Reported Speech

Reported speech means that you report something you heard from someone in a story-telling way. Direct speech, however, requires the speaker to quote exactly what one heard.


The Terminator said “I’ll be back“.
A Terminátor azt mondta, “Visszatérek“.

The Terminator said he would be back.
A Terminátor azt mondta, hogy visszatér.

The English sentence changed its tense (will > would), but the Hungarian didn’t. This phenomenon, which doesn’t exist in Hungarian is called: SEQUENCE OF TENSES. It doesn’t exist in Hungarian because you need to have more past tenses so that you can actually apply a sequence for tenses. But Hungarian only has one past tense, so there’s nothing for the past verb in the main clause to agree with in the subordinate clause. As you see above, Hungarian used Present Tense in both sentences.

Take a look at this:

He says he is watching TV. – Azt mondja, hogy tévét néz.
He said he was watching TV. – Azt mondta, hogy tévét néz.

In the second sentence the English ‘he was watching’ refers to present tense, but it is expressed with the past tense due to the sequence of tenses. Hungarian just uses Present Tense again even if the main clause has a past tense verb. However, the second English sentence can also mean that ‘he was watching’ in the past. Look:

-What is he doing now? -He said he was watching TV.
‘was watching’ refers to present tense!

-What was he doing yesterday? -He said he was watching TV.
‘was watching’ refers to past tense!!

And then the Hungarian sentence looks like this:
Azt mondta, hogy tévét nézett.

Basically, sequence of tenses means that if the verb of the main clause is in past tense, then the verb of the subordinate clause must be in past tense, as well.

However, other elements change, too: pronouns, adverbs of place, adverbs of time. And these parts of speech also change in Hungarian.

now > then
most > akkor

today > that day
ma > aznap

tomorrow > the next day
holnap > a következő nap

the day after tomorrow > in two days
holnap > két nap múlva

yesterday > the day before
tegnap > az előző nap

the day before yesterday > two days ago
tegnapelőtt > két nappal ezelőtt

two weeks ago > two weeks before
két hete > két héttel azelőtt

last year > in the previous year
tavaly > az előző évben

next year > in the following year
jövőre > a következő évben

recently > shortly before
nemrégen > röviddel azelőtt

soon > soon after
nemsokára > nemsokára !!!

this, these > that, those
ez, ezek > az, azok

here > there
itt > ott

I think it’s enough for today. Next time we’ll see more examples and we’ll talk about reported question.

4 comments on “Reported Speech

  1. Robin says:

    What about will/would?

    I said to someone [3 months ago] “I will learn to speak Hungarian” in English.

    When I next go to Hungary I want to say to them “I said I would learn to speak Hungarian” in Hungarian.


    • hunlang says:

      Hi there,

      I will learn to speak Hungarian. – Meg fogok tanulni magyarul.
      I said I would learn to speak Hungarian. – Azt mondtam, hogy meg fogok tanulni magyarul.

      As there is only one past tense, a tense cannot agree with another as in English. It is the same tense.


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