Conjugating nouns

I’m writing this partly to get things straight in my own head. I may well be wrong on some of the subtleties.

In Czech, nouns have different forms depending on how they are used in a sentence. The rules are different depending on the gender of the noun, and (if the noun is masculine) whether the thing named by the noun is animate or inanimate. These rules apply to people’s names as well — they’re nouns, after all.

For instance, If I were to say “My friend Brian Votaw is over there,” I would use the nominative form of the noun: “Můj kamarád Brian Votaw je tam.” No biggie. (Of course for females it’s not so simple. The last name would have -ova appended to it: Barbara Seegerova. Naturally sometimes you don’t just stick letters on the end; that would be too simple. Čapek becomes Čapkova, for instance, and if the root family name ends in ?~C½ you just switch it to an á. But I digress.)

Since Brian is (usually) animate and (biologically) male, to say “I know Brian,” I would use the accusative singular: Znám Briana. It doesn’t matter whether Anna is animate or not, she’s female and that’s enough to turn “I’m waiting for my friend Anna” into Čekám na mou kamarádku Annu. Note that the czech word for the pronoun “my” (which was múj for Brian above because he was male and that was the nominative form) switched from the feminine (or moje, take your pick) to mou, and kamarádka (The feminine form of kamarád) became kamarádku.

I’m reasonably sure “I’m looking forward to seeing Amy” becomes Těší­m se Amy because Amy ends in y. However, I usually type it Amz, because the y and z are switched on the keyboard when I’m in Czech mode.

This episode only deals with two of the seven forms for each noun. Five more to go! Wahoo!

I hope reading this helps you as much as writing it helped me. Things are a lot clearer now, don’t you think?

9 thoughts on “Conjugating nouns

  1. “‘no”

    which if it’s short for ano, means



    sticking with the basics:

    dobry den,

    jedno pivo, prosim

    dva (tri, stiri) piva, prosim

    piet piev, prosim

    eski pivechko,

    koupelna? vet-se (W.C.) ?

    mluvite angleski?

    no comprendo c^estina

    (or something like that)

  2. Hey, if you think Czech is complicated, you oughta try Latin, where there are (more or less) 12 different forms for nouns depending on how they’re being used — not just subject and object case, but a whole bunch of others. In Latin, it doesn’t much matter what order the words are in, because the form tells you what’s a subject, what’s an object, and so forth.

  3. One thing about czech is that the verbs conjugate fairly consistently and the there is a different form for wach pronoun. Where in english there is I go, you go, they go, etc, but in czech it ja jdu, ty jdes, oni jdou, and so on.

    The side effect of this is that the pronoun isn’t really necessary. You just say jdu instead of ja jdu.


  4. Ah, exactly like Hebrew, where the same word can mean “I,” “I am,” “am,” or “I am what I am.” (In case you’re wondering, the word in question is “Yahweh,” which, since the days of Moses, has caused a whole lot of controversy.)

    Of course, the Czech alphabet at least bears some resemblance to the one we use for English. What’s interesting is that those Czech letters that are represented by a letter we know plus a hacek (the little v on top) are all individual letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Hmmm….

  5. Oops, I didn’t mean for that last comment to be anonymous. I think someone’s been fiddling with the settings on my computer.

  6. I made a comment earlier, but I think it was at the wrong entry. Just saying it should be “Teagova” since “ova” means daughter of.

  7. Actually, “ova” means female subordinate family member of.

    If a woman is not married, it is attached to her father’s name, and it means “daughter of.”

    If a women is married, it is attached to her husband’s name, and it means “wife of.”

    Therefore, Mom, you are Barbara Seegerova. Of course, we all know that you are not at all subordinate, but for the purposes of Slavic naming, we pretend.

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