"Ptáme se čtyřiceti dvou matek."

Translation:We are asking forty-two mothers.

October 22, 2018

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Tips and notes for Numbers 3 says that we keep "jedna" and "dva" fixed no matter what, and yet we have the genitive "dvou" here. What am I missing?

Also, if the number was 41, would it have been "Ptáme se čtyřiceti jedna matek." or "... jedné matek"?


The tips and notes for Numbers 3 begin like this:

"Recall that Czech cardinal numerals from one to four behave as if they were adjectives. The counted object appears in the case appropriate for the context, and the numeral matches that case."

That is the exact opposite of "fixed no matter what", we say that "appears in the case appropriate for the context". Such appropriate case here is the genitive case and so we have the genitive "dvou".

For 41 we would either have "Ptáme se čtyřiceti jedna matek." or "Ptáme se čtyřiceti jedné matky."


I've been trying to wrap my head around this for a few hours now, so I'm just going to give up and ask. I don't understand the cases in that second example at all. It seems like "matky" is now accusative plural or genitive singular, but that goes against the rule that the counted object should be gen. plural. And the object of the questioning is supposed to be genitive as well, right?

(I also thought that "jedna" was fixed in numbers over four based on this bit that was in the tips section for both Numbers 2 and 3: "decline the 1-9 piece of the compound as appropriate for the case of the whole phrase (except we keep jedna fixed)." I'm not trying to argue or anything, I'm just trying to figure out the grammar better.)


If you don't want to get a headache, you can stick to the rule you know:

With numbers 5 and above, we use the genitive after the number. And in these higher numbers, we keep "jedna" and "dva" fixed like that (the former in its feminine form, the latter in its masculine form, rather arbitrarily). This is basically a cop out - even Czechs grew tired of declining each part of every number in the appropriate case, so we simplified it. And it became standard and it's widely used and it's correct. So again, to avoid a headache, just use this simplified system.

But if you really want, you can also learn to understand the other way. It's used less frequently and it sounds more formal (higher register): it's not difficult in theory -- decline every part of the number separately and the noun then has to behave according to the last digit (last part of the number) --- i.e.:

You know that to say "We're asking ONE mother", you must say "Ptáme se jedné matky" -- i.e. both "jedna" and "matka" are in the genitive which is required by the verb. Using a higher number that still ends in "1", we keep the same pattern: "Ptáme se dvaceti jedné matky / padesáti jedné matky / etc." -- "matka" remains in genitive singular as in the case of "1 mother". Now let's try "2" and the accusative: "Vidím dvě matky" (I see two mothers) -- with higher numbers ending in "2", we can keep it the same: "Vidím třicet dvě matky" or "Vidím osmdesát dvě matky." -- but it sounds odd and stiff today. Instead, we prefer to treat all numbers above 4 the same: "Vidím pět matek, dvacet matek, dvacet jedna matek, dvacet dva matek, sto dva matek, etc." -- and "Ptáme se dvaceti jedna matek, čtyřiceti jedna matek..."

As I'm writing this, I'm realizing there's a problem with "2" though. Even though we prefer "Vidím čtyřicet dva matek" to the more formal "Vidím čtyřicet dvě matky" (accusative), we still do decline "dva/dvě" in other cases. That's why "Ptáme se čtyřiceti dva matek" sounds odd and it should be the genitive "dvou". Similarly, the instrumental "Šel jsem tam s padesáti dvěma matkami" is all good, while the non-declined "Šel jsem tam s padesáti dva matkami" is a lot less likely. Both are understandable, of course.

Not sure if I helped you unwrap your head :D

The simple rule that you know and that I wrote above is certainly true for the nominative and accusative -- the noun is then in the genitive. For numbers ending in "1" and higher than 4, "jedna" remains fixed even though the noun has to decline in the relevant case. For numbers ending in "2", if it's not nominative or accusative, we decline the whole thing accordinly, including the numeral "dva".


Aaa, thank you so much for this!!! It was very helpful :D I will definitely stick with the tips section's general rule of keeping jedna fixed for numbers above 4, but at least I'll know what's going on if I encounter dvaceti jedné matky in the wild.


why are the numbers declined here? is ia genitive when you use ptame se?


Yes, you use genitive.


Are numbers genitive with all reflexive verbs?


No, but "ptát se" uses genitive for the person asked, ptát se někoho, to ask somebody.


Thanks for the quick reply...very helpful.


In Czech each verb requires certain delclination of the object related to it: Ptát se koho/čeho (gentive)


What is the difference between ptát se and zeptat se?


ptát se is imperfective

zeptat se is perfective


I translated "we are asking FOR forty two morhers" and it was marked wrong. So the meaning is "we are asking TO forty two mothers"? It's unclear.


"Asking TO" makes no sense in English. When I pose a question to you, I'm asking YOU, not TO YOU. The meaning of the sentence in this exercise is that we have a question (or questions) for the mothers and we want them to answer the question(s).

"Asking FOR" someone means we need/want the person, it has nothing to do with asking questions. If you need/require (ask for) 42 mothers, it would be "Žádáme o čtyřicet dva matek" or "Poptáváme čtyřicet dva matek". If you were asking around WHERE those mothers are, it would be "Ptáme se po čtyřiceti dvou matkách."

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