"Is the car old or new?"
Translation:Je ten automobil starý nebo nový?
The previous question was "Čí je to automobil?" And so for this one I said "Je to automobil ..." and I was marked wrong since I should have written "Je ten ..."
I know that automobil is masculine so "ten" makes sense, but sometimes "to" is required. I don't understand when to use which.
This is the ever repeating pattern where you have:
This is, That is , It is (whatever) - Je to, To je (whatever)
It is always TO and it stands for THIS or THAT or IT but it is used together with the copula and with a noun or adjective in the predicate.
Je to muž. Je to žena. To je dítě. Je to ten automobil. Je to to auto.
If you use a demonstrative TEN AUTOMOBIL, TO AUTO, TA ŽENA... then you must use the right demonstrative for the right gender.
If you searched around, you will find many similar explanations, we have tens of replies like this around.
It's a "je to / to je" construction that uses "to" regardless of gender - but then the subject has to be "to" which stands for "it". If the subject is something else (e.g. "automobil") then it has nothing to do with that construction and these "ten, ta, to, ..." are demontrative pronouns which stand for "that", not "it", and they have to agree with the noun. Compare:
- To je automobil. To je starý automobil. Je to nový automobil. To je dlouhá ulice. (long street)
- Ten automobil je starý. Ten automobil je nový. Ta ulice je dlouhá.
The "Whose...?" question can actually be formed both ways - with "to" as the subject or the item you're asking about as the subject. Therefore, "Čí je to automobil?" and "Čí je ten automobil?" are both correct. The former could be answered: "To je Františkův automobil." (It is F.'s car) and the latter: "Ten automobil je Františkův." (That car is F.'s)