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Lesson Transcript

Gabriella:Hi, everyone, and welcome back to CzechClass101.com's All About series! I’m Gabriella. This is All About Lesson 3, Painless Czech Grammar. I’m Gabriella.
Martin:And I’m Martin. In this lesson, you’ll learn the basics of Czech Grammar.
Gabriella:That’s right, but we’ll just be giving a basic overview. So let’s jump right in.
Martin:First, let’s talk about words in Czech.

Lesson focus

Gabriella:You’ll see that words are usually longer than English words, because we can express in one word what would take several in English. But it doesn’t mean there are only terribly long words in Czech, right Martin?
Martin:No, we use a lot of short words, too.
Gabriella:What about the sentence structure? Is it similar to English?
Martin:Yes, it’s basically similar to English, with a subject followed by a verb and an object.
Gabriella:But here’s the thing - Czech verbs conjugate and they also have negative forms! Czech verbs have three tenses and one infinitive form. The verbs will change depending on whether the subject is singular or plural, masculine, feminine, or neutral. Czech verbs are more difficult than English, right?
Martin:That’s right.
Gabriella:So you might be wondering how you express the differences in time in Czech. The answer is - by using past, present and future verb tenses, and also time phrases.
Martin:Yes, for example the past tense is created this way. Using the verb “být” meaning “to be” in the infinitive form, take the “t” away and replace it with “l”. You will get the “el” form “byl”. The “L” form is used for the male gender. The female gender ends with “la”, the neutral with “lo” and the plural with “li”. It sounds like this:“byl”, “byla”, “bylo”, “byli” meaning “he was”, “she was”, “it was”, “they were”.)
Gabriella:Is it the same for all verbs?
Martin:Most of them yes, but some verbs will have irregular forms in the past tense, so you need to be aware that they will either have a shorter vowel in the stem of the word, or the stem will change. This usually applies to one-syllable verbs, such as “být” (“to be”) that changes into a short “byl” (“he was”) or “číst” (“to read”) that changes the stem into “četl”, “četla”, “četlo”, “četli” meaning “he reads”, “she reads”, “it reads”, “they read”.)
Gabriella:So how would the time phrases be used in the past tense?
Martin:Let’s say, “Yesterday I studied”. In Czech, this is:“Včera jsem studoval”. “Včera” means yesterday, “jsem” means “I am”, “studoval” is the verb “I studied” in the past tense. You can also just say “studoval jsem” meaning “I studied”. The verb itself indicates past tense, we just don’t know exactly when. It could be a week or a year ago. This is why the time phrase is used to specify the time.
Gabriella:That makes sense! That’s not too hard, is it listeners? And now let’s continue with personal pronouns.
Martin:They are the same as the English, but two of them are different when used in direct speech.
Gabriella:That’s right, and the two different ones depend on the closeness of the relationship between the speakers. The Czech language distinguishes between two different “you” forms. One is informal and one formal. The informal is for talking with friends, family and so on, while formal is used for strangers, older people, or when you are in a formal situation.
Martin:Exactly. The “you” word is an important one to know, as you will often need to address other people in a formal way.
Gabriella:Could you give us some examples?
Martin:Sure. When you are talking with your friend or somebody who is close to you, you can call them “ty”, which means “you” in English, but it’s informal. We call this informal style “tykání”. Tykání needs to be expressed in verbs too, because we often omit the personal pronoun when talking. For example, the word “mít” meaning “to have” changes in the informal style into “máš”. “Ty máš” means “you have”. You can ask the question “máš čas?” meaning “do you have time?” As you can see, the word “you” is omitted from this sentence, as we already understand it’s informal using the verb “máš”.
Gabriella:What about the formal style?
Martin:You will call the person “Vy”, which in a written form has a capital “V”. This word has the same meaning as “you” in English, but with an additional meaning of “Mr”. or “Mrs”. If you do know the person’s name, you will address them by their name, but you will still need to conjugate the verb in the polite or formal style. To do this, you add “te” at the end. The formal style of “you have” is “vy máte”. The question “do you have time?” in the formal style would be “máte čas?” The personal pronoun “vy” is also omitted here, but we know we are using the formal style, because of the form “te” in the verb.
Gabriella:Sometimes there are situations when although the person you speak to is a stranger, you can sense you are of a similar age and the situation allows you to use the informal style. This can happen especially at other people’s house parties, or other informal gatherings where you meet friends of your friends. So the relationship matters here. What about an example of gender differences?
Martin:Genders are the same as in English. We have masculine, feminine and neutral. “He, she, it”, in Czech is “on, ona, ono”. Here as well, the verbs following a personal pronoun will change based on male, female or neutral gender. The informal and formal forms only apply to “he” and “she” in direct speech. In formal speech, the verb will change in the same way regardless of the gender. Verbs will always end in “te”.
Gabriella:So just know that in Czech, formal or informal speech will change depending on the relationship and age differences between the speakers.
Martin:That’s right!
Gabriella:Okay, that’s going to do it for this lesson!


Gabriella:Thanks for listening everyone. See you next time!