Category Archives: Slovenian grammar

The Feminine Nouns Ending in a Consonant

Slovenian has three grammatical genders: feminine, masculine and neuter. The feminine nouns usually end with –a, the masculine with a consonant and the neuter ones with –o or –e. However, there is a feature, where feminine nouns can also end with a consonant – the same as masculine nouns. That includes all nouns that end with –ost, –ev and –ast in singular, and some other nouns which are complete exceptions.

Feminine nouns that follow the basic rule and end with –a in singular, are declined in accordance with the first feminine declension – that means they have an ending –e in the genitive (for example: slika – slike). But the feminine exceptions which end with a consonant in singular, are declined according to the second feminine declension – they get an ending –i in the 2nd case, the genitive (for example: noč – noči).

Also, the feminine exceptions have the same ending in dual and plural (excluding nouns that end with –ev), which is –i: noč – noči (dual) – noči (plural). The ordinary feminine nouns have an ending –i in dual and –e in plural: slika – sliki (dual) – slike (plural).

Below, the feminine exceptions are arranged in 4 groups:

Feminine nouns ending in –ev

Slovenian English
breskev peach
cerkev church
odločitev decision
podkev horseshoe
trgatev grape harvest

Feminine nouns ending in –ost

Slovenian English
kost bone
mladost youth
modrost wisdom
norost craziness, madness
starost age

* But: ‘most‘, ‘bridge‘ is of the masculine gender

Feminine nouns ending in –ast

Slovenian English
last property, possession
past trap
pošast monster
rast growth
strast passion

Other feminine exceptions

Slovenian English
bolezen disease
dlan palm (hand)
jed dich
jesen autumn
klet basement
klop bench
korist benefit, advantage
laž lie
ljubezen love
luč light
miš mouse
misel thought
moč power, strength
noč night
pamet sense, brains
perut wing (birds)
pesem song
pest fist
pomlad spring
pomoč help
pot path
reč thing
skrb worry, care
sled trace
smet dirt
smrt death
snov matter, material
sol salt
stran page, side
stvar thing
vas village
vest ‘conscience’ and ‘news’
zavest consciousness
zver beast
zvrst genre

A tip on how to help you memorise the feminine exceptions is as follows: if you learn these words with an adjective or pronoun before the words, it will be easier to recognise the correct gender of nouns, since the adjectives and pronouns in singular always end with –a for the feminine gender, with a consonant for the masculine gender and with –o (before the letters c, j, č, š and ž also with –e) for the neuter gender.

Some examples:

  • lepa vas – beautiful village
  • tista luč – that light
  • moja odločitev – my decision
  • nora misel – crazy thought
  • okusna jed – tasty dich
  • morska sol – sea salt
  • spletna stran – website
  • poletna noč – summer night

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.

When to use Plural instead of Dual in Slovenian

Slovenian is one of the rare languages that has the grammatical number dual – it is used specifically for two objects or persons. But there are, ironically, also exceptions where we use plural instead of dual for two things. These are even body parts, biological functions, things like parents, pieces of clothing and footwear (pairs), and some other objects, such as earrings, ‘uhani’. Nevertheless, we can still use dual for pairs, but only when we want to emphasise two things.

Gender Singular Dual – used only when emphasized Plural – used for pairs English
                                              EVEN BODY PARTS
F noga nogi noge legs
F roka roki roke arms
N uho ušesi ušesa ears
N oko očesi oči eyes
F rama rami rame shoulders
N lice lici lica cheeks
                                                       OBJECTS
M uhan uhana uhani earrings
                                         BIOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS
M starš starša starši parents
                                PIECES OF CLOTHES OR FOOTWEAR
F rokavica rokavici rokavice gloves
F nogavica nogavici nogavice socks
M rokav rokava rokavi sleeves
M čevelj čevlja čevlji shoes

F = feminine, N = neuter, M = masculine

nogavice

nogavice

Examples of use:

OČI (eyes)

Plural: Maja ima lepe oči. – Maja has beautiful eyes.

Emphasized:  Naprezal je obe očesi. – He strained both eyes.

ROKE (arms)

Plural: Kako nežne roke imaš! – What soft hands you have!

Emphasized: Luka si je poškodoval obe roki. – Luka injured both his arms.

UŠESA (ears)

Plural: Bolijo me ušesa. – My ears hurt.

Emphasized: Bolita me obe ušesi. – Both my ears hurt.

LICA (cheeks)

Plural: Sonja ima rdeča lica. – Sonja has red cheeks.

Emphasized: Sonja ima obe lici rdeči. – Sonja has both cheeks red.

UHANI (earrings)

Plural: Kako lepi uhani! – What beautiful earrings!

Emphasized: Izgubila sem oba uhana. – I lost both earrings.

ROKAVICE (gloves)

Plural: Zebe me v roke. Potrebujem rokavice. – My hands are freezing. I need gloves.

Emphasized: Obe rokavici sta raztrgani. – Both gloves are ragged.

ROKAVI (sleeves)

Plural: Rokavi so predolgi. – Sleeves are too long.

Emphasized: Oba rokava sta predolga. – Both sleeves are too long.

STARŠI (parents)

Plural: Moji starši so doma. – My parents are home.

Emphasized: Oba starša sta doma. – Both parents are home.

ČEVLJI (shoes)

Plural: To so zimski čevlji. – These are winter shoes.

Emphasized: Oba čevlja je vrgel proč. – He threw away both shoes.

When we use a dual to emphasise two things, we usually use the word ‘obe’ (F, N) or ‘oba’ (M), meaning ‘both’. Number two can also be used for emphasizing two things (dve očesi, dve nogi, dva uhana). We also need to conjugate verbs in dual and adapt adjectival or pronominal endings to the number of a noun:

Plural: Copati so topli. – Slippers are warm.

Dual: Oba copata sta topla. – Both slippers are warm.

What sound does a Slovenian frog make?

Interjections, medmeti in Slovenian, express our mood and emotional conditions, they imitate natural sounds and are also used as an imperative (when we want to command something to somebody). They appear in every language. Interjections for the same thing in Slovenian and English (or any other language) are slightly different – not only how we write them, but also how we pronounce them. We can have a lot of fun comparing them in various languages, and “realise” that, for example, animals sound differently in different languages.

In Slovenian, in a sentence, we write a comma after an interjection. At the end of a sentence we usually write an exclamation mark. Interjections can also stand alone.

Examples:

  • Pst, zbudil boš otroke! (Shush, you will wake the children up!)
  • Juhuhu! (Yippie-yay-yo!)

We use interjections a lot in everyday conversation. Greetings also belong in a group of interjections, for example: živjo, čao, zdravo, hej, adijo, dober dan, nasvidenje.

Imitative Interjections

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH MEANING
mijav miaow the sound of cats
hov woof the sound of dogs
mu moo the sound of cows
čiv cheep, tweet the sound of birds
rega, kvak croak the sound of frogs
kikiriki cock-a-doodle-doo the sound of cocks
ga quack the sound of geese, ducks
bum boom the sound of explosion, drums, heart
cin ring the sound of a small bell, ting
tok knock the sound of knocking
čof, pljusk splash when splashing into the water
ačih atishoo when sneezing
ha haha when smiling

Mood Interjections

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH MEANING
fuj yuck disgust
joj oh astonishment, impairment
ah oh tiredness
eh ah apathy, annoyance
o oh amazement, admiration
aja oh getting ideas
hm hmm doubt, hesitation
juhuhu yippie-yay-yo joy, happiness
čin čin cheers when toasting
njam, mmm yummy saying when you taste something delicious
ej hey enthusiasm, also a greeting
av ouch when it hurts, pain
jupi, hura yay joy
vau wow admiration, astonishment
uf phew relief, annoyance
opa, ups oops when apologizing for your mistakes

Imperative Interjections

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH MEANING
pst shush when you want somebody to be quiet
hop jump encouraging to jump
šc shoo driving away somebody

Heteronyms in Slovenian and English

Words that are written the same and in most cases have different meaning and different pronunciation, are called heteronyms. As I like to play with words, I gathered some examples of heteronyms in Slovenian and English, which are stated below.

Heteronyms are usually short words with around 3-5 letters. For sure, there are many more words which are written identically in those 2 languages, so if you find some, feel free to add them in the comments. There are also words like »talent«, »idol« and »program«, which are written in the same fashion and have the same meaning but different pronunciation in Slovenian and English. They are also a little bit longer.

Examples of heteronyms:

1.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
PAST trap
preteklost, čez (time) PAST

2.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
PÓT, PÔT path, sweat
lonec POT

3.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
DO till, until, to (time)
delati, narediti (to) DO

4.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
KIT whale
oprema, pribor, orodje KIT

5.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
SIT (masculine) full (not hungry anymore)
sedeti (to) SIT

6.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
SAD (singular) fruit
žalosten SAD

7.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
CAR tsar
avto CAR

8.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
OVEN ram, Aries (astrology)
pečica OVEN

9.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
SET set
namestiti (to) SET

10.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
STAR (masculine) old
zvezda STAR

 

star - old

star – old

zvezda - a star

zvezda – a star

11.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
BAR bar, café
bar, tablica (čokolade) BAR (of chocolate)

12.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
DATUM date (time)
podatek DATUM

13.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
POD under, below
strok POD

14.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
LIST leaf
seznam LIST

15.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
ONE (plural, feminine) they
ena ONE

16.

SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
PET five
domača žival PET

If you know some identical words in Slovenian and English, share them with us! :-)

E-Book: Conjugation Manual of Slovenian Verbs from A to Ž

Conjugation Manual of Slovenian Verbs from A to ŽWe are excited to announce the release of our first e-book, the Conjugation Manual of Slovenian Verbs from A to Ž.

The Conjugation Manual of Slovenian Verbs is a practical and language learning tool. It will help to find all conjugations for many of the verbs in Slovenian (more than 160 verbs), and includes all forms for present, past and future tenses, as well as the conditional and imperative.

In short, it’s a reference guide for knowing how to conjugate a host of Slovenian verbs, which we hope will be a valuable companion language learning tool, for beginners and advanced a like.

You can pick up the Kindle Edition from Amazon:

Or you can buy it in PDF format from our store.

Slovenian idioms

»Tih kot miška« (as silent as a mouse), »priden kot čebela« (as busy as a bee) – sound familiar to you? These are called idioms, idiomi or frazemi in Slovenian. Idioms are phrases that usually consist of more words which have figurative meaning. They appear in all languages and using them helps us to enrich our vocabulary.

Slovenian has some interesting and comic idioms, some of them are very similar to English one’s too. I like in particular that one’s with animals. Slovenian is not so »rich« regarding vocabulary in comparison to English and other languages which are spoken by millions of people, but has an impressive amount of idioms, which are surprisingly very often used in everyday conversation, including younger generations.

The language immediately sounds better and enriched when speaking by using idioms. If you are learning Slovenian, try to learn some idioms too, you’ll definitely impress your Slovenian friends. I prepared a list of Slovenian idioms which are commonly used, and in the table below you will also find a literal translation from Slovenian to English and a real meaning of an idiom. Read just Slovenian idioms and literal translations in English, and then try to guess a real meaning. It can be funny, and maybe you will be astonished.

SLOVENIAN IDIOM LITERAL ENGLISH TRANSLATION MEANING
našpičiti ušesa to prick up one’s ears to start to listen carefully
skočiti si v lase to jump in each other’s hair to fight (to argue), to contradict
iskati dlako v jajcu to search for a hair in the egg to exaggerate in demands
iti po gobe to go to pick mushrooms to decay, to fall through, to go awry
krasti bogu čas to steal a god’s time to laze
iti rakom žvižgat to go whistling to the crab to die, to fall through, to decay
kot slon v trgovini s porcelanom like an elepfant in a china shop to be clumsy
španska vas a Spanish village unknown field
vedeti kam pes taco moli to know where a dog puts its paw in to know what is a purpose of speaking
lagati kot pes teče to lie as a dog runs to lie often, without any restraints
režati se kot pečen maček to grin like a roast cat to laugh very much
delati iz muhe slona to make an elephant out of a fly to exaggerate a lot because of a trifle
hoditi spat s kurami to go to sleep with chickens to go to bed early
počutiti se kot riba na suhem to feel like a fish out of water to feel uncomfortable, badly
iskati iglo v senu to look for a needle in a haysteak to do something with a little hope for results
živeti kot ptiček na veji to live like a birdie on a branch to live freely, carefree
spati kot zajec to sleep like a rabbit to sleep lightly
biti kot pes in mačka to be like a dog and cat to hate each other, to argue
kupiti mačka v žaklju to buy a cat in a sack to deal for something with unconfirmed origin
hoditi kakor mačka okoli vrele kaše to walk like a cat around a boiling pulp not to tell the fact
biti čez les to be as mad as a hatter to be crazy
ubiti dve muhi na en mah to kill two flies at one go to solve two problems with one act
zamižati na eno oko to close one eye to overlook somebody’s unacceptable act
biti na konju to be on a horse to succeed, to achieve a goal
črno na belem in black and white written on a paper, clearly, with a proof

Semivowel ‘ə’ and words without vowels in Slovenian

A semivowel is a vowel which does not have a special letter. Phonetically it is written as ‘ə’, but we never write it. It is pronounced similar to French unstressed ‘e’.

A feature in Slovenian is that a semivowel ‘ə’ is pronounced each time when a letter ‘r’ stands between two consonants (trg) or before another consonant (rdeč); for example: [tərg], [ərdeč]. So, we have to pronounce it every time, at each ‘r’ which doesn’t stand beside a vowel. In some words a semivowel ‘ə’ replaces a letter ‘e’ in pronunciation, like in the words “pes” and “dež”. We pronounce them like [pəs] and [dəš]. Narrow and wide ‘e’ aren’t stressed when write in Slovenian, so you simply have to memorise how each word is pronounced.

In Slovenian plenty of words exist without vowels (mostly very short words). But instead of vowels we use a semivowel. The longest Slovenian words without vowels are “vzbrst” (adenoids), “čmrlj” (bumblebee), “zvrst” (genre) and “čvrst” (solid).

This might be odd to foreigners, as for example in English, French and other languages words without vowels don’t exist. Sometimes foreigners in Slovenia think that words completely without vowels are acronyms for something. But no, we don’t spell them, we pronounce them fluently.

Some words in Slovenian completely without vowels

Slovenian Words Without vowels English Translation
prst soil, finger
brž at once
grd ugly
prt cloth
vrt garden
grb coat-of-arms
črv worm
čvrst solid
trg square
grm bush
vrv rope
vrč jug
trn thorn
skrb worry, care
vrh peak, top

Similarities between Slovenian and other Slavic languages

There are several similarities and differences between Slovenian and other Slavic languages.

Slavic languages are part of  the Indo-European languages. They are divided in 3 branches:

  • West Slavic (Czech, Slovak, Polish)
  • East Slavic (Russian, Belorussian, Ukrainian)
  • South Slavic (Slovenian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Croatian, Serbian)
Map of Slavic language groups, from Similarities between Slovenian and other Slavic languages

West Slavic languages, East Slavic languages, South Slavic languages

Usually Slavic languages of the same language branch have more similarities, in comparison to other Slavic branches.

Understanding between Slovenian and other Slavic languages

Some people may think Slavs understand each other well, but it is only partly true. Slovenians, for example, don’t have any problem understanding Croatian or Serbian, but they have more difficulty understanding Macedonian and Bulgarian, not to mention West and East Slavic languages.

Slovaks and Czechs also understand each other pretty well—because of their common history. And the same story exists between Russians and Belorussians, Croats and Serbs. Slavic languages—excluding Bulgarian and Macedonian—and Baltic languages have from 6 to 7 grammatical cases (we wrote a little about Slovenian cases before). In Slavic languages 2 alphabets exist: Cyrilic and Latin. The Cyrilic alphabet is in use in Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian. In most cases Slavic languages are written phonetically.

Similar words in Slavic languages

There are a lot of similar words in Slavic languages, with the same meaning, but also a lot of very similar words with the same lexical roots that have different meanings. Latter are called “false friends”.

Let’s see some similarities and differences between each Slavic language and Slovenian:

Russian

Russian has the same number of cases like Slovenian. The difference is just that in Slovenian we use locativ and instrumental with prepositions, but in Russian the prepositions are usually used only in instrumental, which is the 5th case in Russian, and locativ the 6th (in Slovenian is the opposite).

With word pronunciation, the emphasised syllable is different in Slovenian and Russian. Here is an example: земля́ –zêmlja (‘ground’, or ‘earth’), and коне́ц- kônec (‘end’).

Russian has letters Č(ч), Š(ш) and Ž(ж) like Slovenian, and also a Cyrilic letter for the diphthong ‘ŠČ’ (щ), which is quite difficult to pronounce, specially for non-Slavs.

Here are some Slovenian and Russian words with the same meaning and writing, but different stress:

SLOVENIAN RUSSIAN ENGLISH
bánja ба́ня bath
búrja бу́ря bora
káplja ка́пля drop
kít кит whale
ôreh оре́х walnut
uhó у́хо ear
šéf шеф boss

And some Russian words similar to Slovenian, but with totally different meanings:

SLOVENIAN RUSSIAN ENGLISH
poletje ле́то summer
teden неде́ля week
kruh хлеб bread
pogovor бесе́да talk
vrt cад garden

Czech

In 19th century Czech sibilants were first inducted into Croatian, and then to Slovenian.

Here are some Czech letters unknown in Slovenian:

Ď pronounced as ‘dj’
Ě pronounced as ‘je’
Ň pronounced as ‘nj’
Ř pronounced as  ‘rž’, ‘rš’
Ť pronounced as ‘tj’
Ý pronounced as long ‘i’

Slovak

A language is very similar to Czech, both also have a similar alphabet. Slovak has also some common features with South Slavic languages, especially with Slovenian and some Croatian dialects. No wonder, some people still confuse Slovakia and Slovenia, not just because of a similar name, but also because of the similar languages.

Polish

Polish has some special letters, also unknown in Czech and Slovak. Most often the second last syllable is stressed in Polish.

Here are some special letters:

Ą ‘o’ with nasal
Ć even softer than Serbian and Croatian ‘ć’
Ę ‘e’ with nasal
Ń like Croatian ‘nj’
Ł like ‘l’ in the word “delal
Ś softer ‘š’
Ź soft ‘ž’

Phraseology examples between Slovenian and Polish:

SLOVENIAN POLISH ENGLISH
bolje pozno kot nikoli lepiej późno niż wcale better late than never
kdor čaka, dočaka kto czeka, ten się doczeka everything comes to those who wait
čas celi rane czas goi rany time heals wounds
ljubezen na prvi pogled miłość od pierwszego wejrzenia love at first sight

Ukrainian

Ukrainian is East Slavic language with West Slavic influences, mainly Polish. It is quite different from Russian.

Bulgarian

Bulgarian is together with Macedonian, Romanian and Albanian are also related as the so-called ‘Balkan language union’. For this reason it has some language features uncommon to other Slavic languages. Bulgarian Cyrillic is very similar to Russian.

A special letter in Bulgarian:

Щ pronounced as ‘št’

Macedonian

Macedonian is spoken in Macedonia, northern Greece, south-west Bulgaria, and in south-east Albania. Like Bulgarian it has some special features, untypical to other Slavic languages. They don’t decline nouns and adjectives, instead of this they use prepositions before nouns.

Some letters from Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet:

Џ pronounced as ‘dž’
Ќ pronounced as ‘kj’
Ѓ pronounced as ‘gj’

Serbian and Croatian

Serbian is a South Slavic language. Its writing is Cyrillic. In Montenegro they use both, Cyrillic and Latin. The independence of Montenegro in 2006 was followed by polemics about Montenegrin as an independent language. Serbian has a lot of words from Turkish and French. This also separates it from Croatian. There are also a lot of polemics about which language is spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some say that it’s Bosnian. Anyway, these languages are so similar to each other, that people can perfectly understand among themselves. It’s ironic, that a Slovenian from Prekmurje region understands a Slovenian from Primorje region with more difficult than a Croat and a Serb between themselves.

Similarities between some South Slavic languages:

MONTENEGRIN SERBIAN CROATIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
đe gde gdje kje where
đevojka devojka djevojka dekle girl
đeca deca djeca otroci children
śutra sutra sutra jutri tomorrow
cukar šećer šećer sladkor sugar
oriz pirinač riža riž rice

A large number of words originate from a common ancient Slavic vocabulary, for this reason there are so many similar words in Slavic languages. Below are some examples of the “false friends”, similar words with different meanings, I referred to earlier.

  • Russian – Slovenian false friends
RUSSIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
стол miza table
стул stol chair
  •  Polish – Slovenian
POLISH SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
bańka posoda container
bank banka bank
  • Czech – Slovenian
CZECH SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
slovenský slovaški Slovak
slovinský slovenski Slovenian
  • Slovak – Slovenian
SLOVAK SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
družina spremstvo retinue
rodina družina family
  • Croatian – Slovenian
CROATIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
grad mesto town
tvrđava grad fortress
  • Bulgarian – Slovenian
BULGARIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
вещ reč matter
реч govor speech
  • Ukrainian – Slovenian
UKRAINIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
cклеп klet cellar
вирішення sklep decision
  • Macedonian – Slovenian
MACEDONIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
воздух zrak air
зрак žarek ray

You can find more false friends here.

Slovenian Grammar and Culture: A Quick and Funny Introduction

Slovenian Grammar

I gathered together some interesting facts about Slovenian grammar and culture, to bring you closer to this beautiful language.

Let’s begin:

  • Slovenian is older than the country of Slovenia, which was created in 1991. The oldest writings in Slovenian are Brižinski spomeniki (Freising Manuscripts), which are more than 1,000 years old. They are also the first Latin-script in Slavic language.
  • Our language has three special letters (known also in other Slavic languages), Č Š Ž. We pronounce them like, Č as in a word cherry, Š as show, and Ž as measure.
  • Slovenian is a phonetic language (we mostly speak as we write, this means, one letter-one sound). It’s similar to other Slavic languages and Italian.
  • Slovenian is a romantic language: we have dual (in addition to singular and plural) for referring to two people, objects or concepts. Using dual, it’s clear how many people you refer or speak to.
Slovenian grammar: dual

Onadva sta zaljubljena. (They both are in love.)

  • Slovenians are happy if somebody try to speak their language. But as we also like foreign languages, don’t be surprised if they will answer you back in English. I am very proud when I hear some foreigners trying to speak Slovene, so don’t be shy to try!
  • Slovenian is a polite language: we have two versions to addressing someone (formal and informal). Formal form (vikanje) is used when addressing adults, people you don’t know, in business situations, younger people to older ones. A formal form express a respect and it’s more polite. A formal form first appeared in French (‘vous’). We present it the same as French people, using 2nd person plural ‘vi’. Informal form is used when addressing family members, friends, people you know well, children, young people between themselves. If you have doubts which form to use, I suggest you to use the formal one. You can’t miss. Myself, I usually address in a formal way, and then some people tell me not to use the formal way, because they feel old. But anyway, it’s an expression of politeness if using it.
Slovenian Phrase English Translation Use
Kako vam je ime? What’s your name? formal
Kako ti je ime? What’s your name? informal

The polite formal version is sometimes written with a capital letter, Vi, which expresses really extreme respect, and it’s surprisingly often used.

  • Good news, Slovenian has only three tenses, past tense, present tense and future tense. In the past it had four tenses, including past perfect tense. Nowadays we don’t use it anymore. It appears just in the literature. Past and future tenses are simple to build.
    • Past: jaz sem delal (I worked)
    • Present: jaz delam (I work)
    • Future: jaz bom delal (I will work)

    Past and future participles are the same (‘delal’). In present tense we conjugate verbs. In past and future tenses we conjugate auxiliary verb ‘to be’ and add a participle, which also express a gender and number.

  • Slovenian has 3 genders, masculine, feminine and neuter. Neuter gender is known also in German (article ‘das’). In Slovenian we recognize it because of the –o and –e endings of the nouns.
    • jabolko (an apple)
  • Slovenian has no articles! So there is no confusion as to which article to put before a noun. The answer is none.
  • Slovenian supports gender equality. As well as the masculine form, there is a special form to express feminine gender, recognisable by its –a ending (verbs, adjectives, nouns, pronouns). Almost all the professions are in feminine form too.
    • Feminine: Rada bi šla na morje. (I would like to go to the seaside.)
    • Masculine: Rad bi šel na morje. (I would like to go to the seaside.)

For the end I saved a hard nut to crack, cases.

I won’t lie, they are not so simple, also Slovenians sometimes incorrectly decline nouns (mostly in spoken language). But anyway, we will understand you in every case, even if you don’t decline properly. Cases are known also in other languages, such as Latin, Sanskrit, Russian (and other Slavic languages) Icelandic, Finnish. So, if you come from any of these language group, you probably know what I am talking about. In one of the previous blog posts we introduced an example of all 18 variations of the word ‘frog’.

Here is an example of a declension of a word ‘hiša’ (house) in singular, feminine.

Case Declension
nominative hiša
genitive hiše
dative hiši
accusative hišo
locative pri hiši
instrumental s hišo
Brižinski spomeniki - the oldest writing in Slovenian

Brižinski spomeniki – the oldest writing in Slovenian

Slovenian Culture

  • When they meet, Slovenians usually don’t kiss and hug (maybe just some people, usually young ones). Hand shaking is expected. Yes, Slovenians are more reserved about this, but if you come from some more temperamental culture, don’t worry, I am sure they won’t shrink away, if you’ll try to kiss them on cheeks. It would be nice to be more open about this.
  • Regarding gestures, Slovenians are more stiff, they are not lively with their hands, like Italians for example. We are considered to be calmer, reserved and polite nation. You probably will not see Slovenians dancing on the streets.
  • Our speech is neither loud nor too quiet, something in the middle.
  • Don’t worry, you won’t be a witness of a culture shock, when you will come in Slovenia. Maybe it can be a shock just to those, who are used to more temperamental environment.
  • Slovenia is considered to be a safe country, without a fear you can promenade in the middle of the night on the streets. Because of the empty streets at late night, Ljubljana is called also ‘zaspana Ljubljana’, ‘sleepy Ljubljana’.
  • Don’t be surprised if you visit someone at home, and they give you slippers to put on. We like to keep our apartments clean.
  • Also, don’t be surprised if somebody invites you to lunch and you share a salad from the same bowl. I know that foreigners laugh at this, but it’s a Slovenian feature. Definitely we save time when washing the dishes. But the things are changing here too, I prefer to have my own bowl, so nobody can snatch my favourite morsel of salad.
  • In Slovenia nodding means ‘yes’ (ja) and shaking the head means ‘no’ (ne).
  • You have an opportunity to practice Slovenian also while watching foreign films, which are not dubbed. We have subtitles.
  • Phrase ‘Na zdravje!’ means ‘Cheers!’, and ‘Bless you!’, literally ‘To your health!’
  • And something about romantic matters: giving compliments is not usual among Slovenians (this does not apply to everybody, there are exceptions), but they like to hear them. Well, if somebody accepts and thanks you for a compliment, depends on the person. You can’t miss by using a magic word ‘Hvala’, ‘Thank you’.
  • Other magic words are also ‘Prosim’, ‘Please’ or ‘You are welcome’ or ‘Hello’ (when picking up the phone), and ‘Oprostite’, ‘Excuse me’.
  • Slovenians are usually punctual considering business meetings and also private meetings. I don’t suggest to be late on a date, you can make a bad impression.
  • In my opinion, we are hospitable with our compatriots and foreigners.

Maybe you heard some other stereotypes about Slovenia or Slovenians. I will be glad to hear some you might have heard of too. You can share them in the comments below.

Source: Pocket Slovene (Žepna slovenščina)