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14-10-2019, 21:30 UTC
Living Czech

How Czechs greet each other

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Hello and welcome again to our programme on the Czech language. I am here with Daniela Lazarova, and this week we are going to look at a peculiarity of Czech, the vocative case. What is it? Well, all Czech nouns, masculine, feminine and neuter, decline, and the different cases, or forms, of each noun, with different endings, accompany varying prepositions for different actions. The vocative case is one of these cases, and it is used when you address someone directly.

It is a case that exists in very view languages in the world, but has at times existed in many, one of which was Latin. For native English speakers in particular, whose nouns do not change shape, it can be quite confusing. Let me give you an example. If I were to say "Good day Daniela" in Czech, I would use the vocative case, "Dobrý den, Danielo". For Vladimir, we would say "Dobrý den, Vladimire".

The formal way to address people, especially those in authority, is "pane" for men, and "paní" for women. If it is someone you don't know this literally means "sir" or "madame", as in the case of "Promiòte pane, kolik je hodin...", "Excuse me, sir, what is the time..."

In the case of someone with a particular position or official function, these two words have their usual meaning, "Mr." and "Mrs." It is common in Czech that when you address someone with a particular position you add "Mr." or "Mrs." before their title. Examples of this are: "pane profesore", Mr. Professor, and "paní doktorko", Mrs. Doctor,. There is even the expression "Pane Bo¾e" for when one addresses God, but in this case it is not translated as Mr. God, but Lord God.

The vocative case is not limited to people, either. Pets are addressed using this case. In general, lower life forms and inanimate objects are not addressed except in poetry, where you can have odes beginning "O strome...", "O tree...". There may well be people other than poets who talk to trees, but they are not very vocal about it in mixed company.

Well, that's enough of the vocative case for this week. Next week, we will have a look at Czech expressions for money. So until then, "Dámy a pánove", or "Ladies and Gentlemen", mìjte se fajn!

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