Why Czech will never be the language of the world

One day I was out on my own and wrote down all the phrases that I had wished I could have been able to say that day. On that list I had asked why sometimes ‘water’ was ‘voda’, as in dobra voda meaning ‘good water’, and why sometimes it was vodu as in jednou vodu, meaning ‘one water’ when asking for another water.

Mariana went through my questions and answered all but that one. When I asked her the next day why it wasn’t jednou voda she looked at me and said, “Because voda is the infinitive.” I blinked a couple of times and said “Infinitive of a noun?”

Yes indeed. There are seven forms of each noun, although form 2 and form 4 are usually the same, and the difference between them is apparently meaningless in English. I’m used to the idea of masculine and feminine nouns, but conjugating nouns? In Czech, and presumably Slovak and maybe others, nouns are either masculine, feminine, or neutral. There are seven standard patterns for conjugating masculine nouns, four for feminine, and four for neutral. As far as I know there is no way to tell by looking at a noun what gender or pattern to use. You just have to know.

I’m guessing that when a Czech parodies a foreigner, they always use the infinitive form of the noun. I bet it’s friggin’ hilarious.

2 thoughts on “Why Czech will never be the language of the world

  1. Marianna points out that it’s “jednu vodu,” not “jednou vodu.”

    And you forgot that there are animate and inanimate masculine nouns, just to make it more fun. Plus everything changes again after five. Like jedno pivo, dvě tři čtyři piva, and pět (and more) piv!

    I’ve been here five years, and that’s about how far I’ve gotten.

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