Wherever you travel, knowing a couple of words or phrases in the local language always comes in handy. Even though a lot of people in Serbia have a basic or intermediate knowledge of English, we are always amazed and truly flattered when people from abroad make an effort in speaking Serbian.
This is why we wanted to help you with phrases and expressions which will be really useful if you plan to spend some time in Serbia. They are divided into three levels. Level 1 will be enough if you’re staying only for a couple of days or have a local who’s going to guide you around. With level 2 you become more independent and don’t need a Belgradian to guide you. And last, but not least, level 3 is for people who not only what to visit, but really engage with the locals and meet new people.
For each expression, you will find phonetic transcription, pronunciation and a translation. To hear how the phrases are pronounced, click on them. Enjoy!
Level 1 – The Basics
Let’s cover the basics first. These words and expressions are very easy and most people are familiar with them if they are somehow connected to Serbia.
- ćao /’tɕao/ – hello
- hvala /’xʋal̩a/ – thank you
- Ne, hvala. /ne/ ‘xʋal̩a/ – No, thank you. When offered something, if you want to politely decline you say ne, hvala.
- Molim. /’mol̩im/ – You’re welcome (as an answer to “thank you”). Another meaning of Molim? as a question would mean “Sorry?” (if you want someone to repeat what they said).
Level 2 – Let’s take it up a notch
Want to be able to say something more than hello and thank you? Check out this level phrases.
- može /’moʒe/ – This is the most useful word you can get. You can use it in different situations.
Situation 1. Ordering in a bar or in a restaurant**, asking for something in a shop etc.
Može kafa i kisela voda? /’moʒe ‘kafa i ‘kisela ‘ʋoda/ – Can I have a coffee and a bottle of sparkling water?
Situation 2. You are offered something and you want to accept it: Da li želite dezert? /da li ‘ʒelite de’zert/ – Može. /’moʒe/ Would you like some dessert? – Yes, that would be ok.
**Another one you can use when ordering (in a bar/restaurant) is: za mene /za ‘mene/ or “for me” as in Za mene jedna limunada i jedna kafa sa mlekom /za ‘mene ‘jedna limu’nada i ‘jedna ‘kafa sa ‘mlekom/ – For me, a lemonade and a coffee with milk.
- Ne razumem. /ne ra’zumem/ – I don’t understand.
- Ne govorim srpski. /ne ‘goʋorim srpski/ – I don’t speak Serbian.
- okej /o’kej/ – okay
This English expression is very common in today’s spoken Serbian language.
- U redu (je). /u ‘redu je/ – (It’s) ok.
This is the Serbian version of the previously mentioned expression. It is also very useful if you’re paying in cash and you don’t want the waiter to give you the change (which is understood as giving a tip).
- važi /’ʋaʒi/ – It’s a deal.
Used a lot and can come in pretty handy if you want to confirm something.
- Za poneti. /za ‘poneti/ – To take away.
Level 3 – Hard-core stuff
This part is for people who may want to engage in communicating with the locals, not just in shops or bars, but on the street.
- Govoriš engleski? /’goʋoriʃ ‘eŋgleski/ – Do you speak English? (informal version)
- Govorite engleski? /’goʋorite ‘eŋgleski/ – Do you speak English? (formal version)
- Ja sam /ja sam/ – I am…
You can use this one to state your name, nationality or even your profession (but not your age).
- Drago mi je. /’drago mi je/ – Nice to meet you.
This is what you say after meeting someone.
- takođe /ta’koʥe/ – too, also (can be used after someone says drago mi je)
- Kako si? /’kako si/ – How are you? (informal)
- Kako ste? /’kako ste/- How are you? (formal)
- Prijatno. /’prijatno/- Bon appetite. (for audio check level 1)
In the basic part, you had this expression as a neutral way to say goodbye. What we didn’t tell you is that you can also use this word to say ‘have a nice meal’.
Want to stop someone on the streets to ask them something? This is the word you want to start with. If you’re speaking to a young person, use the informal version. In case you’re speaking to a not that young person, use the formal version. If you’re not sure about which one to use, use the formal one. Nobody will mind it.
- Pardon. /’pardon/ – Pardon.
You accidentally stepped on or pushed someone? Say pardon and everything will be forgiven.
- Gde je…? /gde je/ – Where is…?
To ask for a location. Bear in mind that the answer will probably be in Serbian, so you might as well learn the directions vocab.
- Gde je toalet? /gde je toa’let/ – Where is the toilet?
- Upomoć /’upomotɕ/ – Help
Hope you don’t need this one, but just in case.
- Koliko je sati? /ko’liko je sati/ – What time is it?***
- Koliko košta/Koliko je? /ko’liko ‘koʃta/ ko’liko je/ – How much does it cost? How much is it?***
- račun /’ratʃun/ – a bill
If you want to pay the bill, first you need to draw the waiter’s attention. You can do that by raising your hand. If you feel really invisible to the waiter, you can use the above stated: Izvinite!
When the waiter approaches, you can say račun or može račun.
- keš ili kartica /keʃ ili ‘kartitsa/- cash or card
As soon as you ask for račun, in most establishments waiters will automatically answer with another question: keš ili kartica. You should then tell them your prefered method of payment. If you are entering a place carrying no cash, but you are not sure if they accept the card, you can ask: Može da se plati karticom? /’moʒe da se ‘plati ‘kartitsom/ (Meaning: is it possible to pay with card?).
- ulaz /’ulaz/ – entrance
- izlaz /’izlaz/ – exit
- guraj /’guraj/ – push
- vuci /’ʋutsi/ – pull
- otvoreno /’otʋoreno/ – open
- zatvoreno /’zatʋoreno/ – closed
- izvolite /iz’ʋolite/ – two meanings:
- how can I help you
- there you go (when giving something to another person)
***Surely, for these two you would need to know the numbers and time expressions in Serbian. If you’re not sure about it, stay tuned for some of our next blog posts.
Wrapping it up…
We hope you find these Serbian phrases useful and can’t wait for you to try them out in Serbia. Let us know how it went. Of course, don’t forget to practice them at home a couple of times before your trip.
Also, if there’s any phrase that we missed, and you find it very useful, let us know. Maybe we can include it.