"He wrote even worse than he spoke."
Translation:Psal ještě hůř, než mluvil.
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The perfective (napsal) is about a completed action. When you say "napsal", we need to know what the result of that completed action was, in other words, you must include an object. For example:
Napsal tu knihu hůř, než jsme čekali. -- He wrote that book worse than we had expected (not a great sentence, I know)...
In this exercise, you absolutely need the imperfective "psal" -- nothing is completed in the sentence, we're referring to the process, to how he (always or in a certain period) wrote.
Thanks for this explanation, since clearly there was something I didn't "get" when I was speculating.
My clarifying question is: Am I right in understanding from your comment that napsat will never be used without a direct object? If so, that's a very good thing to know!
So, yeah, this is one of the tricky things (I pasted the see-no-evil monkey emoji here, but it broke the whole comment, so I had to remove it).
It can be used without an object, but then, the object "dopis" (letter) is automatically implied. Nowadays, it can also be a text message. (This sounds like I'm making it up, but I swear. Czech is funny sometimes). Examples:
- Psal, že má zájem, a pak už nenapsal. -- He wrote that he was interested and then he never wrote (texted) again.
- Až přijedeš domů, napiš. -- When you get home, write (send a message) to me/us.
- Napíšeme si. -- We will text each other (We will keep in touch).
- Napsal, ale nepřijel. -- He wrote a letter (or sent a text), but he hasn't come.
It doesn't work at all with adverbs like "hůř/hůře" or "líp/lépe", obviously.
Next point of clarification, just to make Absolutely, Positively Sure "I got this": When napsat IS used without an object, the listener/reader will assume that the written thing is a letter or a text message -- rather than, say, a term paper, a poem, War and Peace 2.0, etc.? (PS: Czech is funny sometimes?!?!?)
Yes, that's why I wrote those examples where there are no objects, to show how it always means a letter (text message in these digital times). :)
It actually surprised me, too, when I realized it. My first reaction was simply "Napsal hůř" doesn't work, it needs an object. Then I had to think of it more deeply.
Needing an object is quite common among perfective verbs (verbs that require an object are called transitive). This is probably because perfective verbs are result-oriented -- we want to know what was completed/achieved. E.g.:
- dělat / dělat co vs. only udělat co
- pít / pít co vs. only vypít co
- číst / číst co vs. only přečíst co
They are used without an object only in such situations where English would use an auxilliary verb instead, e.g.:
- A: Vypiješ ten čaj? -- Will you drink (up) that tea?
- B: Vypiju. -- I will. // Nevypiju. -- I won't.
- A: Shakespeare napsal Hamleta? -- Did S. write Hamlet?
- B: Napsal. -- He did. -- it's clearly re-using the object mentioned in the previous sentence, so we don't have to assume "letter" or anything else.
But then we can also find intransitive (objectless) perfective verbs:
- dojíst (to finish eating) -- works both ways:
- Už jsi dojedl? -- Are you done eating?
- Už jsi dojedl ten párek? -- Have you finished eating the sausage?
- But the default perfective "sníst" needs an object (like "vypít" and others).
- "rozsvítit" also works both ways:
- Alexo, rozsviť! -- Alexa, turn on the lights! (We can say that "světlo/světla" is the implied object though)
- Rozsvítím lampičku na čtení. -- I'm going to turn on the little reading lamp.
So yeah, it's complicated. Some perfective verbs will assume a default object, like "rozsvítit" and "zhasnout" (světlo/světla), or "zahrát" (písničku - a song). And "napsat" is one of them. Be aware though that the object can also be a pronoun and that can refer to anything, so:
- Napsal. -- He wrote a letter / He texted.
- Napsal ji. -- He wrote it (a poem, a book, an essay, anything feminine).
- Napsal to. -- He wrote it (anything).
- Otevři. -- Open the door (only)
- Otevři to. -- Open it (the door, window, bottle, book, present...)
- Otevřeli v 7 ráno. -- They opened the store at 7 a.m., or possibly: the door (the store being a larger meaning of "the door"), but it cannot mean they opened a bottle, a present etc. Here, you would also interpret the objectless "They opened at 7 a.m." in English as referring to a store, right?
- Hrál dvě hodiny. -- He played (a song, football, a game, the piano, anything) for two hours. (imperfective)
- Zahraj ještě! -- Play another song! (cannot mean anything else, "písničku" is implied)
- Zahraj si ještě. - Play some more. (this can mean a game, a musical instrument, sport, a theatre role...) with the "si"-added "for your own pleasure" meaning.
(No reply button currently for your more recent comment, so replying here.)
One word: WOW.
When I've digested this (and breakfast), I may (sorry) have more questions. If I don't, it will likely be either because you've done such a good good job of explaining all this, or because my head has exploded trying to wrap itself around it. Either way, even a billion piškolingots would be too few for your time and trouble!
I am native AmE, so I am speculating here. But I would think that perfectives could be used if the writing and speaking have been completed. For example:
A: Remember that horrible "poet" we saw at that poetry slam last week?
A: I was glancing at his so-called book in a cafe yesterday. He wrote even worse than he spoke.