A reference guide to Hungarian grammar, designed with English-speakers in mind

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Telling the time in Hungarian

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Time in Hungarian is quite complicated and it's easy to be one hour off. The biggest difference is that when using such expression as "quarter (past)", "half (past)", etc, they always look forward to the coming hour, never back at the hour just passed.

This means that 5:15, which we would describe as "quarter past five", they would describe as negyed hat (óra): "six quarter", "a quarter into the sixth hour" or maybe even "a quarter past in the sixth hour".

Similarly: 9:30 is fél tíz half into the tenth hour
10:45 is háromnegyed tizenegy three quarters into the eleventh hour

Hours and minutes

It's acceptable to simply say "nine (hours) twenty-three (minutes)
9:23 kilenc óra huszonhárom perc

3:50 tíz perc múlva lesz negy óra. ten miutes having passed (it) will be four o'clock
3:50 négy óra lesz tíz perc múlva (it will be) four o'clock, ten miutes having passed
7:58 két perc múlva nyolc (óra) two minutes having passed (will be) eight (o'clock)

Minutes passed - múlt

Here we say "x passed with y minutes" e.g. két óra múlt öt perccel: 2:05 two hours passed with five minutes

Minutes to - mulva

This is expessed with a rather difficult concept of mulva, which may be translated as "having passed" (mulik to pass, see [present participle]). This is put into the context of "x minutes having passed, it will be y"

Quarter hours

Times may be express as minutes to or passed the quarter hour háromnegyed tizenegy múlt öt perccel: 10:50 three quarters into the eleventh hour passed with five minutes; five minutes passed ten-fourty-five

Word list

óra hour, clock, o'clock
perc minute
perccel with minutes (here meaning "expressed in minutes")
negyed quarter
háromnegyed three quarters
fél half
múlt past, last
[mulva] having passed
lesz will be
idő time
dél noon
éjfél midnight

AM and PM

AM and PM are not known in Hungarian. Either the 24-hour clock is used, or the time is qualified with reggel morning or este evening

17:30 fél tizennyolc half into the eighteenth hour
17:30 fél hat este half into the sixth hour in the evening

International times

időzona timezone

Amikor Budapesten reggel 8 óra van, akkor Londonban még csak 7 óra van. When in Budapest it's 8 in the morning, then in London it's still just 7.

Amikor New Yorkban reggel 7 akkor Szófiában már 14:00 van. When in New York it's 7 in the morning, then in Sofia it's already 14:00.

At certian times - -kor

Relative times

Relative times do not convey any absolute information about the occurence of an event, just relative to another event (often relative to "now").

  • aztán = azután then, following that, after that
  • hamar soon
  • majd shortly, at some time in the future
  • majdnem immediately
  • tavaly last year 
  • jövő héten next week 
  • jövő = jövő évben next year (lit: in the coming year)
  • múlt ... last ...

See the section on present participles for info about word like "coming" and "following".

Some examples and exercises

Here are some examples. Cover up the right two columns with your hand and try to work out the times. The right most column is a literal explanation. (Hungarian text borrowed from [magyarora.com], explanations added by DC.)

két óra múlt öt perccel 2:05 two hours passed with five minutes
negyed négy lesz 10 perc múlva 3:05 quarter into the fourth hour will be 10 minutes having passed
fél tíz 9:30 half into in the tenth hour
háromnegyed hat múlt öt perccel 5:50 three quarters into the sixth hour passed with five minutes
két perc múlva nyolc 7:58 two minutes having passed will be 8 o'clock
öt óra negyven perc 5:40 five o'clock forty minutes
fél három múlt 8 perccel 2:38 half into the third hour passed with eight minutes
háromnegyed kilenc lesz hét perc múlva 8:38 three quarters passed in the ninth hour will be seven minutes having passed
negyed egy 12:15 quarter passed in the first hour
dél 12:00 nappal noon
fél hét lesz három perc múlva 6:27 half into the seventh hour it will be, three minutes having passed
öt perc múlva kilenc 8:55 five minutes having passed it will be eight
fél kettő 1:30 half into the first hour
hét óra tíz perc 7:10 seven hours ten minutes
háromnegyed tizenegy múlt öt perccel 10:50 three quarters into the eleventh hour passed with five minutes
tizenkét óra múlt tizenkét perccel 12:12 twelve o'clock passed with twelve minutes
tíz perc múlva fél nyolc 7:20 ten minutes having passed it will be half into the eighth hour
éjfél 00:00 éjszaka half night
negyed nyolc 7:15 quarter into the eighth hour
öt perc múlva egy 12:55 five minutes having passed it will be one o'clock


See the magyarora.com page (pdf): [http://www.magyarora.com/topics/hany_ora_van.pdf]

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