Cheat sheet: How to learn Czech in just 15 easy phrases

Czech class not happening? Try this crash-course cheat sheet of helpful words and phrases

Ryan Scott

Written by Ryan Scott
Published on 02.09.2020 15:39 (updated on 09.10.2020)

This is an update of a March 2015 article.

Some people have no desire to learn Czech, others have the desire but not the time, willingness, or linguistic talent. Others among us are in town for a brief time and just need to get by and perhaps expand our vocabularies beyond ordering beer and food. This short list of survival sentences and phrases can help. In case you need a refresher, see our short guide to pronunciation.

Greetings/Introductions – Těší mě

I’m sure most of us know “Dobrý den” and “Ahoj”. For more formal situations, use “Těší mě”. It is the equivalent of – though not literally the same as – “Pleased to meet you.”

Introductions – Jmenuju se

Introducing yourself often requires the following sentence “Jmenuji se [YOUR NAME]”. In colloquial Czech “Jmenuju se [YOUR NAME]” is more common. Of course, you can use the following “Jsem [YOUR NAME].” It’s not quite proper but it is easy.

Conversation Starters – Jak se máš?

The Czech equivalent of “How are you?” is “Jak se máš?” (informal) and “Jak se máte?” (for formal interactions or when asking more than one person). However, as I’m sure your Czech friends have told you, this question is not so common with strangers. To close friends “Co ty?” also works.

Responding to how you are – Je mi dobře.

The standard response to the question “Jak se máš?” is “Mám se dobře/špatně,” whether you’re feeling respectively good or bad. Alternatively, if you’re unwell you can use “Je mi blbě /špatně.”

Requests – Chtěl/Chtěla bych*

When asking for something one important phrase you need is “Chtěl/Chtěla bych…”. The sentence is the equivalent of “I would like…”. Stick what you want on the end of the phrase, e.g “Chtěl bych prosím jídelní lístek,” (I would like a menu please.) When ordering food, it is more appropriate to use “Dám si…”, or if you want to be extra polite, say “Dal/Dala bych si…”.

Moving through crowds – S dovolením

So you’re on the train and need to disembark but there is a person in your way, the phrase “s dovolením” is a polite way to request that he/she lets you pass.

Expressing Approval/Agreement – Líbí se mi to

“Líbí se mi to” means “I like it.” “Souhlasím” means “I agree” (shorten that to souhlas for the Czech version of “yep”).

Disagreement/Dissatisfaction – “Ani náhodou!”

One way to disagree is to use the negatives of the sentences above – “Nesouhlasím” – “I don’t agree”, and “Nelíbí se mi to” – “I don’t like it.” A little stronger is the exclamation “Ani náhodou!”, i.e.“No way!” It is not very formal and more appropriate amongst close friends.

Gratitude – Děkuju

Most of us know “děkuji” (or its slightly more informal sibling “děkuju”). If you want to lay the gratitude on a bit thicker, the following will work: “To je skvělý.” (which means “That’s great.”)

Acknowledging – Není zač

In public places our “děkuji” is met with a “prosím”. But there are other ways of acknowledging a person’s gratitude. Try the expression – “Není zač.” An even shorter option is “za málo” – though it is informal.

Apologizing – Omlouvám se

If you want to apologize, the following two expressions “Promiňte” or “Omlouvám se” should do the trick. The former is used for example if you bump into someone; the latter is if you’re late, forget something or jump the queue.

Responding to Apologies – Nic se nestalo

Sometimes we’re on the receiving end of a bump or some other minor inconvenience. To show that it is not a problem, we can say, “Nic se nestalo.” It literally means “Nothing happened.” Another possibility is “Nevadí,” which in this context is something like “no bother.”

Pacifying – Nezlob se

Here is a very useful sentence. You can use “Nezlob se” (or “Nezlobte se” when being formal or speaking to more than one person) when you want to defuse a situation or show you are not willing to do something, e.g. “Nezlob se, ale neudělám to” (Don’t be upset, but I won’t do it.)

Congratulations – Všechno nejlepší

But life’s not all bad. Good things happen…sometimes. And on those occasions you may want to tell your friend, “Gratuluju” (or gratuluji if you want to be formal). This sentence is ideal at weddings or after the birth of a child. For birthdays or name days, nothing works better than a simple “všechno nejlepší”.

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Farewell – Měj se

When saying goodbye “na shledanou” is fine for formal situations, but among friends it’s better to use “Měj se/Mějte se”. You can even add “dobře” or “pěkně” to end to have “Měj se dobře/pěkně”. To this you can also add “Uvidíme se” which is close to “See you” (literally it means “we will see each other”).

If you’re considering a course to learn the Czech Language, you can find a great selection right here.

Bonus tips:

When visiting Czech in-laws “stačí” and/or “dost” (enough) is useful when a second or third helping is headed your way!

Need time to come up with a word, or can’t follow the conversation and want to appear to understand or bring a painfully awkward interaction to an abrupt end? The interjection “tak”/“tak no” (so) followed by a shrug will alway suffice.

For more tips, check out Soňa Váchalová’s helpful book Survival Czech (Leda, 2003).

*Grammar point: in Czech the past participle is inflected for the gender of the subject. This means if you identify as male, the past participle ends in ‘l’, for those who identify as female, the participle ends in ‘la’.

If you’re considering a course to learn the Czech Language, you can find a great selection right here.