Welcome to the Grammar Introduction for your Serbian or Croatian Phrasebook. Before listening to your audiobook, make sure to reacquaint yourself with these grammar principles if you don't remember them.
INFORMAL YOU (Ti) and FORMAL YOU (Vi)
In Serbian and Croatian... and pretty much every language in the world except for English, there is an informal and formal second person, aka, the noun you. It's nothing complicated.
Basically, you will address people your age, your peers and your friends one way for the noun you: with Ti. And your elders and authority figures, you will address in another way: with Vi.
In Serbian/Croatian, people you informally address will be Ti, and those you formally address will be Vi. An easy way to remember when and when not to address someone with Vi is to think when you would address someone with Sir or Ma'am. In those contexts, use Vi.
Guess what? Every noun in Serbian and Croatian has a gender. Totally weird, we know.
A chair (stolica) has a gender--it's feminine. A menu (jelovnik) has a gender--it's masculine. Even the sky (nebo) has a gender! Well... technically it doesn't-- it's neuter, a.k.a genderless.
So what does gender mean? Gender in nouns pretty much exists in every language except English.
Gendered nouns are necessary for noun-classification systems. And what exactly is that? Well, that means that every noun follows a gender trend in regards to how the noun is spelled--particularly in the suffix. And depending on the noun's purpose within a sentence, the suffix will change according to its gender. In Serbian/Croatian, there are 7 types of purposes for nouns in a sentence, and these are called cases.
There are all sorts of cases! There is a case for when a noun is the subject of a sentence. There is a case for when a noun is the direct object of a sentence. Sometimes the noun is an indirect object. Sometimes nouns are being possessed by another noun within the sentence. So these variables of case + gender are important as you learn the language in an effort to become a more fluent or advanced speaker.
It might take years to truly know your way around all 7 cases for this language. Gender also affects nouns in their plural form and adjectives associated with them. Every noun has a standard gender in it's nominative case (nominativ). Nominative case is the dictionary definition state of a noun when it is the subject of a sentence.
How to determine the gender of a noun in their nominativ state:
Usually any words ending in a consonant are masculine. Also, words borrowed from other languages will typically be masculine, even if they don't end in a consonant.
auto (car, and borrowed from a foreign language)
taxi (borrowed from a foreign language)
Usually any words ending in an "a" are feminine.
kava (coffee in Croatian) OR kafa (coffee in Serbian)
Usually any words ending in an "o" or "e" are neutral.
dijete (child in Croatian) OR dete (child in Serbian)
GENDER OF ADJECTIVES
The adjective describing a noun in a sentence will match the gender of that noun.
For the nominativ case, masculine adjectives will typically end with a consonant, feminine with an "a," and neuter with an "o" or "e."
Masculine - On je pametan. (He is smart).
Feminine - Ona je pametna. (She is smart).
Neuter - Dijete je pametno. (The child is smart).
When you are referring to yourself with the pronoun Ja, or you are referring to someone else with the pronoun Ti or Vi, the gender of the adjective must match the gender of who you are referring to.
If you are a woman, and you want to say to someone "I am hungry," you would say "Ja sam gladna," or simply "Gladna sam." Remember, you can omit the pronoun and invert the verb and the adjective.
If you are a man, and you want to say the same, you would say "Ja sam gladan" or "Gladan sam."
If you are asking a male friend if he is hungry, you would ask "Jesi li gladan?"
If your friend is female, you would ask "Jesi li gladna?"
If you are asking an elder male if he is hungry, you would ask "Jeste li gladan?"
If your are asking an elder female, you would ask "Jeste li gladna?"