Grammar constructions

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by Lorenzo, Jul 25, 2002.

  1. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member


    I have been dabbling in Czech again :) and I think I found out how to say "I want you to know that": "Chci, abys to vedel" but this grammar structure is a bit of mystery to me. Why is the verb in the past tense? What does the word "abys" exactly mean? I checked the term "aby" in my dictionary and it means "that". Does it become "abys" because it refers to the second person? Or maybe is it just a mistake?
    Is "Chci, aby(s) to cetl" the correct translation of "I want you to read that"?
    I have also tried my hand at future tense and it seems to me there is more than one way to make future constructions in Czech. I think it depends on the situation and the action described.
    I know that I can translate "I hope we will talk soon again" as "Doufam, ze spolu BUDEME brzo mluvit" but why is "I will travel to Prague by train" "Pojedu vlakem do Prahy" and not "BUDU jet? Does it depend on the verb?
    Another interesting subject is possessives"
    I know possession in Czech is expressed by the use of declensions turning names into adjectives but is there a rule that establish which name comes first in this construction?
    Why is it "Karluv Most" and "Profily hracu"?
    Hoping to find all the answers to my questions in these boards again I thank you all for your help!

  2. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi Lorenzo and welcome back to the mysteries of the Czech language! I'll do my best to try and answer your intriguing questions. :)

    Constructions with "aby"

    "Chci, abys to věděl" is a correct translation of "I want you to know that". The word "aby" is a conjunction and means "so that, in order to". It is used here because that's how constructions like "I want something to happen" or "I want someone to do something" are created in Czech. Examples:

    I want you to leave. - Chci, abys odešel / odešla.
    I want him to leave. - Chci, aby odešel.
    I want the weather to be nice. - Chci, aby bylo hezky.
    I want us to be friends. - Chci, abychom byli přátelé.
    I want you (plural) to be happy. - Chci, abyste byli šťastni.
    I want them to stop talking. - Chci, aby přestali mluvit.

    As you can see, the word "aby" changes based on the person it refers to. Here is the complete set:

    abych - já
    abys - ty (shortened from "aby jsi")
    aby - on, ona, ono
    abychom - my
    abyste - vy (shortened from "aby jste")
    aby - oni

    The verb that is used in the sentence that begins with "aby" is always in the "past tense". It is not really past tense but rather the conditional form of the verb. If you look up conditionals (podmiňovací způsob) in your book, you will see that they are partially formed like the past tense.

    The "aby" constructions always follow this pattern, no matter in what person or tense the verb in the first sentence is. Examples:

    I will want you to read that = Budu chtít (1st person, future tense), abys to četl
    They wanted you to read that = Chtěli (3rd person plural, past tense), abys to četl
    We would like you to read that = Chtěli bychom (1st person plural, conditional), abys to četl

    The translation of "I want you to read that" is "Chci, abys to četl"
    "I want him to read that" = "Chci, aby to četl"
    "I want her to read that" = "Chci, aby to četla"
    "us, you (plural), them" = "abychom to četli, abyste to četli, aby to četli"

    Note: Remember to always place a comma in front of "aby" in a sentence.

    Future Tense

    There are two ways to make future constructions in Czech - either by expressing the future tense in just one word by changing the verb (usually by adding a prefix and changing the stem), or by using the "to be" in future tense + infinitive construction. Here are some tips on what to use when:

    1) Sometimes the choice depends on the particular verb. Some verbs require only one of the two possible ways to form future tense - e.g. the future tense of "I will go" is always "pojedu" (by car) or "půjdu" (on foot), never "budu jet", "budu jít".

    2) Sometimes you can use both constructions with the same verb but with a slightly different meaning - e.g. "I will talk to him" = "Budu s ním mluvit" is a neutral way to say that you will be talking to someone, whereas "Promluvím si s ním" implies that you will be talking to someone about a particular thing, problem, etc.

    3) And then there is the issue of the "verb aspect" ("slovesný vid" in Czech), which, as you correctly pointed out, has to do with the action described by the verb. There are two "verb aspects" in Czech - "dokonavý" (used for a one-time, finished action) and "nedokonavý" (used for a repeated or unfinished action). In most cases, the "dokonavý vid" uses the one-word future constructions, the "nedokonavý vid" uses the "to be" + infinitive future constructions. Examples:

    "I will read a book next week" - "Příští týden BUDU ČÍST knihu" (over the course of the whole week, repeatedly, I don't know if I'll finish the book)
    "I will read the article tonight" - "PŘEČTU si ten článek dnes večer" (I will read it from beginning to end)

    "I will write a letter" - "BUDU PSÁT dopis" (doesn't specify over what time period and if I'll finish writing it) x "NAPÍŠU dopis" (I'll start and finish writing it)

    "I will learn Czech" - "BUDU SE UČIT česky" (doesn't specify how advanced I'll become) x "NAUČÍM SE česky" (I'll learn Czech to the point when I don't have to continue learning it, I'll become fluent)


    Like in English, Czech has two ways to form possessives: by adding a possessive suffix (e.g. "Petrova kniha" - "Peter's book") or by declension ("Praha Karla Čtvrtého" - "Prague of Charles the Fourth"). I'm not sure what all the rules are that dictate when to use which - maybe someone else can help us here.

    One rule is that you can only add a possessive suffix to a noun, and I think it always has to be in the singular. E.g. "Karlův most" but "Praha Karla Čtvrtého" (you can't add a possessive suffix to the numeral "Čtvrtý", so you have to use declension). You can say "bratrův dum" ("my brother's house") but you have to use declension if you want to use the possessive pronoun "můj" - "dům mého bratra" or use multiple words that describe your brother - "dům mého staršího bratra Petra". You can say both "profil hráče" and "hráčův profil", but only "profily hráčů" (plural).

    As you can see, sometimes you can use either way to express possessiveness ("profil hráče", "hráčův profil") but in some cases one of the ways is a better choice (e.g. you could theoretically say "most Karla" instead of "Karlův most" but it would sound strange and clumsy).

    [This message has been edited by Dana (edited May 14, 2003).]
  3. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member

    Dana, thank you a lot for your precious help! I was lost in the mists of grammar and you pulled me out once again! Your explanations always hit the mark! :)
    I had a vague idea of what "dokonavy" and "nedokonavy" verbs were while now it makes some sense to me! I like all these different shades in the Czech language though they make grammar pretty tricky! ;-)
    It seems to me these prefixes put before verbs act a little like word endings in the seven cases changing the meaning of the sentence or the role played by the noun or verb (in this case) they apply to. (Rough comparison, I know!)
    Do all verbs of motion add a prefix to make a future construction?
    What are the main prefixes? "Po/Pre" and "na"?
    I suppose there's not a rule that tells us which is the right prefix to use for each verb and it works a bit like with "se" and "si" for the reflexive...
    The possessive is also much clearer now but I can see there's no escape and I guess I will have to learn all the cases: otcuv otcova ;-)
    In the meanwhile I have come up with another query:
    I have recently come across the question "Co jsi TO sned" (What did you eat).
    What is the role of "TO" in this question? Is it used to give emphasis to the phrase?
    Thank you again for your attention and help!

  4. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi Lorenzo,

    Not all verbs of motion have to have a prefix added to make a future construction. Some can also form future constructions with "byt" + infinitive - the difference is usually in the "vid".

    I will swim - budu plavat / poplavu
    I will climb - budu lézt / polezu
    I will run - budu bezet / pobezím

    The common prefixes are "po-", "pre-", "na-". "Pre-" often means "over, across", e.g. "preplavat reku" (to swim across a river), "prelézt plot" (to climb over a fence), "prebehnout silnici" (to run across the road). Otherwise, you will usually have to learn what prefix goes with each verb in a particular situation.

    I think you're right about the "to" in "Co jsi to sned?". It is possible to omit it from the sentence and say "Co jsi sned?" but the "to" adds emphasis and an element of surprise to the question. You could translate the question as "What was that you ate?" By the way, the word "sned" is in a colloquial form. The grammatically correct version should be "snedl".
  5. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member

    Thank you again, Dana! :)
    I just can't wait to use my Czech in Praha! ;-)

  6. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    When are you going there?
  7. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member

    Next sunday I will be in Prague and I will stay there for a couple of weeks! :)
  8. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Lucky you!!
  9. Lorenzo

    Lorenzo Well-Known Member

    Yes, I feel lucky to have been and to know such a marvellous city like Praha...
    A summer sunset on Karluv Most, Staromestske Namesti at night, a walk along the Vltava... the fascination the Mother of Town has on me... and well... on so many others... I have to come back and I will :)
  10. Bohaemus

    Bohaemus Well-Known Member

    Malá poznámka:

    "abys" není zkrácené "aby jsi", tak jako abych není zkrácené "aby jsem"

    bych, bys, ... jsou zvláštní tvary slovesa být
  11. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Dekuji za opravu!

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