If you are already some way into learning the Serbian language, you have probably been wondering how to use certain phrases correctly. Constructions using the verbs “make” and “do” can cause a lot of problems for Serbian language learners due to the fact that various different verbs are used.
It is logical then to assume that English speakers will experience the same difficulties. So, let’s get straight to the point and start looking at some typical English phrases in Serbian!
Do the laundry
We would translate this phrase literally as raditi/činiti veš. However, the correct usage is prati veš. So, the verb to use in this case is “to wash.”
- Perem veš svake subote (I do the laundry every Saturday).
We also use verb prati when talking about doing dishes, taking a shower and washing a car:
- Ko je danas na redu da pere posuđe? (Whose turn is to do the dishes today?)
- Ko će prvi da se pere? (Who is going to take a shower/bath first?)
- Danas perem auto (I’m washing a car today).
Note: No matter how strange it may sound, there are still some people in Serbia who don’t have washing machines, so they have to do their laundry by hand.
Napraviti kafu/čaj is something that I hear very often these days, which I suppose is due to the influence of English. The best translation to use is skuvati kafu/čaj (to cook).
- Hoćeš li da ti skuvam kafu? (Would you like me to make a cup of coffee?)
- Čim bih mogla da Vas uslužim? Mogao bih da popijem jednu kafu. (How can I help you? I could drink a cup of coffee.)
Note: In Serbian culture, coffee drinking is very widespread; it has a strong social context. Inviting someone to have a cup of coffee usually means that you want to socialise, hang out or gossip with them. It is not very rare to see someone telling fortunes from a cup of coffee.
Do the shopping
The correct verb to use here is either ići or obaviti. The whole phrase would then be written like this: ići u kupovinu or obaviti kupovinu.
- Oni idu u kupovinu (They are going shopping).
- Obavili smo kupovinu (We have done our shopping).
Note: In Serbia, people usually go a whole week or even a month without shopping. Frequent shopping is rare, though it may happen in the cities.
Make a deal
In this case, I also often hear a translation that is influenced by English; napraviti dogovor. I would not advise using this construction, but would rather recommend dogovoriti se:
- Onda smo se dogovorili (Then we have a deal/Then we have made a deal).
- Naša porodica se o svemu dogovara (Our family members always talk about everything).
Note: When you make a deal, you shake hands. In the past, people used to be more honest, and had a lot of respect for the idea of keeping promises and keeping their word.
Do your best
I can suggest two possible translations here: dati sve od sebe (includes the verb “to give”) or učiniti sve što se moglo (to do all that can be done). However, I personally prefer the first translation.
- Dao je sve od sebe, ali nije uspeo da položi ispit (He did his best, but he didn’t succeed in passing the exam).
- Doktori su učinili sve što se moglo, ali on nije preživeo (Doctors did their best, but he didn’t survive).
Note: Sometimes it seems that the latter phrase is more frequently used in negative contexts. For example, when you do your best, but you still fail to succeed for some reason. There is also one other phrase that is similar: uraditi najbolje što se može (which includes the verb “to do” as the English equivalent). Children often use these two phrases in their writing:
- Uradio sam kontrolni najbolje što sam mogao. Nadam se da ću dobiti peticu. (I did the best that I could on the test. I hope I get an A.)
Zaraditi novac is the best translation to use here, and it includes the verb “earn.”
- On zarađuje novac držeći časove (He makes money by giving lessons).
Note: Making money is not easy. Although women gained their independence a long time ago, it seems that some men in Serbia still cannot accept the fact that sometimes women earn more money than they do. It is typical that men want to be the ones who bring home the bacon, but they have to accept (and are slowly accepting) that this will not always be the case. However, don’t expect them to fully respect your achievements just yet.
Make an appointment
In this case, you should use verb zakazati, which means “to schedule.” The most suitable translation here would be zakazati sastanak.
- Da li bih mogla da zakažem sastanak sa direktorom? (Could I make an appointment with the manager?)
Note: Being late for any kind of meeting is not appreciated. However, we tend to tolerate 15 minutes and call these 15 akademskih minuta (15 academic minutes). Remember, however, that being on time shows respect.
Do the ironing
In Serbian, there is a simple verb derived from noun pegla (iron), so the translation here is peglati.
- Nikada nisam volela da peglam (I have never been keen on doing the ironing).
- As you may have noticed, the word “laundry”/veš is not necessary.
- Šta radiš danas? Mislila sam da peglam veš/Mislila sam da peglam. (What are you doing today? I was about to do the ironing.)
Note: Usually in Serbia, all the housework is done by a housewife. However in the last few years, doing the laundry has begun to remind us more and more of western culture and their busy way of life. A woman cannot do everything by herself.
Also note that in colloquial speech, the verb peglati means “to beat someone.” Napeglaću te! can be used as a threat.
Make a speech
The Serbian version of this collocation is (o)držati govor.
- Mama i tata su mi držali govor (My mum and dad told me off).
- In this sentence, the phrase refers to being reprimanded by parents.
- Danas je predsednik držao govor u svečanoj sali (Today, the president made a speech in the ceremonial hall).
Note: This phrase not only refers to reprimanding, but also to someone that will not stop talking. When someone won’t stop talking and does not realise that other people want to say something too, we tend to use phrase držati govor. This alludes to the fact that what we are listening to is very boring.
Do/take an exam
In this case, the most suitable phrase to use would be polagati ispit. However, you may also hear students using the phrase idem na ispit, which usually implies “taking an exam.” In some cases, though, it can simply mean “to be present” and “to listen” to fellow students taking their exam.
- Studenti danas polažu ispit iz srpskog jezika (Students are taking a Serbian language exam).
- Danas idem na ispit. Nadam se da ću ga položiti. (I’m taking the exam today. I hope I pass it.)
- idem, from the verb ići (to go).
Note: In Serbia, studying is one of the most important parts of our lives. Even nowadays, today’s children are the first in many families to be enrolled in university.
As you can see in most of these cases, there is no connection between the verbs in English and in Serbian, so they should be learnt by heart. I suggest using flash cards or making your own to help you memorise them. Also, make sure to create your own sentences; it will be easier to remember your own ideas. Furthermore, remember to check your sentences in the discussion section, ask a question using the italki platform, or simply ask your teacher.
Finally, I also hope that the notes included for each phrase helped you to better understand the way of life and the way of thinking in my country. I believe that learning interesting facts related to these phrases can help you to better remember them.