Kdo jinému jámu kopá, sám do ní padá

Czech Idioms, Part 4: Do you want to understand Czech better?

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 02.08.2011 11:59:27 (updated on 02.08.2011) Reading time: 1 minute

When you hear a phrase or idiom, do you automatically start thinking about it´s origins? Do you begin thinking about how the meaning of the idiom corresponds to the culture?

Well, many times native speakers are hard-pressed to know where any one idiom may have began. It may seem strange to a non-native when you hear that Czechs “break necks” or “kill two flies with one hit.”

Today´s idiom has Czechs digging holes for other people. It is “kdo jinému jámu kopá, sám do ní padá“. It literally means “the one who is digging a hole for another, falls in it himself.”

Whatever the origins may be, nowadays it just means that you shouldn’t do to other people what you don´t want to happen to yourself, as you might get “caught in your own trap.”

Example: (with literal English translation)

A: Dala jsem Petrovi na židli lepidlo. On ale nepřišel do práce. Já jsem na to druhý den zapomněla a sedla si na tu židli!
B: Vidíš, kdo jinému jámu kopá, sám do ní padá.

A: I put glue on Petr’s chair. But he didn’t come to work. I forgot about it the next day and sat on the chair!
B: You see, the one who is digging a hole for another falls in it himself.

GRAMMAR NOTE: KOPAT is a verb which normally takes the accusative form of a noun, but to express “for whom” you are digging it, it takes the dative.

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Other Czech idioms:

Part 1. – Dělat z komára velblouda (making a camel out of a mosquito)
Part 2. – Zlom vaz (break your neck)
Part 3. – Zabít dvě mouchy jednou ranou (kill two flies with one hit)

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