006 Hyponyms and hyperonyms

One of the differences I find between Czech and English in the lexical sphere is that of the greater or lesser degree of specificity used in referring to certain objects, i.e. the use of hyponyms and hyperonyms.

Consider, in your typical French thriller, when a robber enters a bank, bystanders shout, „Attention, il a un revolver“. Now it would stand out a mile if you translated with the same degree of specificity. Of course, English has a word for revolver, but the more general word „gun“ would be more appropriate here. In Czech, we would be even less specific and shout „Pozor, ma zbran“, or „je ozbrojen“.

Likewise, if I need something to write with, in Czech my first reaction would be „mas propisku?“. English can certainly give an exact rendering – „ball-point pen“ or „biro“, but I would suggest that in most cases we would use the more general category of „pen“. Other examples that come to mind are „automat“, used for any device from a cash dispenser to a fruit machine, perhaps „prasek“ where Anglophones would perhaps often use the brand-name of the medication (maybe this goes for a lot of other consumer goods too), „curtains“, where a Czech would differentiate „zavesy“ and „zaclony“, „sign“ which covers everything from „znamka“, „znak“ and „znameni“ to „stopa“ and „odznak“, and then there is the classic case of mushrooms and toadstools. Any Czech would take one look at your average indeterminate fungoid growth and tell you exactly what variety of boletus it is.

005 Post-position adjectives

The position of an adjective before or after a noun can occasionally change its entire meaning in English.

As you drive into Prague, why do the numerous roadside hoardings offering „free rooms“ strike you as not quite right? Because sometimes an adjective before a noun can denote a permanent state and after a noun a temporary state. In this case, a „free room“ could be a room without charge.

The questions involved are not necessarily involved questions and present shareholders are not forced to be the shareholders present! I have seen the latter mistake in a translation of a company memorandum, changing the entire company voting procedure with a single deftly-placed word.

004 Overuse of participle forms

Prepositional phrases are often preferred to straight participles in higher registers:

It is being reconstructed — it is under reconstruction
The observed team — the team under observation
The considered design — the design in question
The disputed matter — the matter in dispute

Základem bezpečnosti je sama použitá technologie
The basis for this security is the actual equipment in use

Tak můžeme přidat bezdrátový segment do již stávající klasické sítě
In this way we can add a wireless segment to a standard network that is already in existence

See also 036 Participle replaced or omitted


003 Possessive pronouns

There are many cases where a possessive pronoun needs to be recast in some other form, particularly where it acts as direct object of a verb:

Tento výčet deseti doporučení není jistě vyčerpávajici, ale jejich důsledné uplatnění vždy výrazně změnilo průbeh a předevšim výsledky pravidelných pořád sledovaných manažerských týmů.

This list of ten recommendations is by no means exhaustive, but the course and especially the results of regular meetings in the management teams under observation have always been significantly affected when they have been applied consistently.

Dnes obíhá v různých výškách na 550 satelitů. Pravděpodobnost jejich srážky s meteorem stoupá s jejich množstvím.

Up to 550 satellites are currently orbiting at various heights. The likelihood that one of them may collide with a meteor rises in proportion to their number.

označení provozované drahy a její popis,

designation and description of the track in operation,

Přehled a popis různých druhů ocunů, rostoucích ve Střední Asii, doplněny o stručný klíč k jejich určování a uvedení možností jejich pěstování i u nás.

A summary and description of various crocus species growing in Central Asia with a concise classification key for identifying them and an account of the opportunities for growing them here.

This problem can sometimes be dealt with by repetition of the subject:

podminka pro provozovatele drahy vydat vnitřní předpisy o organizování drahy, a zajistit jejich dodržování.

a condition for the track operator to issue internal regulations on the organization of the track and to ensure adherence to these regulations

In very formal texts, use of therein, thereon etc might be considered:

rekonstrukce dráhy nebo její částí 

reconstruction of the track or a part thereof.

Touto koncesní listinou se nahrazuje původní výše uvedená koncesní listina včetně jejích změn

This licence deed supersedes the above original licence deed including the amendments contained therein

002 Explicative genitive

In his The Noun in Translation, Ales Klegr describes „an interesting difference between Czech and English: the much-favoured construction in Czech, termed the explicative genitive, in which the head (a general or generic term) is specified by a narrower, lower-level term (e.g. a hyponym). In translation, this tends to be reduced to the modifying element (the narrower term)“:

z dob dětství from childhood
dokonávají dílo očistycompleting the great purge
se stal záležitosti běžné praxebecame a routine procedure
synonymum slova základ the synonym for foundation

Osobnost Eduarda Grégra je spojována především s jeho politickou činností
Eduard Grégr is mostly associated with his political career

001 Anaphors

Anaphoric adjectives such as zmíněný, dotyčný, příslušný, naznačený, daný and předmětný are common in formal Czech texts, but English dictionary equivalents such as the aforementioned, the above or the said occur much less frequently and can raise the style to the ‚very, very formal‘ :-) level (old-school legal texts etc), making a standard formal text sound rather pompous and grand. Simple determiners or articles play the same role perfectly well and can often be used in preference.

Jiří Trnka (1912 – 1969) – loutkář, kreslíř, ilustrátor. Ve všech uvedených disciplínách dosáhl tento mnohostranný umělec obdivuhodných výsledků.

Jiri Trnka (1912 – 1969) – puppeteer, draughtsman, illustrator. In all of these fields, this versatile artist attained admirable results.