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

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Hungarian Verbs


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This chapter will explore the many different ways of conjugating Hungarian verbs. We will see that there are literally thousands of combinations of conjugation for each vderb in Hungarian. It'd be quite a daunting task, were it not for the fact that nearly everything follow strict rules of grammar.

In English, we have just one type of conjugation, and within that only four forms (for regular verbs):like, likes, liking, liked.

Note that the above conjugation serves the following roles. In the below, the word "see" is identical in each case, despite it serving different grammatical functions.


Hungarian conjugation Meaning Conjugation used Tense/Mood used
látok I see no object - indefinite conjugation Present indicative
látom I see it object - definite conjugation Present indicative
látlak I see you (you as object) Present indicative
lássuk let's see suggestion - imperative Imperative
kell látnom I must see expressing need (present)
kellett látnom I must have seen expressing need (past)
látni To see (infinitive) (infinitive)
fogok látni I will see future tense - indefinite) Future
fogom látni I will see it future tense - definite Future
foglak látni I will see you (future tense 'you'as with object) Indicative
látnék I would see present tense conditional mood (indefinite) Conditional ('present')
láttam volna I would have seen past tense conditional mood (indefinite) Conditional ('past')
látnám I would see it present tense conditional mood (definite) Conditional ('present')
láttad volna you would have seen it past tense conditional mood (definite) Conditional ('past')
láss / lássál see! command - imperative (indefinite) Imperative
lásd / lássad see it! command - imperative (definite) Imperative

In Hungarian, these all have different conjugations. Each wil be explained.

Grammatical terms

One of the problems that I found when learning Hungarian was that I didn't really know too many grammatical terms. Words like "subject", "object", "gemmination" etc were new to me. So let's explain these terms.

Subject

The subject is the person or thing doing the verb.
I see Ági.
"I" is the subject, because I am the one doing the seeing.

Object

The object is the person or thing on which the verb acts.
I see Ági.
"Ági" is the object, because she is the one being seen.

Transitive and intransitive verbs

Some verbs cannot have objects. To go, to be, to come, to die..... these cannot take an obejct, ever. Verbs that cannot take an object are called intransitive verbs.
Most verbs take an object. Verbs that must take an object are called transitive verbs. To lift, to chew, to kill.
Some verbs may or may not take an object. They are both transitive and intransitive verbs. To drink (generally), to drink water; to hear (generally), to hear dogs.
Note that in an English dictionary, when you have seen v, vt, vi ... you finally understand what they mean! Verb:transitive and Verb:instransitive. Hurrah!
See the Answers.com page on Understand.

Indirect object

Definite and indefinte conjugations

This is an alien concept to the Englishman, which, in a nutshell, is all about needing to conjugate the verb differently based on how well-defined the object is. If we have a general object, "I like fish" or "I like a fish", then we must use the indefinite case; if we have a well-defined object, such as "I like the fish" or "I like my/your/this/that/these/those fish", then we must use the definite conjugation.

I will make a bold suggestion: Learn the definite conjugation first, and then learn the indefinite. The definite has fewer exceptions and follows almost identically the endings for possession, and therefore is easier to learn. Most books teach indefinite first.


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