Writing a letter or an email in Czech can be challenging for someone who's not a native speaker.
In Czech, like in any other language – there are certain specific rules which one has to adhere to when writing a formal email or letter. Informal emails have fewer requirements.
This guide will cover Czech email etiquette, and will explain how to write formal – as well as informal – Czech emails and letters.
Example phrases for various types of correspondence in Czech, will be provided, such as:
Finally, a detailed example of a Czech formal email / letter is provided.
Before starting your Czech letter or email, think about what it is you are writing. Are you applying for a job? Or are you checking in with your grandma? It matters.
As anyone who speaks even a little bit of Czech will know, there are two different ways to address someone. You can either use the formal “you” (“vy”) or the informal “you” (“ty”).
If the recipient of your email is your best friend, the “ty” pronoun would be used. If you are writing to the local council to complain about noise pollution, the “ty” pronoun would be inappropriate. In that case, use the formal “vy” pronoun.
It's important that you always use the correct form, depending on the recipient and the circumstances. No amount of flowery language will make your Czech email seem formal if you are using the "ty" pronoun.
Another thing to remember is to always use the vocative (the fifth case) when directly addressing your recipient in Czech. While in English, you can write "hello, Nela," this wouldn't work in Czech.
In Czech, the final letter 'a' in the name Nela changes to the letter 'o' in the vocative. Writing "ahoj, Nela," would be grammatically incorrect. What you need to write instead is "ahoj, Nelo."
The last thing you need to know is that Czechs do not capitalize the first line of the body of the letter. While in English, the beginning of your letter may look something like this:
How are you?
In Czech, it would look more like this:
jak se máš?
If the very first line ("Milá Anno") ends with a coma, you should never continue the next line with a capital letter. You would only do that if, instead of a coma, you used an exclamation mark (i.e., opening the letter with "Milá Anno!").
Simply put: in Czech, a coma can't end a sentence, so you don't need to use a capital letter after it.
These are just some of the more general rules you need to keep in mind when composing an email or a letter in Czech. Now, let's take a look at some common words and phrases you might need to use in your correspondence.
Here are some useful phrases you might need when starting a formal email or letter in Czech:
One more thing to remember: When writing to someone with a university degree, you should include their degree in your greeting. For example, if someone has an advanced engineering degree, start your email like this: "Vážený pane inženýre."
That said, do not add their surname after the title. It’s always either “Vážený pane inženýre” or “Vážený pane Nováku,” never “Vážený pane inženýre Nováku.”
You can also use someone's job title in your greeting (e.g., "Vážený pane řediteli" – "Dear Mr. Director").
Using the other person's degree or title in the greeting lets them know that you respect them and their education/career. While the younger generation might no longer insist on this level of formality, many will still appreciate it.
Don't worry - if they don't want you to continue using their degree/title, they'll let you know. Czechs, in general, are pretty direct when it comes to these things.
Even though Czech doesn't have many rules when it comes to writing informal letters and emails, there are still a couple of useful phrases you might want to learn:
There are a couple of ways to end a letter or an email in Czech. These do not differ much from English. In general, you want to end on a polite note and give the recipient your regards.
If you want to add a PS, you can use either "PS," "P.S.," or "P. S." If you need to use more than one PS, you can either number them (i.e., "PS1," "PS2," and so on) or use multiple Ps (i.e., "PS," "PPS," etc.)
Many Czech children enjoy adding at least 5 PS (or "PPPPPS") at the end of their letters or postcards.
Below are some common ways to end a formal email or letter in Czech:
Here are some phrases to use when ending a casual email or letter in Czech:
Here are some other phrases you might want to use in your Czech email or letter:
If you are someone who travels a lot and likes to send a postcard or two, here are a few phrases which are useful for writing a postcard in Czech:
Czechs like postcards a lot - and not just travel postcards, either. They often prefer them to other types of cards, especially when sending them in post.
While in other countries, you might receive a Christmas card, in the Czech Republic, getting a Christmas postcard through your letterbox is much more likely.
Many Czech children also enjoy receiving postcards from their parents while they're away at summer camp. They might even send a couple back, letting their parents know how they are.
Czechs don't give out thank you cards very often - it's simply not a big part of their culture.
Still, they might send the occasional thank you card after receiving a particularly nice gift from someone. Here are just a few useful phrases:
Birthday cards are still very popular in the Czech Republic – although the younger generation gives them out less and less. Here are some phrases you should know if you want to wish someone happy birthday in Czech:
Here are some useful Czech phrases which can be used when writing a wedding card in Czech:
Here is an example of a formal letter written in Czech, which is addressed to a university professor.
You can use this as a template for any future Czech email or letter you may need to write.
Vážený pane profesore,
píši Vám ohledně mé semestrální práce. V příručce studenta je napsáno, že práce musí být odevzdána do 18. května (do pěti hodin večer). V rozvrhu je ale pak napsáno, že práci stačí poslat do 25. května (do půlnoci).
Nerada bych práci odevzdala příliš pozdě, a proto bych se chtěla zeptat, který z datumů je správný.
Předem děkuji za odpověď.
studentka fyziky a astronomie
Dear Mr. professor,
I am writing to you regarding my final essay. In the student handbook, it says that the essay has to be submitted by May 18 (5 pm). However, in the schedule, it says that the essay is due May 25 (by midnight).
I would like to avoid submitting the essay too late, which is why I'd like to ask which date is correct.
Thank you in advance.
Physics & Astronomy student
One more thing to remember about formal writing: You may have noticed that in the Czech example above, the V in "Vám" ("píši Vám ohledně mé semestrální práce") is capitalized.
Sometimes, Czechs will capitalize the first letters of personal pronouns of the person they're addressing in their letter or email (so "váš" becomes "Váš," "vy" becomes "Vy," etc.). This is to show that you respect the other person.
While capitalizing the first letter of personal pronouns in formal letters isn't required, it can be a nice touch of additional formality. However, if you decide to do it, make sure you capitalize all personal pronouns referring to the other person in your letter. Be consistent with it.
Capitalizing these pronouns can also be used in love notes and Valentine's Day cards to show your love and admiration for your partner. (so "ty" becomes "Ty," etc.)Conclusion
Writing an email or a letter in Czech may sound daunting at first, but following this guide should help you to do it successfully.
Don't overthink it. In general, Czechs are much more direct in their communication than English speakers. You don't need to use quite as many "filler phrases" when composing a Czech letter or email.
In formal letters, don't get too stuck on politeness and introductory phrases. Just explain what your letter is concerning and get straight to the point. The clearer and more concise, the better.
Just remember to always use the right "you" ("ty" is informal; "vy" is formal") and be consistent in how you capitalize your words.
Don’t stress too much about informal correspondence. Your friend isn’t going to judge you on your language - they’ll just be happy to hear from you.