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The 10 Most Common Mistakes in Czech to Avoid

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Mistakes are annoying, and no matter how often you tell yourself that it’s okay to make them, they still suck.

I get it, friend, I’ve been there. I’m a professional translator, and after years of living in a bilingual environment, I still have to pause from time to time and make sure I really want to say “kitchen,” not “chicken.” I ask my American boyfriend for help and clarification all the time. Also, just this morning, I read a Facebook post from Czech Television about a commemorative PLAGUE (instead of “plaque”).

In this article, we’ll be covering typical Czech mistakes that English-speakers make.

The Czech language, like all other languages, has its quirks and surprises that might catch you off-guard or flat out confuse the hell out of you.

Let’s not forget the bright side: You can learn and actually gain perspective from your mistakes. You can use them as a tool to remember certain words or grammar rules, instead of letting them frustrate you and put you off.

Let’s look at the ten most common Czech-English mistakes together.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Czech Table of Contents
  1. Common Pronunciation Mistakes for Czech-Learners
  2. Vocabulary Mistakes in the Czech Language
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Grammar Mistakes
  5. Gender
  6. Word-for-Word Translation
  7. Cases
  8. Conjugation
  9. Prepositions
  10. The Biggest Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
  11. How CzechClass101.com Helps You Learn Czech in a Fun Way

1. Common Pronunciation Mistakes for Czech-Learners

Czech pronunciation might make your tongue twist, and it has nothing in common with English. Remember that Czech is a phonetic language, meaning that the pronunciation highly correlates with the written form. Other phonetic languages with a pronunciation similar to that of Czech include Italian, Spanish, Polish, and Finnish. English is not a phonetic language. 

If your goal is to pronounce Czech correctly, forget about English pronunciation altogether (at least for a bit). Too many mistakes in Czech pronunciation result from trying to incorporate English sounds and rules with those of Czech. 

A- Final consonants

Remember that there are no “silent” letters in the Czech language.

    Final consonants in the Czech language are fully pronounced, including the letter “h,” which is most often voiceless in English.
    Roll your R’s.
    Remember that “ch” is one letter.

For example, the word bůh (“god”) is pronounced without the “puff of air” (aspiration) that’s typical in English pronunciation. It’s a typical Czech mistake, and it’s pretty easy to avoid.

Before you continue, make sure you know how to pronounce consonants in Czech correctly.

B- Sound marks

Sound marks (diacritics) are the marks applied above a letter to create additional sounds other than those in the English alphabet (ž, š, č, ř, ď, ť, ň).

Whilst š, č, ď, ť, and ň can be pronounced quite well by English-speakers (since we can find similar sounds in English), ř and ž tend to be very hard for some people.

    All of these special characters can change the meaning of the word. Be aware of them and don’t ignore them.

Just a few examples:

  • jed (“poison”) / jeď (“drive”)
  • rvát (“to tear”) / řvát (“to scream”)
  • citelný (“significant” or “considerable”) / čitelný (“readable”)

Make sure you familiarize yourself with the top ten hardest words to pronounce and practice in front of a mirror. You can find the basics of how to pronounce characters with diacritics in this lesson.

A Woman in Front of a Blackboard Holding a Stack of Books

Study Czech vocabulary, watch TV shows, and practice!

2. Vocabulary Mistakes in the Czech Language

Okay, vocabulary mistakes might actually be pretty funny, but I bet you don’t want to get yourself into an awkward situation.

A- Prepositions: sem (“here”) and tady (“here”)

This one is tricky.

Remember: If you’re going somewhere (dynamic), you need to use different adverbs and prepositions than if you are/exist somewhere (static)

    ➢ Focus on associating “go” with the dynamic words and “be” with the static words.

Example:

  • Jsem v Praze. (“I am in Prague.”) / Jedu do Prahy. (“I’m going to Prague.”)

B- Correct word, wrong meaning: Czech vs. English

The first thing I want to point out is love. Not the emotion (which is beautiful no matter what), but the word.

    In the Czech language, we only say Miluju tě (“I love you”) to our children or spouses.

I strongly suggest that you stick with mám tě rád/ráda (“I am fond of you”) or mám rád/ráda (“I like”).

    Also, be careful with the word “excited.” The Czech word vzrušený (“excited”) has a sexual meaning. No exceptions.

Say těším se (“I’m looking forward to”) or Mám radost (“I am happy”) instead.

C- Similar Czech Words

Have you ever had cat soup? Gotten a slice of meat with your croissant instead of butter? Gotten a confused look when inviting someone to dinner?

Let’s look at some of the trickiest words: those that sound very similar, but have different meanings.

  • kočka (“cat”) / čočka (“lentil”)
  • včera (“yesterday”) / večer (“evening”) / večeře (“dinner”)
  • máslo (“butter”) / maso (“meat”)
  • jít (“to go by foot”) / jet (“to drive or bike”)
  • přinést (“to bring by carrying”) / přivézt (“to bring something by a vehicle”) / přivést (“to bring someone somewhere by leading”)

It looks like a lot, but it’s actually pretty easy. Just do your work, study slovíčka (“vocabulary”), and you’ll never be served a cat soup!

A Happy Face and a Sad Face

Not all words that sound similar have the same meaning!

3. Word Order Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes Czech-learners make has to do with word order, though this isn’t too difficult. The basic Czech sentence structure follows the subjectverbobject sequence (a.k.a who is doing what). For questions, it’s verbsubjectobject.

    The only rule you should always follow is that the subject ALWAYS precedes the verb.
    The most important info goes last (a.k.a save the best for last).

Example:

  • jdu do kina. (“I’m going to the movies.”)
  • Půjdeš se mnou? (“Will you go with me?”)
  • Ne, proč? (“No, why?”)
  • Proč ne? (“Why not?”)

See? Word order matters. To make things easier for you, we’ve put together this list of the top ten Czech sentence patterns. Memorizing them will help you understand and use the SVO structure.

4. Grammar Mistakes

The Czech language isn’t that difficult, but you should mind a few things:

    Czech doesn’t use personal pronouns as much as English does. Use them only for emphasis.
    When it comes to formal and informal speech, alwaysno matter whatmake sure you’re using formal when speaking to older people or in professional settings.
    I and Y aren’t always pronounced the same and they are not interchangeable.

Here’s an example:

  • Supi napadli holuby. (“Vultures attacked pigeons.”) – first case subject + verb + fourth case object
  • Supy napadli holubi. (“Pigeons attacked vultures.”) – fourth case object + verb + first case subject

We’ve said it a million times, and I’m gonna repeat it for you once more: declension matters, conjugation matters, and ignoring them will do you no good, friend.

In this article, we explain the basics of Czech grammar.

A Little Kid Frustrated with His Homework

Czech grammar isn’t any more complicated than English grammar!

5. Gender

In English, you know who’s a male and who’s a female simply from using personal pronouns. But Czech has different methods. 

Verbs, nouns, pronouns, numerals, and adjectives in Czech change form according to the grammatical case, number, and gender applied to them. If you speak Spanish, Italian, or German, great! You have an advantage.

    The ending of each verb or adjective is different depending on whether it’s feminine, masculine, or neuter.
    Masculine nouns often end with a hard or soft consonant (muž [“man”], hrad [“castle”]).
    Feminine nouns often end with an -a (žena [“woman”], dívka [“girl”]).
    Neuter nouns often end with an -o (město [“city”], světlo [“light”]).

This article will teach you everything you need to know about the Czech gender game.

6. Word-for-Word Translation

Okay, you probably know that this will never work in any language, and you do your best to respect and follow the Czech grammar and vocabulary specs.

Besides, some of your literal translations might actually be pretty embarrassing.

A- I’m excited.

Never, never use the word vzrušený. Yes, the word “excited” does mean vzrušený, but as I mentioned earlier, it has a sexual connotation in Czech. No exception.

When you’re “excited” about something, simply say:

  • To je super. (“That’s awesome.”)
  • Nemůžu se dočkat. (“I can’t wait.”) 
  • Těším se na… (“I’m looking forward to…”)

B- I’m late. / I’m good. / I’m 35.

In this case, you’ll have to learn your slovíčka (“vocabulary”) and not fall into the WFW trap.

These are the most commonly used phrases that just aren’t the same in Czech:

  • “I am late.” (Jsem pozdě.) –> “I am coming late.” / “I am arriving late.” (Mám zpoždění/jdu pozdě.)
  • “I’m good, thanks.” (Jsem dobře.) –> “I have myself good, thanks.” (Mám se dobře, díky.)
  • “I’m hot.” (Jsem horká.) –> “It is hot to me.” (Je mi horko.)
  • “I’m 35.” (Jsem 35.) –> “It is 35 to me.” (Je mi 35.)
Man Unsure about Something

Excited or not?

7. Cases

In Czech, every noun and adjective changes its ending based on its position in the sentence and its function or preposition. That means that every noun has fourteen forms (in singular and plural)—fourteen different endings. Unsurprisingly, many common Czech-English mistakes arise in the form of case confusion. 

Every gender has a set of model nouns (paradigms). Each model noun represents all the other nouns within that gender that carry the same type of ending in the nominative. 

There’s no shortcut around this—you will have to learn every model noun, memorize the endings, and learn how to apply them to other nouns in the same group.

Don’t think you’ll get away with just the first case. 

The same goes for…

8. Conjugation

Czech conjugation and declension essentially provide context so that you know who is doing the action, and when.

The rules are pretty straightforward and easy to understand, but there are also exceptions and irregular verbs.

The two verbs you’ll need and use a lot are:

  • Mít (“to have”)

And

  • Být (“to be”)

Make sure you know how to work with them and use them correctly. Feeling lost? Here’s a list of the fifty most common Czech verbs.

A Man Confused about Pictures on a Blackboard

Conjugation and declension actually make things easier and provide context.

9. Prepositions

In this case, most English-speakers have trouble telling apart “motion” and “static.”

These three guys seem to cause the most confusion:

Do (“Into”): describes a motion into closed places

    Jdu do školy. (“I’m going into school.”)
    Dej to do auta. (“Put it into the car.”)

K (“To”): describes a motion to a point or in connection with visiting someone

    Jedeme k babičce. (“We’re driving to grandma.”)
    Došla jsem k jeho domu. (“I walked to his house.”)

Na (“To”): actions and activities

    Jdeme na výlet. (“We’re going to [on] a trip.”)
    Jedeme na dovolenou. (“We’re going to [on] vacation.”)

Make sure you know what noun prepositions are related to.

10. The Biggest Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The biggest mistake to make when learning a new language is to be afraid of making mistakes. Remember, by making mistakes, you’ll likely remember the problem/word/specific situation, and it will help you avoid the same mistake in the future.

Don’t rely on books alone. Put yourself out there and start a convo with Czech natives. Watch movies and TV shows in Czech. Read books or articles on the internet.

Variety is the key! Plus, you won’t get bored.

In this article, we summed up the most common Czech-English mistakes. Watch out for them, and your Czech-learning experience will be easy-peasy! Good luck!

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

CzechClass101.com will make learning Czech easy, exciting, and fun. With us, it’s not about endless memorizing or thick textbooks. Learn Czech with us and make progress faster than you can imagine!

What can you find here?

  • English-to-Czech translation and pronunciation tips & tricks
  • Over 630 audio and video lessons
  • Vocabulary learning tools
  • Spaced repetition flashcards
  • Detailed PDF lesson notes

Sign up now—it’s free!

One last thing: Let us know in the comments if this article helped you, and how you’ve been able to avoid mistakes in Czech in the past! Is there anything more you want to know about the common Czech sentence mistakes? We’ll do our best to help!

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