How you doin'? ...Czech style


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Ahoj and how are you - jak se máte? Welcome to Radio Prague's special language programme ABC of Czech. In today's episode we are looking at some phrases that don't directly translate from Czech to English.

These phrases are usually considered idiomatic but also everyday expressions. A language teacher might tell you just to memorize them! But we're going to go through some so-called set expressions in Czech, pick them apart and talk about what exactly they mean in English. So hold onto your seats, not only will you learn some new expressions, you'll learn a lot about Czech syntax.

To ask your friend how are you in Czech you say - jak se máš? Or literally how do you have yourself? There are two obvious responses: well - dobře or badly - špatně. Careful, there is an unspoken rule in Czech that you don't say you are well - dobře and certainly not super - super, excellent - výborně or great - skvěle. At best you'll probably say jde to, which means alright: literally 'it goes' like ça va in French. Czech is not a language for overstatement.

But let's pretend for practicality's sake that this unspoken rule doesn't exist. So how are you - jak se máš Remember, literally how do you have yourself? And one response is simply mám se dobře - I am well, literally I have myself well. Perhaps a more frequent response in Czech is, I am badly - mám se špatně, I have myself poorly.

In Czech you don't always get to HAVE your feelings. You can also say: it is to me well - dobře or badly - špatně. So if you're not feeling well or you're sick, you say - je mi špatně. Just remember it is badly to me. On the other hand if you are feeling well, then you say - je mi dobře, literally it is well to me.

Here's an example...

Heather: Ahoj Martine! Jak se máš?
Martin: Mám se dobře a ty, Heather?
Heather: Mám se dobře, děkuji.

Let's go over it one more time: How are you? Jak se máš With a bit of traditional gloominess: I have myself badly - mám se špatně. Or if you are feeling under the weather: It is badly to me. Je mi špatně.

How about with a positive attitude: How are you? Jak se máš I'm well. Mám se dobře. Remember: I have myself well. Or the other option if you are feeling well and healthy, I have myself well: Je mi dobře. Remember: it is well to me. And one more note - poznámka about grammar before we say goodbye for this week. The question word jak is equivalent to the English 'how,' but it is not the only word for 'how' in Czech. Jak is an adverb, which therefore requires you to respond with an adverb, such as dobře - well and špatně - badly are both adverbs in Czech.

That is all for this week's programme. Until next time - na shledanou! Take care - mějte se!