Hungarian/Lesson 3

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Lessons: 1234Vocab

So you've already mastered one group of the Hungarian words and you should be able to express virtually any quantity. Now let's continue with the most common groups of words: nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Besides, now it's time to start building your vocabulary. The vocabulary section at the end of the lesson gives you a great opportunity to check how you mastered the most important words. If you fail to remember one of them at a later stage of the course, just turn up the Vocabulary chapter at the end of the book.

Words part 2

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There are two main types of nouns: proper nouns and common nouns. Proper nouns include all unique entities and in the Hungarian language we capitalize every such word: Kovács is a surname, István is a christian name, Budapest is a geographical place, Wikipédia is the name of the free dictionary. Every other noun is called common noun and we never capitalize them (only at the beginning of the sentence): asztal means "table", fiú means "boy", lány (archaically leány) means "girl". Note that while in English nationalities are considered proper nouns and thus are capitalized, in Hungarian these are considered common nouns: magyar means "Hungarian", angol means "English", francia means "French". Now let's have a look at the most common Hungarian common nouns (note that in Hungarian there is no grammatical gender):

fiú boy
lány girl
ember man (in plural (emberek) refers to any group of people regardless of their sex)
férfi man (only masculine)
asztal table
szék chair
város town, city
ország country
könyv book
alma apple
narancs orange
ház house


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Here we're going to learn a difficult but crucial part of the Hungarian grammar: how to suffix, where to use link vowels and how to apply vowel harmony.

If you were observant enough, you may already know that the plural morpheme (-k) in Hungarian is suffixed to the end of nouns. The following rule may seem a bit too complicated, but you'll soon get used to this as the same (or almost the same) rule should be followed every time you use suffixes:

  • when the noun ends in (rare), , , , , -u, , (rare) or (long vowels and -u, ) (we could have mentioned -o and as well, but there are virtually no words ending in -o or ): simply add -k to the singular form e.g. - nők ("women"), fiú - fiúk ("boys")
  • when the noun ends in -a or -e: replace the last letter with or and add -k to the singular form e.g. alma - almák ("apples") lepke - lepkék (butterflies)
  • when the noun ends in -i it's not so clear-cut but there are only a few such words that you will be able to remember e.g. férfi - férfiak ("men", where a link vowel -a appears)
  • when the noun ends in a consonant: add a link vowel (based on vowel harmony or -e for front words, -a or -o for back words, but there are some exceptions) and add -k to the singular form e.g. kör - körök ("circles"), ember - emberek ("men"), ház - házak ("houses"), barát - barátok ("friends")

As mentioned above, it is crucial to get familiar with these rules. Don't memorise them, but learn how to use them (solve the exercises at the end of every lesson).


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In Hungarian, the adjectives always stand before the noun in the noun phrase (szép lány="beautiful girl", kis ország="small country"). If there are more adjectives belonging to the same noun, their order is usually optional. Now let's see the most common Hungarian adjectives:

fehér white kis small (used only attributively before a noun, adjective or adverb)
fekete black kicsi small (used in all other cases, see next lesson)
piros red (vivid) szép beautiful
vörös red (dark) csúnya ugly
kék blue magas tall, high
zöld green alacsony short (opposite of tall), low
barna brown kerek round
sárga yellow négyszögletes square
narancsszín(ű)/narancssárga orange vékony thin
szürke grey vastag thick, gross
rózsaszín(ű) pink hosszú long
lila purple rövid short (opposite of long)

éhes hungry
szomjas thirsty
fáradt tired
álmos sleepy


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Substantive verb

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Here you can see the conjugation of the substantive verb lenni (this is the infinitive form of the verb, so don't worry if you can't observe any similarities between lenni and the following forms; it used to be useful though to note that in a dictionary, you would have always found the infinitive form of the verbs, however now, most dictionaries will present the declarative present third person singular) in present tense, declarative mode (it's also important to know what tense and mode we are in, as you'll perceive later):

Person Singular Plural
1 (én) vagyok (mi) vagyunk
2 (te) vagy (ti) vagytok
3 (ő) van (ők) vannak

(Note: though the formal and official forms of te (maga and ön) and ti (maguk and önök) are in second person, they use the 3rd person verb forms: maga van, ön van, maguk vannak, önök vannak)

Omitting "van"

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When the subject is in 3rd person, a unique rule is in effect. In these so-called equational sentences the substantive verb is not used. Later we will learn the cases of the omission, for now remember only the most common case: when using 3rd person (and the official or formal forms of 2nd person) we don't use the substantive verb (van) when the predicate is an adjective:

  • A könyv piros. ("The book is red", "The"=A, "book"=könyv, "red"=piros, "is" omitted)
  • A város szép. ("The town is beautiful", "The"=A, "town"=város, "beautiful"=szép, "is" omitted)
  • Maga fáradt. ("You (formal) are tired.", "You"=Maga, "tired"=fáradt, "are" omitted)


  • Én éhes vagyok. ("I'm hungry.", it's 1st person, so we don't use the rule)

This rule is used in plural 3rd person as well, we'll see an example when learning the plural form of nouns and adjectives in the next lesson.


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In nearly every Hungarian dictionary verbs are NOT presented in their infinitive form. Instead, they are presented in the third singular present indefinite form, which is usually the most basic form of the verb. To form the infinitive, you normally just add -ni to that basic form. For example> olvas (he-she reads), olvasni (to read). ír (he writes), írni (to write). szeret (he-she loves"), szeretni (to love). There are a handful of exceptions, but it's a bit too early to care about them.


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"A" and "az" are the definite articles. Remember to pronounce it like aw and not like the English indefinite article "a". A corresponds to the English "the" and before a word beginning with a vowel, A becomes Az. e.g. a könyv but az asztal.

The indefinite article ("a"/"an") is "egy": egy könyv, egy asztal. Note that the numeral for "1" is the same word, so it's easy to confuse them: Ez egy könyv. can mean "This is a book." or "This is one book (and not two).". In speech, you have to emphasize egy when it means "one" for easier understanding.


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-Van testvéred? -Do you have any brothers or sisters?
-Van egy húgom. -I have a younger sister.
-Fiútestvéred nincsen? -Don't you have a brother?
-Nem, nincs. -No, I haven't.
-Nem zavar/bánod, hogy nincs fiútestvéred? Does it not bother you that you don't have a brother?
anya mother
apa father
testvér sibling
húg younger sister
nővér older sister
öcs younger brother
bátya older brother
fiútestvér, fivér brother (rarely used; mostly when not knowing the relative age of the brother)
lánytestvér sister (rarely used; mostly when not knowing the relative age of the sister)
nagybáty uncle
nagynéni aunt
néni old lady
nagy big
nagyi, nagymama, nagyanya grandmother
nagyapa, apó grandfather
keresztapa godfather
keresztanya godmother
kereszt cross
lány girl
lányom my daughter (literally "my girl")
fiú boy
fiam my son (literally "my boy")
fiúm my boyfriend (literally "my boy")
barátnő friend (who is actually a girl) or girlfriend
barát friend (male or female) or boyfriend
férfi man
pasi man (some consider it vulgar)
csaj woman (some consider it vulgar)
pasim my boyfriend (clarity has a price)
csajom my girlfriend
férj husband
feleség wife
Szeretlek. I love you.
Kedvellek. I like you.
Szeretem a csokifagyit. I like chocolate icecream.
Szeretném, ha szeretnének. I'd like to be liked.
Szeretném, ha elmosogatnál helyettem. I'd like you to wash the dishes instead of me.
Szeretlek, mint anyját a gyermek. I love you, as a child loves its mother.
Szeretlek, mint élni szeretnek1 halandók, amíg meg nem halnak2. I love you as mortals love1 to live until they die2.
A nagy testvér figyel téged. Big brother is watching you.
A háború béke. War is peace.
A szabadság szolgaság. Freedom is slavery.
A tudatlanság erő. Ignorance is strength.
A nagy testvér szeret téged. Big brother loves you.

Big brother is translated to Hungarian as "nagy testvér" because there's no such a thing in Hungarian as "nagy fiútestvér". And the phrase "nagybáty" is already used for uncle.

Some jokes which cannot be translated to Hungarian:

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In America you can always find a party. In Soviet Russia party finds you.

Doesn't work in Hungarian because:

political party párt
party as entertainment party or parti or buli

In America you're watching Big Brother. In Soviet Russia Big Brother is watching you.

Doesn't work in Hungarian because:

watch television tévét (TV-t) néz
watch somebody figyel valakit

If you got bored from all of this, watch the Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook from Monty Python.


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Solutions (Lesson 2)

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11: tizenegy 18: tizennyolc 23: huszonhárom 76: hetvenhat 391: háromszázkilencvenegy 1614: ezerhatszáztizennégy


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Guess which one is in Hungarian
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roller scooter
Guess which one is "nagyi"
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Using your knowledge on the Hungarian letters, try to pronounce (and memorise) the following Hungarian words, then listen to the audio file to check yourself:

erős (strong)   szőlő (grape)   győz (win)
csat (buckle)	csík (stripe)	csacsi (donkey)
kutya (dog)	latyak (slush)	tyúk (hen)
rózsa (rose)	zsúr (party)	zsák (sack)
nyár (summer)	kenyér (bread)	nyeremény (prize)

About this sound Check your pronunciation

New exercises

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  • Recall the meaning of the words in the Vocabulary section.
  • The words are essentially in alphabetical order, but there are two mistakes. Can you spot them?
  • Suffixes (Plural)
    • Suffix the following nouns with the plural morpheme (-k): könyv, föld, kör, sál, kád, lány, ember, ország, város, fogas, híd, narancs, nyeremény, zsák, kenyér, rózsa, kutya, csík, szőlő, tyúk, nyár

(For the solutions see the Exercises section of the next chapter.)


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Alacsony, alma, álmos, asztal, barát, barna, csacsi, csak, csík, csúnya, ember, éhes, erős, fáradt, fehér, fekete, férfi, fiú, fogas, fogás, föld, győz, hát, ház, híd, hit, hosszú, ír, kád, kék, kenyér, kérdez, kerek, kis/kicsi, köd, könyv, kör, kutya, lány, lenni (= inf. of van), lepke, lila, magas, nagy, narancs(színű), négyszögletes, nő, nyár, nyeremény, ország, öröm, piros, rövid, rózsa, rózsaszín, sál, sárga, só, süt ve, szék, szép, szeret, szó, szőlő, szürke, szomjas, tyúk, ülni, város, vastag, vékony, vér, vörös, zöld, zsák

(If you are in trouble, see Vocabulary.)

Lessons: 1234Vocab