mistake by using the form for living beings when talking about inanimate objects. The reverse situation is rarer.

Serbian Cases: Accusative, Feminine Gender

Now that we’ve explained the tricky part of Serbian Accusative, let’s move on to the easy one. 

For feminine words in Accusative, it’s unimportant whether we speak about living beings or inanimate objects. The endings are always the same: -u in singular (for adjectives and nouns), and -e in plural (for adjectives and nouns).

Here are some examples:

  • Slušam dobrmuziku. (I listen to good music.)
  • Ne gledam glupserije(I don’t watch stupid TV shows.) 
A boy in the woods listening to music through blue headphones, and enjoying.
Use Serbian cases to explain what kind of music you like to listen to!

The above rule applies to the vast majority of Serbian feminine nouns. However, there are some nouns that in Nominative don’t end in -a, but in consonant. The most common ones are: noć, ljubav, stvar, krv. These nouns keep the Nominative form in Accusative. But the adjective that precedes them has the usual form of a feminine adjective (it ends in -u in the singular, and -e in the plural).

For example:

  • Mislim na starljubav. (I’m thinking about (my) old love.)
  • Zaboravi tstvar. (Forget that thing.)

Serbian Cases: Accusative, Neuter Gender

We left the easiest for the end. The neuter words in the Accusative always have the same form as in the Nominative. It means you don’t change anything from the basic form. For example:

  • Volim svojselo(I like my village.)
  • Volim malsela(I like small villages.)

Did our text help you understand the difference between the living beings and inanimate objects in Accusative? Serbian cases can be tricky, but if you learn them step by step and with enough examples, you’ll understand them in no time!

If you still have any doubts about Accusative or Serbian cases in general, choose one of our great Serbian teachers and book your first private class! Also, checkn out our free Serbian cases chart for nouns and adjectives to help you get started!