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Conjunctive/Imperative/Subjunctive mood in Hungarian


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This Hungarian lesson introduces the Hungarian conjunctive/imperative/subjunctive mood, where we can issue or relate commands and suggestions.


This is a difficult mood to learn, as there are lots of rules and variations. It has several uses. It's not a tense but a mood.

It is used to give polite commands ("go out") and suggestions. In the first person singular these suggestion are familiar to us as: "shall I...?" and "let me". In the first person plural we recognise the construction as "let's....".

The key feature of this case is -j-, which may not remain. It may be dropped to create one one the short forms or it may be [transformed] by one of the rules.

When using the conjunctive or imperative in a negative way, remember that nem becomes ne.

Note also that stems ending in a sibilant sounds (-s, -zs, -sz, -z) exhibit stem-final gemination. That is, the -j- in the ending transforms into the last sibilant of the stem.

Short forms

The second person singular (thee) has a regular form and a short form. The formation of the short version will be described below, essentially we remove some of the letters from the regular form. Take care, because the rules about which letters we remove vary between [definite and indefinite] congugations!

Note that Hungarians hardly ever use the long forms, so you should learn the short forms. However in my opinion it is easiest to learn the long form and then apply the additional rule to shorten it.

The short forms are created slightly differently for the following exceptions.

Groups of exceptions

There are three main groups of exceptions, revolving around -t final stems, for which all endings (long, short, def, indef) are formed slightly differently. These verbs behave slightly differently, both in the long and the short forms, for all persons, when compared to regular verbs.

1. The first group of exceptions is those verbs that end in -szt or -st. Luckily, there is only one verb that ends in -st, fest paint, and so you could think of this group as just fest plus those verbs that end in -szt.

2. The second group of exceptions is those verbs that end in -ít or -(consonant)t. Examples are javít correct, ért understand.

3. The third group of exceptions is those verbs that end in (short vowel)-t. Examples are üt hit, fizet pay. Note that although lát see does not fit this pattern (penultimate vowel is long, not short), it is in this group.

Formation of the Conjunctive/Imperative

Definite

Again let us start with the definite conjugation. You'll notice, for regular verbs, that the endings for the regular definite are the same as those for singular possession, with the addition of the -j- before the rest of the possessive ending. In the examples we see one back-vowel word and then one front-vowel words that also shows gemination (i.e. the -z in főz cook forces the -j- in the endings to turn into -z- for főzzem let me cook)


Pronoun Form Back vowel ending Front vowel ending Examples
én -jam -jem adjam, főzzem
te long -jad -jed adjad, főzzed
te short -d -d add, főzd
ő etc -ja -ja adja, főzze
mi -juk -jük adjuk, főzzük
ti -játok -jétek adjátok, főzzétek
ők -ják -jék adják, főzzék

Application of exceptions - Definite

1. Application of exceptions for long definite endings with -szt and -st verbs
Stepwise approach Assimilation approach

Here we see the following steps must be applied, in order:

  • Drop the -t from the stem
  • Take the final -sz- or -s- that we now have on the stem and double it
  • Drop the -j- from the ending

Alternatively if you prefer the concept of assimilation, think of the steps as thus:

  • Drop the -t from the stem
  • Take the -j- from the ending and change it (assimilate it) into the final -s/sz from the stem
  • fest paint
  • fest + jem
  • fest + jem Drop the -t from the stem
  • fess + jem Double the final s/sz from the stem
  • fess + jem Drop the -j- from the ending
  • fessem let me paint it
  • fest paint
  • fest + jem
  • fest + jem Drop the -t from the stem
  • fes  + sem Turn the j into the final s/sz from the stem
  • fessem let me paint it
  • ébreszt awake
  • ébreszt + jed
  • ébreszt + jed Drop the -t from the stem
  • ébressz + jed Double the final s/sz from the stem
  • ébressz + jed Drop the -j- from the ending
  • ébresszed you awake him!
  • ébreszt awake
  • ébreszt +  jed
  • ébreszt +  jed Drop the -t from the stem
  • ébresz  + szed Turn the j into the final s/sz from the stem
  • ébresszed you awake him!
2. Application of exceptions for long definite endings with -ít and -(consonant)t verbs

Here we see the following step must be applied, in order:

  • Remove the -j- from the ending
  • Replace it with s

Here are some examples:

  • javít correct
  • javít + juk
  • javít + juk Remove the -j- from the ending
  • javít + suk Replace the -j- we just dropped with letter s
  • javítsuk let's correct it
  • ért understand
  • ért + jem
  • ért+ jem Remove the -j- from the ending
  • ért + sem Replace the -j- we just dropped with letter s
  • értsem let me understand it!
3. Application of  (short vowel)-t exceptional verbs

Here we see the following step must be applied, in order:

  • Swap the -t for -s
  • Geminate the -s:
    • Replace the ending's -j- with -s- to make two

Here are some examples:

  • fizet pay
  • fizet + jem
  • fizes + jem
    Replace the -t with -s
  • fizes + jem
    Remove the -j- from the ending
  • fizes + sem
    Replace the -j- we just dropped with letter s
  • fizessem let me pay
  • üt hit
  • üt + jük
  • üs + jük
    Replace the -t with -s
  • üs + jük
    Remove the -j- from the ending
  • üs + sük
    Replace the -j- we just dropped with letter s
  • üssük let's hit it!
  • követ follow
  • követ + je
  • köves + je
    Replace the -t with -s
  • köves + je
    Remove the -j- from the ending
  • köves + se
    Replace the -j- we just dropped with letter s
  • kövesse az útmutatókat follow the signs!

Short form - Definite

Short form definite for regular verbs

The general rule for making the short form definite is: We simply remove the -ja- or -je- part from the ending.

  • ad to give
  • adjad! you give it! (long form)
  • adjad! We will remove these letters.
  • add! you give it! (short form)
1. Short form definite for -szt and -st verbs

Note that if the -j- has already turned into another letter, according to the -st/-szt rule, then we treat the surrogate letter just like the original -j- and continue to remove it.

  • fest to paint
  • fest + sad = fessed! you paint it! (long form, application it -st rule)
  • fessed We will remove these letters. Note we still replace the letter (s) that is a surrogate for the original j.
  • fesd! you paint it! (short form)
2. Short form definite for -ít and -(consonant)t verbs

Note that if the -j- has already adopted another letter, according to the -ít rule, then we do not remove this additional letter.

javítsad you correct it! becomes javítsd, and not javítd.

  • javít to correct
  • javít + jad = javítsad! you correct it! (long form, application it -ít rule)
  • javítsad! We will remove this one letter.
  • javítsd! you correct it! (short form)
3. Short form definite for -(short vowel)t verbs and lát

This is one of the easier short forms to create. We replace the -t with -s as for regular verbs in this class, and them simply add -d.

  • fizet to pay
  • fizet
  • fizes + d
  • fizesd you pay it! (short form)
  • lát to see
  • t
  • s + d
  • lásd you see it! (short form)

Indefinite

The endings for the indefinite case are still characterised by -j- but unlike the definite do not share so much with possession.


Pronoun Form Back Front Example
Short Long
én -jak -jek menjek
te long -jál -jél adjál
te short -j -j adj
ő etc -jon -jen -jön adjon
mi -junk -jünk adjunk
ti -jatok -jetek adjatok
ők -janak -jenek adjanak

Short form - indefinite

Short form indefinite for regular verbs

The general rule for making the short form indefinite is: We simply remove the -al or -el part from the ending. Note how this involves the removal of a different pair of letters compared to the definite short form!

  • sétál to stroll
  • sétáljad! you stroll! (long form)
  • sétáljál! We will remove these letters.
  • sétálj! you stroll! (short form)
1. Short form indefinite for -szt and -st verbs

Note that if the -j- has already turned into another letter, according to the -st/-szt rule, then we treat the surrogate letter just like the original -j- and continue to ignore it, removing the -ál/él as normal.

  • fest to paint
  • fest + sél = fessél! you paint! (long form, application it -st rule)
  • fessél We will remove these letters.Note that he letter (s) that is a surrogate for the original j remains.
  • fess! you paint! (short form)
2. Short form indefinite for -ít and -(consonant)t verbs

Note that if the -j- has already adopted another letter, according to the -ít rule, then we do not remove this additional letter.

javítsál engem you correct me!  becomes javíts. Note that when the object is "me" we use the [indefinite] conjugation.

  • javít to correct
  • javít + jál = javítsál! you correct (me)! (long form, application it -ít rule)
  • javítsál! We will remove these letters.
  • javíts! you correct (me)! (short form)
3. Short form indefinite for -(short vowel)t verbs and lát

Like its definite brother, this is one of the easier short forms to create. We replace the -t with -s as for regular verbs in this class, and them simply add -s.

  • fizet to pay
  • fizet
  • fizes + s
  • fizess you pay! (short form)
  • lát to see
  • t
  • s + s
  • láss you see! (short form)

Uses of the conjunctive/subjunctive/imperative mood.

The three moods all have the same formation and so are all described in one page. However, their use is of course different.

We have: suggestions, commands, and the true subjunctive mood.

Suggestions - the conjunctive

We uses the conjunctive to make suggestions. This can be a suggestion ("let's...") or question of the form "shall....?"

  • Menjünk a boltba Let's go to the shop.
  • Ne fessük! Let's not paint it.
  • Menjek ki? Shall I go out? Note the coverb detatches and shuffles.
  • Menjek ki. Let me go out.
  • Magyarul beszéljek? Shall I speak Hungarian?

Commands - the imperative

When giving a command, it is not as rude as we English speakers might think the word "command" suggests. It can be more like "will you....?" If the command is followed by "please", it makes it even more polite.

When written as a command, the sentence always ends with an exclamation mark (bang), like this!

If  you're chatting with your language exchange partners and your new friend says javítsd a hibáim correct my mistakes, it's not rude. It's not a demand. It's just the way they use the grammar and punctuation.

When giving a command using a verb that has a verbal prefix, the prefix splits and moves to behind the verb: elmenni becomes menj el!

  • Gyere ide! Come here.
  • Menj el! Go away.
  • Ne menj a boltba! Don't go to the shop!
  • Ne menjük a boltba! Let's not go to the shop!
  • Ne javítsd a hibáim! Don't correct my mistakes.
  • Javítsd a hibáim, légy szíves! Correct my mistakes, please.

The subjunctive

Introduction adapted from [Wikipedia]:

The subjunctive in English is easily distinguished in a great variety of contexts where the sense is past tense, but the form of the subjunctive verb required is present:

"It was required that we go to the back of the line." The sentence is in the past tense (was required) but the subjunctive is used in the present (we go).

Were it not subjunctive, the form of "to go" for something in the past would have been went.

Compare with the non-subjunctive: "Everyone knows that we went to the back of the line."

Here are some other examples in English to help you to understand the subjunctive tense.

  • I was rich. (past tense)
  • Were I rich, I would buy a mansion. (present subjunctive)
  • I wish Ági were here. (present subjunctive - note we do not say "I wish Ági is here")
  • Daniel owns a car. (present)
  • Let's make Daniel own a car. (present subjunctive)

Subordinate clauses

When we relay a piece of information about an instruction or suggestion previously given to us, we use the subjunctive. This includes relaying the information in a subordinate clause using hogy.

  • kérte, hogy menjek He asked that I (should) go.
  • ezt mondja, hogy fessem She says I (must/should) paint it.
  • kérlek, gyere ide Please, come here (I ask you, that you should come here).
  • küldöm, hogy hozzon sört I'm sending him for beer (I send him, that he should bring beer)

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