Quick Serbian Lesson — Kako Da Ne

Why do so many Serbian people keep on saying “How yes no” in regular conversation?

When trying to translate “kako da ne” into English, Google picks it up as Croatian and gives the incorrect translation of “how yes no.”

Translation

Како да не.

This translates to two completely different phrases given a different tone.

When used in a sarcastic way, it means “yeah, ok” or “yeah, right.” Used in a non sarcastic tone it means “of course” which might be a bit strange at first to someone learning Serbian. How could the words “how”, “yes”, and “no” form a phrase like “of course?”

Let’s look at all the individual parts of the phrase — the words.

Како means “how.” “Како си” translates to “How are you?”

Да is the interesting word here. Да is much more complicated than one would think. It’s not like English’s “yes” which basically only has one meaning. The Wiktionary page has a much better explanation of the word than what I could ever come up with. If I were to roughly translate the use of it here, it would probably translate to something like “could.”

Не means, literally, “no.”

When one takes these things into account, the literal translation is no longer “how yes no” but rather “how could no.” This translation is obviously not correct but it is much more correct than the previous “how yes no” translation. One has to tie in the words together to make them sound more clear and grammatically correct in English.

The grammatically correct literal translation in English is “how could I not?” Which is basically a more beautiful way of saying “of course.”

But I guess Serbian is just a more poetic language than English :p