There are 14 vowels in Hungarian.
Vowel harmony is a key feature of the Hungarian language. It means that many word
endings have two or three different versions, each to be applied under different
conditions. These conditions are based upon which vowels are present in a word,
and will be explained here.
Like so many parts of Hungarian, even the alphabet exhibits parity or symmetry.
For every short vowel there is a short and a long version. Here are some sound files to help you.
Hear all 14 vowels (mp3)
These vowels have a deeper note and are made using the back of the mouth.
a, á, (i), (í),
o, ó, u,
Front vowels are higher-pitched and created at the front of the mouth. They can
be further split two groups, long and short.
The front vowels are:
- e, é, (i),
(í), ö, ő,
These are then split into short and long groups:
- short front: e,
- long front: é,
These are intermediate and generally do not contribute to whether a word is overall
front or back.
On their own they are considered back vowels, e.g. ír becomes
and not írek.
In a sord such as
segít, the í dos not contrbute, and it's
the e that classes this as a short-front word.
The vowels in a word must be considered to determine the word's overall harmonious
Simply, if a word contains only back vowels, it is considered a back-vowel word,
and takes the back-vowel endings.
Such a word is három
If a word contains only front-vowels, it is a front-vowel word.
If a word contains both front and back, the last vowel generally gives the class.
frog, a back-vowel word.
If a word contains short- and long-front vowels, generally the last vowel will give
kettő two is a long-front word.
This task of categorisation will soon become second nature, don't worry if it seems
confusing at first.
It won't be confusing soon, and even if you make a mistake
in the selection of an ending you'll still be perfectly understood.
Whenever one sees a two-fold ending, such as
this means at the choice between
the two is the choice between front and back vowels. Both long- and short-front
vowel words are clumped together as front vowel words.
When one see a three-fold choice of endings, such as
-ok/ek/ük, the choice is between
back, short-front and long-front vowel words.
- lát becomes látok
- szeret becomes szeretek
- ül becomes ülök
One-form endings of course apply to all classes of words. An exaple is
-ért, the causal-final case.
- az + ért = azért
for that reason, therefore
- ez + ért = ezért
for this reason, herefore
See the main page on the Hungarian alphabet.