Sunday, September 19, 2010

Czech Cases

I posted before a little bit about how complicated Czech grammar is. But the thing that really makes it difficult is that Czech has 7 different cases. The ending of a Czech word changes depending on how that word functions in a sentence. It ends one way if it is the subject, but it ends a different way if the word is the direct object, and another way if it is the indirect object, etc. When you learn a preposition in Czech you also have to learn which case it requires. We sort of have this in English. I changes to me. She changes to her. Who changes to whom. But this is nothing compared to Czech! You have to learn the endings of each case. But the endings are different depending on if the word is masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine or neuter. The endings are also different if the word is singular or plural. And of course there are always lots of exceptions to the rules. Ježíš Maria!!
Case 1 (nominative) is the subject of a sentence
Case 2 (genitive) shows possession
Case 3 (dative) is the indirect object of a sentence 
Case 4 (accusative) is the direct object of a sentence 
Case 5 (vocative) shows the addressee; used when "calling out" to someone 
Case 6 (locative) shows location 
Case 7 (instrumental) shows the instrument of doing something

Here are some simple examples using two common Czech names - Petr and Hana. 
Case #1 - Petr je tady. Hana je tady. Peter is here. Hana is here. 
Case #2 - Bratr Petra. Bratr Hany. Peter's brother. Hana's brother. 
Case #3 - Dám Petrovi pivo. Dám Haně pivo. I will give Peter/Hana beer. 
Case #4 - Znám Petra. Znám Hanu. I know Peter/Hana. 
Case #5 - AhojPetře! Ahoj, Hano! Hi Peter. Hi Hana. 
Case #6 - Píšu o Petrovi. Píšu o Haně. I write about Peter/Hana. 
Case #7 - Jdu s Petrem. Jdu s Hanou. I go with Peter/Hana. 

So Peter can be Petr, Petra, Petrovi, Petře or Petrem. And Hana can be Hana, Hany, Hanu, Haně, Hano or Hanou. Again, the endings would be different for plural nouns. When you decline (change the endings) you also have to decline the pronouns and adjectives so that everything is in sync. 

Even the question words "who" and "what" get declined in a sentence. Who? What? 
Case 1 - Kdo? Co? 
Case 2 - Koho? Čeho? 
Case 3 - Komu? Čemu? 
Case 4 - Koho? Co? 
Case 5 - There is no case 5 for this. 
Case 6 - O kom? O čem? 
Case 7 - Kým? Čím?

The thing that's confusing for a lot of beginners here is when you hear a word with a different ending you think that it is a different vocabulary word. Not necessarily a word that you already know. But after a while you get used to it. I'm doing a lot better with declination now but it's still enough to drive me crazy at times. When you speak Czech and don't decline properly it makes you sound like an idiot. Probably something like Tarzan trying to speak English.


  1. Best of luck with learning cestina Chris!
    I'm Check living in Australia nearly 30 years, learning English was not that hard. Reading your post made me laugh! Cestina is difficult language for English speaker, and you are very brave learning it!

    Best wishes
    'patym padem volame'

  2. Uff. Going through that (again) this season. Signed up for another stab at the cases. It's maddening how almost everything gets declined. I'm currently looking for a drill that'll help me keep track.

  3. Good post, am a beginner on a massive hunt for any info on czech cases. Do you think there is a chance you mixed up the examples for Vocative and Locative cases here? Appreciate the efforts!