Declension of Czech surnames

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by stelingo, Jul 19, 2009.

  1. stelingo

    stelingo Member

    I have spent nearly an hour looking through all my grammar books and on the internet for the rules on declining Czech surnames and unbelievably have not been able to find the information anywhere. I'd appreciate it if someone could write out how the surname Novák declines in the plural. I think in the plural it declines like a normal masculine noun?
  2. bibax

    bibax Well-Known Member

    The Czech surnames are declined like ordinary nouns and adjectives (Novák, Nový). Rarely they are indeclinable (Janů = gen. plur.). There are problems mainly with the surnames of foreign origin (Le Breux, a Czech actor, for example).

    Novák is declined the same way like žák, pták, silák, Polák, ...:

    Sing. Novák, Nováka, Novákovi, Nováka, Nováku!, Novákovi, Novákem

    Plur. Novákové (Nováci), Nováků, Novákům, Nováky, Novákové!, Novácích, Nováky
  3. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    In fact there is an issue in plural...

    "Nováci/Novákové" would mean to me a group of people whose surname is "Novák" but who are unrelated to one another. However, if they form a family, the correct form is that of a possessive adjective from this name in masculine plural, which declines in other cases like adjectve "mladý":

    Novákovi, Novákových, Novákovým, Novákovy, Novákovi!, Novákových, Novákovými
  4. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Novákovi is not plural of Novák, it's a separate adjectival form (not possessive by the way).

    But I agree it could be confusing for English natives because both the forms coincide in English.
  5. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    "Novákovi" is not really a plural of "Novák", that is true, but you do not come very often to the real plural "Nováci"... if one wants to designate the family of Novaks, he uses form "Novákovi", not "Nováci" (the latter can be considered derogatory).

    And it is a possessive (or at least it has the exactly same form, i.e. it is declined in exactly the same way)

    Novákovi (the Novak family)
    bez Novákových (without the Novak family)

    Novákovi muži (the Novak's men)
    bez Novákových mužů (without the Novak's man)

    Perhaps you are refering to the ending -ová, which is often considered a possessive form although it really is not...
  6. bibax

    bibax Well-Known Member

    In this particular case, it is not true. 8)
  7. wer

    wer Well-Known Member


    Yes, the plural forms are declined the same way.

    The endings "-ovi" and "-ová" share the same productive suffix "-ov" and differs in endings only.

    The singular form "-ová" is surname of one particular person, hence it uses the definite adjectival forms (Nováková ~ mladá). The plural forms are indefinite and thus use nominal (indefinite) adjectival forms (Novákovi ~ mládi, sestry Novákovy ~ mlády, dítka Novákova ~ mláda) which coincides with the forms of possessive Novákův.

    In old Czech the suffix "-ov" was omitted for male surnames as non-productive. The hypothetical regular male surname would be "Novákový", not "Novákův".
  8. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    The way you explain it makes me think that my original thesis that "Novákovi" is de facto a plural of "Novák" is true :D Anyway, I think the best possible answer for a foreigner is that it functions the same as a possessives. I can't really think of any actual use for the real plurals (Nováci) except of some highly situational.
  9. stelingo

    stelingo Member

    I finally found the declension in one of my grammar books. However it differs from the above pattern

    Mrázkovi, Mrázkovy, Mrázků, Mrázkům, Mrázkových, Mrázkovými.

    Still confused. :(
  10. Eleshar

    Eleshar Well-Known Member

    Interesting... it seems in some cases (grammatical cases), you may use both forms. The "plural" I wrote, is completely valid but sometimes you can use the "regular form" although I would say it is less frequent.

    nom. Mrázkovi k nám přišli
    gen. Bez Mrázkových to nezvládneme / Bez Mrázků to nezvládneme
    dat. Zašli jsme k Mrázkovým / Zašli jsme k Mrázkům
    acc. Viděli jsme Mrázkovy (but not "viděli jsme *Mrázky")
    voc. ---
    loc. Četli jsme o Mrázkových v novinách (but not "četli jsme o *Mrázcích")
    ins. Šli jsme tam s Mrázkovými (but not "šli jsme tam s *Mrázky")

    And as I am looking at it, there is probably a slight nuance... the forms "Mrázků" and "Mrázkům" imply it is not really a family but a... firm. For example there is a famous Czech inn "U Fleků" which is the case... Flekovi, bez Fleků, ke Flekům, vidím Flekovy,...

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