Belgrade is full of graffiti. Some of them are nice, some of them not so much. However, this doesn’t mean we cannot learn some Serbian from it. Let’s see if the graffiti we have below can teach us something.
We are going to focus on a typical love message, probably left by some teenager. Check it out.
Ivana (there should be a comma after the name), I will always love you.
The most important thing you can learn from this graffiti is the future tense. One of the ways to form it is by using the auxiliary verb HTETI (ću, ćeš, će, ćemo, ćete, će) + infinitive. In this case we have ću te voleti meaning “I will love you”. In Serbian it is not necessary to put the personal pronoun like in English, because it is already obvious from the auxiliary verb. Ću can only be used for the first person (I, or in Serbian, JA). However, if we were to also introduce the person, it would go like this: Ja ću te voleti.
If you want to say "He will always love you" the correct form would be:
What we can also see here are the direct object pronouns. Uvek ću te voleti. I will always love you. Other direct object pronouns would be:
- Uvek ću me voleti. I will always love me. Although this one sounds weird in Serbian, it is only to illustrate the pronoun.
- Uvek ću ga voleti. I will always love him.
- Uvek ću je voleti. I will always love her.
- Uvek ću nas voleti. I will always love us.
- Uvek ću vas voleti. I will always love you. (you in plural)
- Uvek ću ih voleti. I will always love them.
As much as the message itself is not that interesting and original, we have two points to discuss regarding vocabulary. The signature left is Lepi or “the pretty one”. This is an adjective which means pretty or nice. In the masculine form, it is usually lep, as in lep pas – “a pretty dog”. However, there is also a more defined version –lepi. Differences between using lep or lepi would be the same as using “pretty” and “the pretty one” in English. Or guapo and el guapo in Spanish. If this is your nickname, you have to use the defined version (ending in -i): lepi, visoki, plavi, pametni…
The other point would be the word papučar, which someone added and with it, there comes a sprinkle of humour. Papučar means a henpecked person, a boyfriend or a husband intimidated by his girlfriend/wife. It comes from the word papuča, a slipper.
As we mentioned before, there is a comma missing after the name. Considering it is a street love graffiti message, the general orthography is not bad at all. The only thing we would add to this is the date format. Namely, in Serbian the date format is DD.MM.YYYY. or D.M.YYYY. You put a full stop after each one. This is useful considering you need to fill forms from time to time. In the graffiti, the last full stop is missing.
Let’s sum it up
Although in this post we also commented on some mistakes in this particular graffiti, the point was to see what you can learn from the language you have around you. These amateur graffiti are maybe not the prettiest, but every now and then can show us some bits of the Serbian language, especially the informal one. So, when you’re outside walking, take a look at these. Maybe you’ll learn something!