"On the twentieth, it was Kateřina's birthday."

Translation:Dvacátého měla Kateřina narozeniny.

September 30, 2018

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Why does the verb mela come before Katerina? What is wrong with "Dvacateho, Katerina mela narozeniny"?


We don't really do that in Czech as you do it in English.


I don't get it either. Is there a rule supporting this? Thank you.


It is not just a thing we do. I do not think you will find a rule, you can't have rule for any possible thing that is not done. Usually you have rules for things that are done.


I remember people saying on this forum that the word order in sentences is free. The question was if ""Dvacátého, Kateřina měla narozeniny"?" is syntactically correct. If yes, maybe this option should included in the list?


My comment addresses only the first part of yours. I have heard both that "standard" Czech word order is SVO and that Czech word order is free. Based on my experience, it's "free-er," relative, for example, to English, but it's definitely not open to doing whatever we want with it, and there are plenty of non-SVO constructions... to be lived with, whether we "get" them or not. (I, for one, often don't... but I'm learning to accept the language for what it is and keep plugging away.)


While it is rather 'free' as compared to English, it does not mean there are no rules for word order. Czech is (despite its many quirks) still an S-V-O language. Your suggested sentence is wrong.


We simply do not separate adverbials of time like this. We have one clause, not comma and the word order must makes sense in that single clause. As endless_sleeper points out, Czech is an SVO language.

We can debate whether "Dvacátého Kateřina měla narozeniny." is possible, but "Dvacátého, Kateřina měla narozeniny." is straigh out. Note that such a comma would change the pronunciation in a specific way and it s simply not done in Czech.


And other languages


Thank you 'endless_sleeper' and 'BoneheadBass' for your answers. English, Russian and Romanian are SVO languages as well, but this type of sentence construction (as we see it above in English) works fine in all of them. I just thought that there might be an explanation in case of Czech. Anyway, I take it as it is.


SVO: Kateřina měla narozeniny. When did she have it? Dvacateho. It is interesting to learn that Czechs just don't do it that way. If a Czech were to hear that sentence (with Kateřina as the second word), whould (s)he know when Kateřina had her birthday?


Which sentence? Please tell us explicitly which sentence, I don't really understand what you are saying here. And do not think the difference between English and Czech is that big here.


Like some of the others here I thought that "Dvacátého Kateřina měla narozeniny." was OK, and was surprised that it was not. In the accepted translation, is měla placed after Dvacátého because of the ever-present Second Position Rule, or for some other (stylistic or idiomatic) reason?


A native speaker would choose among these word orders based on context and what the new information is:

"Dvacátého měla Kateřina narozeniny." - What happened on the 20th? It was K.'s BIRTHDAY.

"Dvacátého měla narozeniny Kateřina." - it was KATEŘINA'S birthday.

"Kateřina měla narozeniny dvacátého." - her birthday was ON THE 20TH.

"Kateřina měla dvacátého narozeniny." - Speaking about Kateřina, it was her BIRTHDAY on the 20th.

As you can see, "měla" likes to stick to the 2nd position, like a linking word, while the full-meaning-carrying words are shuffled around. 1st position: what we've been talking about, what the question asked about... 3rd position: a further detail specifying the 4th word... and finally 4th position: the new information, the "core" of what is being conveyed to the listener, the part that would usually be stressed in English (because it can't be shuffled around in English).

Sentences with other word orders (like "Dvacátého Kateřina měla narozeniny.") are still understandable, but not natural, which means the listener has to perform some brief mental gymnastics to parse the sentence in their brain.


Thanks a lot-- this is most helpful.


There are two different statements — "it was Katerina's birthday" and "Katerina had a birthday" for me. How to say in Czech the first statement exactly as it'written?


"it was Katerina's birthday" = "byly to Kateřininy narozeniny"

If you put it into the sentence in the right way, it will be accepted (Dvacátého byly Kateřininy narozeniny.).


Co je špatne na Dvacátého byli Kateřininy narozeniny.?


It must be byly, byli is used only for the masculine animate gender.


I got this question as a 'translate from English to Czech using a word bank' (on mobile, so I couldn't switch to typing it in freeform) and found it extremely confusing. The 'official' English translation was, "on the twentieth, it was Kateřina birthday," which seems like an entirely different sentence from the original Czech (if similar in meaning). My biggest hurdle was actually figuring out why it was "Kateřina" in the word bank and not "Kateřiny," haha. Anyway, I think the Czech sentence is very valuable, especially to see the word order, but maybe in the next version of the course you could use a different English sentence as the main translation? :)


These are the most natural ways of saying it:

  • Zítra mám narozeniny -- It's my birthday tomorrow.
  • Kdy máš narozeniny? -- When is your birthday?
  • Můj bratr má narozeniny v březnu. -- My brother's birthday is in March.

So what English sentence would you imagine here as the main translation?


I saw later in this lesson that "má narozeniny" is translated strictly as "is (someone's) birthday," and that it was part of the point of the lesson in fact, so I'm not sure you should listen to me about this, haha. I was wondering, though -- in certain lessons, the hover clues will give the clue for an entire phrase, not just individual words. I think that would've helped me, here.

But, to answer your question from my original complaint - I was imagining something like, "Kateřina had her birthday on the twentieth." Although it's not the most common way to say, a phrase like this is definitely one I've heard before.

Anyway, whatever you decide to do with it, people will learn! Sometimes getting things wrong and be frustrated about it has led me to remember it better than I would have otherwise.


Yes, "Kateřina had her birthday on the twentieth." is a nice sentence, and it's good that English can also express it this way, it makes it easier to learn the Czech way. Czech can also say "Dvacátého byly Kateřininy narozeniny", but it's less natural in Czech and less common (but certainly correct).

It's often a tough choice whether to go for the more literal way or the more natural way in the translation to English.

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