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The Hungarian definite conjugation


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This Hungarian lesson talks about the definite conjugation in Hungarian. You should read the section on [when to use the definite and when to use the infdefinite conjgations] so that you have some background on the matter; when you are comfortable with understanding when to apply this conjugation, this page will detail how to do so.

I will be discussing the definite, and I recommend that you learn the definite before the indefinite, because it is more symmetrical and fits better into the overall model of the Hungarian language, in my opinion. (For example, the endings for the definite tense are very similar to the endings for possession.)

The definite conjugation has a set of regular endings, and then one must apply a single additional rule under certain circumstances. That rule is called assimilation.

Let's look at the basic endings first.


Person Endings
back front
short long
én -om -em -öm
te -od -ed -öd
ő -ja -i
mi -juk -jük
ti -játok -itek
ők -ják -ik


Note how, unlike in the indefinite or possession, the parity between back and front vowel endings is not always symmetrical. For example, the choice of endings for the third person plural indefinite is -nak or -nek, but in the corresponding definite case the choices are -ják and (not -jék but) -ik. Take care!

Note also that the third personal singular indefinite of -ik verbs and the third person plural definite may have identical endings of -ik. Therefore (the standard practice of) omitting the subject could cause ambiguity.
However, I cannot think of any -ik verbs that are transitive, therefore if there is an object but no subject you can be sure that the verb is third person plural definite.

lakik he lives
This cannot be "they live (it)" because this verb is instransitive.

Assimilation: the leading -j- in the ending turns into the last letter of the stem

This is a rule which must be applied after you attach the endings to a verb stem. In a nutshell, the leading -j- in the ending turns into the last letter of the stem, in certain conditions.

Luckily, those conditions are quite simple:

  • if the stem ends in
    • -s
    • -sz
    • -z
    • -dz

then apply the rule.



Here are some examples:

  • mos (to) wash
  • Apply the ending and get mos + ja, which then becomes.....
  • mossa he washes (it)
  • néz (to) look (at)
  • Apply the ending and get néz + jük, which then becomes.....
  • nézzük we look at (it)
  • olvas (to) read
  • Apply the ending and get olvas + ják, which then becomes.....
  • olvassák they read (it)
  • vesz (to) take, (to) buy
  • Apply the ending and get vesz + jük, which then becomes.....
  • vesszük! we buy (it)

In this last example, the whole of the trailing sz is doubled, giving us vesz + szük which is of course written as vesszük
See the secion on the Hungarian alphabet for help with doubling two-glyph letters.

Notez-bien

Not all verbs in Huingarian take objects in the same way as in English. For example, we might say "They are hunting the fox that stole my chickens". Here, the verb has a definite object.

However in Hungarian, this verb does not take a definite object (nor indeed any direct object), and instead we mark the indirect object:

  • vadász to hunt
  • vadásznak they hunt
  • vadásznak a rókára they hunt the fox (literally, "they hunt (nothing) onto the fox")

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