Vocabulary – used to and koromban


English has a simple method to express an event that happened long ago: used to. Hungarian, in turn, uses several adverbs of time to express such events:

régen long ago, a long time ago
azelőtt earlier, in the past
valaha once

These adverbs require the verb to be in the past tense.

Régen sokat jártunk a parkba.
We used to go to the park a lot.

Azelőtt mindig húst ettek vasárnap.
They used to eat meat for lunch on Sunday.

Valaha kívülről tudtam, hogy kell írni a japán Hiragana jeleket.
I used to know by heart how to write the Japanese Hiragana signs.

You can talk about a certain period of your life, too. Examples:

gyerek koromban when I was a child
iskolás koromban when I was a student

Gyerek koromban gyakran ettem édességet.
When I was a child, I often ate sweets.

Idős korában már nem hallott túl jól.
When he got older, his hearing was not too good.

So the scheme is:

gyerek, iskolás, felnőtt, idős
koromban (when I was a child, a student, an adult, old)
korodban (when you were…)
korában (when he/she was…)
korunkban (when we were…)
korotokban (when you were…)
korukban (when they were…)

Of course, the noun kor (age) is fitted with the possessive endings as you see above and the suffix -ban is added.

Suffixes -ít vs. -ul, -ül = make vs. get

-ÍT vs. -UL, -ÜL

The difference between these suffixes is that –ít expresses an action that has an effect on someone/something, but –ul, -ül refer back to the person like –ik verbs.

You can depend on these English verbs: make, get. Take a look at this:

javít to make better <> javul to get better

The suffix –ít can be parallel with make and –ul, -ül with get.

More examples:

tanít to teach <> tanul to learn, to study
alakít to form <> alakul to take shape
szorít to press <> szorul to get pressed/squeezed
terít to spread out; to lay <> terül to be situated; to lie
merít to dip, to plunge <> merül to dive, to submerge
lazít to loosen <> lazul to loosen, to get loose
szorít to press <> szorul to get pressed/squeezed
hevít to heat <> hevül to get heated
mozdít to move; to get sg to move <> mozdul to move, to get moving
békít to conciliate <> békül to reconcile oneself
megrendít to stagger; to shake <> megrendül to shake, to be shocked
ámít to delude <> ámul to marvel
készít to prepare, to make <> készül to prepare, to be made

A tanár tanít. – The teacher teaches.
A diák tanul. – The student learns/studies.

Kisujját sem mozdítja. – He never stirrs a finger.
A kutya nem mozdul. – The dog won’t move.

A politikusok csak ámítanak. – Politicians delude us.
A nézők ámulnak a filmen. – The viewers marvel at the movie.

Omitting Or Not Omitting? That Is The Question.


The very first reason the definite conjugation developed is not the fact that Hungarian people were eager to refer to specific/definite objects with a different conjugation type. The reason the definite conjugation survived the language reforms is: COMPRESSION.

Compressing the meaning of the direct object makes sentences shorter and allows to express nuances, as well as the use of the accusative and dative pronouns (may) become obsolete.

Take a look at how other languages form the following sentence:

English: I write you a letter.
German: Ich schreibe dir einen Brief.
Italian: Ti scrivo una lettera.
Spanish: Te escribo una letra.

It is the same pattern. Either you need two pronouns (English, German) or you need one pronoun and you conjugate the verb (Italian, Spanish). The point is that you always form sentences of this kind in these languages.

What is the Hungarian translation?

Hungarian: Írok neked egy levelet. OR Írok egy levelet.

If you know who you’re talking about, you can omit the dative pronoun neked. Let’s say we’re in this situation:

You’re walking on the street and you meet an old friend.

You: I haven’t seen you for ages.
Friend: I know. It’s been a long time since high-school.
You: We really should meet sometime.
Friend: Yes, we should. I’ll give you my address.
You: Then I’ll write you a letter and we’ll see the rest.

(Of course, nowadays you would write an e-mail or make a call, but that doesn’t matter now.)

So we have this conversation where it is obvious who’s talking to who and who’s giving the address / writing a letter to who. English can’t make it in a different way, it uses the personal pronoun I and the indirect pronoun (dative pronoun) you actually meaning to you.

And that’s when Hungarian says ’BULLSHIT!’ Why should I refer to someone if I know exactly who the talk is about? So I just forget about the fact that dative pronouns even exist because I write a letter to you and I give my address to you, obviously.

How does the conversation above sound in Hungarian?

Te: Ezer éve nem láttalak.
Barát: Tudom, sok idő telt el a gimi óta.
Te: Találkozhatnánk egyszer.
Barát: Igen, tényleg. Megadom a címemet.
Te: Én meg írok egy levelet, a többit meg majd meglátjuk.

Wait a sec! You can omit dative (and accusative) pronouns with indefinite conjugation, as well? Sure you can. That’s the beauty of the Hungarian language.

Take a look at the English sentences if we omit the pronouns. Is the text understandable anyway?

You: I haven’t seen you for ages.
Friend: I know. It’s been a long time since high-school.
You: We really should meet sometime.
Friend: Yes, we should. I’ll give my address.
You: Then I’ll write a letter and we’ll see the rest.

YES, IT IS! It might sound strange like that, but everything is understandable from the context.

And this phenomenon works for all numbers and persons, not just for the I-you relation. Nevertheless, you need to have a context giving you a hint who or what the talk is about. With no context, that’s what we get:

Elmondod? Will you tell?

Tell? Who should I tell? There is no context whatsoever for me to deduce who I should tell. However, it is already unambiguous what I should tell. That’s why the definite conjugation is used. You could complete the question like this:

Elmondod azt? Will you tell about that?

But you don’t need to. The definite conjugation already refers to azt. What we don’t know is who the person is we should tell. It’s impossible to figure out with no context. Let’s give it a context.

Girl1: I cheated on my boyfriend last night?
Girl2: Will you tell him (about that)?

Lány1: Tegnap este megcsaltam a barátomat.
Lány2: Elmondod neki (azt)?

So she should tell HIM = NEKI. And now that there’s a context, we don’t need neki.

Elmondod? Will you tell him?

What if I ask ’Will you tell him everything?’ Then you use indefinite conjugation because everyhing = minden is an indefinite numeral.

Elmondasz mindent? Will you tell him everything?


Elmondasz neki mindent? Will you tell him everything?

Despite all these explanations above, remember this:


But sometimes omitting them definitely makes the conversation ’more Hungarian’.

Vocabulary – Same Adjective, Different Meaning Part 2

sima felület – smooth surface
sima ügy >figurative sense: smooth sailing

gyenge ember – weak man
gyenge egészség – poor health

könnyű / nehéz bőrönd – light / heavy suitcase
könnyű / nehéz feladat – easy / difficult task

alap = basis, base, foundation > this word is a noun, but can be used as adjective and then it is written together with the word it modifies.

alapműveltség – basic education
alapelv – fundamental principles

Vocabulary – Same Adjective, Different Meaning Part 1


nagy ember – tall man
nagy ember – great man
nagy ház – big house

kis ember – short man
kisember – common man (>written together)

vékony lány – slender girl
vékony fal – thin wall
vékony hang – high voice

ritka állat – rare animal
ritka erdő – thin forest

borús ég – cloudy sky
borús kilátások – gloomy prospects

érdes felület – rough, uneven surface
érdes hang – raucous voice

lapos tető – flat roof
lapos előadás – dull performance

finom étel – tasty meal
finom anyag – fine material
finom hölgy – fine lady

élénk gyerek – lively child
élénk szín – bright colour

józan ember – sober man
józanész – common sense (>written together)

erős férfi – strong man
erős paprika – hot pepper
erős jellem – firm character

képzett tanár – educated/trained teacher
képzett szó – derivative (>literally: formed word)

komoly tudós – earnest scientist
komoly kár – heavy damage

enyhe időjárás – mild weather
enyhe kifejezés – understatement (>literally: mild expression)

Vocabulary – Adverbs of Frequency


These adverbs gyakran, ritkán, mindig, soha are placed right before the verb. However, általában and rendszerint go to the beginning of the sentence. The adverb néha can be at the beginning or at the end of the sentence or before the information you want to stress it happens once in a blue moon.

gyakran often <> ritkán rarely, seldom
Gyakran hallgatom, ahogy a madarak csiripelnek.
I often listen to the birds twittering.
Piacra csak ritkán járok, inkább áruházban vásárolok.
I rarely go to the market. I prefer doing the shopping in a department store.

mindig always <> soha never
A tévét mindig bekapcsolva hagyja.
He always leaves the tv on. (leaves the tv turned on)
Én soha nem kértem tőled semmit.
I’ve never asked anything from you.

néha sometimes, now and then
Néha beszélünk a politikáról.
We sometimes talk about politics.
Találkozunk még néha.
We meet now and then.
Azt mondta, hogy néha kirándulni jár.
She said she sometimes makes an excursion.

általában, rendszerint usually, normally
Általában háromszor mosok fogat.
I usually brush my teeth three times.
Rendszerint elegánsan öltözködik.
She normally dresses smart.

NOTE! If a word is strongly connected to the verb, then mindig and soha precede that word. Examples from above:

mindig bekapcsolva hagyja
soha nem kértem

I…you, but how?


This phenomenon needs to be getting used to, indeed. While other languages use accusative pronouns when saying
I love/hate/hear/see/understand you’, Hungarian uses the suffixes -lak, -lek which you should think of as a compound pronoun = I-you. So the examples above sound like this ’Szeretlek/Utállak/Hallak/Látlak/Értelek’.

Nonetheless, the issue can give you a little bit more headache than you’d like to get because -lak, -lek refer to both the 2nd person singular YOU-TÉGED and the 2nd person plural YOU-TITEKET. Usually it’s understandable from the context which of the two the speaker means. Plus, it is optional whether or not you want to say those two pronouns. They are not mandatory to omit. So another possibility for the examples above is:

Szeretlek téged. / Szeretlek titeket.
Utállak téged. / Utállak titeket.
Hallak téged. / Hallak titeket.
Látlak téged. / Látlak titeket.
Értelek téged. / Értelek titeket.

Now the fundamental confusion comes from which form of the verb you attach these suffixes to. Actually, it’s present tense you should worry about. From logical point of view, when one says
’I…you’, that person refers to you as specific target. That’s why you take the 3rd person singular definite conjugation form in all tenses but present tense. Present tense thinks it’s better and wants you to attach -lak, -lek to the 3rd person singular indefinite conjugation form. Why? I can give you one reasonable answer to that: The hell knows. It is the way it is. 🙂

So the 3rd person singular indefinite present tense form is:
Szeret + -lek = Szeretlek
Utál + -lak = Utállak
Hall + -lak = Hallak
Lát + -lak = Látlak
Érte + -lek = Értelek> it ends in two consonants, so it needs a link vowel e. In this case the link vowel is a for deep verbs > Tartalak. I’m holding you.

And all other tenses/moods use 3rd PS definite form:

> Szerette + -lek = Szerettelek. I loved you.
Látta + -lak = Láttalak. I saw you.

FUTURE TENSE (simple!)
> Szeretni fog + -lak = Szeretni foglak. I will love you.
Látni fog + -lak = Látni foglak. I will see you.

>Szeretné + -lek = Szeretnélek. I would love you.
Látná + -lak = Látnálak. I would see you.

IMPERATIVE MOOD (remember how to form verbs in this mood)
> Szeresse + -lek = Szeresselek? Shall I love you?
Lássa + -lak = Lássalak? Shall I see you?

That’s the simplest way I can explain this for you. I hope it helps a bit.

Note that verbs that require accusative case in Hungarian might want a different solution in English and reversed. More examples for safety’s sake:

Kérlek – Kértelek – Kérnélek – Kérjelek
I ask you…

Féltelek – Féltettelek – Féltenélek – Féltselek
I fear for you…

Csókollak – Csókoltalak – Csókolnálak – Csókoljalak
I kiss you…

Várlak – Vártalak – Várnálak – Várjalak
I wait for you…

Hívlak – Hívtalak – Hívnálak – Hívjalak
I call you…

Érdekellek – Érdekeltelek – Érdekelnélek – Érdekeljelek
You’re interested in me…

Ölellek – Öleltelek – Ölelnélek – Öleljelek
I hug you…

Foglak – Fogtalak – Fognálak – Fogjalak
I take/grab you…

Hozlak – Hoztalak – Hoználak – Hozzalak
Viszlek – Vittelek – Vinnélek – Vigyelek
I bring you (to place/from a place)…

Drop-vowel Verbs

Remember drop-vowel nouns? The vowel in the last closed syllable drops out:

álom > álmok, tükör > tükrök…

Well, drop-vowel verbs are the same, but you have to pay attention when the vowel drops out. Our deep and high verb examples are: töröl (to wipe, to dust), megtorol (to revenge)

törlök – törlöm
törölsz – törlöd
töröl – törli
törlünk – töröljük
töröltök – törlitek
törölnek – törlik

megtorlok – megtorlom
megtorolsz – megtorlod
megtorol – megtorolja
megtorlunk – megtoroljuk
megtoroltok – megtoroljátok
megtorolnak – megtorolják

Indefinite conjugation for high verbs:
1st PS and 1st PP drop a vowel
Definite conjugation for high verbs:
all drop a vowel except 1st PP

Indefinite conjugation for deep verbs:
1st PS and 1st PP drop a vowel
Definite conjugation for deep verbs:
1st PS and 2nd PS drop a vowel

Drop-vowel verbs are usually used in indefinite conjugation only. It makes sense conjugating only a few in definite.

More example verbs:

forog (to turn), pörög (to spin), őröl (to grind), korog (to rumble), morog (to growl), hörög (to rattle in one’s throat), dörög (to thunder), pödör (to twist)

Vocabulary – Garden


kert garden
kertész gardener
kertészkedik to do the gardening
(plural: füvek) grass
pázsit lawn
virág (plural: virágok) flower
(virág)ágyás (flower) bed
virághagyma bulb
mag seed
konyhakert, veteményes kert kitchen-garden
föld earth, soil
talaj ground, soil
melegház green-house
fa tree
lomb foliage
lombkorona crown
fatörzs tree-trunk
levél (plural: levelek) leaf
madár (plural: madarak) bird
fészek (plural: fészkek) nest
bokor (plural: bokrok) bush
árnyék (plural: árnyékok) shadow
illatos fragrant
tarka pied
tarkabarka motley
színes colorful
ültet to plant
virágot ültet to plant a flower
gyom / gaz weed
gyomlál / gazol to weed
permetez to spray
virágba borul to burst into bloom

talicska wheelbarrow
lapát shovel > lapátol to shovel
gereblye rake > gereblyézik to rake
ásó spade > ás to dig
vasvilla pitchfork
öntözőkanna watering-can
fűnyíró lawn-mower > füvet nyír to mow the lawn

rózsa rose
dália dahlia
muskátli geranium, pelargonium
tulipán tulip
nefelejcs forget-me-not
nárcisz narcissus
hóvirág snow drop
ibolya violet
kankalin primrose
almafa apple tree
árvácska pansy

The suffixes -i and -ú, -ű

Let’s go back to grammar for this entry. I want to tell you about two common suffixes.

THE SUFFIX -I: is used to express an object / a person belonging somewhere or a characteristic. When added to the noun, it must be written in small letters as a rule. Only nouns can take it, but of course, not all of them. Examples:

belonging to a place
Budapest > budapesti >> Én budapesti vagyok.
London > londoni >> Ő londoni.

hely > helyi >> helyi szokás local custom
egyed > egyedi >> egyedi kép unique picture
tenger > tengeri >> tengeri állat sea animal
isten > isteni >> isteni kegyelem grace of god

THE SUFFIXES -Ú, -Ű: are used to express a quality, characteristic. High words take -ű, deep words take -ú.

haj > hajú >> barna hajú brown-haired OR has brown hair
szem > szemű >> kék szemű blue-eyed OR has blue eyes
egyszer > egyszerű >> egyszerű feladat simple task
méret > méretű >> kis méretű kocsi car of small size
alak > alakú >> henger alakú tárgy cylinder-shaped object
név > nevű >> a német nevű fiú the boy with the German name
hír > hírű >> jó hírű színész actor with good reputation
szó > szavú >> halk szavú gyerek soft-spoken child
test > testű >> kis testű állat animal with a small body