Written by: Olivera Tolimir
Dear Serbian language enthusiast, welcome to our new special!
Starting from this blog post, you’ll learn about the hottest Serbian puzzles! Straight from the Serbian teacher, you’ll get answers to the most asked questions about rules, exceptions, and all the strange things in the Serbian language.
Today’s topic will be a favorite among fashionistas. We’ll discuss the correct ways to use the words “pantalone” and “farmerke” in a sentence. We’ll also find out why they’re so special.
Pants and Jeans – Never Alone
As you probably know, the word “pantalone” means “pants/trousers” and “farmerke/farmerice” jeans.
If you tried using these words in a sentence, there’s a chance your Serbian teacher pointed that you made a slight mistake.
Since nouns of the neuter gender in Serbian end in -e or -o in the singular (dete – child, selo – village, ime – name, etc.), maybe you thought that same rule also applies to farmerke and pantalone.
Not one Serbian teacher could blame you for that. It’s a logical way of thinking. Although incorrect.
You see, pantalone and farmerke belong to the nouns of the feminine gender in the plural (such as žene – women, sestre – sisters, or stolice – chairs).
“OK, but it means that in the singular form, I can say pantalona and farmerka, right?” Well, no.
There’s one specific thing about these nouns. They’re always in the plural. So, the noun farmerke represents one piece of clothing.
The nouns that only have the plural form are called Pluralia tantum. It’s a Latin term that means “plural only.”
As explained above, Pluralia tantum are nouns that only have a plural form.
What’s interesting is that pants/trousers and jeans are Pluralia tantum in English, also! You can’t say you’ve put on a jean, can you?
The word scissors (makaze in Serbian) is also plurale tantum in both languages. In Serbian, it’s a noun of feminine gender.
So, what is it with these nouns, anyway?
Pluralia tantum nouns consist of two or more (same) parts. For example, a pair of trousers have two trouser legs. Jeans – same thing. Scissors are made of the two same parts we use for cutting.
Speaking of pairs, did you notice the expression a pair of pants in the last paragraph? We use the same one in Serbian. If you want to say you’ve bought a new pair of jeans, it will sound like this:
Kupila sam novi par farmerica.
Nevertheless, using the word pair when discussing jeans in Serbian isn’t necessary. You can shortly say:
Kupila sam nove farmerice.
Let’s look at a list of the most common nouns of this kind in Serbian:
- farmerke/farmerice – jeans
- pantalone – trousers
- gaće – underpants
- makaze – scissors
- vrata – door
- naočare – glasses
- novine – newspaper
- merdevine – ladder
- usta – mouth
- grudi – breasts/chest
- leđa – back (body part)
- pluća – lungs
- kola – car/carriage
- sanke – sleigh.
All listed Serbian nouns that end in -a belong to the neuter gender, while those ending in -e are of the feminine gender (+ grudi).
Underlined words belong to the Pluralia tantum category in English, too.
It’s obvious why, isn’t it?
The one that may not seem intuitive is novine. The thing is – we have the word novina in Serbian. But it means news, not newspaper. Interestingly, news belongs to the Pluralia tantum in English, but not in Serbian, while the opposite goes for the noun newspaper.
If you’re unsure if some other nouns are also Pluralia tantum, you can always ask your Serbian teacher! A Serbian teacher will point them out to you.
A Serbian Teacher’s Struggle
Every Serbian teacher faces one great difficulty in teaching the Pluralia tantum.
The thing is – most of the students try to answer the question as quickly as they can. So, at that speed, most of them will look at a noun such as vrata and say, “Oh, yes, feminine gender!”
Do you realize why?
Yes, it’s because nouns of the feminine gender in Serbian end in -a (in singular). So, if you don’t know what nouns belong to the Pluralia tantum ones, you’ll most likely make the same mistake.
It’s why a Serbian teacher points out all the Pluralia tantum nouns in every text. Every time until the student starts recognizing them automatically and using them correctly.
Speaking of which, let’s try using some of the listed words in a sentence!
Pluralia Tantum Examples in a Sentence
- Baš su ti dobre nove farmerke! (Your new jeans are so good!)
As you can see:
- we used the verb to be in the plural (su)
- the adjectives good and new are also in the plural (dobre, nove).
- Pocepale su mi se pantalone! (My pants tore up!)
As you can see:
- the verb pocepale su se (tore up) is in the plural and the feminine gender.
Some Extra Fun Facts
Most Pluralia tantum nouns represent one thing made of two or more parts. But some nouns appear in a literal pair.
One of the examples is the noun pluća. So, pluća means lungs.
Since we have two lungs in our body, there’s (unfortunately) a possibility one of them gets hurt/sick or cancels completely.
In these cases, properly structuring a sentence would be the least of our worries, but a Serbian teacher never stops teaching. So, how to say if someone has a problem with one lung?
There’s a combination of two words: plućno krilo. Literally, it means lung’s wing, and we use it to talk about one lung.
Speaking of possible medical situations, what should a woman say if something is happening with one of her breasts?
We don’t have the word grud for a breast. But we do have a different one – it’s dojka. This word is mostly used when talking about breastfeeding or medical issues that can occur to one breast.
In the case of the chest, we don’t need a singular form.
Did you find this blog post helpful?
If you’d like to learn more about Pluralia tantum (or anything else) in Serbian, let us know and one of our great Serbian teachers will guide you through the process!