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Navigating Between the 3 Serbian Genders: Masculine, Feminine, Neuter

When you were a child did you ever want to be a detective? If so, this probably helps to explain why you are a language learner! Being a language learner is very similar to being a detective because language learning requires the ability to look for clues and patterns, and once they are recognized, to be able to use the understanding of these patterns to take you to the next stage of your language development…culminating in fluency and comfort within the language. It’s a tall order, but an enjoyable one if you stay nice and relaxed, strategic in your studies, and enjoy the ride.

Serbian language is a detective’s dream because there are so many clues, patterns, and information within Serbian words and sentence structures that help you understand the key information and details being conveyed. Example: Serbian noun genders. In Serbian language there are 3 genders: Masculine, Feminine, and Neuter. Let’s look at an example of each and talk about the patterns they maintain. Consider these 3 words:
  1. Zena (Woman or Wife)
  2. Dete (Child)
  3. Covek (Man)
One thing to know about Serbian is this: the endings of words contain a lot of information. Also, notice how Serbian doesn’t have any articles that precede the nouns. In Spanish for example “la famlia” means “the family” and the article “la” indicates that the noun is feminine. In Serbian, the noun ENDINGS provide us with this information and this is how we can distinguish whether or not a noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter. Here is a rule of thumb
Singular nouns that end in a consonant (meaning a “non vowel”) in their 1st case (Nominative) are masculine
Singular nouns that end with an “a” in their 1st case (Nominative) are feminine
Singular nouns that end with an “e” or an “o” in their 1st case (Nominative) are neuter
Like most languages, Serbian has some exceptions…but 90% of the time the rule mentioned above is true. Nice right?! With that in mind can you put your detective hat on and tell me which of the 3 nouns above is masculine, feminine, and neuter?
If you said “Zena” is feminine, “Dete” is neuter, and “Covek” is masculine, then you are correct! Again, the endings of Serbian nouns contain important information. You’re on your way!

 

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