Modal Verbs / kellene


This verb is the 3rd PS indefinite conditional form of kell. It expresses: should.

Present tense: kellene (3rd PS), kellenének (3rd PP)
Past tense: kellett volna (3rd PS), kellettek volna (3rd PP)
Future tense: kellene majd (3rd PS), kellenének majd (3rd PP)

The colloquial form is: kéne. It can be heard more often in everyday conversations.


El kellene mennünk úszni.
We should go swimming.

El kellett volna mennünk úszni.
We should have gone swimming.

Nem kéne már itt lenniük?
Shouldn’t they be here by now?

Nem kellett volna már ott lenniük?
Shouldn’t they have been there by now?

Majd a múzeumnál kellene lennünk háromra!
We should be at the museum by three!


If you deny kell, you just add nem: nem kell. But be careful with it. It cannot be translated as must not. ‘Must not’ means tilos = forbidden (more about that later). So you can say in English:

nem kell = don’t have to, don’t need to, needn’t

Nem kell sehova mennem.
I don’t have to go anywhere.

Nem kellett új bankszámlát nyitnod.
You didn’t have to open a new bank account.
You didn’t need to open a new bank account.

As for kellene = should, you say: nem kellene = shouldn’t

Ma sehova nem kellene mennem, de én kirándulok egyet.
Today I don’t need to go anywhere, but I’ll make an excursion.

Nem kellett volna új bankszámlát nyitnod.
You shouldn’t have opened a new bank account.
You didn’t need to open a new bank account.

In English, there is some difference between don’t have to, don’t need to, needn’t, shouldn’t. For Hungarian people it is just nem kell or nem kellene. The rest can be understood from the context.


You can use kell/kellene not only as modal verbs, but also as main verbs. In this case, they can be translated as:

to need

and it requires -nak, -nek to express a person/thing needs something.

Nem kellenének a füzetek? – Don’t you need the notebooks?
Kellettek ezek a tollak? – Did you need this pen?
Kellenének az iratok, de azonnal! – I need the documents right now!
Ha gazdag lennél, se kellennél nekem. – Even if you were rich, I wouldn’t want you.
Kinek kell ez a sok pénz? – Who wants that much money?
Mindenkinek kell egy kis sikerélmény. – Everyone needs a little success.

NOTE! The future tense for kell as modal verb is: kell majd. You can’t say kelleni fog in that case. However, as a main verb, it can have the future tense with fog or with majd: kelleni fog, kell majd. You choose.

Kelleni fog nekik az autó? – Will they need the car?
Kell majd nekik az autó? – Will they need the car?

Of course, if there is one thing you need, you say KELL. For more than one thing KELLENEK is used.

Next time we’re talking about muszáj and tilos. Bye! 🙂

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