Czech by Numbers - Four

22-04-2006

Hello and welcome to Czech by Numbers, Radio Prague's own Czech language course, which looks at Czech numbers and their use in idioms and sayings. Today we will be examining the number four - čtyři.

The name of the figure is čtyřka. The word also means a very bad mark in school, a premolar tooth, a fourth gear in a car or a number four tram. A similar sounding word is čtyřčata - quadruplets, one quadruplet being čtyřče. A group of four is čtveřice. Not to be confused with čtverec - a square, as in a polygon with four equal sides and equal angles.

That again should not be confused with čtverák - a prankster, a tease. Why this meaning is related to the number four is a bit of mystery to me. (Etymologists say the word used to mean an impostor, originally a 'connoisseur of the four arts'.) On the other hand, čtvernožec is a quadruped, a word usually applied to dogs.

Another way of saying four is čtvero, as in the phrase čtvero ročních období - The Four Seasons - like the collection of violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Staying with music, čtverylka is the quadrille.

One quarter is čtvrtina. Just as in English, a quarter in Czech means a district of a town, only a slightly different form of the word is used: čtvrť. This form is also used in telling the time. If you want to say 'It's quarter past one' in Czech you say je čtvrt na dvě, literally 'it is a quarter of two'. Please note the slight difference in both spelling and pronunciation. And finally, čtvrtek, Thursday, is the fourth day of the week.

We'll be back next week with lesson number five, so till then na shledanou - bye-bye.