STEP 3: Nitty Gritty Grammar

Get into the nitty gritty grammar

I always liken learning languages to building a brick wall.


Vocabulary are the bricks, the chunks of meaning that you use to build your sentences and convey your thoughts. The grammar is the mortar—it holds the words in place and gives them specific functions.

You need to learn a little bit of each as you build you wall skyward.

Focus too much on grammar and your sentences will have perfect structure, but you won't be able to speak with much breadth about many topics. Focus too much on vocabulary and you'll spit out loads of ideas that will come across as thematic word salad to your poor listener.

I made the mistake of learning as much vocabulary as I possibly could without grammar, then found that I could not string basic sentences together properly. My husband, on the other hand, is a DuoLingo black belt who knows grammar inside and out, but he sometimes struggles with listening comprehension because he has spent less time focusing on vocabulary. (Duolingo is another useful free app that gamifies Czech grammar learning.)

The lesson?

Take turns practicing both grammar and vocabulary, so you don't let one get too far ahead of the other.

One of Tady Gavin's online teachers (and mine!) has a great YouTube channel with lots of useful information about grammar. Eliška of Because Czech is Cool! is an online Czech teacher specializing in Czech for beginners.


Have lessons with her from the convenience of your flat, or even before you arrive in Prague by signing up for skype lessons here. I highly recommend her.

You can explore other teacher offerings at iTalki, an online meet up for students and professional language teachers. It might benefit you to try a few different teachers' styles, to see what works best for you.


Czech is a declined language, which means that every noun, pronoun and adjective changes 7 times, depending on whether it is the subject, the direct or indirect object or if it follows a certain preposition. If you've never heard of declined languages, you're not alone. Latin and slavic languages are declined, but most languages we learn in the US (Spanish, French, Italian) are not.

I wish I'd known this back when I tried to memorize what I thought were the 7 Czech words for "dog" when all along, they were just using it in different grammatical functions:

Dog = Pes

Did the pes eat his food yet? (subject)

The cat chased the psa. (direct object)

Tell the psovi to stop barking. (indirect object)

I'm going to the park with the psem. (after a preposition)

There were so many psi on the metro today! (plural)

Did you catch all that? Don't worry—with a persistent, optimistic pursuit of the language, you will soon.

Here's a page with tons of free resources for grammar learning and more.


Self-study of Czech grammar can be intimidating. It's hard to know where to start.


Pretty much every Czech as a foreign language student in Prague starts out with this textbook. You can also buy it at the Luxor Knihy Palac on Wenceslas Square.

The book teaches grammar in the context of realistic conversations you'll need. If you decide to sign up for any Czech Language course when you arrive, you'll likely have to buy the book then, so it's worth getting a head start.



  • Make a commitment to practice XX pages per week. Can you commit to one page a day? You'll finish the book in 7.5 months. Maybe you can do one chapter per month? You'll be done in one year—and far ahead of most expats who never even try.
  • Buy the Czech Krok Za Zrokem (Step by Step) textbook (or a comparable one) and get started today.