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! 🙂

Modal Verbs / kell


If it takes the infinitive form, then it is a general reference to someone, something. If it takes the infinitive with personal suffixes, it specifically refers to someone, something. Anyway, it expresses obligation.

Formation: This verb may require the dative pronouns, but it is not mandatory. It takes the main verb in its infinitive form either with personal suffixes or not:


 Present: kell Past: kellett Future: kell majd

Ennyi munka után enni kell.
After so much work one has to eat.
Ennyi munka után enned kell.
After so much work you have to eat.

Ennyi munka után enni kellett.
After so much work one had to eat.
Ennyi munka után enned kellett.
After so much work you had to eat.

Ennyi munka után enni kell majd.
After so much work one will have to eat.
Ennyi munka után enned kell majd.
After so much work you will have to eat.

See the difference? If there’s a simple infinitive of the main verb, it refers to something generally. With an infinitive conjugated, it refers to something/somebody specifically. I know I keep saying the same, but I think it is important.

Look at the diversity of the English use when it comes to obligation:

Tudnom kell. – I need to know.
Mennem kell. – I must go.
Enned kell valamit. – You should eat something.

Korán kell kelnünk, hogy el ne késsünk.
We have to get up early so that we’re not late.

NOTE! It’s important that you don’t conjugate kell like in English. You conjugate the infinitive of the main verb and leave kell as it is.

If you talk about a specific person or thing, you have to use the suffixes -nak, -nek! Example:

A barátomnak tízkor meg kell érkeznie.
My friend should arrive at ten.

Ahogy látom, a kutyának sürgősen orvoshoz kell mennie.
As I see, the dog must go to a doctor urgently.

I didn’t mention the conditional form of kell because it is translated with should in English. More about that next time.