1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Czech
  4. >
  5. Czech - English word order


Czech - English word order

Czech for English speaker. The Czech sentences are: čí je to hrad?, the correct answer given is 'whose castle is that?' but the word order (and the normal English way to say it) would be 'whose is that castle?' But entering that is 'wrong'. The same with 'čí je to automobile' - entering 'whose is that car' is marked as 'wrong', and 'whose car is that' is 'correct'. Why does the Czech translation insist on changing the word order in English?

October 7, 2018



Maybe it's a regional thing. I often say "Whose ___ is that?"


Sure, but the Czech sentence is 'čí (whose) je (is) to (that) hrad (castle)'. As a native English speaker this word order makes sense. So why make it harder to learn by making that word order 'wrong'? It means to get the 'right' answer you need to remember to enter the words in the wrong order.


No, that is not correct. We distinguish here two forms

(ten hrad) je ... (that castle) is

to je hrad ... that is [a] castle

These are not considered the same and you will see it in many other sentences.


I will have to challenge you on the assertion that

(and the normal English way to say it) would be 'whose is that castle?'

In the early version of this course, we did naively show your suggestion as the main translation, but our native English speaker contributor colleague fought us on that rather adamantly, claiming that only non-native English speakers would choose that structure. We looked into frequencies on ngrams and reluctanctly had to agree with him. The frequency of use really does indicate that English strongly prefers to use the way of ordering you are claiming is wrong to the one you claim is "the normal way".

For now, I am just going to leave this ngrams result here.

I would appreciate if all commenters were so kind as to reveal whether their native language is English or not, and if it is, what region their usage reflects.


I am a native English speaker. I feel it over-complicates it. Either word order would be acceptable in conversational English; neither would be 'wrong'. So in Czech the given sentence is 'čí je to hrad' i.e. 'hrad' (castle) at the end. English also works perfectly well with ‘castle’ at the end – it isn't wrong to say ‘whose is that castle’. So it seems unnecessary to change the word order for the only acceptable 'correct' answer in English. When the Czech word order is acceptable in English, why add the complication of making the student remember a different word order? The same with 'čí je to automobile' – entering the words in the order 'whose is that car' is marked as 'wrong'. 'Whose is that car' is quite clear in English - you are asking about the ownership of a specific car, which is what the sentence also means in Czech is it not?


I think you are completely missing the point. Have you ride my explanations? Did you go through the examples? Did you understand the difference between those two syntactical possibilities.

Because, I must strongly stress this: This is NOT just about the word order. That is completely off. It is about the syntactical relations of the words to each other.

Finally, do not expect two different languages to share the same natural word orders, it simply does not work like that and it is important to accept that early when learning any foreign language.


Yes your explanation that Czech has a specific way of asking "Whose .... is that?" is clear now. That significance was not intuitively clear on the Course. Thank you.


Did you know you can comment under the actual sentence you have a question about? Please do that next time, it makes our life much easier.


VladaFu, Can you clarify please. When you say 'that is not correct', what exactly is not correct. The Course sentence says 'čí je to hrad' and it gives the correct answer as 'whose castle is that' and I am asking why the correct answer cannot be entered in the same word order as in the given Czech 'čí (whose) je (is) to (that) hrad (castle)'. So what is not correct? I understand your request about making your life easier and would like to do so. But on the Andriod App I am using, if I give a 'wrong' answer the correct answer appears in a red box, but I see no option to 'Report' (as suggested on the website Help/FAQ area) or an ask/comment as you suggest.


Basically, understand that in "Čí je to hrad?" there is no "that castle" in it. That would be "ten hrad", never *"to hrad".

What is there is "Čí je to ...?", which is a specific Czech word order to say "Whose ... is that?" The confusing "to" here is a part of the "to je"/"je to" pattern, it does not belong to "hrad".


You can always enter the discussion by clicking on the bubble. It is always possible, no matter if you were right or wrong. See the linked picture, the bubble has a number three in it but will contain a different number for each sentence.



For my Russian ear, a clear question is "čí hrad je to" (whose castle is it/that). Then, all the "čí je to..." are just lyrical variations.

Learn Czech in just 5 minutes a day. For free.