Czech prefixes

Discussion in 'Čeština (Czech)' started by chondrinenigma, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. chondrinenigma New Member

    English
    Hello there,

    I've been learning Czech for 3 years and am somewhere between B1 and B2 level. I'm now finding it difficult to find quality learning materials, as I've advanced beyond almost all the textbooks on the market. Therefore, I'm wondering if anyone can give me some guidelines on Czech prefixes.

    I'll try my best to explain. Take a standard verb like 'jíst', which everyone learns quite quickly. Now, let's say you want to quantify how much you're eating. Czech doesn't always use 'trochu' or 'málo' but will instead alter the verb to become 'ujíst'. Ok, I can live with that. Now let's say that I'm (for some unknown reason) talking about torture, and I want to say that somebody was tortured a little. So, I remember what I learned with 'ujíst' and I say 'umučit'. Perhaps now you can see how this becomes confusing, as 'mučit' here with the prefix 'u' means 'to torture to death', essentially the exact opposite of its meaning in front of 'jíst'.

    Can anyone explain the logic of this to me? Is this documented anywhere? I found something online regarding prefixes but it doesn't go far enough. I have tried to collate some information based on patterns I've noticed. For example, sandwiching your verb between 'po' and 'se' generally means, 'too much of something in a bad way', like 'podělat se', 'ponížit se', 'podrobit se' and 'posmívat se'. Putting ’od’ in front of a verb that requires time can mean to fulfill a goal or obligation, eg. ’odpracovat’ (v Čině), ’odsedět’ (v vezeni) and ’odsloužit’ (v armádě). However, as an English speaker, this really isn't natural for me and I need help with it. :/

    I hope this makes sense, and that someone can point me in the right direction. Feel free to ask any questions if anything doesn't make sense.
     
  2. kralyk New Member

    Czech
    I don't know about any books on this exact topic, but I'll try to answer from my knowledge.

    To understand the 'u-' prefix, you need to understand the grammatical aspect (dokonavost / vid). The meaning of the 'u-' prefix isn't that specific, it's more general, it implies perfective aspect (dokonavý vid) of the verb in use. I have no idea how familiar you are with grammatical aspect, but if you are B2 I suppose you know what's going on. If not, feel free to ask, I can explain.

    Anyway, when someone uses 'umučit' they use the u- prefix to indicate that the activity has been finished, which is exactly what the perfective aspect is used to denote. If they used 'mučit' instead (as in "Byl mučen" for example), it is not clear wether the torture was completed (ie. the person was killed) or not.

    The 'ujíst' use case is an extension of that, although a bit harder to understand since it's an idiom essentially. Let's look at what I think can be considered an intermediate step: 'běhat' vs. 'uběhnout' (to run, the former is imperfective, the latter perfective). We use 'běhat' to talk about running in general, regardless of (in)completion of the activity. However, 'uběhnout' is used to denote completion (past or future) of a specific running activity. And to talk about completion when it comes to running, you need to be specific as to what was/will be completed. For exmaple: "He ran a marathon" would most likely be translated as "Uběhl marathon" (the person has completed the task). If someone says "běžel maraton", it is not clear wether the person did actually finish, moreover, it's likely that the runner didn't actually finish, because otherwise it would be reported as "uběhl maraton". (Although it depends, really, if you're talking about a professional runner, you could probably use "běžel maraton" safely without doubts...)

    Now when it comes to 'ujíst', I'm not so sure since it's idiomatic, but my understanding is that it is implied that it's actually quite a small bit you're eating there, as you correctly understand, BUT the fact that the bit is small is not implied by the 'u-' prefix, what that prefix implies is that you've taken some amount of food and finished the action of eating it, meaning that you don't think you'll be having any more. The small amount is implied by the colloquial use of 'ujíst' for surreptitious eating of other people's food rather than the prefix.

    There are many more exmaples of "extended" use of the 'u-' prefix, such as for instance 'vidět' → 'uvidět', meaning to see and to spot something, respectively, and many more... They can be sometimes hard to understand.

    The conclusion here is that this prefix carries no information about size or thoroughness of an action, but rather indicates its completion (the perfective aspect).


    I hope this makes some sense.


    EDIT:
    Note to the usage of 'se': 'se' is actually a pronoun and it always refers to self (not always the speaker's self, though, but rather the subject's self). In 'podělat se', which means "to shit oneself", the 'se' means exactly the same thing as 'oneself' in english translation of this snippet. There's no other meaning.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
  3. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Prague
    Hungarian
    Dobrý den, byl bych zvědavý jakou pomůcku byste byl schopen nám dát k anglickým frázovým slovesům, české předpony fungují podobně. Můj názor je, že pokud už umíte česky na velmi dobré úrovni (B2 je), takové pomůcky nemají moc velký význam, lepší je zapamatovat si konkrétní slovesa v konkrétním kontextu. Jako pomůcku mohu doporučit Slovník spisovného jazyka českého on-line, kde každá předpona je vysvětlena a je tam spousta příkladů. Enco.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  4. werrr Senior Member

    Tak to je rána pod pás. Takové jazykové Jak vy k my - tak my k vy!. :D

    Žádná obecná příručka nemůže pojmout všechny ustálené tvary, a už vůbec ne výjimečné případy jako slovesa odvětit, balit apod.

    U nově vytvářených sloves je ale možné význam uhodnout, alespoň Češi to tedy zvládají. :D

    A je možné dát dohromady pár obecných rad, čeho si všímat:

    1) Předpony po-/pů- a u- se u některých skupin sloves (slovesa pohybu, smyslového vnímání, změny stavu...) používají jako gramatický prostředek k vyjádření budoucího času (půjdu, uvidím...).

    2) K vyjádření prosté dokonavosti se obvykle používá předpona do-, která nese nejmenší vlastní význam.

    3) Každá slovesná předpona má původ v právě jedné předložce, se kterou významově souvisí. Některé tyto předložky už ale nejsou obvyklé: předložka vz (směrem vzhůru) zanikla, předložka v se čtvrtým pádem bývá nahrazena předložkou do s druhým pádem, předložka s se čtvrtým pádem je zřídkavá...

    4) Význam předpony souvisí s pádem, se kterým se sloveso váže. Vazba může respektovat vazbu původního slovesa bez předpony (jíst chleba -> ujíst chleba), anebo souvisí právě s předponou. Pak se jedná o celou rodinu významově obdobných sloves, např. u-+(nedokonavé významové sloveso) + akuzativ znamená přivést předmět soustavnou činností do nějakého konečného stavu (nejčasteji k smrti):
    umučit někoho k smrti
    ujíst se k smrti​
    uběhat se k smrti
    uučit se k smrti​
    utajtrdlíkovat někoho k smrti (do bezvědomí, do růžova, do požadovaného tvaru...)​

    5) Při odhadování významu je důležité zvážit pořadí změn, kterými sloveso vzniklo.

    6) Cizojazyčné slovesné předpony se k vytváření nových tvarů nepoužívají, ale přebírají se s celým slovesem. Taková slovesa bývají často obouvidová.
     
  5. werrr Senior Member

    There is. It could express mutuality (podělat se = to shit each other).
     
  6. AllTaken New Member

    czech
    Czech wiki page http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seznam_českých_předpon refers to a book by František Uher called 'Slovesné předpony' (Verbal prefixes), but I know nothing about it so dont blame me if its useless. As far as I remember, this isnt even taught in czech schools, because its mostly a question of common sense and is natural to us. Czech schools only focus on s-, z-, vz- , which have similar meaning and sound. Also, altering the verb doesnt always make you sound more sophisticated and the use of 'trochu' or 'málo' can be perfectly fine.


    u-jít and u-mučit actually share the same "u"-meaning :). Sometimes it also depends on the preposition AFTER the verb.
    I believe noun prefixes are pretty much self explanatory. They usually mean what they are : anti-, under-, above-, ...

    Verbal prefixes often change the perfective/imperfective aspect and their meaning can also depend on the rest of the sentence, as stated above. You can put a meaning to some of the prefixes, but some have more meanings and you will have to memorize them individually. Sometimes a combination of a prefix and a word give an unique meaning, so in my opinion its better to consider it as a new word and not just a combination of two original meanings (just like with english phrasal verbs). I wanted to offer few meanings to the prefixes, but as I was thinking about it, more words and meanings were popping up in my head so it will probably be better if you ask about specific examples that are problematic to you.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2013
  7. MikeLynn

    MikeLynn Senior Member

    Hi, I'd say that the problem you have is very similar to the one we have with "prepositional verbs" and "phrasal verbs" (the terminology might differ). Sometimes, when you know the meaning of the prefix and the base, you can figure out the meaning of the new form, the one with the prefix (prepositional verbs), quite easily, but sometimes, and this is very similar to English phrasal verbs it is simply idiomatic and the only way, at least in my opinion, is to simply learn the meanings. For example take the verb jit: projit (walk through), obejit (walk around), vyjit (walk out or get along with someone) and then you have pojit (croak). Unfortunately, I have no idea if there is something addressing this particular problem that can be used by foreigners trying to learn Czech and I'm afraid that if there is, it'll be about as useful as all the books on English phrasal verbs that I've read: informative, but sometimes next to useless. Good luck :D
    M&L
     
  8. Tchesko

    Tchesko Senior Member

    Paris 12
    Czech
    I don't know if you are aware of "A Grammer of Czech as a Foreign Language" by Karel Tahal, available here. See chapters 68 (Motion verbs and prefixes) and 69 (Prefixes with other verbs).
    You might also be interested in Tahal's "Aspect Pairs of Czech Verbs", available here, marginally dealing with verbal prefixes.
     

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