Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Czech Grammar #1

Czech is a Slavic language so it is related to Slovak, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Serbian, etc. I'm working hard to learn the language and the semi-private classes, twice a week, are helping a lot.

Here are some of the fun grammar things that make this language so challenging for a native English speaker.

There are no definate or indefinate articles...no "the", "an" or "a".

Nouns have gender so every noun is either masculine, feminine or neuter. And there are two types of masculine in Czech - animate or inanimate.

But since there are no articles (like "der", "die" & "das" in German) you have to look at the ending of every word to figure out the gender.

There is an informal and a formal "you". Like tu and vous in French. But personal pronouns aren't used that often (like in Spanish) because the verb lets you know what the missing pronoun should have been.

Czech uses prefixes, suffixes and infixes which can make words much longer than in English.

Word order is very fluid in Czech. The case system alters the ending of words to express grammatical relationships. For example, "The dog bites the man". If you change the word order of this sentence you get a completely different meaning in English. However, in Czech, you can rearrange this lots of different ways and depending on how each word ends...everyone knows exactly who was bitten.

Adjectives have to agree with the nouns...so the adjectives have to be in the correct gender, number (singluar or plural), and in the correct grammatical case.

Verbs are really easy and incredibly difficult. There are only 3 tenses...past, present and future. None of that "I had been doing" stuff we have in English. But verbs have aspect - which doesn't exist in English. The imperfective and perfective aspects basically mean that it takes two different verbs in Czech to do what English does with just one.

The past tense acts like an adjective because it has to agree in number and gender too.

The list just goes on and on and on...But it is a really nice feeling when I can go in to a restaurant or a shop and the locals actually understand me. Fortunately, I've got a great Czech teacher who is very patient. So I guess I need to quit writting this and get back to doing my homework.

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