If a declension has more than one option, which one is used?

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kopfpeerd
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If a declension has more than one option, which one is used?

Postby kopfpeerd » 2013-07-22, 12:51

Hello!

In the series "Things that confuse me about Czech": multiple versions of a certain declension. I'll give you a few examples.

  • The nominative plural (and vocative) of 'muž' can be both 'muži' and 'mužové'.
  • The locative singular of 'hrad' can be 'hradě' or 'hradu'.
  • The locative singular of 'pivo' can be 'pivu' or 'pivě'.
  • And 'pán' can change to either 'pánu' or 'pánovi' in the singular dative and locative, or to 'páni' or 'pánové' in the plural nominative and vocative.

Can you just pick either one? Does it matter which one you use, or is there a unwritten rule about which versions are frowned upon? For 'pán' I know that 'pánové' generally is the preferred plural, but is it then wrong to use 'páni'? Why does 'páni' exist when it's not being used?

Also, how do I know which version to use with other words? I've read this post by user perskychrt, but it seems like it's a language feature you just have to know.

Thanks!
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Re: If a declension has more than one option, which one is used?

Postby johnklepac » 2013-07-22, 15:43

kopfpeerd wrote:Can you just pick either one? Does it matter which one you use, or is there a unwritten rule about which versions are frowned upon? For 'pán' I know that 'pánové' generally is the preferred plural, but is it then wrong to use 'páni'? Why does 'páni' exist when it's not being used?

Also, how do I know which version to use with other words? I've read this post by user perskychrt, but it seems like it's a language feature you just have to know.

Most of it's just formality, e.g. Židi (Jews) is seen as almost a racial slur, while Židé is neutral. Stick with the -é/-ové form if you're in doubt.

Elsewhere, I'm not sure I can think of a good unifying rule other than generally opting with the first pattern found in a dictionary or grammar textbook. I'd be lying if I said I knew all the patterns myself, even. It exists in verbs, too, e.g. děkuji vs. děkuju.

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Re: If a declension has more than one option, which one is used?

Postby kopfpeerd » 2013-07-23, 15:04

Hi John,

Thanks! Since my post I've had Czech Acquaintances say that endings for a particular declension are pretty much interchangable (except for the Židi/Židé example, obviously), so I guess I'll pick the one that sounds best to me.

I've also found this thread on another forum, where someone says at the bottom:
My observation:
I prefer the ending -ovi after the hard consonants: Dej tomu chlapovi (pánovi, strýčkovi, psovi) pokoj!
Conversely I prefer the ending -i after the soft consonants: Dej tomu chlapci (muži, strýci, koni) napít!

... which also sounds like a good rule to follow. I guess the best way is to emerge yourself in the language, but sadly we don't hear much Czech here in Belgium. I'll keep reading Czech books and newspapers and hopefully learn it that way.

Thanks for your time and your reply!
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Re: If a declension has more than one option, which one is used?

Postby hreru » 2013-07-24, 19:26

Not totally interchangable, in addition to having a bit different meaning or feel about the way you decline there might be set phrases or in some words you only use one of the two possibilities. For example, from the nouns mentioned above I can hardly imagine I'd say "chlapu"or "strýčku", while as for the other nouns I'd be happy with both alternatives. Or then I prefer "koni" too, but automatically a phrase "nech to koňovi, má větší hlavu" (=don't think about this problem) came to my mind and in this case you couldn't use "koni". "Pán" in plural is not a word you have many opportunities to use for - only when addressing a group of people officially, and then you do say "pánové", but "páni" exists too; men's toilet might be referred to as "páni", or then there is na expression of surprise "páni!".

I wouldn't be so strict about Židi/Židé. True that someone who hates them and despises them won't call them "Židé" for it would be too elegant way to call them, but that doesn't mean it works the other way as well. The examples perskychrt used might be looked at as a mere difference between standard and colloquial Czech. I would write "žijí Židé" but say "žijou Židi" without expecting anyone regarding me racist for that.

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Re: If a declension has more than one option, which one is used?

Postby silmeth » 2013-08-11, 14:44

Here is great post explaining it: viewtopic.php?f=45&t=36732
polszczyzna jest moją mową ojczystą (pl)foghlaimeoir na Gaelainne Mumhan ’s ea mé (ga)mám, myslím, dobrou znalost češtiny, rozumím a něco mluvím (cs)

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Re: If a declension has more than one option, which one is used?

Postby onetwothreefour » 2013-09-01, 6:42

"Dej tomu chlapci (muži, strýci, koni) napít!"

Záleží na situaci. Kdyby na ulici omdlel mladý muž a já (muž, 35 let) tam byl s kamarádem a chtěl ho poprosit, aby mu dal napít, tak bych neřekl "dej tomu chlapci napít". Řekl bych "dej tomu klukovi napít". Kdybych chtěl oslovit někoho neznámého přiměřeného věku a vykal bych, tak bych řekl "dejte tomu chlapci/klukovi napít". Možná i "chlapcovi". (Chlapci/chlapcovi mi připadá jednak škrobené, jednak - vzhledem k mému věku - nepatřičné. Muž o muži typicky jako o chlapci nemluví, a když, tak tím spíš dává najevo, že ten mluvčí je starší nebo váženější. Dovedu si třeba představit, že těmihle slovy doktor v nemocnici řekne sestře "dejte tomu chlapci napít", možná i "chlapcovi". Případně si tak můžou říkat kamarádi, i vyššího věku. Před týdnem jsem byl v bazénu, plavalo tam pět pánů-kamarádů kolem šedesátky a jeden z nich povídá "Tak plaveme, chlapci". Ale nanapadá mě situace, kdy by se to použilo v dativu.)

"Dej strýci napít" je taky problém. V Čechách je obecný termín "strejda", takže "dej strejdovi napít". "Dej strýcovi/strýci napít" zní obojí pedantsky, hyperkorektně. (Rád bych věděl, kdy by nastala taková situace, že by někdo něco takového vůbec mohl říct. Možná v nemocnici, kde leží nemocný nebo starý strýc. Ale to je tak okrajové, že nemá smysl se tím zabývat.) Na Moravě by bylo možné slyšet "dej/dé to strycovi" (s krátkým "y", ve vokativu typicky "strycu").

"Dej tomu koni napít" zní okay, byť trochu upjatě, klidně bych řekl "dej tomu koňovi napít".


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