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Czech Word Order: Loose and Bendy

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It doesn’t matter why you’re learning Czech: Do you want to be able to order a schnitzel in a restaurant, or are you planning to write your first novel in this beautiful Slavic language? We’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll explain the specifics of the Czech sentence structure, and show you how to memorize and work with its patterns. 

It might seem quite confusing at first because the Czech word order is entirely different than that in English—let’s say it’s more relaxed and the rules are VERY flexible.

Maybe you’re thinking: “Oh, whatever. Everyone knows what I’m saying as long as I’m using the correct words, right?”

No, my friend, I’m sorry. We’re not mind-readers, and you could get us seriously confused and worried if you told us your homework ate your dog. The good news is that a complete Czech sentence might contain just one single word (a verb). Or it could have a couple of words. That means less work for you. Also, the word order is very loose and flexible (no, I’m not suggesting you can get away with anything, but…).

In this guide, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about the Czech sentence structure. Let’s get into it!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Czech Table of Contents
  1. Overview of Word Order in Czech
  2. Czech Word Order with Prepositional Phrases
  3. Czech Word Order with Modifiers
  4. How to Change a Sentence into a Yes-or-No Question
  5. Czech Word Order: Translation Exercise
  6. How CzechClass101.com Helps You Learn Czech in a Fun Way

1. Overview of Word Order in Czech

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1- Declarative sentences: Subject-Verb-Object

Although the Czech word order rules are very loose and flexible (thanks to declension and conjugation), the basic Czech sentence structure follows SVO, a.k.a who is doing what. 

However, you always want to avoid sentences that allow for more interpretations, of course.

  • The only rule you should always follow: the subject ALWAYS precedes the verb. 

This is an example of a Subject Verb Object sentence:

Sebastian mluví Česky. (“Sebastian speaks Czech.”)

A Man Speaking into a Microphone

Subject: The Doer

  • a noun or pronoun (personal pronouns are usually omitted)
  • who or what performs the action
  • occurs before the verb in a sentence

Verb: The Action

  • describes an action or occurrence, or indicates a state of being
  • placed after the noun

Object: The Meaning

  • a noun or pronoun
  • affected by the action of a verb
  • completes the meaning of a sentence

Before you continue, you may find it useful to watch CzechClass101’s video about the most-used Czech nouns. 

Make sure you check out this list of the most useful Czech pronouns and 50 most common Czech verbs as well.

Remember:

  • The most important info goes last (a.k.a. save the best for last).
  • Declarative sentences end with a period.

2- What if it looks like there is NO subject in the sentence?

Miluju hranolky. (“I love french fries.”)

That awkward moment when you’re about to devour a plate of deep-fried salty goodness and your friend ruins it for you by making a grammar mistake! Maybe you’ll even scream:

miluju hranolky! (“I love french fries!”)

Well…

Remember:

  • In Czech language word order, personal pronouns are used way less often than in English.
  • Personal pronouns are mostly used for emphasis (, or “I,” is seldom used).
  • You don’t need pronouns to determine gender in the sentence.

Therefore, if the sentence starts with a verb and ends with a period, it’s absolutely correct. This list of Czech sentence patterns will help you better understand the basics. 

2. Czech Word Order with Prepositional Phrases

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Prepositional phrases in Czech sentences indicate time, place, or manner. In other words, where, when, or how things happened. 

They can either be placed at the beginning or the end of a complex Czech sentence structure. Remember, the most important part of the sentence always goes last.

  • If you want to emphasize where, when, or how things happened, place it at the end of a sentence.
  • In a Czech sentence, you need to indicate time first, then place, and lastly, manner.

Word order in a Czech sentence:

  1. Subject
  2. Preposition of time
  3. Preposition of place
  4. Verb
  5. Object
  6. Preposition of manner

1- Prepositions of Time

Here’s an example of a neutral declarative sentence (you’re simply stating a fact):

[] Po večeři jím jablko. (“After dinner, I eat an apple.”)

A Woman Eating an Apple

Now, let’s look at an example with an emphasized prepositional phrase:

[] Jím jablko po večeři, ne ráno. (“I eat an apple after dinner, not in the morning.”)

2- Prepositions of Place

Here’s a simple declarative sentence:

[] Po večeři jím v kuchyni jablko. (“After dinner, I eat an apple in the kitchen.”)

If you want to emphasize the place—you eat the apple in the kitchen (not in the bedroom)—put the prepositional phrase at the end:

Po večeři jím jablko v kuchyni. (“After dinner, I eat an apple in the kitchen.”)

3- Prepositions of Manner

Prepositional phrases that indicate how something happened or is done usually go last, and they’re placed after the verb—just like in English!

plavu pomalu. (“I swim slowly.”)

(Ty) Vypadáš nádherně. (“You look gorgeous.”)

(Ona) Vešla s úsměvem. (“She came in smiling.”)

4- A combination of all three prepositions in one sentence

This is where things get a little complicated—just remember that the Czech word order is very loose, and you can get away with pretty much anything.

Here are the general rules for using more prepositions in one sentence:

  • The preposition of time is always placed at the beginning of the sentence.
  • Time and manner usually precede the place,

Unless:

  • You want to emphasize how something happened, rather than when and where it happened.
  • The preposition of manner can be placed before or after the verb.

Example of a neutral declarative sentence:

Po večeři jím pomalu v kuchyni jablko. (“After dinner, I slowly eat an apple in the kitchen.”)

Po večeři pomalu jím v kuchyni jablko. (“After dinner, I slowly eat an apple in the kitchen.”)

3. Czech Word Order with Modifiers

Modifiers are optional elements that clarify, qualify, or limit a particular word in a sentence. Pretty easy, right?

  • Modifiers emphasize, limit, qualify, or explain.
  • They’re always placed before the noun (subject or object) they refer to.

There are four types of modifiers in the Czech language:

1 – Descriptive words

These are adjectives and adverbs that hold the reader’s attention and add “spark” to the sentence.

  • They precede the noun they refer to.

Example without modifiers:

K obědu jsem měl polévku. (“I had soup for lunch.”)

Lentil Soup

With modifiers:

K obědu jsem měl vynikající tomatovou polévku. (“I had a delicious tomato soup for lunch.”)

See the difference?

2 – Determiners 

These are placed in front of a noun to identify things.

The Czech language doesn’t use articles, and nouns are determined by pronouns.

  • Remember that declension applies to determiners.
  • Tohle (“this”), toto (“this”), and tamto (“that”) can be used for feminine, masculine, and neutral (it doesn’t indicate gender).
  • Determiners are mostly used to add emphasis and are often used in place of the definite article.

Singular

Masculine/Feminine/Neuter DeterminerExample SVO
Ten/Ta/To (“The”)Mám rád ten nový byt. (“I like the new apartment.”)

Obléknu si tu novou blůzu. (“I’m going to wear the new blouse.”)

To nové auto vypadá úžasně. (“The new car looks awesome.”)
Tento/Tato/Toto (“This”)Tento svetr není můj. (“This isn’t my sweater.”)

Tato žena mi zachránila život. (“This woman saved my life.”)

Toto jídlo mi nechutná. (“I don’t like this food.”)
Tenhle/Tahle/Tohle (“This”)Tenhle kluk se mi líbí! (“I like this boy!”)

Tahle sklenice je rozbitá. (“This glass is broken.”)

Tohle je moje manželka. (“This is my wife.”)
Tamten/Tamta/Tamto (“That”)Tamten kluk je můj bratr. (“That boy is my brother.”)

Tamta vysoká holka je moje sestra. (“That tall girl is my sister.”)

Tamto sedadlo vzadu je volné. (“That seat in the back is free.”)
Takový/Taková/Takové (“Such”/”This kind of”)Takový přístup zvyšuje účinnost. (“Such an approach enhances the effectiveness.”)

Taková krása je vzácná. (“This kind of beauty is rare.”)

Takové krásné dítě by mělo být slavné. (“Such a beautiful child should be famous.”)

Plural

Masculine/Feminine/Neuter DeterminerExample SVO
Ti/Ty/Ta (“The”)Ti noví kluci se mi líbí. (“I like the new boys.”)

Vezmu si ty nové náušnice. (“I’m going to wear the new earrings.”)

Ta nová auta vypadají úžasně. (“The new cars look awesome.”)
Tito/Tyto/Tato (“Those”)Tito kluci jsou moji spolužáci. (“Those boys are my classmates.”)

Tyto ženy mi zachránily život. (“Those women saved my life.”)

Tato sedadla jsou obsazená. (“Those seats are occupied.”)
Tihle/Tyhle/Tahle (“Those”)Tihle kluci se mi líbí! (“I like these boys!”)

Tyhle sklenice jsou rozbité. (“These glasses are broken.”)

Tahle štěňata jsou moc roztomilá. (“These puppies are very cute.”)
Tamti/Tamty/Tamta (“Those”)Tamti kluci jsou moji bratři. (“Those boys are my brothers.”)

Tamty vysoké holky jsou moje sestry. (“Those tall girls are my sisters.”)

Tamta sedadlo vzadu jsou volná. (“Those seats in the back are free.”)
Takoví/Takové/Taková (“Such”/”This kind of”)Takoví muži se nežení. (“Such men don’t marry.”)

Takové ženy nevaří. (“This kind of woman can’t cook.”)

Takové krásné děti by měly být slavné. (“Such beautiful children should be famous.”)

Exceptions:

  • For plural masculine objects (i.e. NOT live people or animals), always use the feminine determiners.

Example:

Ten hrad je obrovský. –> Tyto hrady jsou obrovské. (“This castle is huge. –> These castles are huge.”)

3 – Numerals 

A numeral is a figure or symbol (or a group of figures or symbols) that denote a number.

  • After the number 1, use the nominative singular form.
  • After the numbers 2, 3, and 4, use the nominative plural.
  • After the number 5 (and after the indefinite numerals)—málo (“a little”), moc (“a lot”), několik (“some”)—use the genitive plural.
  • The counted object is declined along with the numeral.
  • The number is always placed before the noun it refers to.

Examples:

  • Zbývala jen jedna učebnice. (“There was only one textbook left.”)
  • Mají čtyři děti. (“They have four kids.”)
  • Snědl dva sendviče. (“He ate two sandwiches.”)

The suffixes “-st,” “-nd,” and “-rd” are indicated by a period in the Czech language.

EnglishCzech
1st1.
2nd2.
3rd3.
4th4.

However, all numbers below 10 are always spelled out. Check out our lesson on counting from 1-100 in Czech

4 – Possessors 

There’s a number of feminine, masculine, and neuter possessors in the Czech language. 

  • Possessors are always placed before the noun they’re referring to.
  • Masculine and neuter possessors are the same.
  • In plural masculine for objects (NOT live people or animals), always use the plural feminine.
  • The singular and plural for feminine and masculine (+ neuter) are the same.

However, Czech doesn’t use possessors as much as English does.

For example, we don’t say: Bolí mě moje hlava. (“My head hurts.”)

We’d simply omit the pronoun. Therefore, the possessors are mostly used for emphasis.

Possessors – Singular Masculine (+ Neuter)/FeminineExamples
Můj/Moje (“My”)Můj pes je černý. (“My dog is black.”)
Moje kočka je bílá. (“My cat is white.”)
Tvůj/Tvoje (“Your”)Tvůj pes je černý. (“Your dog is black.”)
Tvoje kočka je bílá. (“Your cat is white.”)
Jeho/Její (“His”/”Her”)Jeho pes je černý. (“His dog is black.”)
Její kočka je bílá. (“Her cat is white.”)
Náš/Naše (“Our”)Náš pes je černý. (“Our dog is black.”)
Naše kočka je bílá. (“Our cat is white.”)
Váš/Vaše (“Your”)Váš pes je černý. (“Your dog is black.”)
Vaše kočka je bílá. (“Your cat is white.”)
Jejich (“Their”)Jejich pes je černý. (“Their dog is black.”)
Jejich kočka je bílá. (“Their cat is white.”)
A Black Dog Barking
Possessors – Plural Masculine (+ Neuter)/FeminineExamples
Moji/Moje (“My”)Moji psi jsou černí. (“My dogs are black.”)
Moje kočky jsou bílé. (“My cats are white.”)
Tvoji/Tvoje (“Your”)Tvoji psi jsou černí. (“Your dogs are black.”)
Tvoje kočky jsou bílé. (“Your cats are white.”)
Jeho/Její (“His”/”Her”)Jeho psi jsou černí. (“His dogs are black.”)
Její kočky jsou bílé. (“Her cats are white.”)
Naši/Naše (“Our”)Naši psi jsou černí. (“Our dogs are black.”)
Naše kočky jsou bílé. (“Our cats are white.”)
Vaši/Vaše (“Your”)Vaši psi jsou černí. (“Your dogs are black.”)
Vaše kočky jsou bílé. (“Your cats are white.”)
Jejich (“Their”)Jejich psi jsou černí. (“Their dogs are black.”)
Naše kočky jsou bílé. (“Their cats are white.”)

4. How to Change a Sentence into a Yes-or-No Question

Okay, this is the easy part of Czech language word order. Let’s take a simple declarative sentence that follows the Subject Verb Object  order.

 Sebastian mluví Česky. (“Sebastian speaks Czech.”) [SVO]

  • To make this sentence a question, put the verb first. 

Mluví Sebastian Česky? (Does Sebastian speak Czech?) [VSO]

  • In Czech questions, the verb is always the first word of the sentence.

Again, the sentence structure in Czech is flexible and you’ll often see SVO questions.

When in doubt:

  • As long as there’s a question mark at the end, it’s a question.

5. Czech Word Order: Translation Exercise

Let’s practice forming Czech sentences!

  1. “We speak Czech.” – _________________
  1. “We speak Czech slowly.” – _________________
  1. “We speak Czech slowly with her.” – _________________
  1. “We speak with her in the kitchen.” – _________________
  1. “After dinner, we speak with her in the kitchen.” – _________________
  1. “We never speak with her in the kitchen.” – _________________
  1. “Do you speak with her in the kitchen?” – _________________
People Talking in the Kitchen

Answers:

  1. “We speak Czech.” (Mluvíme česky.)
  2. “We speak Czech slowly.” (Mluvíme pomalu česky./Pomalu mluvíme česky.)
  3. “We speak Czech slowly with her.” (Mluvíme s ní česky pomalu. / Pomalu s ní mluvíme česky.)
  4. “We speak with her in the kitchen.” (Mluvíme s ní v kuchyni.)
  5. “After dinner, we speak with her in the kitchen.” (Po večeři s ní mluvíme v kuchyni.)
  6. “We never speak with her in the kitchen.” (Nikdy s ní nemluvíme v kuchyni./V kuchyni s ní nikdy nemluvíme.)
  7. “Do you speak with her in the kitchen?” (Mluvíš/mluvíte s ní v kuchyni?)

You might want to take a look at this Painless Czech Grammar video. It’ll help you understand the basic rules and nuances of word order in Czech and other major grammar points.

6. How CzechClass101.com Helps You Learn Czech in a Fun Way

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