Hungarian verbs

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This page is about verbs in Hungarian grammar.

Lemma or citation form[edit]

There is basically only one pattern for verb endings, with predictable variations dependent on the phonological context.

The lemma or citation form is always the third person singular indefinite present. This usually has a ∅ suffix, e.g. kér ("ask", "have a request").

-ik verbs[edit]

A slight variation to the standard pattern is with certain verbs which have third person singular indefinite present ending with -ik, e.g. dolgozik ("work"), and 1st singular indefinite present usually with -om/-em/-öm. The stem for this is reached by removing -ik. These verbs explain the reason for this form being the citation form.

The -ik verbs were originally middle voice, reflexive or passive in meaning, which can still be seen e.g. about the pair tör ("s/he breaks sth") vs törik ("sth. breaks" / "sth gets broken"). However, most of them have lost this meaning so historically speaking they are like deponent verbs. There are some verb pairs that only differ in the presence or absence of the -ik ending, while they are unrelated in meaning, such as ér ('be worth sth.' or 'arrive') and érik ('ripen') as well as nyúl ('reach for sth.') and nyúlik ('stretch/extend'). (These -ik verbs also have a middle-voice meaning, their active version being érlel 'make sth. ripe' and nyújt 'stretch/extend sth.'.)

With these verbs, the third person singular (present, indefinite, indicative) form (i.e., the lemma) consistently uses the -ik form. What is more, new -ik words are constantly born (e.g. netezik "use the Internet") so their deviation needs to be followed.

However, as far as the first person singular (present, indefinite, indicative) suffix is concerned, it is often assimilated to the "normal" conjugation (as it has practically happened to the other -ik-specific forms) so most verbs usually take the regular form for this person (e.g. hazudok; *hazudom would be taken as hypercorrect or incorrect). Nevertheless, with some basic -ik verbs, the assimilated variant is stigmatized (e.g. eszem is expected in educated speech, rather than *eszek), so with these verbs, the traditional form is advised. At any rate, such non-traditional, assimilated variants are not rare in colloquial spoken language.

Since this (3rd person singular indefinite) -ik ending coincides with the -ik ending of the 3rd person plural definite form, only the type of the object makes it possible to identify the subject:

  • eszik egy almát: egy almát "an apple" is indefinite, so the verb must be a singular form, i.e. "s/he is eating an apple;"
  • eszik az almát: az almát "the apple" is definite, so the verb must be a plural form, i.e. "they are eating the apple."

In fact, most -ik verbs are intransitive, and the context may clarify the question even if the subject is not made explicit.

Regular (non -ik)
verbs
Non-traditional Traditional
-ik verbs
1st person singular
indefinite
kérek hazudok eszem
(*eszek)
3rd person singular
indefinite
(lemma)
kér hazudik eszik
Meaning "ask"
("request")
"tell a lie" "eat"

Some important "traditional" -ik verbs are the following. It may seem uneducated if someone uses the -k ending with them for the 1st person singular form:

aggódik "worry", álmodik "dream", alszik "sleep", bízik "trust", dicsekszik "brag", dohányzik "smoke", dolgozik "work", emlékszik "remember", érdeklődik "be interested", érkezik "arrive", esküszik "swear", eszik "eat", fázik "be cold", fekszik "lie" ("recline"), foglalkozik "deal with", gondolkodik or gondolkozik "be thinking", gondoskodik "look after", gyanakszik "suspect", gyönyörködik "delight in", hallatszik "be audible", haragszik "be angry", hiányzik "be missing", igyekszik "strive, hurry", iszik "drink", játszik "play", jelentkezik "apply", költözik "move (residence)", következik "follow", különbözik "differ", lakik "live" ("inhabit"), látszik "be visible", működik "function", növekszik "grow", nyugszik "rest", öregszik "grow old", panaszkodik "complain", származik "originate from", találkozik "meet", tartozik "owe" or "belong", tartózkodik "stay" ("reside"), törődik "care about", unatkozik "be bored", vágyik "desire", változik "change" (refl.), verekszik "fight" (e.g. at school), veszekszik "quarrel", vetkőzik "take off clothes", viselkedik "behave" and vitatkozik "argue".[1]

For most other verbs, the -k ending is common in the indefinite meaning, especially in casual speech. Verbs ending in -zik, which refer to using some tool, almost exclusively take the -k, such as biciklizik "ride the bicycle", gitározik "play the guitar" or mobilozik "use the mobile phone".

There are a few non-traditional -ik verbs where the -m ending is impossible and ungrammatical (except in the definite conjugation, if meaningful). These are called "pseudo ik verbs" (álikes igék) in Hungarian. Examples:

bomlik "dissolve", (el)bújik "hide", egerészik "catch mice", érik "ripen", folyik "flow", gyűlik "assemble" (refl.), hazudik "tell a lie", hullik "fall", illik "suit", kopik "wear off", megjelenik "appear", múlik "pass", nyílik "open" (refl.), ömlik "pour" (refl.), születik "be born", (meg)szűnik "discontinue", telik "fill up", tojik "lay (eggs)", törik "get broken", tűnik "seem", válik "become" or "divorce", züllik "become depraved".[2]

The regular non -ik verb könyörög "beg" has a hypercorrect first-person singular indefinite present form könyörgöm "I am begging" (used especially as an emphatic interjection to support an argument in spoken language), which conjugation mimics that of -ik verbs. The correct form would be könyörgök. However, it is argued by some[3][4] that the form könyörgöm is not unacceptable, either, and it reflects an idiomatic expression könyörgöm (magát/az Istent) "I am begging (you/God)", which has eventually lost its object and in which the form könyörgöm actually (correctly) follows definite conjugation.

Infinitive[edit]

The infinitive of a verb is the form suffixed by -ni, e.g. várni, kérni. There is a variant -ani/eni, which is used with the following groups:

  • verbs ending in two consonants (e.g. tszani, tartani, küldeni, választani, festeni, mondani, hallani, ajánlani),
  • verbs ending in a long vowel + t (e.g. fűteni, véteni, tanítani, bocsátani) and
  • the words véd and edz (védeni and edzeni respectively).

Exceptions are állni "to stand", szállni "to fly", varrni "to sew", forrni "to boil", which have -ni despite the two consonants. This is due to the fact that in written language, the "long" 'l' (or 'r') sound has to be marked.


Infinitive with personal suffixes[edit]

When an infinitive is used with an impersonal verb, the personal suffixes may be added to the infinitive to indicate the person, as in Portuguese. Except in the 3rd person singular and plural, the -i of the infinitive is dropped, e.g. Mennem kell. ("I have to go."). The person can also be indicated using -nak/-nek, e.g. Nekem kell mennem. ("I have to go.), Jánosnak mennie kell ("János has to go.")

These forms use the o/e/ö set of suffixes (Type II, like possessive suffixes do), see Personal suffixes and link vowels.

Person menni (to go) látni (to see)
for me to go etc. for me to see etc.
1st Sg. mennem látnom
2nd Sg. menned látnod
3rd Sg. mennie látnia
1st Pl. mennünk látnunk
2nd Pl. mennetek látnotok
3rd Pl. menniük látniuk

Tenses[edit]

With the exception of lenni ("to be"), there are 2 tenses, usually called past and present. More accurate names would be past and non-past since the so-called "present" tense can also be used to refer to the future.

The future can also be expressed by the auxiliary verb fog with the infinitive. Learner-oriented grammars refer to this as the future tense although it is not a tense in a strict grammarian's use of the word.

The verb to be, lenni has 3 tenses: past (volt as was), present (van as is) and future (lesz as will be).

Present[edit]

In the present tense, only sibilant-ending verbs differ from the rest, such as verbs ending in -s, -sz, -z and -dz. The chart below compares the conjugation of the regular kér 'ask' ("have a request") and vár 'wait' (as examples for front and back vowels) with the sibilant-ending keres 'look for' and mászik 'climb.' Example of verbs ending in the other two possible sonorants, -z and -dz, are húz 'pull' and edz 'train', which similarly double their stem consonants where -s and -sz are doubled (e.g. húzzuk, eddzük in the first person plural).

Person Indefinite conjugation Definite conjugation
Regular Sibilant-ending Regular Sibilant-ending
1st Sg kérek, várok keresek, mászok* kérem, várom keresem, mászom
2nd Sg kérsz, vársz keresel, mászol kéred, várod keresed, mászod
3rd Sg kér, vár keres, mászik* kéri, várja keresi, mássza
1st Pl kérünk, várunk keresünk, mászunk kérjük, várjuk keressük, másszuk
2nd Pl kértek, vártok kerestek, másztok kéritek, várjátok keresitek, másszátok
3rd Pl kérnek, várnak keresnek, másznak kérik, várják keresik, másszák
1st > 2nd (e.g. 'I ask you') kérlek, várlak kereslek, mászlak N/A N/A
*: mászik being an -ik verb, its indefinite 1st person singular form can be mászom instead of mászok in literary style. The ik ending in its indefinite 3rd person singular form naturally doesn't apply to verbs without this ending.

The forms marked in bold are those where the suffix of sibilant-ending verbs differ from the suffix of other verbs: either because of the alternative 2nd person ending l (to avoid two sibilants getting next to each other), or because of the assimilation of j. Incidentally, the latter forms (with doubled stem consonants) coincide with the subjunctive (or imperative) forms.

Futurity[edit]

Futurity can be expressed in a variety of ways:

  1. By the auxiliary verb fog for any verb except van, expressing a strong intention of the subject or a necessity of events brought about by circumstances (cf. English "going to")
  2. For the verb van only, by the use of the future tense (leszek, leszel etc.), see van (to be)
  3. By the present tense only when the time is clear for some other reason (e.g. explicit temporal adverbs, e.g. majd, or verbs with perfective aspect)

Past tense[edit]

The past tense is expressed with the suffix -t or -ott/-ett/-ött and inflects for person and number. As in the present tense, there are special indefinite forms for transitive verbs with direct objects that are 1st or 2nd person or indefinite, while definite forms are used for intransitive verbs and transitive verbs with definite, 3rd person direct objects, and there is a special form used just for instances where there is a 1st person subject and 2nd person direct object.

As far as the two phonetic variants are concerned, there are three types:

  • Type I never uses link vowel (mostly those with "soft" ending consonants, i.e. sonorants)
  • Type II only uses link vowel in the 3rd person singular indefinite (those that could be regarded as "middle-hard" consonants)
  • Type III uses link vowel in every form (mostly those ending in the "hard" consonant t or a consonant cluster).
Conjugation Type I Type II Type III
Example Verb vár ("wait for sb/sth") mos ("wash sb/sth") tanít ("teach sb/sth")
Direct Object Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
1st sg. vártam vártam mostam mostam tanítottam tanítottam
2nd sg. vártál vártad mostál mostad tanítottál tanítottad
3rd sg. várt várta mosott mosta tanított tanította
1st pl. vártunk vártuk mostunk mostuk tanítottunk tanítottuk
2nd pl. vártatok vártátok mostatok mostátok tanítottatok tanítottátok
3rd pl. vártak várták mostak mosták tanítottak tanították
1st person subj., 2nd person object vártalak mostalak tanítottalak
Regular endings
  • -l, -r, -n, -ny, -j, -ly (e.g. tanul, ír, pihen, hány, fáj, foly|ik)
  • -ad, -ed (e.g. szalad, ébred)
  • -s, -sz, -z (e.g. ás, úsz|ik, néz)
  • -k, -g, -p, -b, -d*, -v, -f, -gy (e.g. lak|ik, vág, kap, dob, tud, hív, döf, hagy)
  • -at, -et with 2 or more syllables (e.g. mutat, nevet)

*: except for -ad/-ed, see I

  • monosyllabic words ending in t (e.g. hat, vet, nyit, köt, fut, jut, süt, üt, fűt)
  • long vowel + t (e.g. készít, tanít, bocsát)
  • two consonants (e.g. tsz|ik, tart, választ, hall, hull|ik)
    • -dz also belongs here (e.g. edz)
Exceptions
(partial list)
  • áll, száll, varr (III)
  • lát (III) and alkot
  • ad, enged, fogad etc. (I)
  • mond, kezd, küld, hord, küzd etc. (III)

Less important exceptions:

  • (meg)ér|ik (I), függ etc. (III), borzong etc. (III)
×
Note: Strike-through Roman numbers in the last row refer to the types which would apply if the verbs concerned were regular.

If the above phonetic guidelines don't help, it may be useful as a rule of thumb to learn the rules and exceptions only for Type I and Type III and use Type II otherwise, because this latter type comprises the broadest range of verbs.

Regular homonymy of plain and causative forms in the same tense[edit]

Front-vowel unrounded verbs that end in consonant + -t may have ambiguous (coinciding, homonymous) forms between plain and causative forms. Approx. a hundred verbs are concerned that end in one of the following endings: -jt, -lt, -mt, -nt, -rt, -st, -szt.

Homoverb Meaning 1 Meaning 2
Megértette. "S/he understood it."
megért ("understand") + -ette (past tense Type III, def.)
"S/he made them understand it."
megért + -et- (causative) + -te (past tense Type II, def.)
Sejtette. "S/he suspected it."
sejt ("suspect") + -ette (past tense type III, def.)
"S/he made them suspect it."
sejt + -et- (causative) + -te (past tense type II, def.)

The past tenses of sejt ("suspect", Type III) and sejtet ("make them suspect sth.", Type II) are identical, except for the third person indefinite form where it is sejt|ett for sejt, but sejtet|ett for sejtet. However, it usually turns out from the argument structure and the context which meaning is intended.

This ambiguity doesn't occur with back-vowel verbs because the linking vowel is different for the normal past tense and the causative, e.g. bontotta "s/he demolished it" (bont- + -otta) vs. bontatta "s/he had it demolished" (bont- + -at- + -ta). The linking vowel can only be o for back-vowel verbs (as stated above: -ott/-ett/-ött) and the causative can only have a with back vowels (-at/-et). Similarly, it doesn't occur with front-vowel verbs with a rounded vowel, either: e.g. gyűjtötte ("s/he collected them") vs gyűjtette (s/he had them collected").

Below is a chart to review the conjugation differences between coinciding forms of the same verb. Ambiguous forms in the same person are marked in bold.

"I understood it" etc., past, def. "I made them understand it" etc., past, def. "I understood sth" etc., past, indef. "I made them understand sth" etc., past, indef.
megértettem
megértetted
megértette
megértettük
megértettétek
megértették
megértettem
megértetted
megértette
megértettük
megértettétek
megértették
megértettem
megértettél

megértett
megértettünk
megértettetek
megértettek
megértettem
megértettél

megértetett
megértettünk
megértettetek
megértettek

Regular homonymy: other cases[edit]

Another kind of ambiguity can arise with type I verbs between the second person plural plain form and the first person singular causative form, e.g. beszéltetek (only indefinite forms involved):

  • "you [pl] spoke": beszél ("speak") + -t- (past) + -etek ("you [pl]")
  • "I make sb speak": beszél + -tet- (causative) + -ek ("I").

It can also occur with similar back-vowel verbs, e.g. csináltatok "you [pl] did sth" or "I have sth done".

beszéltek can also have two interpretations (only indefinite forms involved, again):

  • "you [pl] speak": beszél + -tek ("you [pl]")
  • "they spoke": beszél + -t- (past) + -ek ("they")

This latter case is not possible with back-vowel verbs, due to the difference of the linking vowel: csináltok "you [pl] do sth" vs. csináltak "they did sth".

Below is a chart to review the conjugation differences between coinciding forms of the same verb (again). Ambiguous forms in different persons are marked with asterisks.

"I speak" etc.,
present, indef.
"I spoke" etc.,
past, indef.
"I make sb speak" etc.,
present, indef.
"I do" etc.,
present, indef.
"I did" etc.,
past, indef.
"I have sth done" etc.,
present, indef.
beszélek
beszélsz
beszél
beszélünk
beszéltek*
beszélnek
beszéltem
beszéltél
beszélt
beszéltünk
beszéltetek*
beszéltek*
beszéltetek*
beszéltetsz
beszéltet
beszéltetünk
beszéltettek
beszéltetnek
csinálok
csinálsz
csinál
csinálunk
csináltok
csinálnak
csináltam
csináltál
csinált
csináltunk
csináltatok*
csináltak
csináltatok*
csináltatsz
csináltat
csináltatunk
csináltattok
csináltatnak

Sporadic coincidences[edit]

Front-vowel verbs in type III that end in -t may cause ambiguity, like between the past tense of a verb and the present tense of another. For example:

Homonymous verb Meaning 1 Meaning 2
Féltem. "I was afraid."
fél ("be afraid") + -tem (past tense type I, first person, indef.)
"I fear for him/her/it."
félt ("fear for sb/sth") + -em (present tense, first person, def.)
Nem ért hozzá. "S/he didn't touch it."
hozzá|ér ("touch") + -t (past tense type I, indef.)
"S/he isn't familiar with it."
ért (hozzá) ("be familiar [with sth.]", present tense, indef.)
Köszönt. "S/he said hello."
köszön ("say hello") + -t (past tense type I, indef.)
"S/he welcomes [you]."
köszönt ("welcome", present tense, indef.)
Megbánt valamit. "S/he regretted something."
megbán ("regret") + -t (past tense type I, indef.)
"S/he offends something."
megbánt ("offend", present tense, indef.)

Below is a chart to review the conjugation differences between coinciding forms of unrelated verbs. Ambiguous forms in the same person are marked in bold; ambiguous forms in different persons are marked with asterisks.

"I was afraid" etc., past, indef. "I fear for sb" etc., present, indef. "I fear for him/her/it" etc., present, def. "I am not familiar with it" etc., present, indef. "I didn't touch it" etc., past, indef.
féltem
féltél
félt
féltünk
féltetek
féltek*
féltek*
féltesz
félt
féltünk
féltetek
féltenek
féltem
félted
félti
féltjük
féltitek
féltik
nem értek hozzá*
nem értesz hozzá
nem ért hozzá
nem értünk hozzá
nem értetek hozzá
nem értenek hozzá
nem értem hozzá
nem értél hozzá
nem ért hozzá
nem értünk hozzá
nem értetek hozzá
nem értek hozzá*

Moods[edit]

Hungarian verbs have 3 moods: indicative, conditional and subjunctive / imperative. The indicative has a past and non-past tense. The conditional has a non-past tense and a past form, made up of the past tense indicative as the finite verb with the non-finite verb volna. The subjunctive only has a single tense.

Conditional[edit]

Use of the conditional:

In a sentence with "if", unlike in English, the appropriate conditional tense is used in both the "if" clause and the main clause. The present conditional is used to talk about unlikely or impossible events in the present or future, e.g. Ha találkoznál a királynővel, mit mondanál? ("If you met the Queen, what would you say?") (cf. the second conditional in English). The past conditional is used for past events which did not happen, e.g. Ha nem találkoztunk volna a királynővel, órákkal ezelőtt megérkeztünk volna. ("If we hadn't met the Queen, we would have arrived hours ago.") (cf. the third conditional in English).

Forms of the conditional[edit]

Person Indefinite Definite
1st Sg. kérnék, várnék kérném, várnám
2nd Sg. kérnél, várnál kérnéd, várnád
3rd Sg. kérne, várna kér, vár
1st Pl. kérnénk, várnánk kérnénk, várnánk
2nd Pl. kérnétek, várnátok kérnétek, várnátok
3rd Pl. kérnének, várnának kérnék, várnák

The front-vowel suffix at the end of the 1st person singular indefinite form of the back-vowel verb (várnék) is an apparent exception from the vowel harmony: it may serve to distinguish from the 3rd person plural definite form (várnák). (The indefinite kérnék forms still coincide, just like the 1st and 2nd person plural endings.)

The only opposition between the 3rd person singular definite and indefinite forms is vowel length (although a–á and e–é differ in quality as well), which can be considered one of the rare fusional traits in Hungarian.

A linking vowel is inserted into verbs with a consonant cluster or long vowel + t at the end, e.g. festenék 'I would paint', tanítanék 'I would teach', analogously to the rules given for the infinitive form.

Subjunctive (imperative)[edit]

Uses of the subjunctive:

  1. For a command (i.e. an imperative)
  2. For a request
  3. For hesitant questions with 1st singular subject (cf. English "Shall I …?")
  4. For suggestions for joint action with 1st plural subject (cf. English "Let's …")
  5. For wishes (3rd person singular and plural)
  6. In subordinate clauses after verbs expressing orders, requests, suggestions, wishes, permission, etc.
  7. In hogy subordinate clauses expressing purpose

Forms of the subjunctive[edit]

In the subjunctive or imperative mood, verbs with a sibilant or t ending differ from the rest, with two groups for the t ending: those with a preceding short vowel, and those with a preceding long vowel or a consonant.

Meanings of the verbs below: kér 'ask (have a request)', vár 'wait', keres 'look for', olvas 'read', fest 'paint', szeret 'love', fut 'run', ment 'save', tanít 'teach', böngészik 'browse', mászik 'climb', ereszt 'let go', akaszt 'hang', néz 'look at', húz 'pull', edz 'train', lopódzik 'sneak'.

INDEFINITE CONJUGATION
Stem Forms kér, vár keres, olvas szeret, fut ment, tanít böngészik, mászik ereszt, akaszt z, húz edz, lopódzik
Original Stem (all but the following) -S short vowel
+ T
other
+ T
-SZ -SZT -Z -DZ
Altered Stem above
+ J
SS TS SSZ ZZ DDZ
1st Sg kérjek, várjak keressek, olvassak szeressek, fussak mentsek, tanítsak böngésszek, másszak eresszek, akasszak nézzek, húzzak eddzek, lopóddzak
2nd Sg kérj(él),
várj(ál)
keress(él),
olvass(ál)
szeress(él),
fuss(ál)
ments(él),
taníts(ál)
böngéssz(él),
mássz(ál)
eressz(él),
akassz(ál)
nézz(él),
húzz(ál)
eddz(él),
lopóddz(ál)
3rd Sg kérjen, várjon keressen, olvasson szeressen, fusson mentsen, tanítson böngésszen, másszon eresszen, akasszon nézzen, húzzon eddzen, lopóddzon
1st Pl kérjünk, várjunk keressünk, olvassunk szeressünk, fussunk mentsünk, tanítsunk böngésszünk, másszunk eresszünk, akasszunk nézzünk, húzzunk eddzünk, lopóddzunk
2nd Pl kérjetek, várjatok keressetek, olvassatok szeressetek, fussatok mentsetek, tanítsatok böngésszetek, másszatok eresszetek, akasszatok nézzetek, húzzatok eddzetek, lopóddzatok
3rd Pl kérjenek, várjanak keressenek, olvassanak szeressenek, fussanak mentsenek, tanítsanak böngésszenek, másszanak eresszenek, akasszanak nézzenek, húzzanak eddzenek, lopóddzanak
DEFINITE CONJUGATION
Stem Forms kér, vár keres, olvas szeret, fut ment, tanít böngészik, mászik ereszt, akaszt z, húz edz, lopódzik
Original Stem (all but the following) -S short vowel
+ T
other
+ T
-SZ -SZT -Z -DZ
Altered Stem above
+ J
SS TS SSZ ZZ DDZ
1st Sg kérjem, várjam keressem, olvassam szeressem, fussam mentsem, tanítsam böngésszem, másszam eresszem, akasszam nézzem, húzzam eddzem, lopóddzam
2nd Sg kér(je)d,
vár(ja)d
keres(se)d,
olvas(sa)d
szeres(se)d,
fus(sa)d
ments(e)d,
taníts(a)d
böngészd/böngésszed,
mászd/másszad
ereszd/eresszed,
akaszd/akasszad
néz(ze)d,
húz(za)d
edzd/eddzed,
lopódzd/lopóddzad
3rd Sg kérje,
=várja
keresse,
=olvassa
szeresse,
fussa
mentse,
tanítsa
böngéssze,
=mássza
eressze,
akassza
nézze,
=húzza
eddze,
=lopóddza
1st Pl kérjük,
=várjuk
=keressük,
=olvassuk
szeressük,
fussuk
mentsük,
tanítsuk
=böngésszük,
=másszuk
eresszük,
akasszuk
=nézzük,
=húzzuk
=eddzük,
=lopóddzuk
2nd Pl kérjétek, =várjátok keressétek, =olvassátok szeressétek, fussátok mentsétek, tanítsátok böngésszétek, =másszátok eresszétek, akasszátok nézzétek, =húzzátok eddzétek, =lopóddzátok
3rd Pl kérjék,
=várják
keressék,
=olvassák
szeressék,
fussák
mentsék,
tanítsák
böngésszék,
=másszák
eresszék,
akasszák
nézzék,
=húzzák
eddzék,
=lopóddzák
1st > 2nd kérjelek, várjalak keresselek, olvassalak szeresselek, *fussalak mentselek, tanítsalak böngésszelek, másszalak eresszelek, akasszalak nézzelek, húzzalak eddzelek, *lopóddzalak

Note 1: Fest 'paint' is the only single example (according to the Reverse-alphabetical dictionary of the Hungarian Language) that ends in st, and there is no -ik verb with these two ending consonants. This verb is conjugated like the szeret, fut type: fessek, fess(él), fessen, fessünk, fessetek, fessenek; fessem, fes(se)d, fesse, fessük, fessétek, fessék; fesselek.

Note 2: the definite conjugation may be ungrammatical for verbs that cannot have an object, e.g. fut 'run', lopódzik 'sneak'. However, these forms may occur in constructions like végigfutja a távot 'run all through the distance', or perhaps even végiglopóddza az épületeket 'sneak through the buildings'. This solution doesn't work, though, for the forms affecting the 2nd person (unless in a poetic, vocative sense), that is why they are marked with an asterisk.

Forms marked with a preceding equality sign are identical with the indicative forms.

Second person forms have a short and a long variant both in indefinite and definite conjugation, with minimal difference in style.

Definite and indefinite conjugations[edit]

In Hungarian, verbs not only show agreement with their subjects but also carry information on the definiteness of their direct objects. This results in two types of conjugations: definite (used if there is a definite object) and indefinite (if there is no definite object):

  Verb with suffix for
present tense, 1st person singular
Object
Intransitive verb
Olvasok (I'm reading)
(type 1 - suffix indicating no definite object)
Transitive verb
with an indefinite object
egy könyvet. (a book)
with a definite object
Olvasom
(type 2 - suffix indicating definite object)
a könyvet. (the book)

Basically, the indefinite conjugation is used if there is no definite object, that is i) if there is no object at all, or ii) if the object is indefinite (see details below). However, exceptionally, the indefinite conjugation is also used if the object is a 1st or 2nd person pronoun, either stated or not (even though personal pronouns are actually definite by nature).

An object is indefinite if it is:

  1. a noun with no determiner
  2. a noun with an indefinite article
  3. a noun with a numeral or an indefinite determiner (e.g. "all, some, no")
  4. an indefinite pronoun such as "something, anything, everyone" etc.
  5. an interrogative pronoun
  6. a relative pronoun


The definite conjugation is used if the verb has a definite object, which can be:

  1. a noun with a definite article
  2. a noun with the determiners melyik, hányadik ('which') or mindegyik ('each'); the noun may be omitted in these constructions
  3. a 3rd person pronoun, either stated or unstated
  4. a demonstrative pronoun ("this, that")
  5. the indefinite pronoun mind ('all [of something]')
  6. a subordinate clause


Note that a special suffix (-lak/-lek) is used if the verb has a first person singular subject AND a second person (singular or plural) object, e.g. Szeretlek. ("I love you." - singular), Szeretlek titeket. ("I love you all." - plural).


Examples:

Indefinite (látsz) Definite (látod)
You (can) see .
You can see something.
You can see a book.
You can see me/us. (!)
You can see some/two (of them).
You can't see anything/anyone.
You can see everything/everyone.
Who/What/how many can you see?
The person/book that you can see is...
You can see the book.
You can see this book.
You can see him/her/it/them.
You can see yourself.
You can see Mary.
You can see both (books).
You can see all (the books).
Which (person/book) can you see?
You can see (that) I'm here.


No explicit object[edit]

If no explicit object is present, the most common interpretation of the definite verb forms is including "him/her/it". If an indefinite verb form semantically requires an object, "me" or "you [sg]" or – obviously – an indefinite object (third person) can be inferred. (The plural forms are generally made explicit.) This difference makes it possible for the writer or speaker to refer to people without making them explicit. In most cases it's enough through the context to differentiate between 3rd person and non-3rd person pronouns.

Definite examples:

  • olvassa ("s/he is reading") – most common meaning: s/he is reading it (the book etc.)
  • nézi ("s/he is looking") – most common meaning: s/he is looking at him/her/it

Indefinite examples:

  • fut ("s/he is running") – usually can't have an object so its meaning is unambiguous
  • olvas ("s/he is reading") – most common meaning: s/he is reading something (the object may be omitted like in English)
  • néz ("s/he is looking") – most common meaning: s/he is looking at me or you (or: gazing in the air)


Grammatical voice[edit]

Hungarian uses active forms not only in the active sense (e.g. "He opened the door") and in the middle voice sense (e.g. "The door opened"), but also to express the passive (e.g. "The door was opened by Jane"), with the third person plural active form. For example Megvizsgálják a gyereket literally means "They examine the child", but it is more commonly meant like "The child is examined". The fact that this sentence behaves like a passive voice is shown by the fact that the above (third person plural) form can be used even when only one agent is meant (i.e., the child is examined by one doctor).

Another means to express the passive meaning is using middle voice lexical forms or unaccusative verbs, e.g. épül: "build"/ intransitive (cf. épít "build"/ transitive), alakul: "form"/ intransitive (cf. alakít "form"/ transitive). -ul/-ül is a common ending that expresses the middle voice, as opposed to -ít which expresses the active (these are transitive verbs). Middle voice forms can also be created from some plain verbs by adding -ódik/-ődik, e.g. íródik "get written" (from ír "write"), ütődik "get hit" (from üt "hit"). These active/middle pairs comprise a considerable part among Hungarian verbs.

In the perfect, there is a third way to express passive meaning: the existential verb van (see van (to be)) plus the adverbial participle ending in -va/-ve (see Adverb derivation), e.g. meg van írva "it is written" (from megír "write"). It is used when the result of the action is emphasized. It can be formed in the past perfect and future perfect, too, with the past and future forms of van. – A similar structure is used in a past meaning with lett: meg lett írva "it was written" or "it has been written" (sometimes "it had been written").

Finally, the actual passive form does occur once in a while, formed with -atik/-etik or -tatik/-tetik. For example: születik ("be born", from szül "give birth"), adatik ("be given", from ad "give"), viseltetik ("owe sb certain feelings", from visel "bear"), foglaltatik ("be included", from (magába) foglal "include"). These can be formed by adding -ik to the causative (see Modal and causative suffixes). Most of these forms (except for születik) are considered obsolete.

An example of a regular verb[edit]

Here is a regular verb, kér ("ask", "have a request"). The personal suffixes are marked in bold.

kér ("ask")
Indefinite Definite
Indicative Mood
Present kérek kérsz kér kérünk kértek kérnek kérem kéred kéri kérjük kéritek kérik
Past kértem kértél kért kértünk kértetek kértek kértem kérted kérte kértük kértétek kérték
Conditional Mood
Present kérnék kérnél kérne kérnénk kérnétek kérnének kérném kérnéd kérné kérnénk kérnétek kérnék
Past kértem
volna
kértél
volna
kért
volna
kértünk
volna
kértetek
volna
kértek
volna
kértem
volna
kérted
volna
kérte
volna
kértük
volna
kértétek
volna
kérték
volna
Subjunctive Mood
Present kérjek kérjél
or kérj
kérjen kérjünk kérjetek kérjenek kérjem kérjed
or kérd
kérje kérjük kérjétek kérjék

Modal and causative suffixes[edit]

Hungarian has 2 forms which can be added to the verb stem to modify the meaning. These are sometimes referred to as infixes, but they are not true infixes because they are not inserted inside another morpheme.

-hat-/-het- has a modal meaning of permission or opportunity, e.g. beszélek "I speak", beszélhetek "I may speak" or "I am allowed to speak".

Note: Ability ("I can speak") is usually expressed with "tud". See Auxiliary verbs (modal and temporal).

-at-/-et- and -tat-/-tet- have a causative meaning. It can express "having something done" or "having/making someone do something". For example: beszélek "I speak", beszéltetek "I make sb speak". (Incidentally, it is the same form as "you [pl] spoke", analysed beszél|t|etek, see Past tense.)

-tat/-tet is used if the word ends in vowel + -t or if the stem ends in a consonant different from -t, but it has two or more syllables (excluding the verbal particle). In other cases, -at/-et is used: that is, with words ending in a consonant + t and with one-syllable words ending in a consonant different from -t.

Ending -t not -t
vowel + -t consonant + -t
One syllable süttet "to have sth baked", láttat "to make sth seen" gyűjtet "to have sth collected", festet "to have sth painted" írat "to have sth written", mosat "to have sth washed", fürdet "to give sb a bath"
Also: ki+dobat "to have sb. thrown out", el+fogat "to have sb caught"
(See the exceptions below)
Several syllables taníttat "to have sb taught", felszólíttat "to have sb warned" felébresztet "to have sb woken up", halasztat "to have sth postponed" beszéltet "to have sb speak", dolgoztat "to make sb work", olvastat "to have sb read"

The monosyllabic words which don't end in vowel + -t, but have -tat/-tet in the causative are áz|ik (áztat), buk|ik (buktat), kop|ik (koptat), szop|ik (szoptat), hány (hánytat), él (éltet), kel (keltet), lép (léptet), szűn|ik (szüntet [!]), jár (jártat), szök|ik (szöktet).

Verbal noun[edit]

A noun is formed from a verb by adding -ás/-és to the verb stem (cf. gerund in English), e.g. Az úszás egészséges. ("Swimming is healthy.")

Participles[edit]

There are three participles in Hungarian. They are formed by adding the following suffixes to the verb stem:

  • -ó/-ő - present participle, e.g. író ember ("a writing person")
  • -ott/-ett/-ött/-t - past participle, e.g. megírt levél ("a written letter" /"the letter that has been written")
  • -andó/-endő - future participle, e.g. írandó levél ("a letter to be written")

Since the past participle usually expresses a perfected action/event, the verb sometimes changes into its perfective counterpart by taking a verbal particle (igekötő) with this function, as seen in the above example (megírt levél). This verbal particle may, however, be replaced by a noun, e.g. Annának írt levél ("a letter written to Anna"). – See more under Hungarian syntax.

Verb particles /prefixes (igekötők)[edit]

Hungarian verbs can have verb particles or prefixes, similar to phrasal verbs in English. The most common ones are meg- (perfective, but some other ones, too, can take this function), fel- ("up"), le- ("down"/"off"), be- ("in"), ki- ("out"), el- ("away"), vissza- ("back"), át- ("over"/"through"), oda- ("there"), ide- ("here"), össze- ("together"), szét- ("apart"), "rá" ("on top").

The above meanings are the literal meanings, but they all can have figurative, idiomatic meanings. Examples of literal meanings for the verb ír ("write"): leír ("write down"), beír ("write into") as opposed to the non-literal meanings: leír ("declare as useless", cf "write off"), beír ("give a written warning [to a schoolchild]"). Different prefixes can express subtle differences (e.g. meghízik "get fat" vs. elhízik "get obese") as well as independent concepts (e.g. rúg "kick", kirúg "fire sb", berúg "get drunk"). They often serve to change the verb into perfective (along with other factors).

When the particle precedes the verb without any other inserted word, they are used as one word, e.g. Leírja ("He writes it down"). Syntactically, the particle may go behind the verb for various reasons. It may occur due to a stressed part in the sentence (the focus), e.g. Ő írja le ("It's him who writes it down") or a negation, e.g. Nem írja le ("He doesn't write it down"). The inverted order is also used in the imperative, e.g. Írja le! ("Write it down!"). Finally, it may also refer to continuity, like Lement a lépcsőn ("He went down the stairs") vs. Ment le a lépcsőn ("He was going down the stairs").

If the verb with the particle is in the infinitive, the finite verb will be wedged between them, e.g. Le akarja írni ("He wants to write it down") or Le tudja írni ("He can write it down").

The particle may considerably affect the case of the complement: for example, the verb kezd ("start sth.") can take several different verb particles, all expressing the same concept (with minor differences), but their complement differs depending on the particle:

It happens because certain verb particles (the latter three among the examples) come from personal pronouns in the given case and they require agreement.

When giving a short positive answer to a yes/no question, the particle can refer back to the whole sentence, see Yes/no questions.

Cases needing attention[edit]

There are a few words which appear to begin with a particle, but don't actually, e.g. felel ("reply"), lehel ("breathe/puff"), kiált ("give a shout") and beszél ("speak") where fel-, le-, ki- and be- are parts of the words themselves, rather than actual particles. The difference is important in the above-mentioned syntactic cases when these elements will – naturally – not function like particles do. Compare the above kiált (no compound) with ki|áll ("stand out", a compound): nem kiált ("he doesn't give a shout"), but nem áll ki ("he doesn't stand out"). – A similar case is fellebbez ("appeal [in court]"), from the adverb fellebb ("upper", today: feljebb), containing no particle.

A verb may occasionally be a homonym in the above sense, i.e. being a single word or containing a particle, e.g. betűz ("spell [by letters]", no compound), but be|tűz ("stick in" or "shine in", a compound).

The other misleading cases are those verbs which were historically formed from nouns derived from verbs with particles, so they seemingly begin with particles, but they don't behave like them. An example is befolyásol ("influence", v) which derives from befolyás ("influence", n), a calque from German Einfluß, literally "in-flow", including the particle be- ("in"). This element, being part of the original noun, will not act as a particle of the derived verb befolyásol. There are few such words, e.g. kivitelez ("implement") from kivitel ("exportation", cf "carrying out"). Kirándul ("go hiking") used to be a compound (ki + rándul), but people don't usually treat it like that any more so they say, e.g., Kirándulni akar. ("s/he wants to go hiking") instead of Ki akar rándulni, which is obsolete and only used jokingly. An opposite (exceptional) case is that of feltételez ("suppose" or "assume"), which comes from feltétel ("condition"), so the prefix is only part of the embedded noun, rather than of the full verb, but it is still separated: fel sem tételezhetjük, fel kell tételeznünk ("we can't even assume, we must suppose"). What functions as a verbal prefix sometimes may not be one other times, e.g. ellenáll 'resist' can separate like nem állok ellen 'I don't resist', but ellenőriz 'check' stays together like nem ellenőrzök 'I don't check'.

Auxiliary verbs (modal and temporal)[edit]

Most Hungarian auxiliary verbs are impersonal; beside them, the suffixed infinitive is used. A few are conjugated. (Note: personal suffixes are marked in bold.)

Auxiliary verb Meaning Form Example with meaning
kell obligation impersonal kell mennem I must/ have to go
kellene /kéne advice & suggestions impersonal kellene mennem
kéne mennem
I should/ought to go
muszáj strong obligation impersonal muszáj mennem I have got to go
szabad permission impersonal szabad mennem I am allowed to go
tilos prohibition impersonal tilos mennem I must not go
fog future intention conjugated fogok menni I am going to go
tud ability conjugated tudok menni I can go
Modal suffix
-hat/-het opportunity, permission conjugated mehetek I can go
I may go

The suffix -hat/-het mentioned in the last row can be further conjugated, just like any verb.

The verb lehet is used impersonally, e.g. oda lehet menni "one can go there".

szokott[edit]

The verb szokott is conjugated like a regular past tense one (though it can have the indefinite and the definite forms, too), however, used with an infinitive, it has the meaning of a habitual action which includes the present time.

Examples:

  • Szoktam álmodni ("I dream usually")
  • Meg szoktam mosni ("I usually wash it")

Irregular verbs[edit]

The verbs van ("to be"), jön ("to come") and megy ("to go") have an irregular present tense and irregular stems for different tenses. jön also has irregular forms in the subjunctive. A further group of 9 verbs have irregular stems for different tenses, but follow the same pattern of irregularity as each other. A few other verbs shorten or drop a vowel with certain suffixes.

A regular verb compared to an irregular
Regular verb: él (to live) Irregular verb: megy (to go)
Past Present Past Present
éltem élek mentem megyek
éltél élsz mentél mész (sometimes also mégy)
élt él ment megy
éltünk élünk mentünk megyünk
éltetek éltek mentetek mentek
éltek élnek mentek mennek

van (to be)[edit]

The verb "to be" in Hungarian is van (3rd person), lenni (infinitive).

Use[edit]

When the verb is used as a copula i.e. if one speaks about what someone or something is, it is omitted in the third person singular and plural of the present tense. The verb is required in all other tenses and persons when speaking about where or how something is, or to emphasize the existence or availability of something. Examples:

  • Péter orvos . – Peter is a doctor. (present tense, third person, speaking about what someone is: no linking verb in Hungarian)
  • Péter jól van. – Peter is well.
  • Péter itt van. – Peter is here.
  • Péter orvos volt. – Peter was a doctor.
  • Orvos vagyok. – I am a doctor.

The non-copula form of van is also used to express the equivalent of "There is/are":

  • Van orvos a szobában.There is a doctor in the room.

The negation of the third person van (plural vannak) as a non-copula verb is the suppletive nincs (plural nincsenek):

  • Itt van Péter. – Peter is here.
  • Nincs itt Péter. – Peter isn't here.

Hungarian has no verb which is equivalent to "to have". Instead, ownership/possession are expressed using van with a possessive suffix on the noun:

  • Van könyvem. ("I have a book.", literally "There-is book-my")

Conjugation[edit]

Like the verb "to be" in most other languages, van is irregular. It comes from three (or four) bases: vagy- (or van-), vol-, and len-. These overlap to some extent with the verb lesz ("become"). As it cannot have an object, it doesn't have definite forms. It is the only verb in Hungarian which has a future form.

Indicative Mood
Present Tense vagyok vagy van vagyunk vagytok vannak
Past Tense voltam voltál volt voltunk voltatok voltak
Future Tense leszek leszel lesz leszünk lesztek lesznek
Conditional Mood
Present Tense lennék
or volnék
lennél
or volnál
lenne
or volna
lennénk
or volnánk
lennétek
or volnátok
lennének
or volnának
Past Tense lettem
volna
lettél
volna
lett
volna
lettünk
volna
lettetek
volna
lettek
volna
Subjunctive Mood
Present Tense legyek legyél
or légy
legyen legyünk legyetek legyenek

There is little difference between the two conditional forms. In theory, lennék etc. are preferred when an option is considered as possible (e.g. Ha otthon lennék, "if I were at home") and volnék etc. are preferred when it is considered impossible (e.g. Ha rózsa volnék, "if I were a rose"), but the limits are rather vague. It is probably not by chance that the former is akin to the future form (leszek), which might still become true, and the latter to the past form (voltam), which is already determined. In practice, the lennék series is somewhat more frequently used in both senses.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Verbs selected from Ragozgató
  2. ^ Verbs are mostly selected from Ragozgató
  3. ^ "Hol a rosszaság mostanában?". 
  4. ^ "Könyörgöm, könyörgök".