Czech by Numbers - Five


You are listening to Radio Prague's special Czech language course Czech by Numbers which explores numbers and their usage in everyday Czech speech. This is lesson number five - lekce číslo pět. The word for the number pět is very similar in all Slavonic languages.

In certain situations the number "five" becomes pětka - the worst mark in school, a number five tram - or a colloquial expression for a ten-crown coin. It sounds strange that a ten-crown coin is called a "fiver" but that's because the origin of the name dates back to the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Before currency reform at the turn of the 19th century, pětka was a name for a five-florin note which was the equivalent of a later ten-crown note.

Staying on a historical note, an interesting use of "five" before 1989 was the notorious pětiletka or Five Year Plan - used by Communist central planners to set wildly unrealistic production targets.

Five is also the number of fingers on a hand and if you say that somebody has bought something for five fingers - za pět prstů - it means they stole it.

To say that somebody is bright, Czechs sometimes use the idiom má všech pět pohromad" - he or she has "all five together" - meaning all five senses.

The ordinal number fifth is pátý, that is for the masculine gender. Pátá in the feminine, standing on its own, can mean "five o'clock in the afternoon". So, five-o'clock tea is čaj o páté (note the change of the grammatical case).

In the neuter gender, the fifth is páté, as in a fifth child, páté dítě. The word is used in the idiom páté kolo u vozu which literally means "the fifth wheel on a cart". The figurative meaning is somebody who is not needed, left out, who is useless, superfluous.

And closely related is the word pátek - Friday, the fifth day of the week.

That's it for lesson number five - pátá lekce. We'll be back next week with more Czech numbers and numerals.

Till then na shledanou. Bye-bye.