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Learn Czech Grammar in a Nutshell

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What comes to your mind when you think about learning another language? 

Casually chatting with locals while drinking delicious Czech beer? Enjoying Forman’s early movies? Writing a secret diary that nobody in your family could read?

You can certainly do all of those things. 

Are you expecting a big fat BUT? You’re correct!

BUT first you have to learn Czech grammar and understand how it works.

I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: It’s completely different from English grammar and the rules might not make much sense to you. 

Yes, there is the dreaded declension (each noun and adjective has fourteen different forms) and verb conjugation.

In the end, though, you’ll find out that learning Czech is quite easy, as long as you don’t try to compare it to English.

On this page, I’ll walk you through the rules of basic Czech grammar. And because I’m a nice person, I’ll add some tricks on how to master them.

Shall we? I promise it’s going to be a breeze.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Czech Table of Contents
  1. Basic Czech Grammar: General Rules
  2. Cases: Noun and Adjective Declension
  3. Czech Verb Conjugation and Tenses
  4. Formal and Informal Voice
  5. Numbers
  6. How CzechClass101.com Can Help You Learn Czech in a Fun Way

1. Basic Czech Grammar: General Rules

First things first: Czech is a Slavic language, and as such, it has nothing in common with English. You need to forget all about English grammar when studying Czech. Trying to compare the languages and scrambling around to find similarities would only hinder your efforts. It would be a complete waste of time. 

That said, there are some Czech words that come from Latin, and we use quite a lot of Americanisms (you might hear the words “sorry” and “legit” a lot).

The most significant difference? (Apart from pronunciation, of course…)

Word Order

Czech word order is much more flexible than you’d expect. The rules are pretty much non-existent (figuratively speaking) and we rely a lot on intonation.

General word order:

  • Subject – Verb – Object
    Tomáš nerad jí. (“Tomáš doesn’t like to eat.”)
  • Verb – Subject – Object – ?
     Jí Tomáš rád? (“Does Tomáš like to eat?”)

As mentioned above, intonation is very important. It will help you distinguish between a neutral statement and a question in sentences with the same word order (yes, that can and does happen a lot). 

Null-Subject Sentences

    In Czech, personal pronouns are used way less often than in English. And thanks to declension and verb conjugation, they’re mostly used for emphasis.

That means the personal pronoun can be omitted—the suffix of the verb makes it perfectly clear who or what the subject is.

Take these two sentences for example: 

  • Já tě miluju víc než ona! (“I love you more than she does!”) 
  • Miluju tě víc než ona. (“I love you more than she does.”)

The former is what you might hear screamed out loud during a fight, while the latter is something you would hear whispered or stated in a conversation.

For more details on this, see our page for painless Czech grammar and our Czech pronouns vocabulary list.

A Little Boy Frustrated with His Homework

Learning a new language is fun!

Genders

Some of the most unfamiliar Czech language grammar rules for new learners have to do with grammatical gender. The Czech language divides nouns into three categories based on their gender:

  • Feminine
  • Masculine
  • Neuter

For the record, masculine and feminine partially overlap with the natural gender of human beings, and baby animals are usually neuter.

To determine the grammatical gender of a noun, you need to look at its ending in singular form (the last consonant or vowel).

  • Masculine nouns normally end in a consonant. (otec – “father” / pes – “dog” / hrad – “castle”)
  • The majority of nouns that end in -a are feminine. (máma – “mom” / sestra – “sister” / kočka – “cat”) 
  • Nouns that end in -o are always neuter. (auto – “car” / okno – “window”)
  • Nouns that end in -e are usually feminine, but can also be neuter. (růže – “rose” / kuře – “chicken”)

To make things even more exciting:

    ➢ Masculine nouns are further divided into animate (people and animals) and inanimate (things, places, and abstractions) nouns.

My personal tip: Don’t get creative and forget about shortcuts. The only bulletproof way… You know what I’m about to recommend, don’t you? (Memorize each word’s gender while learning new vocabulary!)

Why is grammatical gender so important? You need to know a word’s gender in order to add the correct ending when declining a noun or linking an adjective to it.

Speaking of which…

2. Cases: Noun and Adjective Declension

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for: Czech declension rules!

  • In Czech, as well as in many other Slavic languages, each noun and adjective can have fourteen forms (seven in singular, seven in plural).
  • There are seven cases.
  • There is a set of paradigms for each grammatical gender.

1. Nominative (basic)

  • David je krásný. (“David is gorgeous.”)

2. Accusative (primarily used for the object of a verb)

  • Bez Davida nikam nejdu. (“I’m not going anywhere without David.”)

3. Genitive (the same as the English preposition “to”)

  • Dám to Davidovi. (“I will give it to David.”)

4. Dative (primarily means “to” / “for”)

  • Tohle je pro Davida. (“This is for David.”)

5. Vocative (for addressing or calling people)

  • Davide, počkej! (“David, wait!”)

6. Locative (“about,” used only after prepositions)

  • Řekla mi o Davidovi. (“She told me about David.”)

7. Instrumental (“by” / “with”)

  • Jdu s Davidem. (“I’m going with David.”)

Make sure you memorize all the paradigms and know how to use them correctly. It’s a little tedious, but I assure you it’s doable.

When I was in third grade, we used a set of questions to help us remember the seven cases:

1. Who/what? (Who is that?)

2. Without whom/what? (Without whom would you not be the person you are today?)

3. To whom/what? (To whom are you going to give this present?)

4. I see who/what? (Who did you meet at the movies?)

5. Hi, …!

6. About whom/what? (I’ll tell you everything about her.)

7. With whom? (Who did you dance with at the party?)

A Woman Reading on the Bus

Reading is a great way to improve your language skills.

Is it really important to remember all that stuff?

It is, because…

Czech Genders and Declension

In English, the plural of a noun is formed by adding -s to the singular form. However, Czech language grammar requires that we add various suffixes according to gender and number (singular or plural) to form the plural of nouns and adjectives.

That’s when the paradigms come into play.

    You can’t form a Czech sentence without knowing the gender of the nounyou wouldn’t be able to decline it correctly.

3. Czech Verb Conjugation and Tenses

In Czech grammar, conjugation is done through verb ending modification based on the tenses.

  • Czech verbs express three absolute tenses: past, present, and future.

Present tense verb endings:

PersonSingularPluralExample: Dělat (“To do”)
1st (I; We)-u/-i/-m-eme/-íme/-ámeDělám; děláme
2nd (You)-eš/-íš/-áš-ete/-íte/-áteDěláš; děláte
3rd (He/she/it; They)-e/-í/-á-ejí/-ějí/-í/-ou/-ajíDělá; dělají

Past tense:

The past tense in Czech is formed by combining an auxiliary verb (which indicates the person and number of the verb’s subject, a.k.a. “the doer”) with a past form of the main verb. 

    The Czech past tense can have various translations in English. 

Example:
Žila jsem…
“I have lived…” / “I lived…” / “I was living…”

Future tense:

In imperfective verbs, it is formed using the future forms of the verb být (“to be”) and the infinitive.

  • Budu vařit. (“I’ll cook.”)

In perfective verbs, the present form expresses the future.

  • Uvařím. (“I’m going to cook.”)

Být (“to be”) conjugation for future tense:

PersonSingularPlural
1stbudubudeme
2ndbudešbudete
3rdbudebudou

Czech conjugation requires quite a bit of memorizing. You can start with this list of the most common Czech verbs.

Remember:

    ➢ Czech is a null-subject language, which means that the subject (personal pronouns are almost never used) can be omitted if it’s clear from the context. The person is expressed through the verb’s conjugation.

4. Formal and Informal Voice

If you speak French, Spanish, or German (for example), you might be familiar with this fun, slightly old-fashioned verb modification. In Czech, there’s a difference between formal and informal speech. 

    The main difference is that when talking to a person in the formal voice, you have to use the second person plural instead of the second person singular.

So, instead of saying Jak se máš? you say Jak se máte? (“How are you?”)

    Another difference: Greetings.

When greeting your friend whom you know well, you would use the informal voice as well as a different set of greetings.

Informal greetings:

  • Ahoj! (“Hello!” and also “Bye!”) 
    • This is one of the most used greetings.
  • Čau! (Same as above.) 
    • Fun fact: It’s pronounced pretty much the same way as the Italian word Ciao!
  • Měj se! (“See you!”) 
    • Literally: “Be good.”

Formal greetings:

  • Dobrý den. (“Good day.”)
  • Dobré ráno. (“Good morning.”)
  • Dobré odpoledne. (“Good afternoon.”)
  • Dobrý večer. (“Good evening.”)
  • Nashledanou. (“Bye.”)

Someone Watching Videos on Their Tablet

Watching videos in Czech will help you understand word order and get a grip on intonation.

5. Numbers

The Czech numbers one through ten are unique, which means you’ll have to memorize them. (So much memorizing, I knooooow. But it’s grammar, we’re doing serious work here!)

  1. Jeden
  2. Dva
  3. Tři
  4. Čtyři
  5. Pět
  6. Šest
  7. Sedm
  8. Osm
  9. Devět 
  10. Deset

Now it gets easier!

For tens, you add -náct:

  1. Jedenáct
  2. Dvanáct
  3. Třináct

Once you reach 20, 30, 40, up to 100, you connect the respective numbers (tens go first):

Dvacet pět. (“Twenty-five.”)
Padesát dva. (“Fifty-two.”)

As you go higher, you do the same with hundreds and thousands (the highest goes first):

Sto třicet tři. (“One hundred thirty three.”)
Dva tisíce dvacet. (“Two thousand and twenty.”)

We have a great guide on Czech numbers, and if you’re interested in counting your riches in Czech, check out this one.

A Student Writing Math Problems on the Board

Czech numbers are much easier than those in other languages.

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

If you’re taking learning Czech seriously, you could grab a Czech grammar book or learn online (the latter of which is way more convenient).

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 could imagine!

What can you find here?

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One last thing: Let us know if this page helped you. Let’s get in touch!

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