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   - Noun Declensions
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   - Genitive case
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   - Locative case
   - Instrumental case
   - Vocative case
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The Serbian Genitive Case: Endings and Usage

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The genitive case endings for the three possible classes of nouns are given in Table 1 below.

Table 1: The genitive case of Serbian nouns
  Class I
(masculine: ending in a consonant in nominative)
Class I
(neuter: ending in –o or –e in nominative)
Class II
(feminine: ending in -a in nominative)
Class III
(feminine:  ending in a consonant in nominative)
SINGULAR ‘window’ ‘village’ ‘woman’ ‘love’
Genitive prozor-a sel-a žen-e ljubav-i
  Jovan-a (John’s)      
PLURAL ‘windows’ ‘villages’ “women” ‘loves’
Genitive prozor–a sel-a žen-a ljubav-i

 Notes on phonology and pronunciation of genitives

  • Masculine and Neuter nouns have the same endings in Genitive Singular: –a.
  • The genitive case for both masculine and neuter nouns is the same as the accusative case for the masculine animate nouns (ex. Jovana, prozora)
  • Thus, there is no distinction between animate and non-animate nouns in genitive masculine singular (e.g prozora, vs. Jovana).
  • For feminine nouns that end in a consonant, the genitive singular ending is –i (stvari), but the adjective is –e (dobre stvari), just like the adjective for the regular feminine nouns (dobre žene). .
  • Class I and Class III nouns have the same endings in singular and plural: –a for Class I nouns and –i for Class III nouns. Easy? Yes, but…
  • The respective genitive endings –a and –i are pronounced long, as well as the vowel that precedes it. This can dramatically change the pronunciation.
  • Also, if a plural noun in the nominative (default) case ends in a consonant cluster for any declension class, a long –a may (but not always!) be inserted in the stem before the –a ending. For example:
    nominative plural: student  ‘students’     devojke   ‘girls’
    genitive plural: studenata   ‘of students’ devojaka   ‘of girls’
  • Some Class II nouns that end in a consonant cluster get the –i ending in genitive plural instead of the regular –a ending. Here is an example:
    nominative plural: borbe   ‘fights’ primedba   ‘remarks’
    genitive plural: borbi   ‘of fights’ primedbi   ‘of remarks’
  • And some Class II and Class III nouns end the genitive plural in –u or –iju, respectively. These types of nouns generally denote something that comes in pairs or denote body parts. Some examples:
      Class II nouns Class III nouns
    nominative plural: ruke   hands’
    noge   legs’
    oči   ‘eyes’
    uši   ‘ears’ 
    kosti   ‘bones’
    prsti   ‘fingers’
    genitive plural: ruku   ‘of hands’
    nogu   ‘of legs’
    očiju   ‘of eyes’
    ušiju   ‘of ears’
    kostiju   ‘of bones’
    prstiju   ‘of fingers’

When to use the genitive case in sentences?

The genitive case is used with many ‘se’ or reflexive verbs that denote some psychological state. For example: fear (plašiti se), happiness (radovati se), remembrance (sećati se), bodily or psychological satisfaction (najesti se ‘eat until full’, napiti se ‘booze, get drunk’, naigrati se ‘play, dance enough’). Here is a list of the most frequently used ‘se’ verbs.

Table 2: A list of se verbs that take an object in genitive case
bojati se ‘fear, afraid’ napiti se ‘binge, booze, get drunk’
čuvati se ‘beware, keep out’ prihvatiti se ‘to take a part, accept readily’
dočepati se ‘seize, grasp’ plašiti se ‘fear, afraid’
kloniti se ‘avoid’ osloboditi se ‘free, get rid’
lišiti se ‘deprive, get rid’ sećati se ‘remember’*
najesti se ‘overeat’ setiti se ‘remember’*
prejesti se ‘eat until full’ stideti se ‘ashame’
* The only difference between the two verbs that both mean ‘to remember’ is that sećati se is an imperfective verb and setiti se is a perfective verb.

Table 3: Some examples of genitive nouns as objects of se verbs
Serbian English
Marija se plaši grmljavine. Marija is afraid of thundering.
Čuvaj se psa. Beware of the dog.
On se lišio svog nasledstva. He rid himself of his inheritance.
Zorica se najela voća. Zorica ate (enough) fruit.
Dete se napilo mleka. The child drank a lot of milk.
Jovan se prihvatio tog posla. Jovan accepted that job.
Danko se oslobodio tereta. Danko freed himself of the burden.
Ona se sećala svog detinjstva. She remembered her childhood.
Marko se stideo svog oca. Marko was ashamed of his father.

The most common usage of genitive case is to denote possession (like the English prepositions ‘of’ and ‘s).

Table 4: Some examples of genitive nouns denoting possession
  Serbian English
1. Ovo je slika moje majke. This is a picture of my mother.
2. Slike Beograda su lepe. The pictures of Belgrade are pretty.
3. Imam puno knjiga. I have lots of books.
4. Imam pet sestara. I have five sisters.
5. Imam novca. I have money.
6. Nemam novca. I don’t have money.
7. On nema milosti. He has no mercy.
8. Nema šećera. There is no sugar.

Examples 1 and 2 illustrate that the genitive case occurs as the object of a noun, just as in English (e.g., ‘a student’s book’). In addition to the genitive, in Serbian we use the possessive adjective to denote possession: Majčina slika ‘mother’s picture’. As you can see, the possessive majčina corresponds to the Saxon genitive in English, ‘mother‘s’.

Examples 3 and 4 show that the genitive case occurs after quantity words, such as: punoa lot’ and petfive’.

Examples 5-8 show that the genitive case occurs with the verb imatito have’. Such genitives nouns are indefinite or unspecified.

The genitive case is also used as an object of many prepositions

  • The following prepositions require only the genitive case on the noun that follows. These genitives denote a place, destination or time: blizunear’, dužalongside’, iznadabove’, ispodbelow’, ispredin front of’, izabehind’, izmeđubetween’, kodat’, mimo, ‘past by’, nasredin the middle of’, okoaround’, poredbeside, by’, pokrajby, beside, next to’, prekoacross, via’, puttoward’. These genitives denote a place, destination or time. Some examples in Table 4 illustrate this. Some examples in Table 4 illustrate this meaning. Note that the genitive noun with the preposition kod means ‘at somebody’s place’.
  • With the prepositions odfrom’ and dountil, to’, the genitive denotes the initial and final point of location or time, respectively (examples 10 and 11).
  • With the preposition uin, at’, the genitive denotes possession. This usage is used in poetry, not so much in everyday language (example 17 below).
  • With the prepositions izfrom’ and sa 'from, off, at’, the genitive denotes a separation, detachment, or origination (examples 18 and 19). Note that the preposition sa also takes the instrumental case, but the instrumental case denotes the act of accompanying someone or something, or a means of doing something.
Table 5: Some examples of the genitive case as the object of prepositions
  Serbian English
1. Moja knjiga je blizu stolice. My book is near the chair.
2. Deca su se igrala duž ulice. The children played along the street.
3. Šerpa je iznad sudopere. The pot is above the sink.
4. Mačka je ispod stola. The cat is under the table.
5. Marija sedi između mame i tate. Marija is sitting between (her) mother and father.
6. Nalazim se kod frizira. I am (located) at the hairdresser’s.
7. Idem kod Marije. I am going to Marija’s (house).
8. Mirko je prošao mimo naše kuće. Mirko passed by our house.
9. Vuk je bacio ranac nasred sobe. Vuk threw the backpack in the middle of the room.
10. Jelena je putovala od Niša do Beograda. Jelena traveled from Niš to Belgrade.
11. Čekali smo je od jutra do mraka. We’ve waited for her from the morning till dark.
12. Deca skakuću oko drveta. The children are jumping around the tree.
13. To se desilo oko Nove godine. This happened around the New Year.
14. On stoji pored puta. He stands by the road.
15. Dečak je brzo prešao preko ulice. The boy quickly walked across the street.
16. Krenuli su put Beograda. They headed toward Belgrade.
17. Marija je jedinica u majke. Maria is the only daughter of (her) mother.
18. Zorica je izvadila sliku iz fioke. Zorica pulled a picture from the drawer.
19. Jovan je uzeo knjigu sa police. Jovan took the book from the shelf.

To ask questions about the genitive case, we use the following interrogative pronouns in the genitive case:  Koga Of whom, whose            Čegaof what 

Table 6: Some examples of questions that ask about the genitive object
  Serbian English
Koga se plašiš?
Plašim se pijanih vozača.
Whom do you fear?
I fear drunk drivers.
Čiju si sliku videla?
Videla sam sliku ovog profesora.
Whose picture did you see?
I saw a picture of this professor.
Čega se stidiš?
Stidim se svojih laži.
What are you ashamed of?
I am ashamed of my lies.
Oko čega se deca igraju?
Deca se igraju oko drveta.
Around what are the children playing?
The children are playing around the tree.
Blizu koga stoji Milan?
Milan stoji blizu Jelene?
Near whom is Milan standing?
Milan is standing near Jelena.

And now some exercises! If you get stuck or are not sure you got it right, please email me for help.

Exercise 1 – Fill out the genitive case forms in sentences below

Using the nouns below (given in nominative, or dictionary form), please insert the appropriate genitive forms in the following sentences. For convenience, I have indicated which noun goes with which sentence.
1. zemljotres ‘earthquake’ 4. mrak ‘darkness’ 7. zgrada ‘building’
2. drug ‘male friend, comrade’ 5. dvorište ‘courtyard’ 8. televizor ‘tv’
3. obaveza ‘duty’ 6. orman ‘wardrobe, dresser’ 9. ponoć ‘midnight’

1.  Bojim se __________. I’m afraid of earthquakes.
2.  Milan se setio __________. Milan remembered (his) friend.
3.  Marija se oslobodila __________. Marija is free from any duties..
4.  Devojčica se plaši __________. The girl is afraid of darkness.
5.  Deca se igraju oko __________. The children are playing around the playground.
6.  Danko je izbacio straru odeću iz __________. Danko threw away old clothes from the dresser.
7.  Lopta je pala iza __________. The ball fell behind the building.
8.  Zorica stalno sedi pored __________. Zorica always sits by the television.
9.  Marija se vratila oko __________. Marija returned around midnight.

Exercise 2 – Translate the following sentences

For this exercise you need to know both the present tense and past tense. The boldface nouns require the genitive case. If you don’t have a bi-directional Serbian-English-Serbian dictionary, you may go to the website: http://www.krstarica.com/dictionary/ to get the words you need for this exercise.  Note that for nouns, a dictionary will only give you the nominative case forms.

1. Today, I remembered Marija.
2. Branko got rid of an old telephone.
3. Beware of snakes.
4. She was traveling from Paris to Texas.
5. She lives near the airport.
6. She dropped her umbrella in the middle of the road.
7. Whom did Maria fear?
8. What was Zorica afraid of?


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