Czech language

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čeština, český jazyk
Native to Czech Republic
Native speakers
10 million  (2007)[1]
Latin script (Czech alphabet)
Czech Braille
Official status
Official language in
 Czech Republic
 European Union
 Slovakia (partially)
Regulated by Institute of the Czech Language
Language codes
ISO 639-1 cs
ISO 639-2 cze (B)
ces (T)
ISO 639-3 ces
Glottolog czec1258[2]
Linguasphere 53-AAA-da < 53-AAA-b...-d
(varieties: 53-AAA-daa to 53-AAA-dam)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Czech (/ˈɛk/; čeština Czech pronunciation: [ˈt͡ʃɛʃcɪna]) is a West Slavic language spoken by over 10 million Czechs. It is an official language in the Czech Republic, where most of its speakers reside, and claims minority language status and other minor recognition in nearby countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It is most closely related to Slovak—with which it is mutually intelligible—then to other West Slavic languages like Polish, and then to other Slavic languages like Russian. Most of its vocabulary is based on roots shared with other Slavic and otherwise Indo-European languages, but many loanwords have flocked in in recent years, most of them associated with high culture.

Czech began life in its current branch as Old Czech before slowly dwindling in societal importance, being outclassed by German on its own land. In the mid-eighteenth century, however, the language underwent a revival, termed the Czech National Revival, in which Czech academics stressed the past accomplishments of their people and advocated for Czech to return as a written and esteemed language. The language has not changed much since this time, barring some minor morphological shifts and adoption of colloquial elements into formal dialects.

The language's phoneme inventory is of a moderate size: it includes five vowels—each of which is distinguished between short and long length—and twenty-five consonants, which are divided into "hard", "neutral", and "soft". However, the language is notorious among speakers of most other languages for its difficult pronunciation: words may contain uncommon or complicated consonant clusters or be bereft of vowels altogether, and Czech contains the consonant ř, which is believed not to exist elsewhere. However, Czech orthography is very simple and has been used by phonologists as a model.

As a member of the Slavic sub-family of Indo-European, Czech is a fusional language and one of the most highly inflected tongues in the world. Its nouns and adjectives undergo a complex system of declension that accounts for case, number, gender, animacy, and even whether words end in hard, neutral, or soft consonants. With somewhat less complexity, verbs are conjugated for tense, number, and gender, and also display aspect. Because of this inflection, Czech word order is very flexible, and words may be moved around freely to change emphasis or form questions.


The Czech Republic, where most Czech speakers live, lies in the southwest of the light-green (West Slavic) zone. The East Slavic languages' territory is shown in medium-green and the South Slavic languages' in dark teal.

Czech is classified as a member of the West Slavic branch of the Slavic family. This places it in the same branch as Polish, Kashubian, and Upper and Lower Sorbian, as well as Slovak. Slovak is by far its closest genetic neighbor, and the two languages are closer than any other pair of West Slavic languages, including Upper and Lower Sorbian – they share a name through association with the same ethnic group.[3]

The West Slavic languages are all spoken in an area variously classified as part of Central or Eastern Europe. They are distinguished from East and South Slavic languages by features such as stress always being placed on the initial syllables of words and distinction between "hard" and "soft" consonants.[4]

Mutual intelligibility[edit]

Czech and Slovak are considered mutually intelligible: speakers of the two languages can communicate with relative ease, more so than speakers of most pairs of languages within the West, East, or South Slavic branches. Moreover, neither language has been endangered in recent years or forced to conform to an external standard, so there has been little artificial separation of the languages as a result of nationalism, as has occurred with, for example, Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian. However, most Slavic languages, Czech included, have undergone some deliberate distancing from Russian influences due to widespread public resentment against the former Soviet Union, which occupied what was then Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.[5]

Speakers of Czech and Slovak usually understand both languages in their written and spoken form, thus constituting a pluricentric language, though some dialects or heavily accented speech in either language might present difficulties to speakers of the other (in particular, Czech speakers may find Eastern Slovak dialects difficult to comprehend). Younger generations of Czechs living after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 (therefore generally less familiar with Slovak) might also have some problems with a certain number of words and expressions which differ considerably in the two languages, and with false friends.[citation needed]

The differences between Czech and Slovak are minor and include Czech possessing a glottal stop before initial vowels, Slovak possessing fewer long vowels, and Slovak having no vocative.[6]


The Bible of Kralice was the first complete translation of the Bible into the Czech language. Its six volumes were first published between 1579 and 1593.


As far as they have been reliably traced, the origins of the Czech language begin with Proto-Indo-European,[7] a language most often argued to have been spoken in an area north of the Black Sea in modern-day Russia thousands of years ago.[8]

From this developed the Proto-Balto-Slavic language, which is the origin of all Baltic and Slavic tongues.[9]

Proto-Slavic had developed by the early years of the common era.[10]

Old Czech[edit]

The Czech and Slovak lands were populated until the first century B.C. by Celts, after which Germanic tribes occupied it until the sixth century of the common era. Around the sixth century, a tribe of Slavs arrived in the area; they were led by a legendary hero named Čech, from whom the modern word Czech originates. However, these lands were shortly taken over by the Eurasian Avars, who were expanding all over western Eurasia. In the seventh century, the burgeoning ethnic group recaptured its old land from the Avars, led by a non-Czech named Samo.[11]

The ninth century brought with it the new state of Great Moravia, which comprised the Czech lands and fringes of modern-day Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Its first ruler, Rastislav of Moravia, invited Byzantine ruler Michael III to send his missionaries over. These missionaries, Constantine and Methodius, converted the West Slavs from traditional Slavic paganism to Orthodox Christianity and established an Orthodox church system. In addition, they brought the Latin alphabet for the West Slavs, who had had no writing system before.[12]

Bohemia, as the Czech civilization was known by then, rose in power over the centuries – not enough to compete economically or politically with neighboring European powers, but enough to keep its national integrity and stand as a respectable European cultural center. This growth was expedited in the fourteenth century by Charles IV, who founded Charles University in Prague in 1348. At this university flourished early literature in the Czech language: a Bible translation, hymns, and hagiography. Later in the century, Jan Hus contributed significantly to the standardization of Czech orthography, advocated for widespread literacy among Czech commoners—particularly in religious contexts—and made early efforts at modeling written Czech after spoken varieties.[13]

Overall, Czech continued to evolve up through the sixteenth century;[14] so too did it increase in local importance. A new Bible translation called the Kralice Bible appeared; it was published in the late sixteenth century, around the time of the King James and Luther versions but was more linguistically conservative than either of them. The Kralice Bible's publication spawned widespread nationalistic feelings, and in 1615 the government of Bohemia declared that only Czech-speaking residents would be allowed to become full citizens or inherit goods or land. This bold move—along with the Czech upper classes converting from the Habsburg Empire's Catholicism to Protestantism—angered the Habsburgs and caused the Czechs to tumble into the Thirty Years' War, where they were summarily defeated at the Battle of White Mountain. As a result, Czech farmers were made serfs, Bohemia's printing industry and linguistic and political rights were dismembered, and—as a final symbolic act—the Jesuits took over Charles University.[15] German quickly gained dominance in Bohemia.[16]

Modern Czech[edit]

The general consensus among linguists is that the modern standard form of the Czech language came into being in the 18th century.[17] By this point, Czech had developed a literary tradition, after which the language has not changed much; journals from around this time have been described as possessing no meaningful differences from modern standard Czech.[18] Among the changes conceded are the overall morphological shift of í into ej and é into í to take its place, though é survives for some uses, and the merging of í and the former ejí.[19] With the advent of modern Czech came a number of adoptions from Common Czech into formal dialects that have been decried as "decay" or even "agony", such as leaving certain proper nouns undeclined. This has resulted in a relatively high level of homogeneity among all varieties of the Czech language.[20]

The Czech people gained a widespread sense of nationalistic pride during the mid-eighteenth century, inspired by the ideals of the European Age of Enlightenment a half-century earlier. Czech historians began to take pride in their people's accomplishments from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries and, as a result, rebel against the Counter-Reformation in the Bohemian lands, which had regarded the Czech language and other non-Latin tongues with scorn.[21] These scholars took to philology and studied sixteenth-century Czech texts, advocating for Czech to return as a language of high culture. This period has been termed the Czech National Revival or Renascence.[22]

Geographic distribution[edit]

A map of the languages of Central and Eastern Europe. Within the Czech Republic, Standard Czech is represented by dark yellow (C1) and Moravian dialects by medium yellow (C2) and light green (C3).
Official usage of Czech language in Vojvodina, Serbia.

In 2005 and 2007, Czech was spoken by about 10 million residents of the Czech Republic.[23][24] A Eurobarometer survey conducted between January and March 2012 found that 98% of Czech citizens had their nation's official language as their mother tongue – the third highest in the European Union, behind Malta and Hungary.[25]

Through being the official language of the Czech Republic, a member of the European Union (EU) since 2005, Czech is one of the EU's official languages. The 2012 Eurobarometer survey found that Czech was the most spoken foreign language in Slovakia.[25] Economist Jonathan van Parys collected data on knowledge of various languages across European nations to celebrate the 2012 European Day of Languages, and the five countries with the highest prevalence of Czech knowledge were as follows.[26]

As given by appropriate laws, courts and authorities can enact and write out documents and judgements in the Czech language (also, financial authorities in the Slovak language). Czech can also be used in all official proceedings in Slovakia as granted by Article 6 of Slovak Minority Language Act 184/1999 Zb.[citation needed]

According to article 37, paragraph 4 of Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms people who do not speak Czech have the right to an interpreter in a court of law. Instructions for use in Czech must be added to all marketed goods. The right to one's own language is guaranteed by the Constitution for all national and ethnic minorities.[citation needed]

United States[edit]

Immigration of Czechs from Europe to the United States occurred mainly between 1848 and 1914, and they brought their language with them. However, it is rarely taught in schools, instead being mainly offered at Czech heritage centers. Large communities of Czech Americans live in the states of Nebraska, Texas, and Wisconsin.[27] In the 2000 United States Census, Czech was reported as the most common language spoken at home besides English in Valley, Butler, and Saunders Counties, Nebraska, and Republic County, Kansas. However, Spanish is by far the most common language spoken at home besides English, and when Spanish too was removed, Czech was the most common in over a dozen more counties of Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota, and Minnesota.[28] As of 2009, 70,500 Americans spoke Czech as their primary language; this placed it 49th among all languages, behind Turkish and ahead of Swedish.[29]


The Czech language comprises a few regional dialects in addition to a general spoken standard and a closely related written standard. Czechs especially in rural areas have mostly spoken in their dialects; some are less than proficient in other dialects or in standard Czech. Beginning roughly with the second half of the twentieth century, however, dialect use among Czechs began to weaken. By the early 1990s, dialect use had become stigmatized and associated with the shrinking lower class; when represented in literature or other media, it was usually utilized for comedic effect rather than to sincerely represent its associated populace. Increasing availability of travel and media to populations speaking divergent dialects has encouraged them to shift to—or adopt alongside their own dialect—standard Czech.[30] Moreover, while Czech has seen a high amount of scholarly interest for a Slavic language, this interest has focused mostly on modern standard Czech and ancient texts rather than on dialects of any time period.[31]

Common Czech[edit]

Main article: Common Czech

The first, and most widely used, is "Common Czech" (obecná čeština), spoken especially in Bohemia. It has some grammatical differences from "standard" Czech (spisovná čeština), along with some differences in pronunciation. The most common pronunciation changes include ý and becoming -ej in some circumstances (býk, starý > bejk, starej), and é becoming ý or í in some circumstances (kyselé mléko > kyselý mlíko).[32] Also, noun declension is changed, most notably the instrumental case. Instead of having various endings (depending on gender) in the instrumental, Bohemians will just put -ama, -ema, or -ma at the end of all plural instrumental declensions (s chlapci i s kravami -> s chlapcema i s kravama).[32] Currently, these forms are very common throughout the entire Czech Republic, including Moravia and Silesia.[citation needed]

Common Czech is, first and foremost, an academic distinction. Most Czechs either do not know the compound term obecná čeština or associate it with all vernacular or incorrect forms of Czech combined.[33]

Moravian and Silesian dialects[edit]

Main article: Moravian dialects

The second major interdialect comprises the Moravian dialects, spoken in Moravia and Silesia. Nowadays the standard spoken language in this region is closer to the Bohemian form of Common Czech than historically due to most mass media (newspapers, TV shows, films, Internet, etc.) being centralized in Prague. This mostly applies to younger generations that have been exposed to mass media most recently - older people still use Moravian dialects when speaking amongst each other. Moravian dialects often contain words different from their standard Czech equivalents. For example, in the dialect spoken in Brno, tramvaj (streetcar or tram) is šalina (originating from German "elektrische Linie" via Hantec slang). Dialects spoken in Silesia, which form a continuum with the Silesian language, also contain a large amount of German loanwords unfamiliar to standard Czech. Unlike in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia have retained the local dialects varying from place to place, however, most have been already heavily influenced and mostly replaced by Common Czech. The everyday spoken form in Moravia and Silesia is a mixture of remnants of old local dialects, some Standard Czech forms, and, especially, Common Czech.[citation needed]

Moravian and especially Silesian dialects often have grammatical differences from standard Czech, especially regarding use of prepositions with certain noun cases, for example k jídlu (to eat – dative) (as in German zum Essen) becomes na jídlo (accusative) in Moravian, as it is in Slovak na jedlo. It is a common misconception that the use of Standard Czech in everyday situations is more frequent than in Bohemia. The Standard Czech became standardized by the Czech national revivalists in the 19th century, based on an already three-hundred-year-old translation of the Bible (Bible of Kralice) using an older variant of the then-current language (for example, preferring -ý- to -ej-). These standard forms are still common in spoken language both in Moravia and Silesia. Some Moravians and Silesians therefore tend to say that they use "proper" language, unlike their Bohemian compatriots.[citation needed]

Some southeastern Moravian dialects are also sometimes, although rarely, considered (also by Czech linguists in the 1990s or later, e.g., Václav Machek in his "Etymologický slovník jazyka českého", 1997, ISBN 80-7106-242-1, p. 8, who speaks about a "Moravian-Slovak" dialect from the region of Moravian "Slovácko") to be actually dialects of the Slovak language, which has its roots in the Moravian empire when Slovaks and Moravians were one nation (without Bohemians) with one language. Those dialects form a dialect continuum between the Czech and Slovak languages,[34] and still have the same suffixes (for inflected nouns and pronouns and for conjugated verbs) as Slovak.[35]

Bohemian dialects[edit]

The minor dialect spoken in the Plzeň Region and parts of Western Bohemia and in western parts of former Prachens region differs, among other things, by intonation of questions: all the words except for the last word of a sentence have a high pitch. For this reason people from Plzeň are said to be "singing".[citation needed] Words that start questions are often given an additional "-pa": "Kolipa je hodin?" (regular Czech: "Kolik je hodin?"; English: "What time is it?"). The words like "this" (regular Czech: "tento/tato/toto") are often replaced by "tuten/tuta/tuto"; some examples: "What is this?" is "Copa to je?" and "What's happening?" is "Copa?" instead of "Co je to? / Co se stalo?" or "Why?" is "Pročpa?" instead of "Proč?".[citation needed]

The region of Chodsko (around Domažlice and Mrákov) is the home of the very special Chod dialect, spoken by the Chods, who were displaced in about the 10th century from Silesia owing to the protection of the western border of Bohemia. This dialect is marked by features such as a prevalence of long vowels in verb endings (hořit, kopat > hořít, kopát), replacement of "d" with "r" (studánka, teda > sturánka, tera) and an additional "h" before an initial vowel (udit > hudit).[32]


Main article: Czech phonology

Czech contains five vowel phonemes: a, e, i, o, and u.[36] They are all monophthongs[37]—except in the case of ou[38]—and never reduced to schwa sounds when unstressed.[37] Each word usually has primary stress on its first syllable; one exception is enclitics, minor monosyllabic words that receive no stress. In all words of more than two syllables, every odd-numbered syllable receives secondary stress. In all cases, stress is unrelated to vowel length; the possibility of stressed short vowels and unstressed long vowels can be confusing to learners of Czech whose native language combines the two features, such as English.[39]

Voiced consonants with unvoiced counterparts are unvoiced at the end of a word or when followed by unvoiced consonants.[40] As an unrelated feature, the body of Czech consonants is divided into hard, neutral, and soft consonants:

  • Hard: ch, d, g, h, k, n, r, t
  • Neutral: b, f, l, m, p, s, v, z
  • Soft: c, č, ď, j, ň, ř, š, ť, ž

This distinction has little phonetic value other than by affecting declension patterns, but hard consonants may not be followed by y or ý, nor weak ones by i or í, except in loanwords such as kilogram. Neutral consonants may take either character. Hard consonants are sometimes referred to as strong and soft ones as weak.[41]

The consonant ř (capital Ř) is believed to be unique to Czech. It represents the raised alveolar non-sonorant trill (IPA: []), a sound somewhere between Czech's r and ž (example: About this sound "řeka" (river) ).[42] Notably, it appears in the name Dvořák.

In Czech, as in Slovak, Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian, and Slovenian, there are many words that lack vowels, for example ztvrdl ("hardened"), čtvrthrst ("quarter-handful") and smrt ("death"). The consonants l and r can function as a nucleus of a syllable in Czech. A popular example of this is the sentence strč prst skrz krk "stick a finger down [your] throat".[citation needed]


The vocabulary of Czech comes mostly from Slavic, Baltic, and other Indo-European roots. Generally, most verbs and prepositions are of Balto-Slavic origin, while pronouns and some verbs and prepositions are of wider Indo-European origin.[43] However, Czech- or Slavic-like construction is not always genuine: some words were apparently created from nonsense or non-Czech words to resemble Czech words, e.g. hřbitov (graveyard), listina (list).[44]

Most loanwords in Czech come from one of two time periods. Initially, they arrived, mostly from German,[45] Greek, and Latin,[46] before the nationalist re-invigoration of Czech as a literary language. In recent times, as the Czech people have come in contact with more of the world, loanwords from a wider variety of languages have arrived: principally English and French,[47] but also the likes of Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian. Lasting Russian loanwords have also been adopted, mainly concerning animal names and naval terms.[48]

Older German loanwords tend to be seen as crude or even vulgar, while more recent adoptions from other tongues are often associated with high culture.[49] Moreover, adoptions from Greek and Latin roots began to be rejected in the nineteenth century in favor of words based on older Czech words and common Slavic roots. For example, while the Polish word for "music" is muzyka and the Russian word музыка (muzyka), Czech uses hudba.[50]

Some Czech words have been adopted as loanwords into English and other languages, e.g. robot (from robota [labor]),[51] pilsner (from Plzeň [a Czech village]),[52] polka (from polka [Polish woman]).[53]


Czech is a fusional language: its nouns, verbs, and adjectives are inflected to alter their meanings, unlike agglutinative and polysynthetic languages, which rely on extensive prefixes and suffixes, and analytic languages, in which few or no words are modified at all.[54] Most Indo-European languages are fusional, as are a few members of other families like Afro-Asiatic and Uralic. As a member of the Slavic sub-family, Czech is one of the most highly inflected languages in the world.[55]

Sentence and clause structure[edit]

Complete sentences in Czech must include, at minimum, a noun or pronoun and a verb. Pronouns are distinguished for person and number.[56]

Person Singular Plural
1. my
2. ty
vy (formal)
3. on (male)
ona (female)
ono (neuter)
oni (males)
ony (females)
ono (neuter entities)

Other parts of speech include adjectives, adverbs, numbers, question words, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.[57] The rest stand on their own, but adverbs are mostly formed by taking the final ý or í of an adjective and replacing it with e, ě, or o.[58]

Because the language uses cases rather than relying on word order to convey the functions of words, as English does, Czech word order is very flexible; sometimes all possible permutations of words in a clause are acceptable. However, switching words in a clause around is not without grammatical use: it allows for differing emphasis. Typically, any word at the end of a clause is to be emphasized, unless an upward intonation indicates that the sentence is a question. One example follows.[59]

  • Pes jí bagetu. – The dog eats the bagel (rather than eating something else).
  • Jí bagetu pes. – The dog eats the bagel (rather than someone else doing so).
  • Pes bagetu jí. – The dog eats the bagel (rather than doing something else to it).
  • Jí pes bagetu? – Does the dog eat the bagel? (emphasis ambiguous)

However, in parts of Bohemia such as Prague, questions such as Jí pes bagetu? that do not have a distinctive question word (such as co [what] or kdo [who]) are instead given intonation that slowly escalates from low to high, then quickly drops to low on the last word or phrase.[60]


Main article: Czech declension

Each Czech noun and, if available, its associated adjective is declined into one of seven grammatical cases to indicate the noun's use in the sentence. When Czech children are formally learning their language's declension patterns, the cases are referred to by numbers, as follows.[61]

1. první pád nominativ nominative
2. druhý pád genitiv genitive
3. třetí pád dativ dative
4. čtvrtý pád akuzativ accusative
5. pátý pád vokativ vocative
6. šestý pád lokál locative
7. sedmý pád instrumentál instrumental

However, some grammars of Czech order the cases differently to group the nominative and accusative together, as well as the dative and locative, as these declension patterns are often identical. An added benefit of this order is to accommodate learners with experience in other inflected languages like Latin or Russian. This order is: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, locative, instrumental, vocative.[62]

Prepositions with certain cases[edit]

The simplest of the rules governing noun declension is the use of prepositions (předložky). Excepting expressions and common phrases, each preposition is matched with a certain noun declension case depending on use. The following are basic examples of common prepositions and their corresponding noun cases (note: these examples represent only one circumstance. Often each preposition can be used with two or more noun cases depending on the sentence).

  • Genitive: během (during), podle/dle (according to/along), vedle (beside), kolem (around), okolo (around), do (into), od(e) (away from), z(e) (out of/from), bez(e) (without), místo (instead of), u (at/by the).
  • Dative: k(e) (towards), proti (against), díky (thanks to), naproti (opposite).
  • Accusative: skrz(e) (through), pro (for), na (to/for).
  • Locative: o (around, about), na (on), při (into, in, around), v (in), po (after, around).
  • Instrumental: za (behind), před (in front of), mezi (between), pod(e) (below), s(e) (with), nad(e) (above).

Many of the above prepositions are used in different circumstances. For instance, when motion or a change of position is expressed, prepositions of place such as nad, mezi, na and pod are used with the accusative case.

The second factor affecting noun declension is the verb used. In Czech grammar, the accusative case serves as the direct object, and the dative case serves as the indirect object. Some verbs require the genitive case to be used. For example, the verb "zeptat se" (to ask) requires that the person being asked the question be in the genitive case (Zeptat se koho/čeho), and that the thing being asked about follow the preposition "na" and be in the accusative case (Zeptat se koho/čeho na koho/co).

Gender and animacy[edit]

Czech distinguishes three genders—masculine, feminine, and neuter—and masculine is further divided into animate and inanimate. With few exceptions, feminine nouns in the nominative case end with -a, -e, or -ost; neuter nouns with -o, -e, or ; and masculine nouns with a consonant.[63] Adjectives agree in gender with the nouns they modify and—for masculine nouns in the accusative/genitive singular and the nominative plural—also agree in animacy.[64] The main effect of gender in Czech is the differences in noun and adjective declension, but there are other effects. For example, past-tense verbs take similar endings based on gender: e.g. dělal (he did/made); dělala (she did/made); dělalo (it did/made).[65]


Declension is also affected by number. This system is typical for a Slavic language: cardinal numbers one through four allow the nouns and adjectives they modify to take any case, but numbers over five place these nouns and adjectives in the genitive case. The Czech koruna is a handy example of this feature; it is shown here as the subject of a hypothetical sentence, and thus declined as genitive for numbers five and up.[66]

English Czech
one crown jedna koruna
two crowns dvě koruny
three crowns tři koruny
four crowns čtýři koruny
five crowns pět korun

Words for numbers decline for case and, for numbers one and two, also for gender. Numbers one through five are shown below as examples; they have some of the most exceptions among the numbers. The number one has declension patterns identical to those of the demonstrative pronoun, to.[67][68]

1 2 3 4 5
Nominative jeden (male)
jedna (female)
jedno (neuter)
dva (male)
dvě (female, neuter)
tři čtýři pět
Genitive jednoho (male)
jedné (female)
jednoho (neuter)
dvou tří čtýř pěti
Dative jednomu (male)
jedné (female)
jednomu (neuter)
dvěma třem čtyřem pěti
Accusative jednoho (male an.)
jeden (male in.)
jednu (female)
jedno (neuter)
dva (male)
dvě (female, neuter)
tři čtýři pět
Locative jednom (male)
jedné (female)
jednom (neuter)
dvou třech čtyřech pěti
Instrumental jedním (male)
jednou (female)
jedním (neuter)
dvěma třemi čtyřmi pěti

While Czech's main grammatical numbers are singular and plural, vestiges of a dual number remain. Most notably, some nouns referring to parts of the body that come in pairs have a dual form, e.g. ruka (hand) – ruce, noha (leg) – nohy, oko (eye) – oči, ucho (ear) – uši. Oddly, while two of these nouns are neuter in their singular forms, all dual nouns are treated as feminine. Czech has no standard declension scheme for dual nouns; their gender is relevant for their associated adjectives and verbs.[69]

Verb conjugation[edit]

As is typical in Slavic languages, Czech includes grammatical aspect in two forms: perfective and imperfective. Most verbs come in pairs, one of each aspect. The meaning is identical or similar in each case, but differs in that perfective verbs are seen as completed and imperfective verbs as ongoing. However, this does not mean that the perfective aspect is equal to the past tense and the imperfective aspect the present.[70] In fact, any Czech verb of either aspect can be conjugated into any of the language's three tenses: past, present, or future.[71] More accurately, aspect describes the state of the action at the time specified by tense.[72]

The verbs of most aspectual pairs differ in one of two ways: by prefixes or by suffixes. In prefix pairs, the perfective verb has an added prefix, e.g. imperfective psát (to write, to be writing) vs. perfective napsat (to write down, to finish writing). The most common prefixes are na-, o-, po-, s-, u-, vy-, z-, and za-.[73] In suffix pairs, a suffix is added to the root of the imperfective form, usually -at, -ávat, -et, -ovat, or -vat.[74]

Some verbs only exist in one aspect. Many verbs concerning continual states of being, e.g. být (to be), chtít (to want), moct (to be able to), ležet (to lie down, to be lying down) have no perfective form. Conversely, many verbs that represent immediate states of change, e.g. otěhotnět (to become pregnant), nadchnout se (to become enthusiastic), have no imperfective.[75]

The language's use of the present and future tenses is comparable to that of English, for the most part. However, Czech simply utilizes the past tense to represent what in English is the present perfect and past perfect. This means that Ona běžela could correspond to She ran, She has run, or She had run.[76]

In some contexts, Czech's perfective present (not to be confused with the present perfect of English) carries an implication of future action. In others, it connotes a habitual action.[77] As a result, the proper future tense is used to minimize ambiguity. The future tense does not involve conjugation of the verb that represents an action to be undertaken in the future. Instead, the future form of být is placed before the infinitive of this verb, as follows.[78]

Person Singular Plural
1. budu budeme
2. budeš budete
3. bude budou

However, this conjugation is never followed by být itself, so future-oriented expressions involving nouns, adjectives, or prepositions rather than verbs simply omit být. For example, the expression "I will be happy" is translated as Budu šťáštný, not Budu být šťáštný.[79]

Czech also includes a conditional mood that is formed by placing special particles after the past-tense verb. This mood indicates possible events, namely I would and I wish. An example follows, using the verb koupit (to buy).[80]

Person Singular Plural
1. koupil/a bych koupil/y bychom
2. koupil/a bys koupil/y byste
3. koupil/a by koupil/y by

Czech verbs come in several classes, affecting their declension patterns. The future tense of být would be classified as a typical "Class I" verb because of its endings. Although a full explanation of the system is much more complicated, a basic sample of the present tense of each class—as well as some common irregular verbs—follows.[81]


Main article: Czech orthography
See also: Czech Braille

Czech has one of the most phonetic and regular orthographies of all European languages: its thirty-one graphemes represent thirty sounds (in most dialects, i and y denote the same sound), and it contains only one digraph (ch). As a result, some of its characters have been used by phonologists to denote corresponding sounds in other languages. However, the characters q, w, and x appear only in foreign words.[82] The háček (ˇ) is used with certain letters to form new characters: š, ž, and č, as well as ň, ě, and ř, which are uncommon outside Czech. Additionally, ť and ď (aspirated versions of t and d) are written this way as an evolution of the háček that accommodates the letters' height.[83] The character ó exists only in loanwords.[84]

Unlike most European languages, Czech distinguishes vowel length: long vowels are indicated by an acute accent or, in one case, a ring, while short vowels are left unadorned. Long vowels are not normally considered separate letters, and Czech alphabetical order does not afford them their own spots.[85] The long u is written ú when starting a word and ů elsewhere.[86]

In general, Czech typographical features not tied to phonetics resemble those of most European languages using the Latin alphabet, including English. Proper nouns, honorifics, and the initial letters of direct quotations are capitalized, and punctuation is typical for the most part. One unusual feature is the way thousands are marked off in numbers written with Arabic numerals: the millions place and all higher places receive commas, the thousands place receives a period, and the ones place (preceding decimals) receives a mid-height period, similar to a bullet point. For example, the number written 20,671,634.09 in English would be 20,671.634·09 in Czech.[87] Another unusual feature is that in proper noun phrases of more than one word, only the first word is capitalized, e.g. Pražský hrad (Prague Castle).[88]

Sample text[edit]

Sample (1846)

Czech: Všichni lidé se rodí svobodní a sobě rovní co do důstojnosti a práv. Jsou nadáni rozumem a svědomím a mají spolu jednat v duchu bratrství.

English: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cerna & Machalek 2007, p. 26
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Czech". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, pp. 54–55
  4. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, pp. 54–55
  5. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, pp. 58–59
  6. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, pp. 57–58
  7. ^ Meier-Brügger 2003, p. 37
  8. ^ Meier-Brügger 2003, pp. 61–65
  9. ^ Kortlandt 2009, p. 33
  10. ^ Monaghan 2009, p. 509
  11. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, p. 98
  12. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, p. 98
  13. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, pp. 98–99
  14. ^ Cerna & Machalek 2007, p. 26
  15. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, pp. 99–100
  16. ^ Cerna & Machalek 2007, p. 26
  17. ^ Chloupek & Nekvapil 1993, p. 92
  18. ^ Chloupek & Nekvapil 1993, p. 95
  19. ^ Chloupek & Nekvapil 1993, p. 93
  20. ^ Chloupek & Nekvapil 1993, pp. 93–95
  21. ^ Agnew 1994, p. 250
  22. ^ Agnew 1994, pp. 251–252
  23. ^ Cerna & Machalek 2007, p. 26
  24. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 2
  25. ^ a b "Europeans and Their Languages" (PDF). Eurobarometer. June 2012. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  26. ^ van Parys, Jonathan (2012). "Language knowledge in the European Union". Language Knowledge. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  27. ^ Hrouda, Simone J. "Czech Language Programs and Czech as a Heritage Language in the United States" (PDF). University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Chapter 8: Language" (PDF). 2000. Retrieved July 23, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Languages of the U.S.A." (PDF). U.S. English. Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  30. ^ Eckert 1993, pp. 143–144
  31. ^ Wilson 2010, p. 21
  32. ^ a b c "Map of Czech Dialects". 2003. Katedry českého jazyka a literatury s didaktikou. Retrieved 3 November 2012. 
  33. ^ Wilson 2010, p. 21
  34. ^ Kortmann, Bernd; van der Auwera, Johan (2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe: A Comprehensive Guide. Walter de Gruyter. p. 516. ISBN 3110220261. Retrieved 2 November 2012. 
  35. ^ Šustek, Zbyšek (1998). "Otázka kodifikace spisovného moravského jazyka (The question of codifying a written Moravian language)" (in Czech). University of Tartu. Retrieved July 21, 2014. 
  36. ^ Harkins 1952, pp. 2–3
  37. ^ a b Harkins 1952, pp. 1–2
  38. ^ Harkins 1952, p. 9
  39. ^ Harkins 1952, p. 12
  40. ^ Harkins 1952, pp. 10–11
  41. ^ Harkins 1952, p. 11
  42. ^ Harkins 1952, p. 6
  43. ^ Mann 1957, p. 159
  44. ^ Mann 1957, p. 160
  45. ^ Mathesius 2013, p. 20
  46. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, p. 101
  47. ^ Mathesius 2013, p. 20
  48. ^ Mann 1957, pp. 159–160
  49. ^ Mathesius 2013, p. 20
  50. ^ Sussex & Cubberley 2011, p. 101
  51. ^ Harper, Douglas. "robot (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 22, 2014. 
  52. ^ Harper, Douglas. "pilsner (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 22, 2014. 
  53. ^ Harper, Douglas. "polka (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 22, 2014. 
  54. ^ Qualls 2012, pp. 6–8
  55. ^ Qualls 2012, p. 5
  56. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 74
  57. ^ Naughton 2005, pp. v–viii
  58. ^ Naughton 2005, pp. 61–63
  59. ^ Naughton 2005, pp. 10–11
  60. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 10
  61. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 25
  62. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 25
  63. ^ Naughton 2005, pp. 22–24
  64. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 51
  65. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 141
  66. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 114
  67. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 83
  68. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 117
  69. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 40
  70. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 146
  71. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 131
  72. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 146
  73. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 147
  74. ^ Naughton 2005, pp. 147–148
  75. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 149
  76. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 140
  77. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 150
  78. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 151
  79. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 151
  80. ^ Naughton 2005, pp. 152–154
  81. ^ Naughton 2005, pp. 136–140
  82. ^ Harkins 1952, p. 1
  83. ^ Harkins 1952, pp. 6–8
  84. ^ Harkins 1952, p. 8
  85. ^ Harkins 1952, p. 1
  86. ^ Harkins 1952, p. 7
  87. ^ Harkins 1952, pp. 14–15
  88. ^ Naughton 2005, p. 11


External links[edit]