Written by: Olivera Tolimir

Imagine your first class with a Serbian teacher.

If you’ve ever had foreign language classes, you’re familiar with the process. Every teacher wants to meet their student a little at the beginning. So, a Serbian teacher will likewise ask you what you like to do in your free time.

Most students will mention traveling as one of their favorite things. 

Most Serbian students will also make a mistake trying to use the word travel in Serbian.

It’s an expected mistake for a beginner. That’s why your online Serbian teacher is here!

We’ll go through this problem step by step.

An old map, three photographs, a magnifying glass, a camera, a thread, two notebooks, a pencil, and glasses
(Let's go on an adventure!)
Let’s go on an adventure!

The Tricky Present Tense

First things first – do you know how to say travel in Serbian? 

The Serbian word for this verb is putovati. Of course, this is infinitive, the verb in its basic form. Shortly, it’s the verb form you’ll find listed in a dictionary.

So, if you try saying, I like to travel in the easiest possible way, you’ll probably say, Volim da putovam. And your Serbian teacher will stop you right there.

Why? Because we don’t form the present tense in Serbian like that.

If you’d like to remind yourself of the Serbian present tense in general, you can do it by reading our blog post about Serbian present tense.

So, now you know to remember the present tense + the infinitive when learning new Serbian verbs. It’s because there’s no rule for forming the present tense out of the infinitive. The Serbian present tense depends on itself only.

The good news is you can form every tense in Serbian as soon as you remember the infinitive and the present tense.

A laptop and sunglasses on the beach
(Travel and learn to talk about it in Serbian!)
Travel and learn to talk about it in Serbian!

Serbian Teacher Interrupts

Let’s go back to the situation from the beginning. So, you try talking about your hobbies, but your Serbian teacher starts shaking their head.

So, your Serbian teacher disapproves because the correct way to say, I like to travel is Volim da putujem.

Here’s the whole conjugation of the verb putovati in the present tense:

  1. (ja) putujem
  2. (ti) putuješ
  3. (on / ona / ono) putuje
  1. (mi) putujemo
  2. (vi) putujete
  3. (oni / one / ona) putuju.
A drawing of a man in a suit pointing to the word "NO" on a blackboard. (A Serbian teacher's reaction when you say, "Putovam".)
A Serbian teacher’s reaction when you say, Putovam.

Groups of Serbian Verbs & a Tip

The verb putovati isn’t the only one that changes this much in the present tense. 

The Serbian verbs are divided into a few groups. It means that the rules for forming the present tense aren’t infinite. There are many verbs with the same pattern as putovati.

Some verbs that have the same pattern and fit into the same group are stanovati (to live, to inhabit), psovati (to curse), kovati (to forge), and many others.

In the end, here’s the magic trick for managing these verbs: replace the letters -ova- with -uje- when transforming infinitive into the present tense and then add the present tense endings!

  • stanovati -> (ja) stanujem
  • psovati -> (ti) psuješ
  • kovati -> (vi) kujete.