"Žofie takes care of her uncle."

Translation:Žofie se stará o svého strýce.

June 28, 2018

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A lot of times people here say how in Czech the order of words in sentence is very... arbitrary. Is "Žofie stará se o svého strýce." very unnatural?


We cannot vouch for what many people say here. The thing is that the seemingly arbitrary Czech word order is actually constrained in subtle ways. Some words prefer to be placed in the second slot, others won't have it any other way. It is actually much more complicated than that, but at this stage, the information from the Tips and Notes for this skill should suffice. Repeated here for convenience:

Čekám na Kateřinu. is "I am waiting for Kateřina.", while Dívám se na Kateřinu. is "I am looking at Kateřina."

The verb particle se in that last example is our first encounter in this course with this challenging word. We cannot ommit it with this particular verb. "Dívám na Kateřinu." is an improperly constructed sentence, even if it can be understood readily. The main challenge for foreign learners is that the se wants to be in second place, after the first unit of meaning in the sentence, whether the first unit is expressed in one word or through a complex clause. See the following additional examples of placing se:

  • Ona se dívá na Matěje. (She is looking at Matěj.)
  • Ta nová holka se dívá na Matěje. (The new girl is looking at Matěj.)
  • Kdo se dívá na Matěje? (Who is looking at Matěj?)
  • Na Matěje se díváme my. (We are looking at Matěj.)
  • Proč se nedíváte na Františka? (Why aren't you looking at František?)

A minor added wrinkle is that the conjunctions a (and) and ale (but) as well as independent utterances pre-pended (usually) with a comma do not count as a unit of meaning when se is looking for its second place. So we would need to say

  • Ale on se dívá na Žofii. (But he is looking at Žofie.)
  • Ano, a ona se dívá na Kateřinu. (Yes, and she is looking at Kateřina.)


Se has to be the second word.


As endless_sleeper said, "se" has to be the second word in its sentence or clause. There are a LOT of (usually short) words like this that want to be in the second position, and they cause all kinds of havoc for many of us who are taking the course. But we gradually start to "get it" and eventually the confusion more or less goes away and things start to sound "right." Take heart! :-)

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