Posts for Tag: time

Czech - Telling The Time

I've been learning Czech on and off for the last few years, but now and again I discover that there are some basic things that I never quite learned properly. The most recent of these was my ability to tell the time. When I wanted to learn this properly I found that there are very few places that teach this at the level I wanted - they were either too simplistic, misleading or written in a way that is much too hard to quickly digest. I ended up writing the below for myself and for anyone else who wants to learn.

To simplify each explanation I'm assuming you're familiar with the following:
  • what I mean by "Nominative", "Genitive" and "Accusative" case
  • the verb "být"
  • the noun "hodina"
  • numbers from 1 - 60

Additionally plurals behave kinda funny in Czech. My friends and I all first learned this when counting beer so I'm gonna use "beer plurals" as shorthand for the following behaviour when you have ...

  • one of something you give the noun in singular Nominative (jedno pivojedna hodina, jedna minuta)
  • two, three or four of something you give the noun in plural Nominative (dvě piva, dvě hodiny, dvě minuty)
  • five or more of something you give the noun in plural Genitive (pět pivpět hodinpět minut)

Quick Reference

Firstly in case you want to just quickly reference, here's a table that demonstrates most of the cases:

time Czech time Czech
1:00 je jedna hodina 4:00 jsou čtyři hodiny
1:10 je deset minut po jedné 4:10 je deset minut po čtvrté
1:15 je čtvrt na dvě 4:15 je čtvrt na pět
1:30 je půl druhé 4:30 je půl paté
1:45 je tři čtvrtě na dvě 4:45 je tři čtvrtě na pět
1:50 je za deset minut dvě 4:50 je za deset minut pět
2:00 jsou dvě hodiny 5:00 je pět hodin
2:10 je deset minut po druhé
5:10 je deset minut po paté
2:15 je čtvrt na tři
5:15 je čtvrt na sest
2:30 je půl třetí
5:30 je půl sesté
2:45 je tri čtvrtě na tři
5:45 je tři čtvrtě na sest
2:50 je za deset minut tři
5:50 je za deset minut šest hodin
3:00 jsou tři hodiny
3:10 je deset minut po třetí
3:15 je čtvrt na čtyři
3:30 je půl čtvrté
3:45 je tři čtvrtě na čtyři
3:50 je za deset minut čtyři

Whole Hours

If it's exactly H o'clock, we say something like "it is H hours". The word for "hours" is "hodina" and this is the first example of the beer plurals I described above. There are only 12 possibilities here so it's not too hard to just memorise the below:

Half Hours

Times that in English are exactly half past an hour in Czech are said to be a half of the next hour, so instead of "half past one" we say something like "a half of two". There's a minor complication - the hour is given in the genitive singular feminine. They behave like adjectives because ultimately they are adjectives modifying the noun "hodina". So je půl jedné means "it is half of the first (hour)"

Again there are only 12 combinations so if my description doesn't make much sense you can just memorise the below without too much trouble:

Quarter Hours

Similar to half-hours when we talk about quarter past or quarter to an hour in Czech we talk about quarters of an hour. So 12:15 is "a quarter of one" or čtvrt na jednu (the hour part is in the Accusative case) and 12:45 is "three quarters of one" or tři čtvrtě na jednu (with čtvrtě being the plural of čtvrt)

Minutes After The Hour

If we have a time up to half past the hour, we write it really similar to the English - so 1:10 is "je jedna minuta po jedné". It's tricky:
  • "minuta" behaves like our "beer plurals" - 1 minuta, 2/3/4 minuty, 5/6/7/etc minut
  • the hour is the genitive singular, and since "hodina" is feminine we have jedné, druhé, třetí, etc

Minutes Before The Hour

Finally for minutes before an hour, we write something like "in M minutes it is H o'clock" - so 1:50 this is "je za deset minut dve". Again we have the "beer plural" for minutminuta, minuty, minut.

24 Hour Time. 

When reading from a watch, computer of phone it seems many Czechs will just say the hour and limit component separately. For example the other day when we were leaving the Maximus spa my girlfriend asked the lady at the counter what time the shuttle bus to the nearest tram stop left, she pulled up a schedule and said “šestnáct dvacet” - 16:20.

The only quirk is 1-9 minutes past the hour where you say the minutes with a leading nula - so 16:05 would be šestnáct nula pět.