Cases are confusing me to no end!

Discussion in 'Čeština (Czech)' started by Elektrisk564, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. Elektrisk564 Member

    English - American
    Hey guys. I'm a Swedish-speaking American and I'm attempting to learn Czech on my own. I live in Oklahoma, so there's practically no classes I can take. That's fine, though.. I learnt Swedish on my own and I do enjoy a challenge, hence going with Czech. Anyway, let me get to the point. Considering Swedish nor English use cases (at least, not to the extent Slavic languages do), it's hard for me to grasp the concept of the 7 Czech cases.

    Previously, I had thought the genitive case was generally just for possessive situations. But, a Czech friend of mine showed me these different sentences to try to illustrate the difference. I still don't understand though:

    Jsou tu dívky - There're girls [here].
    Je tu dívka. - There is a girl [here].
    Je tu mnoho dívek. - There're many girls [here].

    dívky and dívek both mean 'girls', but I understand that dívek is the genitive plural.. why do we switch from the nominative to genitive just because we added "many" to the sentence?
  2. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    Simply because mnoho takes the genitive - that's the rule. Genitive is used for possession, as you say, but also - in general - to express "of" - as in a lot of girls, so it's actually a genitive in English too, although nouns don't inflect for case in English.

    As you'll appreciate, explaining the Czech case system is, unfortunately, beyond the scope of one thread on a language forum, but any course book will explain the different cases and how they are used in a systematic way as they are introduced. You could also have a look at this (scroll down just over halfway to 'Declension').

    If you have specific questions about a specific point of grammar, no doubt everyone on the forum will be happy to help.
  3. francisgranada Senior Member

    Also "Je tu pět dívek" - There are five girls [here].

    In this case the reason for the genitive is not so evident, but the explanation of Enquiring Mind is still valid: for etymological reasons, the numerals above 4 behave like nouns (as if we had "five of girls" in English).
  4. klakra New Member

    I´m not sure if you´re learning our language the way we do in school.. Basically, you need to know the paradigms for each gender and the way they inflect.
    I´ll show you the process, it may help you.. Let´s work with your example - "dívka")

    1. Define the gender (babička = female gender)
    2. Now you want to know the genitive in order to find out the right paradigm. Say to yourself: "Dívka BEZ? - Dívky. JAKO? Žena bez ženy." (other paradigms for female gender are "růže", "píseň", "kost". Here the genitives are: bez růže, bez písně, bez kosti. As you can see, only "žena" suits our example.
    3. Find the inflection you are looking for:

    sg/ pl
    1. (kdo, co?) ženA / ženY
    2. (bez koho/čeho?) ženY / žen
    3. (k/e komu/čemu?) ženĚ / ženÁM
    4. (vidím koho/co?) ženU / ženY
    5. (oslovujeme, voláme) ženO! / ženY!
    6. (o kom/čem?) o ženĚ / ženÁCH
    7. (s kým/čím?) ženOU / ženAMI

    Jsou tu ženY => Jsou tu dívkY (pl, nominative)
    Je tu ženA => Je tu dívkA (pl, nominative)
    Je tu mnoho žen => Je tu mnoho dívek (pl, genitive)

    But this way might be too convoluted for foreigners, maybe Enquiring Mind could give you other hints. I´ve seen a few of his posts and must say that a lot of Czechs would envy his knowledge of our language. (Bravo, Enquiring Mind, really :) )
    If you have any other questions, don´t hesitate to ask! And good luck in your studying, it´s not gonna be easy ;-)
  5. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    Thank you klakra, you are too kind :eek:. I am still learning, though. At the risk of being accused of setting up a mutual appreciation society, may I say that your post is absolutely 100% spot-on in terms of fluent idiomatic English. I couldn't find anything to indicate that it wasn't written by a native, so hats off to you too!

    The OP (Original Poster) doesn't say in his profile if he has a knowledge of any other language with a case system (such as German or Latin), or any other language at all - that, at least, would be a big help. If he is coming across case inflection for the first time with Czech, it's bound to be bewildering. I think his best bet is really to borrow or buy a coursebook. There are quite a few these days, unlike in the good old bad old days (za soudruhů) when I started, when probably the only one available was "Čeština pro cizince", though it has to be said that that was pretty good. There are also quite a few good resources online. He just has to work at it steadily and in a structured way, and not hope to master everything in one go. His success rate will depend (as with most things in life) on how much work he puts into it.

    As we can see, there are, of course, lots of helpful people here in Czech WR Forum-land who will be happy to help him with specific queries. :)
  6. klakra New Member

    Wow, I feel honored :) Thank you.. And I really meant what I wrote. But there is a huge difference between mastering English and Czech, don´t you think? Don´t get me wrong, I love English but let´s be honest - it´s not one of the most difficult languages in the world, is it? ;) So, allow me to pronounce you the winner of our mutual appreciation society contest ;)

    Anyways, the greatest thing about languages is that there´s always something new to learn. Expressions, vocab, idioms, you name it. I am still learning when it comes to Czech language too :D

    And yes, I think (or at least I hope) there are nice people here who would love to help out with linguistic problems. Although it´s not easy for a Czech to explain sth concerning his/her own native language - I used to give classes to a French girl back in the CZE and she had so many questions I didn´t have an answer to!

    Let´s just hope that the OP won´t get discouraged and give up on our beautiful "květnatou češtinu" (at least not soon ;) ).
  7. bibax Senior Member

    Klakra, don´t use the acute accent mark instead of the apostrophe in don't, it's, let's, etc. ;)

    A jak (podle jakého vzoru) bys skloňovala podstatná jména ženského rodu máti, neť. :rolleyes:
  8. klakra New Member

    Co znamená slovo neť? :D Tos mě dostal.. A máti bych označila za výjimku ;)

    By the way, sorry about the accent mark, I am aware of the difference, but it is easier for me to use it... I would have to change languages on the keybord, in order to get the apostrophe and that is just too much work ;)
  9. InfiniteAero

    InfiniteAero Senior Member

    English - Canada/Jamaica
    Hello! When I was studying Latin cases, my professor mentioned the partitive genitive and it is used in the same way as the Czech language. I think you should look up some pages about this type of usage. I'm bad at explaining this so I took this excerpt from the wikipedia page.

    composition (see Partitive case):

    · substance ("a wheel of cheese")
    · elements ("a group of men")
    · source ("a portion of the food")

    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
  10. Hello!
    InfiniteAero, you are right. May I try to elaborate on your point?
    This genitive with numerals higher than four and with indefinite numerals such as mnoho, málo, několik etc is typologically in fact genitivus partitivus. In Latin, and for that matter in English, the use of partitive genitive (or preposition construction equivalent to genitive) in connection with indefinite expressions of quantity is common - paucum temporis, lit. "a little bit of time". Your example "a wheel of cheese" shows nicely the relation between general expressing of partition and counting. If I am not mistaken, using it with definite numerals from five upwards is a specific of Slavic languages (I don't know about Baltic, but wouldn't be surprised, if it was the same way there). I even seem to remember that in old grammar books this "counting" genitive was sometimes called genitivus Slavonicus. But in Latin, there is a trace of the use of genitive with definite numerals, too - whereas with all numerals up to one thousand we use nominative, the "counted thousands" go with a noun in genitive, e.g. mille oves, "a thousand sheep", but duo millia ovium, "two thousand sheep".
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
  11. InfiniteAero

    InfiniteAero Senior Member

    English - Canada/Jamaica
    My professor gave an example similar to your "duo millia ovium" = two thousands of sheep. We were told to think of it that way in order to remember that it takes the genitive case. Also, I didn't know about the counting genetive! I'm going to have to look that one up!
    And thanks for explaining this type of genitive usage :)
  12. bibax Senior Member

    There is another peculiarity, both in Latin and Czech: pluralia tantum. They are not in the genitive case after numerals, but they need another set of numerals.

    Latin: duae litterae = two letters (= characters) vs. binae litterae = two letters (in the sense like in "letters I've written, never meaning to send"); bina castra = two camps; tres rotae vs. trinae rotae = three carriages (rota = wheel); etc.

    Czech: jedny, dvoje, troje, čtvery, patery, ... dveře, hodiny, nůžky, kalhoty,....;

    Koupil jsem si pět kalhot. :cross:
    Koupil jsem si patery kalhoty. :tick:
  13. bibax Senior Member

    Máti se tradičně skloňuje: máti, mateře, mateři, máteř, máti!, o mateři, mateří; plur. mateře, mateří, mateřím, ... (podobně v ruštině мать, матери, ...). Kmen je mateř-, odtud přídavné jméno mateř-ský. Jen málo Čechů to umí bezchybně, protože máti se dnes nahrazuje slovem matka. Většina by skloňovala: máti, bez máti (chybně!).
    Neť se skloňuje podobně: neť, neteře, neteři, ... (nominativ neteř je novotvar).
  14. t.tellur

    t.tellur Member

    One can not say that Czech is one of the world's most difficult languages.
    It just depends on each person's native language. For the Slavic speakers, English can be and is so incredibly difficult. Everyday I'm hearing mistakes in our school concerning the VERY basic prepositions and their relations. They say "I'll do it in Monday" instead of "I'll do it on Monday". And this is only the basic stuff! But vice any Slavic language is equally hard to learn as English is for us. And for both Englishman and Czech, Chinese is equally difficult because it belongs to totally different family of languages.

    Btw, OP, to answer your question. Genitive is more used in Czech than it is in English. It's not case of possession, ex. Přijdu v pět/šest/sedm... hodin (but přijdu v dvě/tři/čtyři hodiny which is nominative; I'll arrive at 2/3/4 or 5/6/7 o'clock)...Some verbs require genitive case, ex. Mám se ho zeptat na tu otázku? (Should I ask him this question?)
    But I'd say cases aren't THAT hard once you learn when to use which one. I'd say that verb aspect system is more hard for Germanic/Romance speakers since no aspect is present in these language groups at all.
  15. klakra New Member

    t.tellur: If you read if carefully, you'd see that I said that "ENGLISH ISN'T" one of the most difficult languages in the world. Honestly, I consider it the most easiest language I've ever learned. And the fact that your schoolmates can't use prepositions correctly shows that they're slackers and don't bother to learn them properly, not that English is difficult.
    I wonder how many other foreign languages you speak. I hope at least 3 (from different language branches) because one needs helluva experience in order to say such a thing you claim here.

    Babix: Přiznávám, že i já bych slovo "máti" skloňovala chybně. Asi proto, že jsem ho nikdy nepoužila, nebo protože ostatní v jiných pádech říkají stále "máti"... A v životě jsem žádného Čecha neslyšela vyslovit "neť", tuším je moc zastaralé na to, aby se objevilo jinde než v literatuře.. Každopádně děkuji za rozšíření mých znalostí :)
  16. Angelo di fuoco Senior Member

    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Aspect is present to some degree in the Romance languages, at least in the past and future tenses (classical difference between Imperfect and Preterite: Germans have a hard time learning it and overuse the Imperfect, we Slavs sometimes, too). In English there are some periphrastic forms which permit to express the imperfective tenses. However, on the whole the use is different...
  17. punctuate Senior Member

    The concept of case, contrary to the popular opinion, is not hard at all (I think). It's no more hard than the concept of preposition in English: here you use many different prepositions, not always for a clear reason making a choice, there (in Slavic languages) the same thing happens both with prepositions and with noun cases, which have the same function in a sentence as prepositions do. The really hard concept to learn for an English speaker in Slavic languages would be the concept of word, not of case. For us, the word is not a sequence of sounds or a sequence of letters, but an idea, a shapeless entity with a meaning that gets its shape only in a sentence where it acquires a case, but still retains its meaning undebased. When you think of it this way, it should not be hard, it may just take time to change the thinking.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2014
  18. Bohemos

    Bohemos Senior Member

    Česká republika
    Czech language/Čeština
    Hey Elektrisk564,

    Link:ívka&Hledej=Hledej (Lexém: dívka x dívky x dívek)

    Uvedu jen několik příkladů:
    - Nominativ (1. pád) x Genitiv (2. pád)
    - Singulár (číslo jednotné; č. j.) x Plurál (číslo množné; č. mn.)
    - dívka (rod ženský; ("ta") ),
    - chlapec (rod mužský; ("on") )

    a) Je tu jedna (jediná) DÍVKA. (=> Nominativ - singular),
    a) Je tu mnoho DÍVEK. (=> Genitiv - plural),
    a) Chlapec je tu bez DÍVKY. (=> Genitiv - singular),
    a) Jsou tu DÍVKY. (=> Nominativ - plural)


    bb) Ten chlapec přišel bez DÍVKY. (=> Genitiv - singular; chlapec (Nominativ - singular) x dívky (singular) ),
    bb) Tito chlapci přišli bez DÍVEK. (=> Genitiv - plural; chlapci (Nominativ - plural) x dívek (plural) ),
    bb) Ten chlapec přišel bez DÍVEK. (=> Genitiv - plural; chlapec (Nominativ - singular) x dívek (plural) )
    bb) Tito chlapci přišli bez DÍVKY. (=> Genitiv; chlapci (Nominativ - plural) x dívky (singular) ),


    dd) Tu je DÍVKA bez chlapce. (=> Nominativ - singular; chlapce (Genitiv - singular) x dívka (singular) ),
    dd) Tu jsou DÍVKY bez chlapců. (=> Nominativ - plurál; chlapců (Genitiv - plural) x dívky (plural) ),
    dd) Tu je DÍVKA bez chlapců. (=> Nominativ - singular; chlapců (Genitiv - plural) x dívka (singular) ),
    dd) Tu je chlapec bez DÍVEK. (=> Genitiv - plural, chlapec (Nominativ - singular) x dívek (plural) ).

    S poděkováním
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2014
  19. Odriski Senior Member

    Hi, this case is just like "a lot of"

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