Talking about locations and directions
If you never know whether to say u Beograd or u Beogradu this is a perfect article for you. We are going to explain everything you need to know when it comes to locations and directions in the Serbian language. After reading it, there will be no more confusions like: is it idem na grad or u grad? To make sure you understood everything, we suggest you do the quiz at the end of the post.
When we say location, we refer to situations when you are doing something in a certain place (working, living, breathing, getting married etc.). However, it does not imply moving from one location to another. Let us illustrate it with an example. If you say: ‘I work in Čačak’ it means that whatever your duties are regarding your work, you do them in Čačak. During your working hours, you are in Čačak. You do not leave Čačak while you are working. In this type of sentences, we want to express that something is happening on a certain location.
The idea of a direction is even easier to grasp. It must involve a verb which expresses movement and the sentence itself must involve a location which is the goal of your movement: I’m going to Čačak. I will travel to Čačak. I am running to Čačak. You are not on a specific location, but moving towards one.
Which preposition to use?
To express being on a certain location or going to one, we always have to use a preposition before that place. Before we start to analyse changes occurring when you talk about locations and directions, let’s see which prepositions you should use with places. We usually use these two: na (originally meaning on) and u (originally meaning in). Although here we are generally speaking about when to use each one, notice that there are exceptions (see the exceptions).
Using the preposition ‘na’
- Open-space locations: Ja sam na trgu / reci / planini / ostrvu
- Events and activities: Ja sam na pilatesu / jogi /koncertu / sastanku… Idem na posao / kafu / pivo / druženje / rođendan…
- Parts of the world: na severu, na jugu, na istoku, na zapadu
The general logic behind using na is related to places where you cannot go inside but can be on them (on the surface).
Using the preposition ‘u’
- Cities: Ja sam u Beogradu / Njujorku / Londonu…
- Countries*: Idem u Nemačku / Belorusiju / Južnu Koreju…
- Continents: Radim u Evropi / Aziji / Africi...
- Closed spaces: Ja sam u kancelariji / prodavnici / sobi / zgradi / bioskopu…
If we talk about prepositions of place, u is used for places or things which are closed or in general you can go inside. We apply the same logic here, especially regarding closed spaces.
*Be aware that with some island countries we use the preposition na, not u.
- Ja sam na fakultetu.
- Ja sam na aerodromu.
But: Ja sam na ulici. (this is my location at the moment of speaking) Živim u ulici Kneza Miloša 35. Restoran je u ulici Bojane Prvulović. (stating address or where something is)
- Idem na pijacu.
- Idem u park.
- Idem u inostranstvo.
- Ja sam kod kuće. (meaning: I’m at home) VS Ja sam u kući. (meaning: I’m inside the house)
- Some island countries use na: Idem na Kubu / Jamajku / Island / Novi Zeland…
But: Idem u Japan / Australiju / Veliku Britaniju.
Which case to use?
Doing something on a specific location implies using locative (lokativ) case with prepositions na and u. This case involves a change at the end of nouns and adjectives you use. Check the examples and notice the change at the end of the word (marked in bold):
- masculine and neutral:
Ja sam na + TRG = Ja sam na trgu.
Živim u + BEOGRAD = Ja sam u Beogradu.
Evo me na + PIVO = Evo me na pivu.
Radim u + KANCELARIJA = Radim u kancelariji.
Živim u + BUDIMPEŠTA = Živim u Budimpešti.
P.S. Be careful with posao: Ja sam na + POSAO = Ja sam na poslu. We call this ‘L to O change’ and it will occur in a couple of words in Serbian, so try not to forget this.
Here we mention adjectives mostly because of countries ending in -čka, -ška and -ska (Švajcarska, Nemačka, Mađarska, etc) originally come from adjectives and are treated this way in our language system. Moreover, there are places which contain an adjective within their name (Velika Britanija, Crna Gora, Novi Sad, etc). Check out the changes which occur (marked in bold):
- with masculine and neutral gender adjectives:
Ja živim u + NOVI SAD = Ja živim u Novom Sadu.
Ja sam na + NOVI ZELAND = Ja sam na Novom Zelandu.
- with feminine adjectives:
Ja sam u + CRNA GORA = Ja sam u Crnoj Gori.
Ja sam u + VELIKA BRITANIJA = Ja sam u Velikoj Britaniji.
Živim u + NORVEŠKA = Živim u Norveškoj.
When you want to express direction, the goal of your movement, you need to include two things. Firstly, you need a verb which expresses a movement of some sort (ići, putovati, stizati, ulaziti, etc.). Secondly, you need a destination stated by a preposition u or na and a noun (with or without an adjective) in accusative (akuzativ) case. The accusative case will make a better friend than the locative case because it implies only a couple of changes at the end of words. If you are confused about when you are expressing direction, remember that in English it is always used with the preposition ‘to’. Check out the changes (marked in bold) and the lack thereof.
- masculine and neutral (no change in singular):
Idem + u + Beograd = Idem u Beograd.
Putujem + na + Kopaonik = Putujem na Kopaonik.
Stižem + u + Oslo = Stižem u Oslo.
Idem + u + Budimpešta = Idem u Budimpeštu.
Ulazim + u + prodavnica = Ulazim u prodavnicu.
- with masculine and neutral gender adjectives (no change in singular):
Idem + u + Novi Sad = Idem u Novi Sad.
- with feminine adjectives:
Dolazim + u + Crna Gora = Dolazim u Crnu Goru.
Putujem u Švajcarsku.
When you are either expressing your location or direction in Serbian, bear in mind two things: the preposition and the case you are going to use. The preposition depends on the type of place (open, closed, city, etc). However, the case depends on what you are trying to express: location (Ja sam u Beogradu.) or direction (Idem u Beograd.). If you want to check how well you understood this topic, challenge yourself and do the quiz below.
Check your knowledge
If you think our text helped you understand this topic, test your knowledge in our quiz. There are 25 questions in total. It starts very easy but gets harder as you come closer to the end. In each question, you need to choose one correct answer.
Petar i Mirjana žive ____ Kragujevcu.
Idem ___ Kubu.
Spavam ___ stanu.
Ja sam ____ kuće.
Skijali smo ___ Kopaoniku.
Ja sam trenutno ___ poslu.
Vodio sam psa ___ park.
Juče smo kupili voće i povrće ___ pijaci.
Marko je slavio rođendan u ____________.
Na letovanje idemo na _____________.
Često vidim Petra u ________.
Svako jutro trčimo na _______________.
Vikendom obično idemo u ______________.
Dugo nismo bili u __________________.
Aleksej živi _________.
Petrova mama radi _________________, a Jovanova _____________.
________________ uvek putujemo autobusom.
Milica živi _________________.
Prošle godine smo bili ____________.
Vi ___________________ u bioskop.
Vi _________________ na trgu.
Jasmina je danas _________________ u restoranu na večeri.
Milan _____________ na univerzitetu.
Marina ____________ u Finskoj.
Veljko ______________ na koncert.