Dobry vs Dobre
I'm having difficulty understanding when to use dobry versus dobre. Can someone explain the difference for me? Is it a masculine/feminine thing? Is there an easy way to remember it?
Let's see if we can make this display correctly:
Every noun in Czech has a gender. The gender can be "masculine", "feminine", or "neuter" and has little relation to actual biological sex. For example dům, which means house, is masculine, and věc, which means thing, is feminine. For words which refer to people, the grammatical gender and biological sex often do coincide, but not always. For example, girl can be translated into Czech as dívka, holka, or děvče. The first two are feminine, as you might expect, but the last is neuter!
Rather confusingly, Czech actually has four genders. "Masculine" is really two genders, "masculine animate" and "masculine inanimate". There will be cases in later lessons where the distinction matters. "Animate" and "inanimate" mean what you would expect them to, so that dům, for example, is masculine inanimate because houses are inanimate objects.
Knowing the gender is important because it determines the form of any adjectives which modify the noun. For example, if we want to talk about a young girl we would say mladá dívka or mladá holka, but mladé děvče. As you can see, it's the grammatical gender which is decisive, not reality.
The (partly) good news is that it is sometimes possible to guess the gender of the noun from its ending:
- Nouns ending in a consonant are mostly masculine. Early examples will include kluk (boy), muž (man), stroj (machine), hrad (castle), dům (house), and two proper names, František and Matěj.
- Nouns ending in -a or -e are mostly feminine. Early examples will include holka (girl), žena (woman, wife), ulice (street), láska (love), and two proper names, Kateřina and Žofie.
- Nouns ending in -o are almost always neuter. Early examples will include město (city), auto (car), and víno (wine).
- Nouns that end in -ě or -í are fairly often neuter, e.g., dítě (child) early in the course, and letiště (airport) and náměstí (square, plaza) later on.
Note: Please remember not to try to translate the personal proper names to English in this course. Yes, we are aware that Kateřina may very well correspond to Catherine in English. But it could also be Katherine, Kathryn, Katharine, Katheryn, Katharyn, Katherin, Kathrine, Catharine, Cathryn, and who knows what else. Let's focus on learning Czech in this course, not on "translating" names.
The unfortunate challenge is that many nouns do not follow the “rules” given above:
- Many nouns that end in a consonant are feminine, e.g., věc (thing), sůl (salt), kost (bone), and postel (bed).
- Some nouns that end in -a are masculine, e.g., táta (dad), kolega (colleague), turista (tourist), and terorista (terrorist).
- Some nouns that end in -e are masculine, e.g., soudce (judge), or neuter, e.g., děvče (girl), zvíře (animal), moře (sea), and slunce (sun).
- Some nouns that end in -ě are feminine, e.g., žákyně (student) and přítelkyně (girlfriend).
- Some nouns that end in -í are masculine, e.g., vrchní (waiter), or feminine, e.g., paní (lady).
There are two types of adjectives in Czech, hard and soft. They differ in their endings:
In the singular nominative form, which is all that we are learning for now, the hard adjectives have endings that depend on the gender as follows:
- -ý in masculine, e.g., mladý muž (young man) or velký strom (big tree)
- -á in feminine, e.g., mladá žena (young woman)
- -é in neuter, e.g., malé dítě (small child)
In the singular nominative form, the soft adjective endings are the same regardless of gender, -í:
- další muž (another man), další žena (another woman), and další dítě (another child)
- poslední dům (the last house), poslední věc (the last thing), and poslední zvíře (the last animal)
For now, consider nominative the base form of many words.
Czech doesn't have articles. Mladá dívka could be young girl, a young girl, or the young girl, depending on context. Czech has a variety of ways of making clear which is meant when the distinction is important, including the word order, as we will see in later skills. For now, we will only examine the demonstrative adjectives that are sometimes (not always!) used in place of the English definite article.
The Czech demonstrative adjective that partly overlaps with the definite article "the" and the demonstrative pronoun "that" has the following singular nominative forms:
- ten in masculine, e.g., ten muž (the man, that man)
- ta in feminine, e.g., ta dívka (the girl, that girl)
- to in neuter, e.g., to dítě (the child, that child)
Demonstrative adjectives and regular adjectives can usually be combined, and usually in that order: ta mladá dívka (the young girl, that young girl).
Make sure to review the Tips & Notes provided with the initial skill to appreciate why člověk and Matěj sound the way they do.
i imagine you are doing lessons in the row that has the gender skill names. tap on the light bulb that shows up before you start the lesson. if you are using an app, there will be no light bulb. in that case, you could just access duolingo through your mobile browser to get to the bulb.
at this level, yes, it is a gender thing.
- ý masculine (muž, strom)
- á feminine (žena, ulice)
- é neuter (dítě, město)