Czech by Numbers - Counting


Hello and welcome to Czech by Numbers, Radio Prague's own Czech learning programme in which we examine the use of numbers in everyday Czech. Today we'll be looking at the Czech verb počítat - to count.

Photo: European Commission
It covers the range of the English verbs to count, to reckon, to compute, to do sums - choose what you like. In maths, you will often hear the perfective form of the verb which is either spočítat or vypočítat - both meaning to come to a result by counting. The result as well as the process of calculation of an equation, for example, is výpočet.

The verb can be used in a figurative sense, just like in English. To count on - as in to count on somebody or something is počítat s někým or s něčím. If you'd like to tell someone not to count on you, you can say: Nepočítejte se mnou.

In the sense of to guess, to reckon, you can come across the sentence: Počítám, že přijde pozdě. He'll arrive late, I reckon.

Slavonic languages are tricky in that they use lots of prefixes which alter the meanings of verbs, something like phrasal verbs in English. Adding a prefix and a reflexive pronoun, you'll get the verb přepočítat se - which means to miscalculate, to make a mistake, to make a wrong judgment.

The adjective vypočítavý is not a very nice one. It describes someone who likes to take advantage of situations, someone who calculates first whether something will pay off, someone shrewd verging on manipulative - in short, it means the same as the English word calculating.

The verb počítat is also part of an idiom - spočítat na prstech jedné ruky - "to count on the fingers of one hand". It means that there are so few people or items that they can be counted on the fingers of one hand - that is five maximum.

And that's it for today. We'll be back with more numbers next time. Till then, na shledanou.