Kdo?Co? - Koho?Čeho? etc. The Czech Way

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by shawn, Dec 18, 2003.

  1. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

    Hi again [​IMG]

    I'm curious as to what is the significance of the Czech "What? Who?" system of learning cases? It's hard for me to discover if the words "What" and "Who" in these instances actually mean something different in each case, or are simply the case's 'way' of saying "What" and "Who". I suppose I'm trying to ask, is there any internal, inherint difference in meaning between the different cases' way of saying these 2 words?


    When I plug the various declensions of each into dictionaries, I get largely just what, who, whom, and often...nothing.

    If this is unintelligible, please feel free to hit the delete button LOL.

    Dékuji pěkně [​IMG]


    [This message has been edited by shawn (edited 18-12-2003).]

    [This message has been edited by shawn (edited 18-12-2003).]
  2. Kikko

    Kikko Well-Known Member


    in simple words...
    Do you want to know when to use kdo, koho, komu, koho, ... even if they all mean 'who'?
  3. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Shawn, I find this hard to explain. The system of using personal pronouns when learning or applying proper noun cases is helpful to Czechs who know what all of the different forms of these two pronouns mean and when they are used. The literal meaning of each is as follows:

    1. Kdo? Co? - Who? What?
    2. Koho? Čeho? - Of whom? Of what?
    3. Komu? Čemu? - To whom? To what?
    4. Koho? Co? - Whom? What? (e.g. "I see whom/what?")
    5. Kdo! Co! - Who! What! (calling or addressing someone/something)
    6. (O) kom? (O) čem? - (About) whom? (About) what?
    7. (S) kým? (S) čím? - (With) whom? (With) what?

    The two pronouns "kdo" and "co" and their different case forms provide helpful guidance to Czechs in determining the case of a noun. E.g. when a Czech child reads a sentence "Petr s Janou mluví o Jirkovi" (Petr with Jana are talking about Jirka), they can ascertain or confirm the correct case of each of the nouns by replacing them with the personal pronoun "kdo", i.e.
    "WHO is talking with Jana?" - The answer is "Petr", so "Petr" is a nominative
    "Petr is talking WITH WHOM?" - The answer: "with Jana", so "Jana" is an instrumental
    "Petr with Jana are talking ABOUT WHOM?" - The answer: "about Jirka", so "Jirka" is a locative

    The thing is, Czech children already understand the difference between "kdo/co", "koho/čeho", etc. because they've been using these pronouns on a daily basis in regular speech. However, foreigners who are just beginning to learn Czech are dumbfounded by what this "kdo/co", "koho/čeho"... system is about and they don't even understand the differences between the various forms of these two pronouns. For this reason I can't imagine how this system could possibly be helpful to foreigners when learning Czech declension. It only seems to add confusion and complexity into an already complex issue.

    I wonder what others think about this and if there are any foreigners out there who find this system helpful.
  4. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much,

    Kikko, yes, that's exactly what I'm hoping to discover...There is an online draft of a book called The Case Book for Czech (I'll give you the link if you want, if you don't have it already) that does this sort of thing, but it is very high-level, and I'm not ready for it yet. Basically, I'm trying to get a simple grid in my head that maps out each of the Kdo? Co? cases, insofar as the prepositions and pronouns (and eventually nouns) are applied to them. So, understanding what the actual words mean (if not simply 'who?', 'what?', as seems to be the case from Dana's post), might be one more piece of the puzzle for me...


    This is exactly what I was hoping to discover. I'm finding (as I've said unfortunately before) the declension system to be very trying. But between prepositions and pronouns, it is very slowly starting to make sense (it will take years, I expect, especially when I start building my vocabulary with nouns and apply the proper, spoken, case to each word).

    It seems if I can memorize by rote the prepositions and pronouns, that will 'build the system' in my head and will help when trying to apply to everyday conversations.

    That, or a winning lottery ticket so I can spend a year in Prague LOL. But I only have 5 days left, and I'll be in heaven, as my Pimsleur tapes are sitting under the tree at my mother's house. [​IMG]

    As for what you've written, as usual, I'll print it and study it well. Naučím se ćesky, uvidíš! LOL.

    Thanks very much.

    Shawn [​IMG]
  5. Kikko

    Kikko Well-Known Member

    Well for the most of people from western countries is hard to think 'in cases'

    The "problem" is that czech doesnt have articles and other 'helping things' to express the logical role of a word in the sentence, so they just modify the ending of each word to give it the right role

    That's what cases are for, and that's why the pronoun Kdo has 7 cases.

    Have a look at this discussion, we talked about it.


    Once you understand the way it works, you just have to learn the endings and you're done [​IMG]

    [This message has been edited by Kikko (edited 21-12-2003).]
  6. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

    Kikko, thank you!

    This is very important to me:

    "you cant write to you; you must write a word which means "to you".
    So they modify the ending of the words to give them any possible role in the phrase.
    So for example they modify ty (you) to give it all the meanings you (nominative), of you (genitive), to you (dative), ..."

    I finally figured out something, then. Whenever I read some such thing as "Je mi pěkně", it LOOKS like "(It) is me fine" i.e., I feel fine, but when you say mi, you are saying TO ME, i.e., (it) is TO me fine, I feel fine. So, much of what is going to happen, is going to happen silently, because certain words are implied according to the proper case, i.e., mi isn't just 'me', it's 'to me' because of the case from which it comes.

    One more area to help bring it home, thanks very much, Kikko [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG].

    Shawn [​IMG]

    ps, also, this was very helpful:

    "Nominative: is the subject. Who or what does something.

    Genitive: this is the case of belonging. It is equivalent to the English of.

    Dative: Indirect object. I give the apple to you

    Accusative: the object. Every subject does something over something. That's it. I kick you. I take a book.

    Vocative: this is the case you use to call someone.
    So for example if you see Petra you dont have to say "Petra jak se mas?" but "Petro..."

    Locative: you can only find/use this case with a preposition (time, state, ...). Czech doesnt have articles but has MANY prepositions

    Instrumental: This explain what the subject uses to act over the object.
    I go there by car (with the car)
    I write a letter with a pen

    So you must give to every word the right case to fit the right role in the logical analisys in the sentence.

    I write a letter with a pen
    Ja - personal pronoun, nominative case. I am the subject.

    pisu - well this is the verb...

    what do I write? a letter,direct object, so i must use the accusative.
    Dopis is an inanimate masculine noun. Nominative is dopis, accusative is still dopis.

    Now... what do I write the letter with? with a pen
    I must use instrumental.
    Pen is czech is pero, neuter.
    Its declension is pero, pera, peru, pero, pero, peru, perem...
    So perem!

    Ja pisu dopis perem"
  7. Tony P

    Tony P Member

    Having learnt my Czech solely from monolingual Czechs, I find this system of asking about cases both helpful and logical.
  8. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member


    How's this? From what appears to be a standard, neatly poetic, Czech phrase that I tried to figure out:

    Za to, že jsem naživu, děkuji jenom Tobě.

    Literally: Behind (za) it (i.e. ‚ the reason), that I’m alive, I (give) thank(s) only to you.

    Tobě – Komu?-Čemu – to what, to whom, indirect object (something is given to whom/what, in this case to 'you', 3rd dative).

    Although, my understanding is, Ti is supposed to be used without a preposition, and Tobě is used with a preposition. Is the mere fact that it is implied 'to you' the reason for not using Ti?

    Thanks as always, everyone...

  9. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

    Of course, I DO get the jist of it in English LOL. (It's thanks to you that I'm still alive. )

  10. Kikko

    Kikko Well-Known Member

    Yea there are two reasons to use tobe instead of ti.
    1) when there's a preposition + dative
    2) to emphasize it

    For example:
    Profesor odpovída mne a ne tobe
    The profesor is talking to me, not to you
    I use tobe to emphasize the fact that he speaks with me and not with you

    But personally I would have used ti ;)
  11. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    To pick up on a very old thread.

    I find this system useful for the simple reason, that I cannot memorize the order of the cases.

    I know that 1. pád = Nominatve... after that, I don't remember which number maps to which case-name. So, the kdo/co method works for me! :)

    When discussing the Dative (for example), I prefer to talk about "Komu? Čemu?" instead of "třetí pád" :wink:
  12. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Ok, I'm sure I'm wrong, but I need someone to explain to me why. Beside emphases, I would have thought to use tě. "Děkuji jenom tě" Because it's a verb, I thank. I thank what - I thank you. Just as one says Miluji tě, wouldn't one say Děkuji tě?
  13. bibax

    bibax Well-Known Member

    The verbal construction is

    děkovati někomu (dat.) za něco (acc.)

    literally to thank to a person for a thing

    Děkuji ti za pomoc. = lit. I thank to you for your help.
    Komu děkuješ? = lit. To whom do you thank?

    Like in German: danken jemandem (dat.) für etwas

    The person whom you thank must be in dative.
  14. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Ok, so then please explain why it's Miluji tě ??? These verbs milovat (to love) and děkovat (to thank) don't work the same way?
  15. bibax

    bibax Well-Known Member

    Miluji . ( is accusative of ty)
    Děkuji ti. (ti is dative of ty)

    Miluji maminku (acc.).
    Děkuji mamince (dat.).

    Like in German:

    Ich liebe dich (acc.). = I love you.
    Ich danke dir (dat.). = I thank you.

    Modern English is somewhat simplified in respect to cases.
  16. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    Ahoj Katko,
    Those verbs don't work the same.

    milovat takes a direct object (tě)
    But děkovat takes an indirect object (ti),
    same as dávat takes an indirect object: dávám komu něco:
    dávám ti knihu = I give the book(what) to you (to whom).

    I think that Bibax explained it more clearly than I can. I am no great grammar expert :?

  17. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Ok, you guys have told me that milovat take accusative and děkovat takes dative. What I wondered is WHY? The verbs appear the same yet one takes dative and one takes accusative. If I don't know why, how am I to know when I come across other verbs which one to use, dative or accusative?

    When I try to use english logic (the only logic I know) I ask:

    I love who?
    I thank who?

    yet, given Jana's example it's

    I love whom
    I thank to whom

    I guess I'm not understanding why there is a difference and how I'm suppose to know when to apply that difference on other verbs.
  18. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    I love whom (accusative - direct object)
    I give something to whom (to whom is dative - indirect object)

    I thank to whom for something (to whom is dative - indirect object)
    I agree, this one sounds weird in English.

    Another unusual one in Czech is rozumet (it takes dative).

    I guess you'll just have to memorize the dative verbs as you learn them.

    So much for my non-linguist, non-grammarian explanation :wink:
  19. bibax

    bibax Well-Known Member

    To thank is a cognate with German danken, danken takes dative like in Czech děkovat (ich danke dir).

    Are you sure that "you" in "I thank you" is the direct object?

    Maybe it is the same like in "I give you...":

    I give you something = I give something to you (in both cases you and to are indirect objects)
    I thank you for something = I thank for something to you
  20. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    And why “to say” takes indirect object and “to tell” the direct one. And why do you say “give me the document” and “give the document to me”?

    In fact, Czech is perfectly in the mainstream, English is exceptional:

    I love you = you are the object (→ accusative) of my love
    I thank you = you are the recipient (→ dative) of my thanks

    Maybe, you should think of the Czech verb “děkovat někomu” as of English “to say thanks to somebody”.

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