Common Grammatical Mistakes in Slovenian

Slovenian grammar is not one of the easiest, not even for the native speakers who commonly make mistakes while speaking or writing. The standard Slovenian language is therefore quite different from the spoken language that you will usually hear on the streets.

From my observation I have noticed quite a few mistakes the native Slovenian speakers make, which probably wouldn’t be noticed by someone who doesn’t speak the language, but would be quickly noticed by someone who pays more attention to this.

Often noticed mistakes

1. Usage of the accusative instead of the genitive case when negating verbs

The 2nd case, the genitive (rodilnik), is a case of a negation. But more and more it is common to hear it being replaced with the 4th case, the accusative (tožilnik), when negating active verbs.

Examples – Slovenian Examples – English
Affirmative Vidim stole/Jano. I see chairs/Jana.
Negative – correct (The genitive) Ne vidim stolov/Jane. I don’t see chairs/Jana.
Negative – wrong  (The accusative) Ne vidim stole/Jano. I don’t see chairs/Jana.

Also, when it comes to the personal pronouns in different cases, the personal pronouns in the genitive are sometimes replaced with the personal pronouns in the accusative when negating verbs:

Examples – Slovenian Examples – English
Affirmative Vidim jo. I see her.
Negative – correct (The genitive) Ne vidim je. I don’t see her.
Negative – wrong  (The accusative) Ne vidim jo. I don’t see her.

2. Mixing the infinitive and the supine

Beside the infinitive (nedoločnik), Slovenian also has the supine (namenilnik), which is used only with the verbs of motion (for example: iti – to go, peljati se – to ride, hoditi – to walk, teči – to run). The infinitives end with –ti or –či, and the supine is formed by omitting the vowel ‘i’ from the infinitive. Even if the latter should be used only in certain occasions, it is used almost all the time. I wonder how come Slovenians like omitting the vowels so much!

So instead of saying ‘midva se morava učiti‘, most of people would say ‘midva se morava učit‘ (we both have to learn).

Examples with the supine:

Slovenian English
Zvečer grem teč. I’m going for a run in the evening.
Pojdi pogledat, kaj se dogaja! Go see what is happening!

Examples where the supine shouldn’t be used but it often is:

English I started cycling. We can’t park here.
Correct (The infinitive) Začela sem kolesariti. Tukaj ne smemo parkirati.
Wrong (The supine) Začela sem kolesarit. Tukaj ne smemo parkirat.

Example where the supine should be used but it often isn’t:

English Go tell her.
Correct (The supine) Pojdi* ji povedat.
Wrong (The infinitive) Pojdi ji povedati.

* ’Pojdi’ is the imperative form of the verb of motion ‘iti’, ‘to go’.

3. My favourite: Wrong use of the prepositions ‘s’ and ‘z’ (with)

Prepositions ‘s‘ and ‘z‘ both mean ‘with‘, and no matter how simple the rule is, especially native speakers keep mixing them. The easiest way to use the correct preposition is by ear; the pronunciation of the preposition and noun has to sound fluent, almost like a single word.

There is also another, more school rule to memorise when to use ‘s’ or ‘z’. The words starting with the consonants from this sentence, »TA SUHI ŠKAFEC PUŠČA« (This dry pail is leaking), are used with the preposition ‘s‘. With all the other consonants plus vowels we use ‘z‘. So simple!

with mother with Vesna with Peter with Simon
Correct z mamo z Vesno s Petrom s Simonom
Wrong s mamo s Vesno z Petrom z Simonom

4. Wrong use of the pairs of prepositions ‘na – s/z’ and ‘v – iz’ (to – from)

In the Learn Slovenian Online course there is also an explanation when to use these 2 pairs of prepositions, ‘na – s/z‘ and ‘v – iz‘, which both mean ‘to (or ‘in’) – from‘ and have to be used always together. The pair ‘na – s/z’ is used with the countries and regions that end in -ska (or –ška), smaller islands and some places. It is also used when you put something on a surface. The pair ‘v – iz’ is used for most of the geographical names and places, and when you put something into something.

Pair ‘na – s/z’

Slovenian English
Grem na Dansko/Japonsko. I’m going to Denmark/Japan.
Prihajam z Danske/Japonske.* I come from Denmark/Japan.

* Here the preposition ‘iz‘ is often used, which is incorrect.

Pair ‘v – iz’

Slovenian English
Potujem v Brazilijo. I’m travelling to Brazil.
Sem iz Brazilije. I’m from Brazil.

More examples:

škatla (box):

into the box from the box
v škatlo iz škatle

park:

to the park from the park
v park iz parka

pošta (post office):

to the post office from the post office
na pošto s pošte

miza (table):

on the table from the table
na mizo z mize

5. The dual use and confusion

A wonderful feature of the Slovenian language is dual – a grammatical number used for two objects or people. Students who learn Slovenian say to me that it is not so easy because it doesn’t exist in most of other languages, but I would say: »Do you think dual is difficult? Wait until you get to know cases.« Anyway, I realised the dual is a hard nut to crack even for Slovenians; when it comes to two things of the masculine or mixed gender it all works fine, but nothing works when we have two things of the feminine or neuter gender.

Examples of a beautiful dual:

Slovenian – Dual English
Masculine Otroka sta vesela. Two children are happy.
Feminine Punci sta prijazni. Two girls are kind.
Neuter Okni sta odprti. Two windows are open.

Deformation of dual:

Slovenian – Dual English
Masculine Otroka sta vesela. (Everything works fine!) Two children are happy.
Feminine Punce sta prijazne.* Two girls are kind.
Neuter Okna sta odprta.* Two windows are open.

* Many times the feminine gender, dual is simply replaced with the feminine gender, plural (-e ending).

* The neuter gender is often mixed with the masculine endings in dual.

Mistakes are usually made while speaking, a little bit less when writing. Apparently, there are too many ending combinations to memorise, and people use what sounds more handy to them. But I still have hope for the correct dual use in the future.

Some more examples on dual:

Two girls went to the cinema. two houses (F) two suns (N)
Correct Punci sta šli v kino. dve hiši dve sonci
Wrong Punce sta šle v kino.* dve hiše* dva sonca

* Again, the dual endings are replaced with the plural.

I really wonder what Slovenian will look like in a couple of decades. Who knows. Language is alive and is changing rapidly. Sometimes even mistakes become a rule in time. If you are interested in learning Slovenian (with no mistakes listed above of course), try our online course or private Skype lessons.