Czech language

Czech (čeština)
Spoken in: Czech Republic
Region: Central Europe
Total speakers: 12 million
Ranking: 73
Genetic classification: Indo-European


Official status
Official language of: Czech Republic, European Union
Regulated by: Czech Language Institute
Language codes
ISO 639-1cs
ISO 639-2cze (B) / ces (T)
See also: LanguageList of languages

The Czech language is one of the West Slavic languages, along with Slovak, Polish, Pomeranian, and Sorbian. It is spoken by most people in the Czech Republic and by Czechs all over the world (about 12 million native speakers in total). Czech is very close to Slovak and Polish; Czech and Slovak speakers are usually able to understand each other.

Because of its complexity, Czech is said to be a difficult language to learn. The complexity is due to extensive morphology and highly free word order. As in all Slavic languages, many words (esp. nouns, verbs, and adjectives) have many forms (inflections). In this regard, Czech and the Slavic languages are closer to their Indo-European origins than other languages in the same family that have lost much inflection. Moreover, in Czech the rules of morphology are extremely irregular and many forms have official, colloquial and sometimes semi-official variants. The word order serves similar function as emphasis and articles in English. Often all the permutations of words in a clause are possible. While the permutations mostly share the same meaning, it is nevertheless different, because the permutations differ in the topic-focus articulation. As an example we can show: Češi udělali revoluci (The Czechs made a revolution), Revoluci udělali Češi (It was the Czechs who made the revolution), and Češi revoluci udělali (The Czechs did make a revolution).

Czech's phonology may also be very difficult for speakers of many other languages. For example, some words do not appear to have vowels: zmrzl (he froze to death), ztvrdl, scvrkl, čtvrthrst, blb (idiot) and smrt (death). A popular example of this is the phrase "strč prst skrz krk" meaning "stick a finger through your throat". The consonants l and r, however, function as sonorants and thus fulfill the role of a vowel (a similar phenomenon also occurs in American English, for example bird is pronounced as [brd] with a syllabic r). It also features the consonant ř, a phoneme that is said to be unique to Czech and quite difficult for foreigners to pronounce. To a foreign ear, it sounds very similar to zh, though a better approximation could be rolled (trilled) r followed by zh, which was incidentally sometimes used as an orthography for this sound (rž) e.g. in the royal charter of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1609.



Parts of speech

Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numbers are declined (7 cases over a number of declension models) and verbs are conjugated; the other parts of speech are not inflected (with the exception of comparative formation in adverbs).


The noun cases are typically referred to by number, and learned by means of the question to which they are the answer, as follows:

  1. who/what? - Nominative
  2. (without) whom/what? - Genitive
  3. (to) whom/what? - Dative
  4. (I see) whom/what? - Accusative
  5. (addressing/calling) Vocative
  6. (about) whom/what? - Locative
  7. (with) whom/what? - Instrumental

The numbers are singular, plural, and remains of dual.

The genders are masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine, and neuter.


Coding of Czech letters with accents (especially those with hček) is not uniform and sometimes causes incorrect display and printing of texts. The following sentence is commonly used to test all special characters: Přliš žluťoučk kůň pěl ďbelsk dy ("a very yellow horse screamed hellish odes"; needs to be tested with small and capital case).

See also:

Czech alphabet, hček, Frequently used Czech verbs

External links


cs:Čeština da:Tjekkisk (sprog) de:Tschechische Sprache es:Idioma checo eo:Ĉeĥa lingvo fr:Tchque hr:Češki jezik id:Bahasa Ceko it:Lingua ceca lv:Čehu valoda li:Tsjechisch hu:Cseh nyelv nl:Tsjechisch ja:チェコ語 nn:Tsjekkisk pl:Język czeski pt:Tcheco ro:Limba cehă se:Čeahkagiella sk:Čeština sl:Češčina sr:Чешки језик fi:Tšekin kieli wa:Tcheke


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