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Postby Lorenzo » 13-Oct-02 0:00


I'm here again today!
I have been trying to translate a simple sentence into Czech:
"I'd like to write about his new song"
and this is what I have come up with
"Chtel bych psát o svuj novy písen".
(I know there are missing hacky and krouzek here...)
Now I'd like to know if this is correct...;-)

Thank you again for your help!

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Postby Dana » 13-Oct-02 0:50

Hi Lorenzo and welcome back!

Here is the translation:
"Chtel bych psát o jeho nové písni" - or "písnicce" (more informal, better choice if it is a pop music song).

If you use "svuj" here, it will mean "my". "Svuj" always refers to the subject of the sentence, in this case "I". It would mean "his" if the subject was "he".

"He'd like to write about his new song" = "Chtel by psát o své nové písni"
Here, "své" is the correct choice although you can hear "jeho" used incorrectly sometimes.

Some other notes:
- you need to use the 6th case here
- "písen" and "písnicka" are both feminine
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Postby Lorenzo » 13-Oct-02 18:31

Hi Dana!

Thank you for your help with my shaky translation ;-)
I think I should have used the word "písnicka" here as I was actually referring to a pop song.
I have realized the blunder I have made putting "svuj" in this sentence, just a simple word and I have changed the meaning of my statement!
So "svuj" could also be translated as "my own", "his own"?
I thought I had used the right case for the word "pisen" but now I have found out that the preposition "o" must be followed by the locative and not the accusative in this case!
When should "o" be followed by the 4th case (accusative)?
Is it "Snim o mestu" (6th case) or "Snim o mesto" (4th case)?
By the way, noticing that in "Chtel bych psát o jeho nové písni", the article "jeho" remains unchanged in the 6th case I have checked out the possessive adjectives in my phrase book and in most cases I have three alternatives for the feminine and neuter.
As an example for the 1st case feminine it's "moj-e/má while for neuter it's moj-e/mé.
You say "MÁ cestina" but I think you have to say "MOJ ucitelka" (?).
What is the rule? You use "MÁ" with words that begin with a consonant and "MOJ" with those that begin with a vowel? Or have I completely gone astray on this one? =:-O

Sometimes Prague's place names can be of help practising the possessive :-)
Karluv most (M), Karlova ulice (F) and Karlovo Namesti (N) but just when I had started to believe the Czech language was practising on the streets what it preaches in grammar books ;-) I came to grips with this: "basen mladého basnikA".
Why isn't it "basnikOVA", being "basnik" a masculine name?

I know I must have asked a few confused questions but this translation has aroused my interest! :-)

Thank you for your attention!

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Postby Dana » 16-Oct-02 1:17

Ahoj Lorenzo!

Good questions! Here are the answers:

Possessive Pronoun "svuj"

Yes, "svuj" basically means "my own", "his own". It is a possessive pronoun that relates to the subject of the sentence. Here are a few examples:

Zavolám svému príteli / své prítelkyni. - I will call MY friend (M / F).
BUT Zavolají mému príteli. - THEY will call MY friend. (the subject is "they", but the object - "friend" - relates to me, not to the subject)

Zeptej se svých rodicu. - Ask your parents. (YOU ask YOUR parents)
BUT Zeptej se mých rodicu. - Ask my parents. (YOU ask MY parents)

Prisla se svým psem. - She came with her dog.
BUT Prisel s jejím psem. - He came with her dog. (the dog doesn't belong to him but to her)
If the dog was his, Prisel se svým psem - He came with his dog.

Preposition "o"

Whenever the preposition "o" means "about", it has to be followed by the locative.
I dream of (about) a city. - Sním o mestu.
I like to read about nature. - Rád(a) ctu o prírode.
I heard about the accident. - Slysel(a) jsem o té nehode.

The accusative is used when "o" has other meanings than "about", for example:
to be interested in (nature) - zajímat se o (prírodu)
to play for money - hrát o peníze BUT to talk about money - mluvit o penezích (loc.)
to bet money - vsadit se o peníze
to lean against (a wall) - opírat se o (zed)

Possessive Pronouns "Moje/Má", "Moje/Mé"

You have two (not three) alternatives for the feminine and neuter possessive pronoun. One is "moje" and the other is "má" (F) and "mé" (N). The reason why "moj-e" is written with the dash (-) in your book is to point out that the part "moj" always stays the same, while the ending changes with declension:

nom. moje (F) moje (N)
gen. mojí (F) mojeho (N)
dat. mojí (F) mojemu (N)
acc. moji (F) moje (N)
loc. mojí (F) mojem (N)
ins. mojí (F) mojím (N)

I have good news for you. The long version ("moje") and short versions ("má", "mé") are completely interchangeable, so you can use whichever one whenever you want. You can say "má cestina" or "moje cestina", as well as "má ucitelka" or "moje ucitelka".

Declension for the short versions:

nom. má (F) mé (N)
gen. mé (F) mého (N)
dat. mé (F) mému (N)
acc. mou (F) mé (N)
loc. mé (F) mém (N)
ins. mou (F) mým (N)


Ok, your example shows us nicely that the Czech language indeed is practicing on the streets what it preaches in grammar books. :) The reason why "básen mladého básníka" is not using the possessive suffix -ova is that here the "básen" ("poem") is "owned" by an object that consists of multiple words that are not all nouns. You can only add a possessive suffix (-ova etc.) to a noun, but here the poem is owned not by a "básník" ("poet") but by a "mladý básník" ("young poet"). And because there's no way to add a possessive suffix to an adjective ("mladý"), we have to resort to declension to express the possessiveness.


possessive suffix (when the "owner" is a noun):
Karluv most - Charles Bridge (really Charles' Bridge)
bratruv dum - (my) brother's house
básníkova básen - a poet's poem

declension using the genitive (when the "owner" includes words other than nouns):
Praha Karla Ctvrtého - Prague of Charles the Fourth (in this case it's the same in English - you wouldn't say "Charles the Fourth's Prague")
dum mého starsího bratra - the house of my older brother
básen mladého básníka - a poem of a young poet

I hope it all makes sense!
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Postby Bohaemus » 18-Oct-02 21:17

Mám otázku týkající se angličtiny:

Romulus has stabbed Remus with his sword.

Komu ten meč patřil?

Lze přesně vyjádřit následující rozdíl?
  • Romulus probodl Rema svým mečem.
  • Romulus probodl Rema jeho mečem.
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Postby Dana » 18-Oct-02 23:36

Zajímavá otázka. Z uvedené anglické vety není gramaticky jasné, komu mec patril. A jak tak o tom premýslím, tak me krome nemotorného vyjádrení typu "Romulus has stabbed Remus with Remus' sword" nenapadá, jak jinak by se v anglictine dal v tomto prípade rozdíl mezi "svým" a "jeho" vyjádrit.
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Postby Lorenzo » 20-Oct-02 20:24

Hi Dana!

Thank you again for your explanations and help!
Everything is clearer now! So I can also both say "Moje mesto" and "Mé mesto", right?
Bohaemus has come around with his tricky question and I have realized that Italian has the same limitation as English in expressing possession in the Romolus/Remus situation. Czech seems to be more flexible. It's also true with cases, you always know which role every word has in the sentence.
As for possessives I should have remembered what you had already told me in a previous lesson! But I think this time the lesson has been brought home! :-)
Still I think I need to find the rule here! ;-)
So if the owner is a masculine noun associated with an adjective (i.e. dobry vojak) the noun is put at the end of the phrase and the suffix "A" is added to it (otc-A)? Would it be "Zbran dobreho vojakA"?
What if the owner were a "mlada holka" instead?
Thinking about possessives and the streets of Prague again, one place and name come to my mind now: Namesti Miru!
Here's a contradictory piece of street grammar! ;-)
The situation is the same as in Karlovo Namesti: masculine noun (Karel) owning a neuter noun (Namesti) so why isn't it "Mirovo Namesti"?
Is it maybe because it would sound odd to "Czech ears"? ;-) (I like "Namesti Miru" better anyway) Or maybe because we have to make a distinction between people's names and inanimate objects?

And now something I'm curious about… :-)
There's a word I often bump into and that is "uz". What does it mean?
I looked it up in my (small) dictionary but I could not find it.
The example I can bring is the title of a book by Hrabal:
Inzerat na dum, ve kterem uz nechci bydlet. "Uz nechci bydlet" has been translated as "I no longer want to live (in)". Is adding "uz" to "nechci" that we can translate "I no longer want"? Is it correct to say "Uz nepracuji v Rime"?
What's the difference between "Jak dlouho UZ se ucis cesky?" and "Jak dlouho se ucis cesky?".
Another thing that I'd like to know is why sometimes the English “IN” is translated in Czech as "V" and in some other case as "NA".
I know I have to say "Potrebujeme mir NA svete" but "Mam hlavu V oblacich".
I was skimming through some old Czech "Malostranske povidky" and something caught me eye. I noticed that Czech words were spelt differently. For example I found "Petrzin" (z with "hacek"), Przikopy (z with "hacek") and Mjesto and instead of "Petrin" (r with "hacek"), mesto (e with "hacek") and (Na) Prikope (z and e with "hacek").
Is it some kind of "Old Czech" spelling? More similar to Polish? Or maybe it just depends on the fact that I have an Italian translation of the 1930's? Just curious ;-)

Hoping to find some more enlightening answers to my questions I thank you all!

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Postby Dana » 29-Oct-02 2:45

Hi Lorenzo,

Sorry for the late response.

Yes, you can say both "moje město" and "mé město".

You got it right with the adjective-noun possessives. In Czech, we almost always put the adjective in front of the noun, not after the noun as is common in Italian, and in that case possessiveness is expressed by applying genitive to both the adjective and noun. Thus the possessive form of "dobrý voják" is "dobrého vojáka" (the guide noun is "pán" here, not "muž" or "otec" - the genitive for "otec" is "otce", not "otca"). If the owner is a "mladá holka", you apply the genitive to both words again and the possessive form is "mladé holky".

As far as Naměstí Míru goes, you need to use the genitive instead of the possessive suffix "-ovo" because "mír" is an inanimate noun and cannot "own" anything. As in English, you wouldn't say "Peace's Square" but "Square of Peace".


I'm surprised you didn't find "už" in a dictionary since it's an extremely common word. It simply means "already" (positive) or "no longer"/"not anymore" (negative as in "už ne-"). The bookish form of "už" is "již".

He's already here. - Už je tady.
I already know that. - Už to vím.
I no longer want to live there. - Už tam nechci bydlet.
I no longer work in Rome. - Už nepracuji v Římě.

The difference between "Jak dlouho UŽ se učíš česky?" and "Jak dlouho se učíš česky?" is the same as in the English "How long have you been studying Czech ALREADY?" versus "How long have you been studying Czech?". The meaning of both sentences is the same, "už" just adds a little bit of a different feel, emphasizing the time that has passed since you started studying.

"V" versus "NA"

A general difference between "v" and "na" is that "v" usually means "inside" while "na" means "on a surface". There will be instances though when you'll simply have to memorize when "v" and "na" are used. You might just as well wonder why in English you say "on the table" but also "on television" instead of "in television", why you have to say "at home", not "in home", etc.

v domě - in a house x na domě - on a house (on the roof)
v šuplíku - in a drawer x na stole - on the table
ve městě - in the city/in town x na náměstí - on the square
ve zdi - in the wall (e.g. a nail) x na zdi - on the wall (e.g. a painting)
v České republice - in the Czech Republic x on the Earth - na Zemi

v pátek - on Friday
na světě - in the world
na koncertě - at a concert

Old Czech

What you saw in "Povídky malostranské", which is the original title (placing the adjective after the noun was common in old Czech), was indeed old Czech, although I am somewhat surprised at the use of the "rz" combination, which I wouldn't expect in a book written in the 19th century. Czech diacritical marks were introduced by Jan Hus 600 years ago and replaced the "rz" combination that is still used in Polish. On the other hand, you say that the "z" did have a háček over it, so I'm not sure how to comment on that. I'm not an expert on old Czech. I know that "mjesto" was used instead of "město".

Hope this helps!

[This message has been edited by Dana (edited October 28, 2002).]
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Postby Lorenzo » 03-Nov-02 1:17

Hi and thank you, Dana, for your explanation!

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Postby Wicker808 » 29-Apr-04 11:09

Vim, ze to je strasne stary predmet, ale chtel jsem aspon trochu prispivet. Na otazku Bohaema, ohledne vyjadreni "svuj" a "jeho" v anglictine v dvojznacne souvislosti, ja bych doporucil spis rozsireni vety takhle:

Romulus grabbed his sword and stabbed Remus with it.
(Romulus popadl svuj mec a tim Rema probodl.)

Romulus grabbed Remus's sword and stabbed him with it.
(Romulus popadl Remusuv mec a tim ho probodl.)

Obe vyse zminene vety zni prijatlene, pokud vim, a jednoznacne vyjadrujou, kdo majitel mece vlastne je. Jak se zminila Dana, puvodni ceskou vetou se asi neda vyjadrit presne anglicky. Doufam, ze to ti pomuze.

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