051 Two verbs condensed into one

A verb expressing motion, speech or duration together with another lexical verb can sometimes be condensed into a single verb in Czech.

„Duration can be expressed by aspect in Czech, so the finite verb sometimes seems to have disappeared in the translation. The finite verb say appears redundant in the construction exemplified, being reduced to a mere indicator of a switch between direct speech and the 3rd person main body of the text. […] Czech may dispense with the explicit expression of the act of speaking.“

A Centenary of English Studies at Charles University — Complex condensation — Vilém Mathesius, Josef Vachek, Jiří Nosek, and beyond. Markéta Malá, Pavlína Šaldová

Was this normal cat behaviour? Mr. Dursley wondered. Trying to pull himself together, he let himself into the house.

Pan Dursley chvilku uvažoval, jestli kočky se takhle chovají normálně. Zatímco se nutil ke klidu, otevřel si domovní dveře.

Dudley came waddling toward them as fast as he could.

Dudley se k nim přikolábal tak rychle, jak jen byl schopen.

This brought Ichiro abruptly to his feet, and he went striding indoors without glancing back at us.

Ičiró se prudce vztyčil a odkrácel dovrnitř, aniž se po nás ohlédl.

If I spend the whole day moping, how did all these repairs get done?

Jestli celý den bloumám sklesle po domě, kdo potom stihl udělat všechny ty opravy?

“Things haven’t come far at all,“ I said, shaking my head.

“Nic nikam nedospělo,“ zavrtěl jsem hlavou.

For a few more minutes, my father continued to study the paintings, and I sat there watching him in silence.

Otec si opět nějakou chvíli prohlížel obrázky a já ho mlčky pozoroval.




050 Czech verbless counterparts

Some examples of Czech counterparts to English verbal forms from the Intercorp parallel corpus involving participles or zero verb forms.

It was on his way back past them, clutching a large doughnut in a bag, that he caught a few words of what they were saying.

Když pak kolem nich procházel zpátky, v ruce sáček s velkou koblihou, zachytil několik slov z toho, co právě říkali.

Harry went back to the kitchen, still staring at his letter.

Harry se vrátil do kuchyně, oči ještě pořád upřené na svůj dopis.

The whole shack shivered and Harry sat bolt upright, staring at the door.

Celá chatrč se zatřásla a Harry se posadil zpříma, s pohledem upřeným na dveře.

Akira Sagimura had built an eastern wing to the house, comprising three large rooms, connected to the main body of the house by a long corridor, running down one side of the garden.

Akira Sagimura kdysi přistavěl východní křídlo se třemi velkými pokoji, spojené s hlavní budovou dlouhou chodbou podél zahrady.

His face was almost completely hidden by a long, shaggy mane of hair and a wild, tangled beard, but you could make out his eyes, glinting like black beetles under all the hair.

Tvář mu skoro úplně zakrývala dlouhá, ježatá hříva a divoké, štětinaté vousy, pod vším tím porostem se však daly rozeznat jeho oči, lesklé jako dva švábi.

He was ripping the paper off a gold wristwatch when Aunt Petunia came back from the telephone looking both angry and worried.

Právě strhával papír ze zlatých náramkových hodinek, když se teta Petunie vrátila od telefonu celá rozčílená a ustaraná.

“I know you haven’t,“ said Professor McGonagall, sounding half exasperated, half admiring.

“Já vím, že vy ho nemáte,“ řekla profesorka McGonagallová napůl podrážděně, napůl s obdivem.

Using a dark brown crayon, he drew on the lower part of the sheet a row of boxes.

Tmavě hnědou pastelkou načrtl na dolní část listu řadu krabic.
NOTE Use/using can be deployed for all kinds of Czech expressions of instrumentality…


A Centenary of English Studies at Charles University

Complex condensation — Vilém Mathesius, Josef Vachek, Jiří Nosek, and beyond.

Marketa Malá, Pavlina Šaldová

B. Proudew / Hrdý Budžes by Irena Dousková

Normalization? Collaboration?

The children are watching...

B. Proudew Lucie Lomová-p1b85k8787iefnlj1t6k19l31kj7


Irena Dousková
B. Proudew

Translated by Melvyn Clarke

Foreword by Irena Dousková

Cover art by Lucie Lomová

Cover and book design by Bedřich Vémola

171 pp, paperback

ISBN 978-80-906428-0-5

Publisher: Pálava Publishing

E-mail: orders@palavapublishing.com


Phone: +420 724 118 082



Helena Součková, an eight-year-old schoolgirl in a small provincial town, deals not only with the uniquely dismal side of life in Communist Czechoslovakia, but also with more than a few universal issues, like death, school dinners, guilt, obtuse teachers, betrayal, love, Jewishness, annoying little brothers, almost absent fathers, cruel classmates, bogus adults, eerie daydreams and nightmares that reflect the society around her. A child of her time, Helena nevertheless rises above it all with her special blend of grit, common sense and dark imaginings, which speak to us today with clarity and power. Helena has come to be a well-known archetype that many can identify with.

An extraordinarily successful, frequently reprinted bestseller. Often repeated on Czech television in its stage adaptation, Hrdý Budžes has come to be one of the most famous Czech prose works published since the Velvet Revolution. In the Czech Republic alone more than 65,000 copies have been sold. The book has also been published in translation in Germany, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Belarus, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is now a firm family favourite in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Central Europe. What has the English-speaking world been missing out on?


049 Ovšemismus – hedging expressions

Czech academic writers tend to appear wary of commiting themselves fully,
without hesitation and reserve, to their statements, propositions and suggestions. In other
words, they formulate their pronouncements in a far less assertive, direct and
matter-of-fact tone than English writers usually do. This high degree of hedging also implies a
certain modesty or understatement (which might be, of course, sincere or merely a rhetorical
The list of Czech hedging predicates, particles and adverbs is similar to
that in other languages but their text frequency with Czech authors is conspicuously high.
Several examples: je možné, že; jak se zdá, zdá se nám zřejmé, že; asi; snad; možná,
A typical Czech hedging expression may be seen in the particle ovšem,
combining the adversative feature “but“ with the supposition “obviously“. This particle
enables the Czech writer to weaken or restrict the validity of his previous statement (a Czech
philosopher wittily called this phenomenon “Czech ovšemism“). A similar effect is achieved
by the use of the double expression na jedné stráně – na druhé stráně ovšem, witnessing
the Czech tendency to dialectical treatment of the phenomena in question.
Czech academic texts often have a tenor of reasoning and contemplation, of
evaluating different possibilities and finding one’s way through them. On the other
hand, the impersonal character of the majority of the predicates given is in accord with the
overall impersonal character of Czech writings. (To be sure, the personal character claimed for
English writings by many text-linguists does not preclude the use of impersonal
As a parallel to this kind of hedging, different types of article headings
may also be considered. The modern English heading, in the great majority of cases, has
a nominal form whereas Czech authors often use noun phrases with modifying prepositions “o“ or “k“ indicating a particular result the author is trying to achieve, or “a
contribution to“. This practice corresponds, in principle, with the German usage of the prepositions über and zu and the Russian usage of “o(b)“ and especially “k“. The hedging effect of these prepositional phrases is obvious.
In general, the lower degree of assertiveness, the less positive and less
persuasive formulations may be taken to correspond to the features of the German and
Russian intellectual style.
It is not typical for Czech authors to explicitly lead the reader through
the text and explain the path and organization of the paper at the outset. Consequently, Czech
academic texts are less explicit on this point. This holds also for definitions of central or
crucial terms and concepts, and for formulation of these, rules, and so forth. On the other
hand, this kind of implicitness does not necessarily result […] in brevity, conciseness,
economy, or condensed style. Often the reader is reminded again and again of the author’s idea, frequently in a slightly different way each time, modified, and as if viewed from a new
perspective. The author tries again and again to grasp the phenomenon described in a more
appropriate way, to come closer and closer to its nature […] the definition process is seen
as developing in the course of the whole text. This continuing definition process, or rather,
grasping effort, of Czech scholars causes many problems for English translators, who are never sure whether the author is referring to the same phenomenon by all these different
designations: English translators often suggest consistently using the same term and avoiding
parallel expressions.

From Jazyk a text II. – Výbor z lingvistického díla Františka Daneše – Universita
Karlova v Praze  Filozofická fakulta




048  Genitives and prepositions translated by participle phrases

Dosavadní výzkum se věnoval také problematice studentů a roli studentského hnutí v šedesátých

Previous research has also focused on the issues surrounding students and the role played by the students‚ movement in the 1960s.

Jestliže v počátcích sledovaného období převládal narativ vytváření nové společnosti a formování nového člověka, v šedesátých letech se akcent posouval k rétorice spojené s tzv. vědeckotechnickou revolucí. 

Whereas the early part of the period under review was dominated by a narrative invoking the creation of a new society and the New Man, the emphasis during the 1960s shifted to  “scientific and technical revolution“ rhetoric.

Cílem bude vytvořit typologii individuálních kariérních strategií vysokoškolských pracovníků

The objective will be to create a typology of individual career strategies adopted by higher education staff. 
Another example with solutions from Czechlist here.

047 Dative of empathy

AKA the ethical dative and the interactional dative.

You see, she turned pale   Ona vám zbledla

I couldn’t fall asleep, you know  Já jsem ti nemohl spát

You see, he couldn’t utter a word On vám nebyl schopen slova

Hey listen, Erika got an F in chemistry Erika ti měla kouli z chemie

Y’know, just imagine, he started to kiss my hands Von mi ti, představ si, začal libat ruce

Believe it or not, I haven’t yet read this one Tohle jsem ti ještě nečetla

Some examples taken from The notion of affectedness in expressing interpersonal functions by Mirjam Fried, who distinguishes three types of dative of empathy (DE):

Contact DE (1), Subjective DE (2), and Distancing DE (3);

1. Přijdu si večer v pátek domů, povečeřím, a začal  ti  mě bolet  zub.                                                Friday evening I get myself home, have a little supper, and get this,  my tooth starts hurting

2. No  to  je  mi  ale náhoda!                                                                                                                                   My, what a coincidence!

3. Dej si mu  přes  hubu,  jak  chceš                                                                                                                     Help yourself and beat him up [if it makes you feel good] – as you  want, I don‟t care.

Some more comments from Mirjam Fried in Categories and categorial changes: The third syntactical plan and beyond (Edited by M. Martinková, M. Janebová and J. Macháček — Palacký University 2014) Chapter 1 From semantic to interactional dative – Mirjam Fried

„The interactional dative is not just an elliptical ‘I’m telling you’ but also an emergent ‘pragmatic particle’, a distinct discourse-structuring device.“

One questionable claim about these interactional datives remains, though, namely its presumed function as a device used for securing and/or maintaining the addressee’s attention., similar to the function of vocatives, i.e simply an elliptical form of the phrase ‚I’m telling you‘. But this is not the whole story…

Von začne řvát a já ti bych mu takovou dala pěstí                                                                                         He starts howling and I tell you, I’d so like to let him taste my fist.

Ňakou chvíli sme eště vo tom mluvili, vona vodešla a já vám sem vo tom přemýšlela i v noci  We kept talking about it for a while longer, she left and you know what, I kept thinking about it even at night.

Ráno sme spolu dneska stály u pokladny v diskontu, tak aby řeč nestála, říkám: „Štěpánka už má za sebou druhý spalničky a, a to? a vona říká: „ježíš, já vám ani nevím“
This morning we were standing at the cashiers in the market and so to make conversation I say: “ Štěpánka has been through two cases of measles by now and you know? and she said: Jesus, I don’t really know, believe it or not.

„None of these examples can be fully described by treating the interactional dative generically as a way of securing the addressee’s attention. In each of these and similar other cases, the speaker is also situating the propositional content in a particular evaluative frame and letting the addressee know about his or her emotional involvement in the topic. What connects them all is not merely an attempt to inform the addressee that “I am telling you something, so please listen“ (the traditional and empirically not properly grounded analysis), but drawing attention to the fact that “I am telling “ for a reason: the propositional content at hand is presented as particularly newsworthy because it contains an element of surprise and in that sense is also relatively “new“.“

Hence the interactive dative can be a focus marker / rhematic marker.


“The form carries features shared with propositional, semantic datives (in particular the dative of interest) but in meaning and function it is closer to the category of pragmatic particles, i.e. linguistic devices that help structure the flow of conversational discourse.“
„Also note the incipient syntactic changes, particularly in word order.”




Czechlist resources

Online dictionaries:
European Parliament — GlossaryLinks – a one-stop-shop for online glossaries                          Lexincon                                                                                                                                                                              Eurlex
Other resources:

045 Diminutives

Angličtina jako izolační jazyk dává přednost při explicitním vyjadřování emocionálního postoje jiným jazykovým prostředkům než sytaktická čeština. Vyjadřuje emocionálnost spíše analyticky, lexikálně, kombinací citově neutrálních lexikálních jednotek s výrazy, které slouží převážně jako nositelé citového postoje.

Nejčastějším takovým citově modifikujícím výrazem je adjektivum little, u něhož se denotační význam malosti prolíná s konotačním významem pozitivního citového postoje (podobně jako je tomu u českých deminutiv), a méně často adjektivum old, které v takových případech zcela ztrácí svůj denotační význam.

I sort of gave her the old eye kapánek jsem po ní házel očkem.

Knittlová p. 66

Iveta Rokytová gives more details in Překladatelská problematika českých zdrobnělin v angličtině (Časopis pro moderní filologii [ÚJČ] 1993 – 2; Archive). She points out that English actually has _more_ diminutive endings than Dutch or German,
but these endings (-kin, -ikin, -ikins, -let, -ling, -et, ette,
-ie,-y, -ee, -ies, -o, -er) are simply not called upon as much as they
are in many other European languages. Endearment and familiarity are
often expressed in English by little words like ‚little‘, ‚old‘,
‚little old‘ ‚cute‘, ‚wee‘ etc.


046 Long adjectival strings

Whenever you are completely stumped over a complex, awkward-looking passage the first question you should always ask yourself is: „is this a long adjectival clause AKA  an extended adjectival construction, extended modifier, pre-noun insert or erweitertes  Adjektiv?“ :-)

Knížka přibližuje na pozadí evropských dějin 20. století smutný osud  textilní továrny i jejích bývalých majitelů a nastoluje v dětské literatuře ne příliš časté téma záchrany industriálních památek.                                                                                                                                               Against the backdrop of 20th century European history this book depicts the sad fate of a textile factory and its former owners, as it presents a subject not too frequently met with in children’s literature: industrial heritage conservation. 

Snaha, aby se na křest’anskou viru nově obraceni prostí lidé naučili požadovaným modlitbám latinsky, nevedla k cíli, protože ti vesměs nebyli schopni si tyto texty ani zapamatovat, natož pak pochopit jejich smysl.
The effort to make the common people, who had just recently converted to the Christian faith, learn the required prayers in Latin did not bear fruit, because they were generally unable to remember these texts, never mind understand their meaning.

Je třeba poukázat na to, že kromě v souhrnné tabulce uvedených modelů, GAZ a UAZ  také vyráběji ještě celou radu osobních modifikací s celkovým poctem míst k sezení menším než devět.                                                                                                                                                                                  It should be pointed out that in addition to the models detailed in the summary table, GAZ and UAZ also produce a wide range of personal modifications with total seating of less than nine.

Mýtím čeřena, pohybující se bublinková pěna vypadala jak drobné krajky na pradle sestry Dolores.                                                                                                                                                                          The suds, whipped up by the washing process and constantly in motion, looked like the delicate lace trim on Sister Dolores’s underwear.                                                                             Gargling with Tar – J. Topol – translated by D. Short

Some stylistic polemics on this subject in this Czechlist thread.



044 Thematic character of the subject in English


„In his account of the function of the subject in modern English Vilém Mathesius pointed out that whereas in Czech the subject has largely retained the function of agent, in English this function of the subject has been appreciably weakened in favour of that of expressing the theme of an utterance.“ Dušková – Studies in the English Language p. 273

Mathesius pointed out that there is a strong tendency in English to construe the theme (as opposed to the rheme) of the sentence as the subject.

Mathesius’s example:
Jan velmi dobře prospíval. Ve škole horlivě naslouchal každému slovu svých učitelů a doma mu pomáhal otec, kdykoliv mu byla nějaká úloha příliš těžká. Práce všeho druhu se mu velice dařila a říkalo se o něm, že pracuje stejně přirozeně, jako dýchá.

John prospered very well. At school he eagerly listened to every word of his teachers. At home he was helped by his father whenever he found his task too difficult. He was successful in any kind of work and he was said to be working as naturally as he was breathing.

Here Czech changes the subject five times, whereas English preserves the same (thematic) subject throughout the sequence.

In order that thematic elements may be construed as the subject, English is shown to employ a number of means, such as different types of the passive, perceptive verbs and other devices. Mathesius concludes that as a result, in English the subject of several successive sentences need not change. End of quote.

While this conclusion is described as questionable in more recent studies I find that if a translated paragraph sounds very odd for some unknown reason it is often worthwhile to at least try recasting it along these lines in order to make it sound more natural.

Further details in this Czechlist thread.

From Sentence complexes in Text – Tárnyiková

There is a tendency  in English not to change subjects in sentence complexes if possible:

He knew little and had to be prompted                                                                                                        Uměl toho málo a museli mu napovidat                                                                                                      Uměl toho málo a musel být napovidán

which, when seen from the text perspective, can be rather formulated as a tendency to preserve an identical agent in the addressee’s memory and contribute to a stronger cohesive network.

Every morning each patient was given a bed bath and had talcum powder applied to pressure points…                                                                                                                                                                             Každé ráno sestry pacienty umyly a zasypaly proleželiny pudrem…


From the point of view of text perspectivization, the English version is primarily event-oriented, focusing on „what was done to the patients“. The Czech translation is participant-oriented, focusing on „what the nurses did to us“, i.e. the patients, and foregrounding the nurses. This different „zooming“ is systematically applied through the entire text chunk.
From the text-perspective, the English passive can operate as an effective means of text cohesion, linking text across the paragraph boundaries and allowing the text producer to keep to the identical subject.