Apostrophe S

Today is the birthday of Jan Amos Komenský, reformer of education and one of my five favourite Czechs (a list I may have to update).  This makes it also teacher's day here in the Czech Republic.  As a teacher, I bring to you a lesson from the Czech language.


In English, it's pretty easy, just add apostrophe+s and you're done.  Sure, if it ends in an "s" you should put the apostrophe after the "s."

In Czech, it's a different story.  There are two options.  The first is to use the genitive (or second) case.  The genitive case makes it possible for you to say something like "the theatre of Antonín Dvořák" rather than "Antonín Dvořák's Theatre."  In Czech, the former would be Divadlo Antonína Dvořáka.  The endings are changed in order to create the genitive.

Maybe you think, "Well, that's far too complicated.  Can't I just add apostrphe+s?"

No, you can't.

But, you can say "Dvořákovo divadlo."

That's not so bad.

But you're wrong.

Because if you want to say that you're travelling from the theatre, you'd have to say "z Dvořákova divadla" and if you wanted to say that you're in the theatre, it would become "ve Dvořákově divadle."  Or, if you're waiting for your friend in front of the theatre, then it would be "před Dvořákovým divadlem."

But, luckily, divadlo or theatre is a neuter word in Czech, making the various formations simpler.  And at least we're not talking about plurals. There are other endings for if we're talking about a masculine inanimate word like a banán, or a masculine animate word like bratr or a feminine word like sestra.  Then if we throw in plurals, it gets all kinds of crazy.

Rather than me explaining in words, just check out these charts:
The two charts in the middle of the page are only to show how to decline the words to form possessives with masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine, and neuter words in singular and plural (for each of the seven cases).
This chart shows the gender in colour and the declension is shown in black (with six of the seven cases listed on the left, because who's going to use the vocative with this and say, "Harry's shoes, come here!")

There are many things that can be learned from this exploration,  Firstly, Czech is quite complicated.  Thus it invites you to great exertion of your mind.  But what this taught me is that sometimes for beginners or intermediate students of a language, it is enough to be aware.  I now know what is meant if I hear these endings.  For now, that's enough.  At this stage in my language learning, there are other forms of declension that should be contended with more urgently.


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