Accusative – A case you will need to survive Christmas

After a very strange year affected by COVID19, we finally made it to this period we all are happy about: Christmas and New Year’s holidays. It’s a time to be with your family (if it is possible in these circumstances). This brings us to our topic: the accusative case.

You may wonder why Serbian would grammar be related to holidays. Even though this case, in particular, we probably use on an everyday basis, during the holidays it definitely cannot be avoided. This is because this time of the year is a time for presents and consuming a lot of food.

A reminder about the case system in Serbian

The Serbian language is very flexible regarding word order. This is possible because nouns (along with pronouns and adjectives) change ending which expresses the role of a word in a sentence and therefore create meaning and sense in our heads. Languages like English do not use this system. They rely on prepositions and a strict word order to make sense and know which word carries out which role. 

Ja sam dao mapu Milanu. = I gave a map to Milan.

Ja sam Milanu dao mapu.  = I to Milan gave a map.

Milanu sam dao mapu.  = To Milan I gave a map.

Mapu sam dao Milanu. = A map I gave to Milan.

As you can see, if you try to do this in English, it would not sound natural or make much sense, whereas in Serbian all four sentences sound well. The slight difference between them is that usually, the thing you mention first is the most emphasised (although this could also be achieved by the tone you apply).

This is why in English it is so important to get the word order right. On the other hand, in Serbian, we must change the endings of the words based on what we want to say.

The accusative case as a direct object

Most of the cases in Serbian have more than one function (more than one role they can perform). Even though the same thing happens with the accusative, here we are mostly going to focus on accusative as a direct object.

A direct object in a sentence in a sentence is somebody or something directly receiving an action from a subject, the one performing the action.

I drank coffee.

While in English, the direct object always goes after the verb, in Serbian, this can or does not have to be the case.

Pila sam kafu. Kafu sam pila.

What is more important in Serbian is to get the ending of the direct object right.

Forming the accusative case

Nouns and adjectives

The accusative case is very similar to the nominative case. So, if you have already learnt how the nouns and adjectives end in their “base form”, this should be very easy. You can take a look at the photo below.

 Accusative Case Cheatsheet

Accusative Case Cheatsheet

 

Let’s see some examples of the typical phrases with accusative you would hear during the holidays:

  • Dobio sam divan poklon. I got an amazing gift.

For a direct object we used: divan poklon (in nominative singular)

  • Okitio sam moju jelku. I decorated my Christmas tree.

For a direct object we used: moja jelka (in nominative singular)

  • Dali su mi mekano ćebe za Novu godinu. They gave me a soft blanket for New Year’s.

For a direct object we used: mekano ćebe (in nominative singular)

  • Stavljam velike ukrase na jelku. I am putting big ornaments on the Christmas tree.

For a direct object, we used: veliki ukrasi (in nominative plural)

  • Ješćemo ukusne sarme za Božić. We will eat delicious stuffed cabbages for Christmas.

For a direct object we used: ukusne same (in nominative plural)

  • Pićemo kvalitetna vina. We will drink quality wines.

For a direct object, we used: kvalitetna vina (in nominative plural)

Pronouns

A person says: I saw Ana for Christmas.
Another person says: Hey, I saw her too.

Why not say: I saw she too? You know that you are supposed to use her instead of she in this situation, even though you might understand the meaning of “I saw she” because of the word order in English. Nevertheless, it would sound a bit strange.

Breaking news, guys! This is what we call the accusative case in pronouns in Serbian. Of course, in Serbian, this topic is more complex and applies to various parts of speech. In this section, we will only talk about how it applies to pronouns.

Let’s first check the forms of the personal pronouns in the nominative (base form) and accusative.

 Personal Pronouns in Accusative Cheatsheet

Personal Pronouns in Accusative Cheatsheet

 

In the accusative case, personal pronouns can be long or short. You cannot use them interchangeably, though. We use the short ones in the middle of the sentence: 

Ja sam je video. I saw her

We use the long ones in the following situations:

  • at the beginning of the sentence: Nju sam video. I saw her.
  • at the end of the sentence: Video sam nju. I saw her.
  • after prepositions: Za nju sam pitao. I asked about her.

What version should you opt for, long or short? Most of the time we use the short version. However, if it is easier for you to use and remember the long version, for now, that is totally fine. Most of our students, in the beginning, find it easier to use the long version.

Let’s see how the examples from the section about nouns and adjectives would look with pronouns:

  • Dobio sam divan poklon. I got an amazing gift.

Dobio sam ga. I got it.

  • Okitio sam moju jelkuI decorated my Christmas tree.

Okitio sam je. I decorated it.

  • Dali su mi mekano ćebe za Novu godinu. They gave me a soft blanket for New Year’s.

Dali su mi ga. They gave it to me.

  • Stavljam velike ukrase na jelku. I am putting big ornaments on the Christmas tree.

Stavljam ih na jelku. I am putting them on the Christmas tree.

  • Ješćemo ukusne sarme za Božić. We will eat delicious stuffed cabbages for Christmas.

Ješćemo ih za Božić. We will eat them for Christmas.

  • Pićemo kvalitetna vina. We will drink quality wines.

Pićemo ih. We will drink them.

Question pronouns in accusative

What if you want to ask other people what they got for Christmas? Or who did they meet? Can you use the typical ko (who) and šta (what)? Well, not entirely.

If you want to ask “Who did you meet for Christmas?” we would say:

  • Koga si sreo za Božić? NOT Ko si sreo za Božić?

Therefore, if the object is a person, you use koga, not ko. In case of an object, we can use šta as in:

  • Šta si dobio za Božić? Dobio sam divan poklon.

How to use all this knowledge?

You are now prepared to use the accusative during the holidays, express everything you got or gave as a present and everything you will prepare, eat and drink during these days.
If you want to further practice this topic, try answering these questions:

  • Koga ćeš posetiti za Božić?
  • Šta si poklonio svojoj porodici za praznike?
  • Šta si jeo/jela za praznike?

COMING SOON:

Stay tuned for another holiday post, this time about the indirect object (Who are you giving that present to?) and you are all set to speak Serbian during the holidays.

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