I had this problem too.
A.) Whose car is [that]?
B.) Whose is [that car]?
In A, the word "that" is just the standalone word for "that unspecified thing over there" - which is always "to".
In B, the word "that" is part of "that car", and so it changes depending on the gender of the thing to which it refers - in this case, "automobil" is (I think) masculine inanimate, which would make it "ten" not "to". So while the meaning of the two sentences is identical, they are not both literal translations.
I believe if the object in question were neuter, then either would be acceptable, but I may be wrong.
You're right that I could have phrased that more tactfully. I apologise. I actually got this question right, my problem was due to a previous question. That question insisted the correct answer was "Či je ten automobil"
So both "Či je ten" and "Či je to" could be used with automobil?
I usually enjoy learning Czech because even though there are lots of different rules, declensions and cases so far I have found it to be consistent
I understand that there is a difference between "whose car is that?" and "whose is that car? But I cannot understand the correctness of the czech sentence "Čí je to automobil", which is one of the czech sentences which we should hear and type, because here the "to" is cleary "grouped" with automobil - "to automobil" - and the two should then be in line with each other in gender, i.e. "ten automobil". I remember something vaguely that automobil can be neuter or male, is that the reason?
Would I be correct with the following mental images to distinguish between the To and Ten. You walk in a public garage and there's only one car so you ask: "Čí je TO automobil?" - You walk in a public garage and there's a beautiful car in the middle of many other cars so you point toward the car and ask: "Čí je TEN automobil?"