Where am I?

Let’s say for a moment that you’re going to the bank. In czech you would say Jdu do banky. – “I’m going to the bank.” No problem. Of course, if you’re gong to the post office you would say Jdu na poštu.

D’oh! How you say “to” depends upon where you’re going. Banks and post offices strike me as being pretty similar, but in the czech tongue they are very different. Not only does the preposition change, banky and poštu are themselves different cases of the nouns. The first is the accusative form of banka while the second is the genetive form of pošta.

How you say “post office” and “bank” changes again once you get there. Jsem v bance translates to “I am at the bank”, while you would tell me you’re at the post office by saying Jsem na poštÄ›. In the case of the post office, na now translates to “at”. At least once you get there you can use the locative form for the name of the place no matter where you are. Remember, the rules apply to names as well: Jsem v Pizza Hutu.

And what if you’re going nowhere? Well, in czech, you’re not going nowhere: Nejdu nikam. Once you start negating you don’t stop until you run out of words. The idea that a double negative implies a positive strikes czechs as rather odd. All that negating leads to sentences like Nikdy nic nikde nikomu neříkej a nijak se nezabývej žadným problémem – which would translate literally to “Don’t never not say nothing to no one and in no way don’t bother with no problem.” (I got that sentence from a book. Don’t ask me why it uses nijak instead of žádný. I know you were going to.)

Then again, if you’re already nowhere it’s Nejsem nikde. There are different kinds of nowhere here, depending on whether it’s a destination or a location.