czech verb aspect

Discussion in 'General Language' started by hribecek, Oct 14, 2007.

  1. hribecek

    hribecek Well-Known Member

    Does anybody have a clear explanation of the Czech verbal aspects? I know the basic descritption about perfective being a one time thing and not used in the present and imperfective being more continuous but I still find that I often don't understand why a native speaker uses a certain aspect.
    Is the Czech imperfective in the past used the same as the past continuous in English and perferctive like the past simple?
    I'd be really grateful for any help with this, I think it's the most difficult thing to master for a foreigner.
  2. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    Well, there is nothing simple around the Czech aspect :lol:

    The main problem comes from the manner the aspect is expressed. Most verbs express the aspect by prefixation, but the prefix itself not only renders the verb perfective, but it also changes the meaning of the verb.

    But let's try it simply

    Present imperfective - current action - corresponds both to the present simple and continuous. If you want to imagine this better, it is the same as the English verb "to be" - there is no distinction of simple and continuous (no "be being", only in passive).
    dělám = I do/I am doing/I have been doing

    Present perfective - by itself is a nonsense. There cannot be an action seen as a point in present. So this *form* is used to express future perfective - action in future seen only as a point.
    udělám = I will do/I will have done

    Future imperfective
    Action in future seen as a larger period of time.
    budu dělat = I will do/I will be doing/I will have been doing

    Past perfective
    Action in past seen only as a point.
    udělal jsem = I did/I have done/ I had done

    Past imperfective
    Action in past seen as a larger period of time.
    dělal jsem = I did/I was doing/I had been doing
  3. hribecek

    hribecek Well-Known Member

    Thanks for that.
    There are still a lot of little differences that I suppose I just have to learn by heart because there is no rule.
  4. DanielZ

    DanielZ Well-Known Member


    Think about this for a moment. We do much the same thing in English, we just don't notice it.

    I make coffee. I made coffee.
    I am making coffee. I was making coffee.
    I will make coffee. I made coffee.
    Would it were that I made coffee...then...

    I was making coffee when she walked into the room.

    is completely different than

    I made coffee when she walked into the room.

    Because she came to see me I made coffee.
    This makes sense.

    Because she came to see me I was making coffee.
    This is very unclear and wrong.
  5. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    But it is not the same in Czech, because you can normally say
    "Dělal jsem to kafe, protože přišla"
    You are only envisaging the progression of it... The aspect is, as its name suggest, the point of view on the action. You can envision an action as a progression or as a point in Czech. The point is more important when you are interested in the result of the action, the progression is more important when you go into the action.
  6. DanielZ

    DanielZ Well-Known Member

    I didn't say it was the same. I was showing that English, apart from Czech, has its own verbal aspect.

    If one desired to say this, and only this:

    Because she came I made coffee.

    yet, if the speaker only knew the aspect making coffee, then the sentence would come out:

    Because she came I was making coffee.

    This sound very strange if the idea was to to state, and only state:

    Because she came I made coffee.

    Please stay in context when deciding to comment on my posts.

  7. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    This thread has been very helpful to a novice (9 months!). We haven't done a lot on aspect yet in my class but I was wondering is whether there are any rules for identifying imperfective/perfective verbs. We have been told (I think!) that verbs ending in -nout are perfective and I can just about recognise the difference when I see them but are there any actual rules?
  8. DanielZ

    DanielZ Well-Known Member


    Before memorizing any rules, try to get the feel of what makes the difference, generally, between perfective and imperfective verbs.

    401 Czech Verbs by Davies and Hejduková is a gold mine.

    A good Czech text book will give lists of such pairs. If you can't find any, ask your instructor to show you where such a list of paired verbs might be.

  9. Karel_lerak

    Karel_lerak Well-Known Member

    In most cases the rule gives correct answer.
    But there are exceptions to your rule eg.:
    These "exceptions" have the "n" usually as part of the root.
    The rule is valid in cases when the "nout" is a suffix added to the root mor in the case when it is a doublet with suffix -at:
    padat x padnout
    zvedat x zvednout

    More complex example:
    tahat (imperfective)
    táhnout (imperfective too) 8)
    utahat, zatahat, vytahat, utáhnout, zatáhnout, přitáhnout (all perfective)
    utahovat, zatahovat, přitahovat (all imperfective)
    doutahovat, poutahovat (both perfective)
    I don't want to perplex you, just to say that it is rather difficult to give general rules.
  10. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    Yes, I've heard of 401 Czech Verbs and I must get it. 401 sounds a lot but I reckon I've got 300-odd in my own 'dictionary' that I've been compiling myself and have hardly scratched the surface.

  11. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    I hadn't realised it was quite so complicated. And I didn't know that any -ovat verbs were perfective.

    Do they conjugate like imperfective -ovats or -ám, -áš,- á? I can see now why we've only 'touched' on aspect so far...
  12. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    In fact... tose can be BOTH perfective AND imperfective. Depends on the derivation:

    doutahovat ( < do+utahovat) is perfective (made by prefixation from an imperfective verb)

    doutahovat ( < doutáhnout + -o-va- ) is imperfective (made by change of suffix of an appropriate perfective verb)

    To be precise, those are two different verbs that are homophone. There are other verbs, that have truly both aspects, concretely the verbs of foreign origin having already a prefix of its own (especially in- and im-):

    informovat, impregnovat, infikovat,...
    but also Czech verb věnovat

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