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Grammar

Declension and Conjugation

Declension

Czech nouns, adjectives, most pronouns and some numerals are declined, i.e. they form cases. Cases are the word forms with specific endings. Czech is a synthetic language with flexible word order, and therefore it needs cases with their endings as "signals" that express grammatical relationships between words. Familiarize yourself with the basic meanings of cases:

1st case, nominative
The nominative is a vocabulary form. It expresses a subject in the sentence.
Student je ve škole.
2nd case, genitive
The genitive expresses a possessive or partitive meaning.
Kniha studenta.
3rd case, dative
The dative expresses an indirect object in the sentence.
Dám dárek studentovi.
4th case, accusative
The accusative expresses a direct object in the sentence.
Vidím studenta.
5th case, vocative
The vocative is a form with which we address people. In Czech if you want to address someone by name or call out to them by name you use the vocative case.
Adam – Adame! Eva – Evo!
6th case, locative
The locative expresses a location.
Jsem ve škole.
7th case, instrumental
The instrumental expresses a mean or instrument by which an activity is done.
Jedu autem.

These basic meanings are accompanied by other usage of cases. All verbs and prepositions in Czech have links with some case or cases. This part of the language students must learn through language exercises and drills. To understand better, you can imagine verbs and prepositions having a hook or hooks, which one or more cases can be hung from.

The summarizing case chart with detailed explanations can be found here (singular) and here (plural).

Conjugation

All Czech verbs are conjugated. The conjugation means that the verb changes its ending and thus expresses different persons. Personal pronouns (e.g. já, ty, on etc.) are in Czech, unlike many other languages, usually not used with verbs because the person's information is expressed by the verb ending. Personal pronouns are used with verbs only when we want to emphasize them (for example Já jsem doktor, ale ty ne.) = I'm a doctor, but not you., or in a commonly spoken language. Note: In the expression To je.../To není... = This is... /It's not... (for example when something or someone is pointed at), the demonstrative pronoun to = that is never omitted.

Formal and Informal Addressing

Note the difference between addressing vy (= vykání) and addressing ty (= tykání):
  • Odkud jste? (= formal singular or plural) x Odkud jsi? (= informal singular)
  • Co děláte? (= formal singular or plural) x Co děláš? (= informal singular)
  • A vy? (= formal singular or plural) x A ty? (= informal singular)

Foreign adults use the formal way of addressing (= vykání). Relatives, friends, children (up to about 15 years) are addressed informally (= tykání), also young people of the same age use the informal way to address each other. The informal way of addressing is usually offered by a woman or older or a senior bussiness person in this way: Můžeme si tykat? The usual answer is: Ano, rád/ráda.

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