The tourism boom in Montenegro means that navigating most of the country’s most popular destinations won’t require much more than a grasp of English and a little bit of patience. It never hurts to learn however, so make a note of these Montenegrin phrases before heading out.
It won’t come as a big surprise to learn that the people of Montenegro speak Montenegrin, but the relative youth of the lingo might raise a few eyebrows. Largely indistinguishable from Serbian, Montenegrin is a language that is still finding its way in the big world, and these phrases should give you a basic grasp of one of the world’s youngest vernaculars.
Greetings and Basics
Nobody is expecting you to be fluent in Montenegrin by the time you arrive at Kotor, but learning the basics isn’t the hardest thing in the world. Make the most minimum of effort to remember these choice phrases.
Dobar Dan / Zdravo (do-BAR dan / ZDRAH-voh) — Good Day / Hello
Greetings are useful in every language and Montenegrin is no different. Technically there are different greetings for morning (jutro) and evening (večer), but nobody is going to hold you to those. Zdravo is a formal ‘hello’ but it can absolutely be used in informal settings.
Hvala / Molim (HVAH-lah / MO-leem) — Thank you / Please
If you only learn two things in Montenegrin ahead of your holiday, make it the phrases of rudimentary manners. They don’t cost a thing after all. If you are struggling with the pronunciation of ‘hvala’, aim for something that rhymes somewhat with ‘koala’.
Zovem se… / Drago mi je (ZOH-vem seh / DRA-go me ye) — My name is… / Pleased to meet you
If you want to add a little bit of sugar on top of your basic greetings, use the phrases above to introduce yourself to your Montenegrin hosts. They might be surprised or it might initiate a full Montenegrin conversation.
Doviđenja / čao / laku noč (doh-vee-JEH-nyah / CH-ow / LAH-kuh noch) — Goodbye / ciao / good night
You can always improve on a first impression but doing so after a failed goodbye is a much harder task. The best way to avoid such a situation is to the learn the proper way to say goodbye, or doviđenja in this case.
Jutro / popodne / večer (YOO-troh / POH-pod-ne / VEH-cheh) — Morning / Afternoon / Evening
Want to meet someone in the morning or the evening? It can be the difference between a social experience or a lonely night of solo drinking, so remember these words.
Dobro / Da / Ne (DOH-broh / DA / NE) — Good / yes / no
Does it get any simpler than ‘yes’ and ‘no’? To put into perspective just how simple but important those two words are, you can’t answer that initial question without them.
Izvini / Izvinite (EEZ-vee-nee / EEZ-vee-nee-teh) — Excuse me / Sorry
Montenegrins might be a little on the brusque side from time to time, but that doesn’t mean you have to be. Apologetic words will be of particular importance if you are British, but pay careful attention to the slight difference between izvini and izvinite.
Kako ste? (KAH-ko steh?) — How are you?
It might be little more than just another way of greeting someone in English, but ‘how are you?’ still elicits impassioned responses and legitimate feelings in this part of the world. An important phrase to know, but don’t expect it to be ignored.
English is largely spoken in Montenegro’s more popular destinations, but picking up a little bit of Montenegrin could be the difference between a good time and a great one. These phrases might just make the difference for you.
Da li pričate Engleski? (DAH lee PREE-cha-teh lee EN-gles-kee?) — Do you speak English?
Asking how someone speaks a language can be done in a variety of different ways, but this is generally the most polite and accepted no matter who you are conversing with.
Ne razumijem (neh rah-ZOO-mee-jem) — I don’t understand
You wouldn’t be on this page if you already spoke the language. Don’t be afraid to admit your lack of knowledge now and then, and do it in this way.
Gde je… (GD-yeh yeh…) — Where is…
When looking for a statue or a particular building you should be fine just saying the name and looking confused. If you’d like to ask in the form of a question, simply utter the above phrase before the destination in question and you’ll be on your way.
Koliko je sati? (KOH-lee-koh ye SAH-tee?) — What is the time?
When was the last time you asked someone on the street for the time? We dare say it was more than a while ago. Regardless of how long ago that was it is better to be prepared than not.
Pomoć (POH-mohch) — Help
We’ve never had to use this word in Montenegro but it is obviously better to be safe than sorry.
Aerial view of Sveti Nikola Island near Budva city at Adriatic Sea in Montenegro. © Ajan Alen / Shutterstock
Restaurant and bar
Montenegro is meant to be experienced through the taste buds as much as the eyes. This is a country of excellent food and plenty of drink — this is how to get your hands (and tongue) on it.
Mogu da dobim… (MOH-goo da DOH-beem…) — Can I get…
You aren’t going to go in a restaurant or bar and just sit there, right? You’ll want to order something, and you can do so by saying the above phrase and adding your desired beverage or meal after it. Just be sure to add please at the end. Do you remember how to say please?
Koliko je košta? (KOH-lee-koh ye KOH-shta?) — How much does it cost?
Get those Euros out and start counting. You aren’t going to get any free meals in Montenegro (unless you make friends, in which case you get lots of free meals in Montenegro), so asking how much something costs is pretty vital.
Račun (RAH-choon) — Bill
The bill of fare, tally, invoice, check etc etc. In short, the piece of paper that will come to your table and inform you just how many Euros you must pay for that delicious meal and multiple glasses of rakija that you have just enjoyed.
We’ve covered all the functional bits and pieces needed for a great time in Montenegro. There are just a few phrases and words to go, choice locutions that might save the visitor no shortage of embarrassment.
Ulaz / Izlaz (OOH-laz / EEZ-laz) — Entrance / Exit
We’ve all been there — stuck in a shopping centre with no idea how to get out. Avoid that shame by learning the necessary words.
Guraj / Vuči (GOO-raye / VOO-chee) — Push / Pull
The only thing that might be more embarrassing than not finding the exit is finding the exit and trying to push through the pull door. Save yourself the ignominy.
Otvoreno / Zatvoreno (OHT-voh-reh-no / ZAHT-voh-reh-no) — Open / Closed
Continuing with the theme of shame, don’t try and push (or pull) any door that has ZATVORENO emblazoned on the front, for it will be closed.
Muškarci / Žene (MOOHSH-kahr-tsee / ZHEH-neh) — Men / Women
Nobody wants to stroll into a bathroom only to be surrounded with angry looking members of the opposite gender, or at least we assume they don’t.
Učim polako (OOH-cheem POH-lah-ko) — I’m learning slowly
We’ll finish with a phrase that has gotten us out of some sticky situations over the years. You might not be learning the language (and if you are, you might be doing so very slowly) but claiming to do so will stand you in good stead wherever you are. Old people are particularly fond of hearing that foreigners are learning and doing their best. If in doubt, učim polako.
And last but not least, the numbers from zero to 10.
Nula (NOO-lah) / 0
Jedan (YEH-dahn) / 1
Dva (dvah) / 2
Tri (tree) / 3
Četiri (cheh-TEE-ree) / 4
Pet (peht) / 5
Šest (shehst) / 6
Sedam (SEH-dahm) / 7
Osam (OH-sahm) / 8
Devet (DEH-veht) / 9
Deset (DEH-seht) / 10