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  Verbal Aspect

Verbal aspect (slovesný vid) is used to specify if the action expressed by the verb is a one-time/finished or repeated/unfinished act. There are two verbal aspects in Czech:

1) dokonavý (perfective verbs) - describes a one-time, finished action that took place within a certain time frame (e.g. vypít - to drink up, to finish drinking)

2) nedokonavý (imperfective verbs) - describes an unfinished or repeated action the duration of which is not specified (e.g. pít - to drink, to be drinking)

There is no one rule specifying how to form perfective and imperfective verbs in Czech and each verb has to be learned. Perfective verbs are often formed by adding a prefix, such as s-, za-, při-, u-, etc. whereas imperfective verbs are formed by changing the verb stem into -ova-, -va-, -ěva-, etc. Sometimes two completely different verbs are used to express perfectiveness and imperfectiveness.


Vid dokonavý (perf. verb) Vid nedokonavý (impf. verb)
prohlédnout si
Chcete si prohlédnout ten časopis? - Would you like to take a look at the magazine? (one-time, finished action)
prohlížet si
Chcete si prohlížet časopisy? - Would you like to be looking at magazines (e.g. while you wait)? (unspecified duration)
Přečti si ten článek. - Read that article. (from beginning to end)
Jdi si číst. - Go read. (in general, for an unspecified period of time)
Eva si koupila šaty. - Eva bought herself a dress. (she went out and came back with a dress)
Eva šla nakupovat. - Eva went shopping. (not sure for how long, she is still out)
přijít / přijet
Petr přijde / přijede v sobotu. - Petr will come (on foot / by car) on Saturday.
přicházet / přijíždět
Přichází jaro. - The spring is coming. (slowly, over a period of time)
Autobus přijíždí v 8:15. - The bus arrives at 8:15. (regularly, e.g. daily)
Řekli jsme mu, aby odešel. - We told him to leave.
Pořád mu říkáme, aby odešel. - We keep telling him to leave.

Using verbal aspect in future tense constructions

Perfective verbs are used to describe an action that will take place and END at one particular time in the future. The future tense is usually formed by changing the verb (adding a prefix or changing the stem).

Imperfective verbs are used to describe an action that will cover an unspecified period in the future. The future tense is usually formed by using the construction to be (in future tense) + infinitive of the verb

Examples (using 1st person singular):

Vid dokonavý (perf. verb) Vid nedokonavý (impf. verb)
Napíšu dopis. - I will write a letter. (I'll start and finish writing it)
budu psát
Budu psát dopis. - I will be writing a letter. (doesn't specify over what time period and if I'll finish writing it)
Přečtu si ten článek dnes večer. - I will read the article tonight. (I will read it from beginning to end)
budu číst
Dnes večer budu číst knihu - I will read a book tonight. (over the course of the evening, maybe repeatedly, I may not finish it)
Koupím si šaty. - I will buy myself a dress. (one-time action with a result)
budu (na)kupovat
Budu si kupovat šaty častěji. - I will buy myself a dress more often. (repeatedly)
Budu nakupovat. - I will shop. / I will be shopping. (in general)
přijdu / přijedu
Přijdu / přijedu v sobotu. - I will come / arrive on Saturday. (one-time, this Saturday)
budu chodit / budu jezdit
Budu sem chodit / jezdit každou sobotu. - I will come here every Saturday. (repeatedly, for an unspecified period of time)
naučím se
Naučím se česky. - I will learn Czech. (I'll learn it to the point when I don't have to continue learning it, I'll become fluent)
budu se učit
Budu se učit česky. - I will study Czech / I will be learning Czech. (doesn't specify for how long or how advanced I'll become)

Expressing perfectiveness / imperfectiveness

There is often more than one perfective and imperfective form of the same verb. Each form usually implies a subtle difference in meaning.

Example - skončit / ukončit / zakončit (to end):

1) The verb "skončit" is probably the most neutral of the three. It simply means "to end" and the action of ending is quick and abrupt.

"Film skončil v deset hodin." - The movie ended at 10 o'clock.

2) The verb "ukončit" means "to bring to an end", placing more emphasis on the process / procedure of ending. The action of ending is not as quick as in "skončit".

"Ukončete výstup a nástup, dveře se zavírají." - literally "finish the process of getting off and on..."

3) The verb "zakončit" means "to formally conclude" (e.g. a speech) or "to complete", usually "by doing something".

"Ředitel zakončil svůj projev poděkováním všem přítomným." - The director concluded his speech by thanking all those present.

More examples:

Vid dokonavý (perf. verb) Vid nedokonavý (impf. verb)
to write
napsat - to write something
odepsat - to reply in writing or to write off
připsat - to add by writing
přepsat - to change by writing, to write over
vepsat - to insert by writing
imperfective equivalents:
to buy
koupit - to buy something
odkoupit - to buy from
přikoupit - to buy more of the same
vykoupit - to buy out
zakoupit - to purchase (formal version of "koupit")
imperfective equivalents:
to come/go (on foot)
přijít - to come, to arrive
odejít - to leave
nadejít si - to take the long way
podejít - to walk under
přejít - to cross, to walk across
ujít - to cover a distance by walking
vyjít - to come out(side)
imperfective equivalents:
nadcházet si
ucházet (not common)
to learn
naučit se - to learn something
přiučit se - to add to one's knowledge
vyučit se - to learn something and graduate in it (at school)
imperfective equivalents:
učit se
přiučovat se
vyučovat se (not common), vyučovat (to teach - repeatedly)
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