Anyone that has ever studied a foreign language would surely agree that the best way to acquire and perfect it is through interaction, preferably with native speakers. Naturally, the usual way of starting any kind of conversation is saying hello to the people you are addressing. Just like in any other language in the world, there are several ways to do it in Serbian, too.
How to say hello in Serbian practically depends on the level of formality that you wish to express or the situation asks for. Addressing someone who is older than you or starting a formal conversation would understandably be different from greeting a friend or someone you went out with for a drink. Here is how to cover both formal and informal occasions, and more.
When you are meeting someone for the first time or the occasion is formal, using formal ways of saying hello in Serbian would be much more common. The three formal ways of greeting people that will be discussed basically differ solely according to the part of the day they are being used in.
Dobro jutro means good morning, where dobro stands for good and jutro means morning. In Serbia, this expression is used from dawn until about 10 or 11 AM. When it comes to the time of day between 11 AM and the sunset, the term that is used is dobar dan, which means good afternoon, where dobar means good while dan means day.
Lastly, if you are meeting someone at some point from dusk until dawn, you should use dobro veče. This naturally stands for good evening, with veče meaning evening. The Serbian language clearly follows common sense here and there should be no problems in learning to differentiate among these expressions.
One important notion, if you happen to see or meet the same person or group of people more than once during the same part of the day, there is no need to repeat the greeting. It would sound awkward.
When you are in a less formal setting, there are several ways you could say hello. Two most common ways would be ćao and zdravo. Ćao is clearly derived from the Italian ciao and is used just like anywhere else in the world, to greet friends, family and peers, amongst others. Ćao is preferably used by the younger generation, of course.
Zdravo, on the other hand, is a Serbian word that dates back to the second half of the 19th century. It comes from Sombor, a town in Vojvodina that was an important cultural centre at that time. Nowadays, it is primarily used by the middle-age generation and elders. The meaning of the word is healthy, which is what you desire for the person you are greeting.
Another term that is being often used is pozdrav, which literally means greetings. If you studied Serbian say 15 years ago, you may have never heard nor used it. This is perfectly understandable since it became prominent in the last decade. It is used in an informal setting, when you are meeting your friends, colleagues, or other people you know. Moreover, pozdrav is a greeting that you would most frequently hear in Serbia nowadays.
As you continue to learn Serbian and additionally brush up your vocabulary, you will surely come across even more varieties of this greeting. For example, pozdrav ljudi, pozdrav kolege, pozdrav komšije, are just a couple of variants that are very often used. Ljudi stands for people, kolege for colleagues and komšije for neighbours.
Moving further into informal variants, there is another term that is often used. De si is an abbreviated version of gde si, which literally means where are you. However, by saying de si, you are in fact expressing the pleasure of seeing again the person you are greeting. This greeting is frequently expanded with kako je and šta ima, meaning how are you and what’s up, respectively. Both are very often used as a follow up to gde si, and have lately become frequently used greeting phrases, particularly among people who know each other very well.
Let's summarize what you have learned about how to say hi in Serbian in the table below:
|#||Serbian phrase||Translation in English|
|1||Dobro jutro||Good morning (formal)|
|2||Dobar dan||Good afternoon (formal)|
|3||Dobro veče||Good evening (formal)|
|7||De si||Where are you?|
|8||Kako je||How are you?|
|9||šta ima||What's up?|
If you need any additional advice on different aspects of learning the Serbian language, make sure to check the Ling app.