"He took a stapler off my desk."

Translation:Vzal mi ze stolu sešívačku.

January 20, 2018

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I’ve got a question regarding this sentence and another one with "taking my stapler" - couldn’t we say "vzal si sešívačku z mého stolu" (meaning that he took it for himself and expressing that this might’ve been my stapler by stating that the table was mine, like in the English sentence)?


Yes, that should be possible. Or just vzal without si.


Add "Vzal si z mého stolu sešívačku".


That is one of the 400+ accepted translations. :)


What about vzal ze stolu mou sesivacku I don't understand the vzal mi ze stolu ... mi being the possessive article in the translation 'took my stapler' shouldn't the mi be next to the thing it possesses?


Well, "Vzal ze stolu mou sešívačku" isn't accepted because it's not "my stapler" in the English sentence, is it?

The English sentence is "He took a stapler off my desk." (it could be anyone's stapler, or probably no one's -- an office stapler). You can translate it more literally: "Vzal z mého stolu sešívačku." and that's accepted - we can't say it's wrong, it's just not as natural/common in Czech as using "mi" instead.

We prefer using the dative "mi" (or "ti", "mu", etc.) instead of the possessive "můj" (or "tvůj", "jeho", etc.). You can view "Vzal mi ze stolu sešívačku." as "He took a stapler from the/my desk from me" -- this is natural in Czech (and unnatural in English). We say that "It happened to me" = "Stalo se mi to" -- the deed of taking a stapler away happened to me.

Similar examples:

  • Umřela mi babička. - My grandmother has died - less natural: Moje babička umřela.
  • Za chvíli mi přijde kamarád na návštěvu. - A friend of mine will come to visit me in a while - less natural: ...přijde můj kamarád... (we'd more likely leave it out completely and just say "Za chvíli přijde kamarád na návštěvu" than include "můj" here)

"mi" is not a "possessive article" (there is no such thing). It's the personal pronoun "já" in the dative case. It's in the clitic (second) position. If it was stressed, it would take the long form "mně", for example: "Tu sešívačku vzal ze stolu mně."


Thanks Sorry that was an error on my part but I meant that the mi should come after the z z mi stolu. but that explanation about Vzal z mého stolu sešívačku." being accepted .. I understand much better your other examples are also easy to understand Umřela mi babička./Za chvíli mi přijde kamarád na návštěvu . there , the possessive accompanies the possessed noun. but i just couldn't understand why vzal mi z stolu ... mi before z i would have said it meant he took me from the the desk and not the stapler :) Thanks again


You have the same usage in English but it works with fewer verbs, for example: "Bring me a stapler" or "Send me a letter" - you don't mean "bring me somewhere" but "bring a stapler to me", and you don't mean "send me to someone" but "send a letter te me". In both examples, the "me" is dative (although not obvious in English), not accusative. The same way, in Czech, the "mi" is dative (again, it's NOT any kind of "possessive", a possessive would be "Bring my stapler" - "Přines mou sešívačku")


I guess then , in order to commit to memory this word order I would have to think He took (from me) off my desk a stapler. Is it the same whenever there is an indirect object in the sentence for example : She took a book from my bed. 'Vzala mi z postele knihu?' and Would that also be the same with The boy stole a cup from my kitchen - ten kluk ukradl mi z kuchyne salek?


There's really nothing new here to learn in terms of word order. What may be new is the use of the dative ("mi", "ti", "Františkovi"...). The word order is what you have learned before -- small unstressed words (called clitics) go to the second position. Therefore:

  • Vzala mi z postele knihu. - yes
  • Ten kluk mi ukradl z kuchyně šálek. - second position!
  • Kam ti mám poslat dárek? - Where should I send the present for you to?
  • Umřela mu manželka. = Manželka mu umřela. - His wife died.
  • Doneste nám pivo. - Bring us beer = Bring beer to us.

Notice how all of them were in the second position. But only because they are clitics (like "se" similar words that always go to the second position). If we stress the dative word, it won't be in the second position anymore, but it's still the same construction. E.g.:

  • Komu ten kluk ukradl šálek? Františkovi? - Who did that boy steal a cup from? From František?
  • Ne, mně ho ukradl! - No, he stole it from me. (Now "ho" is in the second position, but the stressed "mně" isn't - as opposed to the unstressed "mi" -- "Ukradl mi ho".)


  • Pošlu ti dopis. -- I'll send you a letter.
  • Tobě pošlu dopis. -- As for you, I'll send you a letter.
  • Pošlu dopis Františkovi. -- I'll send a letter to František.

It's still the same structure (dative case), whether you use a clitic like "mi" or not.

  • Vzal ti ze stolu sešívačku? -- Did he take a stapler off your desk?
  • Ne, vzal ji ze stolu Matějovi. -- No, he took it off Matěj's desk.


These are great explanations, but I think you, as a native Czech, just cannot perceive the sense of total wonder that a foreigner has with these Dative constructions, as in "Umřela mi babička."! :) These are absolutely unique for the Czech language (at least for me).

And it's not about the second position at all. It is about the HUGE difference between "normal" Dative and this unique Czech Dative. In your examples you list them all in one pile, but for me these sentences are amazing: "Vzala mi z postele knihu." -- "Ten kluk mi ukradl z kuchyně šálek." -- "Umřela mu manželka." WHILE the following sentences are normal, routine, and boring: "Kam ti mám poslat dárek?" -- "Doneste nám pivo."

Do you see my point?



Yes, of course, I saw your point even before you made it :D

Pollyhs was asking about word order. I deliberately mixed sentences with what you consider "regular" use of the dative with these "wondrous" uses, to show that the word order is the same - it's not a new problem.

As for the use of the dative in examples such as "Umřela mi babička", I do realize they are unusual for those who haven't encountered this use of the dative. And again, I was replying to Pollyhs -- she seems to have grasped it, as she herself offered the example "ten kluk ukradl mi z kuchyně šálek" - with the correct dative, but wrong word order - so I just explained the word order while giving more examples of dative - I deliberately showed more "regular" uses as well.

As for uniqueness... Serbo-Croatian uses the dative in the same way - and MORE - they use it as a possessive marker in situations where Czech doesn't (anymore?). My ex was a native speaker of Serbo-Croatian, and when he spoke Czech, he would often say things like "Brácha mi bude letos maturovat" (My brother will graduate from high school this year), where the dative sounds really odd in Czech, somehow too possessive, as if his brother was a part of him. On the other hand "Přijede mi matka" (My mother will arrive) is natural in both languages. (Not because of "mother", but because of the verb)


This Dative is really fascinating! So, you are saying that "Bracha mi bude letos maturovat" is not idiomatic in Czech, but "Bracha mi ukradl penezenku" is, correct? And the difference would be that in the second case there is "from me" connection between my brother's action and me, while in the first one there is no connection between his graduation and me, correct?

And for this sentence: "Ten kluk mi ukradl z kuchyně šálek", how would the correct translation be? Is it "from me" that he stole a cup, or "from my kitchen"?


Yes. "Brácha mi ukradl peněženku" works because it was "my wallet". It's only implied that it was "můj brácha". It would work the same with "Františkův brácha mi ukradl peněženku". But in "Brácha mi bude maturovat", there is no object, so the "mi" only connects back to "brácha" and this works in Serbian, but not in Czech. A Czech will wonder - how does that affect me so directly that he will graduate? "Umřela mi babička" affects me, I have lost someone, "Přijede mi matka" affects me, I will have a visitor.

Here are some more examples I can think of:

  • Vytrhli mi zub. - They pulled my tooth (a tooth from me).
  • Manželka mi vyprala košili. - My wife washed my shirt.
  • Bojí se, že mu upadnou ruce. - He's afraid that his hands/arms will fall off. (He's afraid of hard work.)
  • Onemocněla mi kočka. - My cat has become sick. -- this affects me because I will have to take care of it. But "onemocněla mi kamarádka" sounds strange, as if I had an unhealthy possessive relationship with her and/or I'm her caretaker.

The dative implies "something happens TO ME" (or TO the person mentioned in the dative) as opposed to the possessive pronoun. If I say "Moje babička umřela", I'm taking a step back, I'm not emotionally involved. If it happened in the far past, it's much more natural. From my own personal example, my father's mother died in 1927 (I know, crazy), I would say "Moje babička umřela v roce 1927" because I don't feel it affecting me. But my mother's mother died last year, so I say "Babička mi umřela loni" when I feel emotionally involved. (This is not 100% clear-cut and it's possible to say it the other way around, just less common/natural)

"Ten kluk mi ukradl z kuchyně šálek" means "he stole my cup (from me)", it can be anyone's kitchen.

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