November 28, 2023 | Време читања: 4 минута

Djokovic serves with new balls (Sa novim lopticama servira Đoković )

Djokovic serves with new balls (Sa novim lopticama servira Đoković )

If the title of this post sounds familiar, it’s because it’s actually a common phrase used by the renowned sports commentator Nebojša Višković during TV broadcasts. This means that if you follow Novak Djoković’s games, you’ve probably heard it at least once. While many public figures are generally commendable in their use of language, especially one of the best sports connoisseurs, when it comes to linguistic culture and proper use of the instrumental case, we must be uncompromising. Let’s explore what’s amiss with these new linguistic challenges together.

Recent experiences in teaching practice have revealed that the correct use of the prepositions “s/sa” and the instrumental case is an area prone to misunderstandings and errors. Therefore, this text is dedicated to clarifying the most common dilemmas, aiming to provide you with useful tips and examples so you won’t have to google “how to say” anymore.

Just as Novak is the greatest tennis player of all time and Višković is the best in his field, let’s eliminate all linguistic dilemmas and strive for perfection in using our beautiful language!

Prepositions “s/sa” (with)

Correct use of the prepositions “s/sa” is crucial for clarity in expression.

The preposition “s” is written without an apostrophe and is used in most cases, except when the following word in the sentence begins with the sounds s, z, š, or ž, or when without the additional “a,” the connections would be difficult to pronounce (sa sinom, sa značenjem, sa mnom, sa psom, and similar). (In the provided examples:    With a son (sa sinom);    With meaning (sa značenjem);    With me (sa mnom);    With a dog (sa psom) –  Here, the preposition “sa” is used to indicate association or accompaniment, showing a connection between the mentioned entities (son, meaning, me, dog) and something else in the context.)

The same rule applies to the prepositions “k” and “uz” (k meni, but ka kući; uz glavu, but uza zid). (In the provided context, “k” and “uz” are prepositions in the Serbian language.    “k” is equivalent to “to” or “towards” in English. For example: “k meni” (to me), “k gradu” (towards the city).    “uz” is equivalent to “by” or “next to” in English. For example: “uz glavu” (by the head), “uz reku” (next to the river))

These prepositions are used to indicate direction, proximity, or association with a particular object or place. The correct choice between “k” and “uz” depends on the specific context and the initial sound of the following word. Considering this issue, let’s mention another preposition where frequent mistakes occur. This dilemma arises in the use of the preposition “oko”. (It is equivalent to “about” or “around” in English. For example:    “pomogao mi je oko toga” (he helped me about that)    “pitao sam ga oko toga” (I asked him about that) In these examples, “oko” is used to express the idea of dealing with or concerning a particular matter or issue. The choice between “oko” and other prepositions depends on the specific nuance or emphasis intended in the sentence.) Examples like “pomogao mi je oko toga” instead of “pomogao mi je s tim/u tome” or “pitao sam ga oko toga” instead of “pitao sam ga za to” can create misunderstandings. Discussions like “oko nečega” instead of “o nečemu” or expressions like “zabrinuta sam oko njenog zdravlja” instead of “za njeno zdravlje” require correction for more precise expression and, of course, for earning the maximum number of points in this area.

Uncertainties often arise in the use of “s/sa,” including questions of pronunciation, correct apostrophe usage, and whether to write words together or separately. For example, “obzirom na/da” is grammatically incorrect, so it is correct to use “s obzirom na (nešto).” Instead of “Obzirom da Hana nije došla, moraćemo sami da idemo u bioskop,” use “S obzirom na to što Hana nije došla, moraćemo sami da idemo u bioskop.”

Also, it is advised to use “bez obzira” instead of using both expressions. Regarding “s toga/stoga,” when the preposition is combined with the pronoun, it is written together, so it is correct to write “stoga.” For example, “Padala je kiša. Stoga sam u bioskop išao kolima.”

In some cases, when the pronoun “taj” is put in the genitive case, the only correct writing is “s toga.” However, this can then be seen as a prepositional-case construction. For example, “S tog mesta,” which most often indicates the place of the action, unlike the meaning of “zato” or “zbog toga.”

U vezi sa tim, not: u vezi toga

The expression “u vezi sa tim” in Serbian is equivalent to “in connection with that” or “regarding that” in English. On the other hand, “u vezi toga” would be considered incorrect.

Example:    “Razgovarali smo u vezi sa tim problemom” (We talked about that issue).

The correct usage is “u vezi sa,” emphasizing the association or connection with a particular subject or matter.

Irregular and “grafted” constructions have entered the language, partly due to foreign languages and partly due to our laziness, slowly infiltrating all its spheres. It’s not necessary to be a linguistic purist and enforce “linguistic justice” at any cost. However, a system (linguistic, as well as any other) must exist to maintain the functionality and purpose of the language itself.

The noun “veza” requires the instrumental with the preposition “s/sa.” It is correct to say: u vezi s tim, u vezi s čim, u vezi s vašim pitanjem. Therefore, u vezi sa mojim poslom, not u vezi mog posla; u vezi sa onom pričom, not u vezi one priče; u vezi sa mojim ugovorom, not u vezi mog ugovora.

A few facts about the instrumental case with the preposition ‘s/sa’

Nouns, as well as nominal phrases in the instrumental case used with the preposition ‘SA,’ can express the following meanings:

– Social interaction (with verbs indicating an action that involves at least two participants),

– Accompanying circumstances, and

– Qualificative aspects.

The meaning of social interaction can only be expressed through nouns denoting living beings. It is obtained as an answer to the question: With whom? (S(a) kim?)

With whom are you going to the city? With a friend/friends.

(Sa kim ideš u grad? Sa drugaricom/ drugaricama.)


With whom was Marko making plans? With Jelena from Niš.

Sa kim se Marko dogovarao? Sa Jelenom iz Niša.


The meaning of distinctive details is expressed by nouns denoting inanimate objects. This meaning is obtained as an answer to the question: With what? (Sa čim(e)?)

With what is burek filled? Burek with spinach/cheese/meat.

Sa čime je burek? Burek sa spanaćem/sirom/ mesom.


The meaning of qualificativity is expressed through nouns denoting something and is obtained as an answer to the question: What kind of? (Kakav, kakva, kakvo?)


What kind of shirt did you buy?                 What kind of cats do you like?

(Kakvu majicu si kupio? )                               (Kakve mace voliš?)


A shirt with short sleeves.                            I like white cats with blue eyes.

(Majicu sa kratkim rukavima.)                     (Volim bele mace s plavim očima.)


Instrumental with the meaning of the instrument

The instrumental with the meaning of the instrument used to perform an action is used without a preposition. Only nouns denoting inanimate objects have this instrumental. It is obtained as an answer to the question: With what? (Čime?)

With what do you go to school?                 By car/tram/bus.

(Čime ideš u školu?)                                        (Automobilom/tramvajem/autobusom.)


With what do you write?                              With a pencil/pen/ballpoint pen.

(Čime pišeš?)                                                   (Olovkom/ hemijskom/ penkalom.)



We invite you to preserve your heritage language

We invite everyone to preserve their language, as language is not only a means of communication but also a reflection of the cultural and intellectual level of society. Preserving linguistic precision and correctness contributes to better information exchange and expression of ideas, making the public and media space richer and more efficient. Therefore, this text is not just a guide for correct usage of a linguistic rule, but also an encouragement to preserve linguistic purity in the public sphere, which we need more than ever. So, let’s go back to the beginning, Djokovic serves with new balls (novim lopticama servira Đoković) and, to the joy of us all, is already winning big.