Slavic languages often seem a bit daunting with their cases and complex inflection systems. And although Slovak grammar may present a bit of a challenge, there is nothing about it that you can’t master if you study it carefully and practice regularly.
This article will give you an overview over the key aspects of Slovak grammar to give you the idea of what you should focus on learning.
The Slovak language is an inflected language, meaning that the endings (and sometimes also the stems) of most words (nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals) change depending on the given combination of the grammatical gender, the grammatical number and the grammatical case of the particular word in the particular sentence.
There are four grammatical genders in the Slovak language: animate masculine, inanimate masculine, feminine and neuter. In popular description, the first two genders are often covered under common masculine gender.
Almost all Slovak nouns and adjectives, as well as some pronouns and numerals, can be categorized into one of these genders. Exceptions are pluralia tantum (Vianoce – Christmas, though there are rules for deriving the gender), words that are drifting into another gender and are currently neuter (knieža – Fürst), and masculine animals that are animate in singular and mostly inanimate in plural.
Like in English, Slovak has singular and plural nouns. Morphological traces of the ancient Indo-European dual number remain but are not a separate grammar category anymore.
There are seven cases in Slovak: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative, and vocative.
Slovak nouns follow several different declension patterns. Each gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) has its own patterns of declension, represented by model nouns.
Slovak does not have articles. The demonstrative pronoun ten (fem: tá, neuter: to) may be used in front of the noun in situations where definiteness must be made explicit.
Adjectives agree with nouns in terms of gender, case, and number. Attributive adjectives most commonly come before the noun.
The comparative is formed by replacing the adjective ending -ý/y/i/í by -ejší or -ší. There are exact rules for the choice between these two endings and there are several irregular comparatives.
Regular: hrozný – hroznejší, bohatý – bohatší
Irregular: veľký – väčší, malý – menší
The superlative is formed as follows: naj+comparative.
pekný – krajší – najkrajší, hrozný – hroznejší – najhroznejší
Here are some examples of Slovak adverbs:
- Adverbs of location: doma, vonku, blízko
- Adverbs of time: dnes, včera, zajtra
- Adverbs of manner: pekne, dobre, zle
- Adverbs of cause: úmyselne, bezdôvodne
Pronouns in Slovak are classified into the following categories:
a) Basic: ja, ty, on
b) Possessive: môj, tvoj, jeho
a) Basic: seba/sa (in Dative: sebe/si)
b) Possessive: svoj
- Demonstrative: ten, tá, to, tí
- Interrogative: kto? čo? aký? ktorý?
- Relative (in complex sentences): kto, čo, aký, ktorý,
- Indefinite: niečo, dakto, bárskoľko
- Delimitating: ten istý, taký istý, iný, každý
Verbs in Slovak have three major conjugations. Three persons and two numbers (singular and plural) are distinguished. Subject personal pronouns are omitted unless they are emphatic.
Slovak verbs have the grammatical category of aspect. Each verb is either imperfective, meaning that it denotes continuous or habitual events, or perfective, meaning that it denotes single completed events. Some imperfective verbs are created from the stems of perfective verbs to denote repeated or habitual actions. These are considered separate lexemes. One example is as follows: to hide (perfective) = skryť, to hide (habitual) = skrývať.
Historically, two past tense forms were utilized in Slovak. Both are formed analytically. The second of these, equivalent to the pluperfect, is not used in the modern language, being considered archaic and/or grammatically incorrect.
One future tense exists. For imperfective verbs, it is formed analytically, for perfective verbs it is identical with the present tense.
Two conditional forms exist. Both are formed analytically from the past tense.
The passive voice is formed either as in English (to be + past participle) or using the reflexive pronoun ‘sa’:
skryť: je skrytý; sa skryje
The active present participle (= ~ing (one)) is formed using the suffixes -úci/ -iaci / -aci.
The active past participle (= ~ing (in the past)) was formerly formed using the suffix -vší, but is no longer used.
The passive participle (= ~ed (one), the “third form”) is formed using the suffixes -ný / -tý / -ený.
The gerund (= the (process of) …ing) is formed using the suffix -ie:
Each preposition in Slovak is associated with one or more grammatical cases. The noun governed by a preposition must appear in the case required by the preposition in the given context (e.g. from friends = od priateľov). Priateľov is the genitive case of priatelia. It must appear in this case because the preposition od (= from) always calls for its objects to be in the genitive.
around the square = po námestí (locative case)
up to the square = po námestie (accusative case)
Po has a different meaning depending on the case of its governed noun.
This is a very brief overview of Slovak grammar. To truly master it, you will need to study each of the parts of speech in much more detail. However, this overview will hopefully give you a general idea of the Polish grammatical system and of the main points you should consider when learning.