How to tell the difference: Perfect / Imperfect verbs

Discussion in 'Grammar & Pronunciation' started by flapcats, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. flapcats

    flapcats Member


    "Uvarim pasta" I will cook pasta = perfect (just this once)
    "Varim Pasta" I cook pasta = Imperfect (ongoing, like it's my job or something)

    I need to write about things I'll be doing (New years resolutions actually)
    ... thing is, my dictionary doesn't list which verbs are perfect and which imperfect.

    Is there a rule for deciding which is which, it seems that perfect verbs often have 'na' and 'u' at the start, but others - like Jist (imp) and Snist (perf) are just totally different.
  2. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    The book you want is 401 Czech Verbs by Bruce Davies and Jana Hejduková ISBN 80-239-7260-X. It's invaluable for the conjugation and meaning of verbs, perfective and imperfective.
  3. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Wish I had that book, Polednikova. I've heard it is very useful and easy to understand.
  4. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    Is it not possible to buy over the Internet?
  5. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Alexxi, I think it is, but it is really expensive. Something like $60. :shock:
  6. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    Here's some information about it.

    I can't remember what I paid for it here in Prague, but I can't believe it was anything like the equivalent of $60. Next time I'm in town, I'll have a look and see if I can find out how much it would cost to post a copy to you!
  7. phi11ip

    phi11ip Well-Known Member

    I bought my copy from their internet site (see Poledkinova's post). The book was 500Kč and postage 200Kč (to UK). This was a couple of years ago though.
  8. flapcats

    flapcats Member

    I couple of guys on my course have that book - it does look good, but I can't carry it everywhere.

    I was after some sort of formula for converting the majority of imperfect / perfect verbs to their counterpart.

    Anyone know such 'rule of thumb' (I.e: I know there will be exceptions, but something that'll get my by in the field.

    Cheers and I'll check out the book the next time I'm passing Wenceslas sq:)
  9. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    I know it is off topic, but I just got first book I bought from the internet abroad and I simply have to share some information :):

    I ordered it on, $20/book, $8/postage, all together it was 595 Kč.

    I did not find the same book in local map/guide stores in Prague at all (newest Rough Guide India - 7th edition, 8/2008), only sixth (11/2005), which usually costs 790 Kč.

    So do not be worry to look for books in the States, you can even save money.

    Btw, I paid the lowest possible fare for postage, there were some faster options. They shiped the book January 19th and they sent me an email I should expect to get it March 2nd! I got it today (January 29th), so no extra fare for faster delivery is needed I guess.
  10. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Am I wrong in thinking it's similar to perfects in english?

    As in

    I have cooked pasta (present perfect)
    (by tomorrow or some time in the future) I will have cooked pasta (future perfect)
    I had cooked pasta (past perfect)

    It makes much more sense to have a separate verb than to throw have and had around all willy nilly all the time ... but anyway telling them appart? Haven't a clue.
  11. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    David I'm pretty sure I ordered mine from some company here in Michigan. It came quickly and I think it was only around $30. I'll try to find out where I got it from and let you know.
  12. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    I think you're right, CK, in that it's all to do with the fact that Czech doesn't have all the tenses we have in English. So your examples would be, I think:

    I have cooked pasta (tonight) = Uvařila jsem... but
    but I have cooked pasta (every Friday night this year) = Vařila jsem...
    I will have cooked (the/some) pasta (by the time our guests arrive) = Uvařila jsem... but
    I will cook that pasta dish (I saw in the magazine) = Budu vařit ...

    But I think Flapcats is talking more about identifying what form the perfective takes ie if you know the imperfective is vařit, can you work out what the perfective is? Sadly, I think the answer is no and you just have to try to learn them as you come across them because there are lots of different prefixes and the ending usually change as well. :?
  13. flapcats

    flapcats Member

    Thanks Polednikova,

    It is as I suspected then :?
    I'll check out the 401 book next time I'm in Prague too.
  14. jen

    jen Well-Known Member

    I'm just doing these now in my Czech lessons, and no, there is NO rule of thumb! You just have to memorize them :(

    401 Czech Verbs is whatever it takes to get a copy!
  15. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    I went to Prauge just to get it hee hee, anyway it was defiantly worth while, but as someone said before in another thread I think the first few phrasebook pages were a waste of time as you really won't need the book before an A2 level and by that stage you can get around okay.

    It's a really wonderful book though, I wish there was a normal Czech dictionary of the same quality and level of detail!
  16. szkott

    szkott Member

    I'm also having a hard time remembering the associated imperfective. It's especially hard when they are completely different, such as with jit and chodit... well, except that example of course

    and to respond to Ctyri koruny asking if it's similar to the perfects, i.e. present perfect and past perfect: I don't think so.
    I would say it's similar to the simple past and the present perfect continuous:

    I cooked the spaghetti (it's done) - Uvařil jsem špagety.
    I've been cooking the spaghetti (it's still cooking) - Vařil jsem špagety.

    but even then I'm not so sure if I've got it right...
    this is probably the most difficult thing to learn in English.

    actually, it's similar but you can't really compare the two:

    I cook spaghetti (for a living) - Vařil jsem špagety...
    I will cook the spaghetti now - Uvařím špagety...
    I've cooked spaghetti before (I know how to do it) - Vařil jsem špagety...
    I cooked spaghetti yesterday - Uvařil jsem špagety...
    I've been cooking spaghetti all week - ?Vařil jsem špagety?

    It's really difficult and unfortunately there's no rule about how to make the imperfective...
    It's definitely more nuanced to have a different word for imperfect and perfect forms, but it sure makes it a difficult language to learn.
  17. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    That's the present perfect continuous!

    I am dead confused. I think the best thing is to remember there is no equivalent grammar point in English and just accept it as an untranslatable point. Like the word "unless"
  18. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    My words, the verbal aspect is not verbal tense!

    It is not untranslatable. In English, you can express the idea of perfective verb with the verb “finish” or with constructions like “I have done the…”.
    The problem is that the English ignores the difference on most occasions.

    unless = ledaže

    But the common way to express the same idea is through negation.
  19. szkott

    szkott Member

    I realize that verb aspect is not verb tense. My problem is that I generally don't think of the aspect when I'm using English. It's there (sort of), but it doesn't really seem to correspond exactly to Czech (I'm only a beginner in Czech and maybe I will understand my own usage of English better as I progress). Not only that, but the aspect in English seems to be so completely enmeshed with the tense as to be almost impossible to separate.

    How would you translate Uvařím and Vařím without context?
    It's only sort of possible in the past tense, but in the present tense in English, there's no way to differentiate using only the verb.

    I will cook this until it's done vs. I cook this regularly or I am cooking this, but it's not done yet, or I am cooking this over a longer period of time and will have to keep coming back to check on it... I haven't yet grasped how to truly in a deeper way understand aspect. I sort of understand it intellectually, but I just can't seem to "live" it, if you know what I mean.

    The aspect just doesn't usually play a role in my thoughts and that's why it's so difficult for me to absorb. Any thoughts as to how to make this easier would be greatly appreciated.
  20. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    vařil jsem, uvařil jsem = I cooked
    vařím = I cook
    uvařím, budu vařit = I will cook

    That’s the problem, you need the context for the right translation.

    Budu to vařit, dokud to neuvařím.

    Vařím/vařívám to často/pravidelně.

    Vařím to, ale ještě to není uvařeno.

    Budu to vařit delší dobu a budu to muset chodit kontrolovat. (a budu se na to muset chodit koukat.)

    You should practise the aspect and the verbal tenses separately, because if you practise it at once, you can’t be never sure whether you misunderstand the aspect or the verbal tense.

    Try it with the imperative mood, that is tenseless:

    (ne)otevři okno = (don’t) finish the process of opening the window ~ (don’t) make the window open

    (ne)otvírej okno = (don’t) enter (stay in) the process of opening the window ~ (don’t) try to open the window

    Don’t try to transform an English sentence into a Czech one, try to express the same idea (I mean the intended idea, not all the possible meanings of the sentence) with these instruments:

    The verbal tense gives you information on time relatively to a reference point:

    past tense → at some point before the reference point
    present tense → at the reference point
    future time → at some point after the reference point

    In English, the refence point is absolute, it’s always “this very moment”. In Czech, the reference point starts with “this very moment”, but with every action it is shifted to the point of the action. In Czech, you can use the same tense to refer to different points relatively to the same reference point.

    EN: She said she was there. (Both verbs relatively to the same reference point which is this very moment.)

    CZ: Řekla, že tam je. (First verb relatively to this very moment, second verb relatively to the reference point which was set by the first verb.)

    The aspect gives you information on the nature of the process:

    perfective verb → the action is finished at the given point (the action is not performed after the given point; the action is performed during infinitesimally short time interval instantly before the given point; there is no more information)

    imperfecive verb → the action is in process at the given point (the action is performed during infinitesimally short time interval before and after the given point; there is no more information)

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