Czech grammar

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by Lorenzo, Jul 7, 2002.

  1. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member


    I have been trying to put some Czech to use lately and “mam rad cesky jazyk”! :)
    Practice makes perfect but it also brings me here again with a few questions about grammar. ;-)
    One of the first things I learned about Czech is that there are no articles in this language but
    I came across the word “nejaky”. At first I thought it could be translated as “some” indicating an indefinite quantity as in “nejakí chlapci” but I later found out it can also mean “a, an”.
    Can “nejaky” be used as an indefinite article? Can I say “Mam nejakou knihu”?
    I have the impression it works exactly like in English with the word “some”.
    Can “ I know some man from Prague ” be translated as “ Znam nejakého muze z Prahy ”?

    Does “ktery (who) change according to the gender and the case the subject it refers to is as adjectives do? Is it “ktery (M), “ktera” (F) and “ktere” (N)?
    Is it correct to translate “I know the girl who can speak Czech” as “ Znam holku, kterOU mluvi cesky”? or is it “kterA mluvi cesky”?

    I also have a doubt about the use of the verb “myslet (to think):
    Is it a reflexive verb in Czech? Do I say “Myslim se, ze Dana je moc laskava” or just “Myslim, ze…”?

    One last question: Are “jo” and “no” two other words for “ano” in Czech?

    Thank you for your help!!


    P.S. I'm sorry for leaving out the Czech accents in the words I wrote but for some reason I can't seem to type them in this message box... I hope everything is understandable!
  2. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Ahoj Lorenzo and congrats on keeping up with your studies!

    The issue of substituting for nonexistent articles in Czech is a little tricky – as all of the Czech language is after all, isn’t it? I’ll try to shed some light on the subject.

    You can translate "nejaky/nejaka/nejake, etc." into English as:

    "some" - "Venku jsou nejaci chlapci" = "There are some boys outside"

    "a/an" – "Ctu knihu od Ernesta Hemingwaye" = "I’m reading a book by Ernest Hemingway" (here the word "some" would have a little different feel to it, it would sound too vague)

    Be careful and DO NOT use the word "nejaky" in place of EVERY indefinite article. It doesn’t work every time. Many times, we simply don’t put anything in front of a noun that in English (or Italian) has an indefinite article in front of it ("ctu knihu" = "I’m reading a book" / "ctu nejakou knihu" = "I’m reading some book"). A lot of times, your choice will depend on the context. If you say "Mam nejakou knihu", it can be translated as "I have some book" or "I have a book". It's possible to make a choice with more context.

    Going the other way, you can translate the English "some" into Czech as "nejaky/nejaka/nejake, etc.", but also as:

    "trochu" (a little) - "Give me some water" = "Dej mi trochu vody"

    "jeden/jedna/jedno" (one) - the perfect example is your sentence "I know some man from Prague." We would say "Znam jednoho muze z Prahy". "Nejakeho muze" sounds too vague, as if you didn’t really know the person.

    The pronoun "ktery" (who, which) does change according to the gender, case and number, just like adjectives do. As you correctly said, it is "ktery" (he), "ktera" (she), "ktere" (it), "kteri" (they – M), "ktere" (they – F), "ktera" (they – N).

    "I know the girl who can speak Czech" = "Znam holku, ktera mluvi cesky." You use the nominative (1st case), not the accusative (4th case) because "ktera" refers to the girl ("she" speaks Czech – nominative), not to the verb "znam" (which requires that the following noun be an accusative, that’s why there’s the ending "holkU", but the pronoun "ktera" is not affected).

    The verb "myslet" (to think) can be used alone or with "si" (not "se") as "myslet si". Again, you need context to decide which one to use. The two are often interchangeable. In the sentence you used as an example, more people would probably say "Myslim, ze Dana je moc laskava" (thank you, I’m happy to help!) although using "myslim si" is also possible. To be complete, you can also say "Ja myslim, ze..." or "Ja si myslim, ze...".

    Yes, "jo" and "no" are colloquial ways to say "ano", similar to the English "yeah".

    Whew! I hope my explanations are helpful and are not making things even more confusing. Thank you for registering on the boards and keep up the good work!
  3. Anke

    Anke Well-Known Member

    Hi Dana and Lorenzo,

    I have to thank you both for improving my Czech, too. Lorenzo by asking questions I never thought about, and Dana for answering them. Myslím (si), ze to je dobrý nápad ucit se cestinu s locallingem protoze tady jsou lidi, kteri umejí pomoct/opravovat. Dekuji za to.
  4. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member

    Hi Dana and Anke!

    Dano, dekuji mockrat za tvuj vyklad!
    You definitely shone a bright light on this subject!
    Your explanations are always so clear and useful to me!
    As you said, the Czech language can be a little tricky (well, “no” means yes!)… and just when I thought the reflexive verbs were accompanied by “se” here I find out they can also be associated with “si”! Does this depend on the case again? Could you please list a few of the most commonly used reflexive verbes that use “si” instead of “se”?
    Anke, ty mas pravdu! :)
    S locallingem je ma cestina ted lepsi!
    V srpnu navstivim Prahu a doufam, ze budu moci procvicovat ma cestinu! :)

  5. Anke

    Anke Well-Known Member

    Hi Lorenzo,

    as far as I know there are no rules in Czech when to use "se" instead of "si". You will have tolearn this when learning the verb. Sometimes, verbs are reflexive in Czech although they are not in other languages.

    Here are some examples:
    smát se - to laugh
    ptát se - to ask
    divit se - to be astonished/to wonder
    jmenovat se - to be called
    mýt se - to wash oneself

    hrát si - to play
    prát si - to wish
  6. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Good answer Anke! Lorenzo, it's like in Italian when I have to memorize things like "LA canzone", not "IL canzone", or "Praga DALLE cento torri", not "Praga DELLE cento torri". There seems to be no rule for that either. It's simply the way it is.

    Other verbs with "si":

    vzít (si), brát (si) - to take
    pamatovat si, vzpomenout si - to remember
    sednout (si) – to sit down (but: posadit se – to sit down)
    lehnout (si) – to lie down
    cist (si) – to read

    The reason I put most of the "si" in brackets is because many of these verbs can be used both with and without the "si". There is usually a slight difference in meaning, e.g. you can say "sedni!" / "lehni" to a dog but it would sound rude if said to a person. Also, "Pamatujes?" / "Vzpomínás?" ("Do you remember?"), "beru prásky" ("I’m taking medication").

    The reflexive "si" is often used in the meaning "for oneself", e.g. "varím si kávu" ("I'm making coffee for myself"), "uvarím ti kávu" ("I'll make you coffee"), "písu si deník" ("I’m writing a diary / journal" – for myself, my own private diary), "ctu si" ("I'm reading" - right now, don't disturb me), etc.

    Isn't it funny to be saying "no" and be nodding your head at the same time? [​IMG]
  7. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Hi Lorenzo! I have been learning Czech for abt 4 months and I must say I am impressed with how well you are doing. How long have you been learning and what books are you using? Do you have any opportunity to practise the language? Unfortunately (for me!!) my teacher goes home to Brno every summer for 2 months so I'm afraid I'm going to forget the little that I've learned with so much hard work! any tips you can give me?
  8. Ani

    Ani Well-Known Member

    Hi again! I hit the send button too quickly before and my user name came out as 'ni'!!
  9. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member

    Hi Anke and Dana!

    Thank you so much for your help and the list! :)
    I think I will soon come back with more questions! ;-)

  10. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member

    Hi Anna!
    Thank you for your message! It surely feels good to know someone is impressed by my progress in Czech :)
    I have been trying to learn some of the language for about a couple of months now. I have been to Prague several times on vacation (it’s such a beautiful city!) and as I like to learn at least a few expressions in the language spoken in the country I’m visiting on the eve of a trip to Prague I bought a little Czech phrase book with lots of expressions and some grammar notes. I started using a little Czech in Prague last summer, putting some simple expressions to purpose. I have always liked the sound of the Czech language and I have grown fond of it so I decided to try and learn some.
    In addiction to my phrasebook I also bought a little Italian-Czech dictionary with other grammar notes. The language section here on locallingo has been of great help too. The overview article on Czech grammar is really well done! At the moment the Internet is the only opportunity I have to practice the language. It’s also great to have this bulletin board and people willing to help (thank you Dana and Anke and Tereza!).

  11. Anke

    Anke Well-Known Member

    Hi Lorenzo,

    I know pretty well how fond you are with the Czech language. So keep practising and you will speak fluently soon :)
    I myself started learning Czech with a phrasebook and the internet. I used every possibility I had, such as reading online newspapers, chatting with Czech people, listening to the radio. In the beginning, it was hard to understand anything but as I continued I could understand more and more. So don´t give up even if the grammar is really tricky.
  12. Ani

    Ani Well-Known Member

    Hi Lorenzo and Anke
    Thanks for your help. I too have been to Prague twice and think it is the most beautiful city in the world! I have friends there too so I will keep on trying hard to learn this great language:)


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