Definitions

feen for sth

Hungarian verbs

This page is about verbs in Hungarian grammar.

Lemma or citation form

There is basically only one pattern for verb endings, with predictable variations dependent on the phonological context.

The lemma or citation form is always the third person singular indefinite present. This usually has a ∅ suffix, e.g. kér ("ask for").

-ik verbs

A slight variation to the standard pattern is with certain verbs which have third person singular indefinite present ending with -ik, e.g. dolgozik ("work"), and 1st singular indefinite present usually with -om/-em/-öm. The stem for this is reached by removing -ik. These verbs explain the reason for this form being the citation form.

The -ik verbs were originally middle voice, reflexive or passive in meaning, which can still be seen e.g. about the pair tör ("s/he breaks sth") vs törik ("sth. breaks" / "sth gets broken"). However, most of them have lost this meaning so historically speaking they are like deponent verbs.

With these verbs, the third person singular (present, indefinite, indicative) form (i.e., the lemma) consistently uses the -ik form. What is more, new -ik words are constantly born (e.g. netezik "use the Internet") so their deviation needs to be followed.

However, as far as the first person singular (present, indefinite, indicative) suffix is concerned, it is often assimilated to the "normal" conjugation (as it has practically happened to the other -ik-specific forms) so most verbs usually take the regular form for this person (e.g. hazudok; *hazudom would be taken as hypercorrect or incorrect). Nevertheless, with some basic -ik verbs, the assimilated variant is stigmatized (e.g. eszem is expected in educated speech, rather than *eszek), so with these verbs, the traditional form is advised. The most important "traditional" -ik verbs are eszik "to eat", iszik "to drink", alszik "to sleep" and dolgozik "to work".

Regular (non -ik)
verbs
Non-traditional Traditional
-ik verbs
1st person singular
indefinite
kérek hazudok eszem
(*eszek)
3rd person singular
indefinite
(lemma)
kér
"ask for sth"
hazudik
"tell a lie"
eszik
"eat"

Infinitive

The infinitive of a verb is the form suffixed by -ni, eg várni, kérni. There is a variant -ani/eni, which is used with the following groups:

  • verbs ending in two consonants (eg tszani, tartani, küldeni, választani, festeni, mondani, hallani, ajánlani),
  • verbs ending in a long vowel + t (eg fűteni, véteni, tanítani, bocsátani) and
  • the words véd and edz (védeni and edzeni respectively).

Exceptions are állni, szállni, varrni, forrni, which have -ni despite the two consonants.

Infinitive with personal suffixes

When an infinitive is used with an impersonal verb, the personal suffixes may be added to the infinitive to indicate the person, as in Portuguese. Except in the 3rd person singular and plural, the -i of the infinitive is dropped, e.g. Mennem kell. ("I have to go."). The person can also be indicated using -nak/-nek, e.g. Nekem kell mennem. ("I have to go.), Jánosnak kell mennie. ("János has to go.")

These forms use the o/e/ö set of suffixes (Type II, like possessive suffixes do), see Personal suffixes and link vowels.

for me to go etc for me to see etc
mennem látnom
menned látnod
mennie látnia
mennünk látnunk
mennetek látnotok
menniük látniuk

Tenses

With the exception of lenni ("to be"), there are 2 tenses, usually called past and present. More accurate names would be past and non-past since the so-called "present" tense can also be used to refer to the future.

The future can also be expressed by the auxiliary verb fog with the infinitive. Learner-orientated grammars refer to this as the future tense although it is not a tense in a strict grammarian's use of the word.

The verb to be, lenni has 3 tenses: past (volt as was), present (van as is) and future (lesz as will be).

Futurity

Futurity can be expressed in a variety of ways:

  1. By the auxiliary verb fog for any verb except van, expressing a strong intention of the subject or a necessity of events brought about by circumstances (cf. English "going to")
  2. For the verb van only, by the use of the future tense (leszek, leszel etc.), see van (to be)
  3. By the present tense only when the time is clear for some other reason (e.g. explicit temporal adverbs, e.g. majd, or verbs with perfective aspect)

Past tense

Past tense is expressed with the suffix -t or -ott/-ett/-ött.

As far as the two phonetic variants are concerned, there are three types:

  • Type I never uses link vowel,
  • Type II only uses link vowel in the 3rd person singular indefinite,
  • Type III uses link vowel in every form.

Type I Type II Type III
vár ("wait for sb/sth") mos ("wash sb/sth") tanít ("teach sb/sth")
vártam vártam mostam mostam tanítottam tanítottam
vártál vártad mostál mostad tanítottál tanítottad
várt várta mosott mosta tanított tanította
vártunk vártuk mostunk mostuk tanítottunk tanítottuk
vártatok vártátok mostatok mostátok tanítottatok tanítottátok
vártak várták mostak mosták tanítottak tanították
vártalak mostalak tanítottalak
Regular endings

  • -l, -r, -n, -ny, -j, -ly (eg tanul, ír, pihen, hány, fáj, foly|ik)
  • -ad, -ed (eg szalad, (fel)ébred)

  • -s, -sz, -z (eg ás, úsz|ik, néz)
  • -k, -g, -p, -b, -d*, -v, -f, -gy (eg lak|ik, vág, kap, dob, tud, hív, döf, hagy)
  • -at, -et (eg mutat, nevet)

*: except for -ad/-ed, see I

  • vowel + t* (eg készít, fut, nyit, hat, fűt)
  • two consonants (eg játsz|ik, tart, választ, hall, hull|ik)
    • -dz also belongs here (eg edz)

*: except for -at/-et, see II

Exceptions
(partial list)

  • áll, száll, varr (III)

  • ad, enged, fogad, etc (I)
  • lát (III)
  • mond, kezd, küld, hord, küzd, etc (III)

Less important exceptions:

  • (meg)ér|ik (I)
  • függ, etc (III)
  • borzong, etc (III)

×

Note: Strike-through Roman numbers in the last row refer to the types which would apply if the verbs concerned were regular.

As a thumb-rule, it may be useful to learn the rules and exceptions only for Type I and Type III and use Type II otherwise because this latter type comprises the broadest range of verbs.

Regular homonymy of plain and causative forms in the same tense

Front-vowel unrounded verbs that end in consonant + -t may have ambiguous (coinciding, homonymous) forms between plain and causative forms. Approx. a hundred verbs are concerned that end in one of the following endings: -jt, -lt, -mt, -nt, -rt, -st, -szt.

Homonymous verb Meaning 1 Meaning 2
Megértette. "S/he understood it."
megért ("understand") + -ette (past tense Type III, def.)
"S/he made them understand it."
megért + -et- (causative) + -te (past tense Type II, def.)
Sejtette. "S/he suspected it."
sejt ("suspect") + -ette (past tense type III, def.)
"S/he made them suspect it."
sejt + -et- (causative) + -te (past tense type II, def.)

The past tenses of sejt ("suspect", Type III) and sejtet ("make them suspect sth.", Type II) are identical, except for the third person indefinite form where it is sejt|ett for sejt but sejtet|ett for sejtet. However, it usually turns out from the argument structure and the context which meaning is intended.

This ambiguity doesn't occur with back-vowel verbs because the linking vowel is different for the normal past tense and the causative, eg bontotta "s/he demolished it" (bont- + -otta) vs. bontatta "s/he had it demolished" (bont- + -at- + -ta). The linking vowel can only be o for back-vowel verbs (as stated above: -ott/-ett/-ött) and the causative can only have a with back vowels (-at/-et). Similarly, it doesn't occur with front-vowel verbs with a rounded vowel, either: eg gyűjtötte ("s/he collected them") vs gyűjtette (s/he had them collected").

Below is a chart to review the conjugation differences between coinciding forms of the same verb. Ambiguous forms in the same person are marked in bold.

"I understood it" etc, past, def. "I made them understand it" etc, past, def. "I understood sth" etc, past, indef. "I made them understand sth" etc, past, indef.
megértettem
megértetted
megértette
megértettük
megértettétek
megértették
megértettem
megértetted
megértette
megértettük
megértettétek
megértették
megértettem
megértettél

megértett
megértettünk
megértettetek
megértettek
megértettem
megértettél

megértetett
megértettünk
megértettetek
megértettek

Regular homonymy: other cases

Another kind of ambiguity can arise with type I verbs between the second person plural plain form and the first person singular causative form, e.g. beszéltetek (only indefinite forms involved):

  • "you [pl] spoke": beszél ("speak") + -t- (past) + -etek ("you [pl]")
  • "I make sb speak": beszél + -tet- (causative) + -ek ("I").

It can also occur with similar back-vowel verbs, e.g. csináltatok "you [pl] did sth" or "I have sth done".

beszéltek can also have two interpretations (only indefinite forms involved, again):

  • "you [pl] speak": beszél + -tek ("you [pl]")
  • "they spoke": beszél + -t- (past) + -ek ("they")

This latter case is not possible with back-vowel verbs, due to the difference of the linking vowel: csináltok "you [pl] do sth" vs. csináltak "they did sth".

Below is a chart to review the conjugation differences between coinciding forms of the same verb (again). Ambiguous forms in different persons are marked with asterisks.

"I speak" etc,
present, indef.
"I spoke" etc,
past, indef.
"I make sb speak" etc,
present, indef.
"I do" etc,
present, indef.
"I did" etc,
past, indef.
"I have sth done" etc,
present, indef.
beszélek
beszélsz
beszél
beszélünk
beszéltek*
beszélnek
beszéltem
beszéltél
beszélt
beszéltünk
beszéltetek*
beszéltek*
''beszéltetek*
beszéltetsz
beszéltet
beszéltetünk
beszéltettek
beszéltetnek
csinálok
csinálsz
csinál
csinálunk
csináltok
csinálnak
csináltam
csináltál
csinált
csináltunk
csináltatok*
csináltak
csináltatok*
csináltatsz
csináltat
csináltatunk
csináltattok
csináltatnak

Sporadic coincidences

Front-vowel verbs in type III that end in -t may cause ambiguity, like between the past tense of a verb and the present tense of another. For example:

Homonymous verb Meaning 1 Meaning 2
Féltem. "I was afraid."
fél ("be afraid") + -tem (past tense type I, first person, indef.)
"I fear for him/her/it."
félt ("fear for sb/sth") + -em (present tense, first person, def.)
Nem ért hozzá. "S/he didn't touch it."
hozzá|ér ("touch") + -t (past tense type I, indef.)
"S/he isn't familiar with it."
ért (hozzá) ("be familiar [with sth.]", present tense, indef.)
Köszönt. "S/he said hello."
köszön ("say hello") + -t (past tense type I, indef.)
"S/he welcomes [you]."
köszönt ("welcome", present tense, indef.)

Below is a chart to review the conjugation differences between coinciding forms of unrelated verbs. Ambiguous forms in the same person are marked in bold; ambiguous forms in different persons are marked with asterisks.

"I was afraid" etc, past, indef. "I fear for sb" etc, present, indef. "I fear for him/her/it" etc, present, def. "I am not familiar with it" etc, present, indef. "I didn't touch it" etc, past, indef.
féltem
féltél
félt
féltünk
féltetek
féltek*
féltek*
féltesz
félt
féltünk
féltetek
féltenek
féltem
félted
félti
féltjük
féltitek
féltik
nem értek hozzá*
nem értesz hozzá
nem ért hozzá
nem értünk hozzá
nem értetek hozzá
nem értenek hozzá
nem értem hozzá
nem értél hozzá
nem ért hozzá
nem értünk hozzá
nem értetek hozzá
nem értek hozzá*

Moods

Hungarian verbs have 3 moods: indicative, conditional and subjunctive / imperative. The indicative has a past and non-past tense. The conditional has a non-past tense and a past form, made up of the past tense indicative as the finite verb with the non-finite verb volna. The subjunctive only has a single tense.

Conditional

Use of the conditional:

In a sentence with "if", unlike in English, the appropriate conditional tense is used in both the "if" clause and the main clause. The present conditional is used to talk about unlikely or impossible events in the present or future, e.g. Ha találkoznál a királynővel, mit mondanál? ("If you met the Queen, what would you say?") (cf. the second conditional in English). The past conditional is used for past events which did not happen, e.g. Ha nem találkoztunk volna a királynővel, órákkal ezelőtt megérkeztünk volna. ("If we hadn't met the Queen, we would have arrived hours ago.") (cf. the third conditional in English).

Subjunctive

Uses of the subjunctive:

  1. For a command (i.e. an imperative)
  2. For a request
  3. For hesitant questions with 1st singular subject (cf. English "Shall I …?")
  4. For suggestions for joint action with 1st plural subject (cf. English "Let's …")
  5. For wishes (3rd person singular and plural)
  6. In subordinate clauses after verbs expressing orders, requests, suggestions, wishes, permission, etc
  7. In hogy subordinate clauses expressing purpose

Definite and indefinite conjugations

The verbal morphology of Hungarian verbs has characteristics which give it some similarity to a tripartite system (one which distinguishes between intransitive, ergative and accusative cases) rather than a purely nominative-accusative system. However, the two subject types in Hungarian are different from the intransitive/ergative distinction. They are:

  1. The subject of an intransitive verb or of a transitive verb with an indefinite object
  2. The subject of a transitive verb with a definite object

There is no trace of this distinction in the morphology of nouns and pronouns.

  Verb with
subject-marking suffix
Object
Intransitive verb
("I'm reading.")
Olvasok
(type 1)
Transitive verb
("I'm reading…
with an indefinite object
…a book.")
egy könyvet.
with a definite object
…the book.")
Olvasom
(type 2)
a könyvet.

Nominative-accusative trait "Ergative-absolutive trait"
The form of the subject of the intransitive verb is not the same as the form of the (definite) object of the transitive verb (as in ergative-accusative languages)… …but it doesn't seem to agree with the form of the subject of the transitive verb, either (as in nominative-accusative languages).

This difference shows up in Hungarian verbs as two conjugations: definite and indefinite.

The indefinite conjugation is used:

  1. With an intransitive verb
  2. With an indefinite object including an indefinite pronoun object
  3. With most question words as the object
  4. With a relative pronoun as the object
  5. With a 1st or 2nd person pronoun as the object, whether stated or unstated

The definite conjugation is used:

  1. With a definite object
  2. With a following clause with hogy ("that")
  3. With questions with melyik and hányadik ("which") as the object
  4. With a 3rd person pronoun as the object, whether stated or unstated

Examples:

Indefinite (látsz) Definite (látod)
You (can) see .
You can see something.
You can see a book.
You can see me/us. (!)
You can see some/two (of them).
You can't see anything/anyone.
You can see everything/everyone.
Who/What/how many can you see?
The person/book that you can see is...
You can see the book.
You can see this book.
You can see him/her/it/them.
You can see yourself.
You can see Mary.
You can see both (books).
You can see all (the books).
Which (person/book) can you see?
You can see (that) I'm here.

No explicit object

If no explicit object is present, the most common interpretation of the definite verb forms is including "him/her/it". If an indefinite verb form semantically requires an object, "me" or "you [sg]" or – obviously – an indefinite object (third person) can be inferred. (The plural forms are generally made explicit.) This difference makes it possible for the writer or speaker to refer to people without making them explicit. In most cases it's enough through the context to differentiate between 3rd person and non-3rd person pronouns.

Definite examples:

  • olvassa ("s/he is reading", def. conjugation) – most common meaning: s/he is reading it (the book etc)
  • nézi ("s/he is looking", def. conjugation) – most common meaning: s/he is looking at him/her/it

Indefinite examples:

  • fut ("s/he is running", indef. conjugation) – usually can't have an object so its meaning is unambiguous
  • olvas ("s/he is reading", indef. conjugation) – most common meaning: s/he is reading something (the object may be omitted like in English)
  • néz ("s/he is looking", indef. conjugation) – most common meaning: s/he is looking at me or you

-lak/-lek

An isolated verb suffix exists which is used solely for a first person singular subject with a second person singular or plural object, e.g. Szeretlek. ("I love you.", singular), Szeretlek titeket. ("I love you all.")

Grammatical voice

Hungarian uses active forms not only in the active sense (e.g. "He opened the door") and in the middle voice sense (e.g. "The door opened") but also to express the passive (e.g. "The door was opened by Jane"), with the third person plural active form. For example Megvizsgálják a gyereket literally means "They examine the child" but it is more commonly meant like "The child is examined". The fact that this sentence behaves like a passive voice is shown by the fact that the above (third person plural) form can be used even when only one agent is meant (i.e., the child is examined by one doctor).

Another means to express the passive meaning is using middle voice lexical forms or unaccusative verbs, e.g. épül: "build"/ intransitive (cf. épít "build"/ transitive), alakul: "form"/ intransitive (cf. alakít "form"/ transitive). -ul/-ül is a common ending that expresses the middle voice, as opposed to -ít which expresses the active (these are transitive verbs). Middle voice forms can also be created from some plain verbs by adding -ódik/-ődik, e.g. íródik "get written" (from ír "write"), ütődik "get hit" (from üt "hit"). These active/middle pairs comprise a considerable part among Hungarian verbs.

In the perfect aspect, there is a third way to express passive meaning: the existential verb van (see van (to be)) plus the adverbial participle ending in -va/-ve (see Adverb derivation), e.g. meg van írva "it is written" (from megír "write"). It is used when the result of the action is emphasized. It can be formed in the past perfect and future perfect, too, with the past and future forms of van. – A similar structure is used in a past meaning with lett: meg lett írva "it was written" or "it has been written" (sometimes "it had been written").

Finally, the actual passive form does occur once in a while, formed with -atik/-etik or -tatik/-tetik. For example: születik ("be born", from szül "give birth"), adatik ("be given", from ad "give"), viseltetik ("owe sb certain feelings", from visel "bear"), foglaltatik ("be included", from (magába) foglal "include"). These can be formed by adding -ik to the causative (see Modal and causative suffixes). Most of these forms (except for születik) are considered obsolete.

An example regular verb

Here is a regular verb, kér ("ask for"). The personal suffixes are marked in bold.

kér ("ask for")
Indefinite Definite
Indicative Mood
Present kérek kérsz kér kérünk kértek kérnek kérem kéred kéri kérjük kéritek kérik
Past kértem kértél kért kértünk kértetek kértek kértem kérted kérte kértük kértétek kérték
Conditional Mood
Present kérnék kérnél kérne kérnénk kérnétek kérnének kérném kérnéd kérné kérnénk kérnétek kérnék
Past kértem
volna
kértél
volna
kért
volna
kértünk
volna
kértetek
volna
kértek
volna
kértem
volna
kérted
volna
kérte
volna
kértük
volna
kértétek
volna
kérték
volna
Subjunctive Mood
Present kérjek kérjél
or kérj
kérjen kérjünk kérjetek kérjenek kérjem kérjed
or kérd
kérje kérjük kérjétek kérjék

Modal and causative suffixes

Hungarian has 2 forms which can be added to the verb stem to modify the meaning. These are sometimes referred to as infixes but they are not true infixes because they are not inserted inside another morpheme.

-hat-/-het- has a modal meaning of permission or opportunity, eg beszélek "I speak", beszélhetek "I may speak" or "I am allowed to speak".

Note: Ability ("I can speak") is usually expressed with "tud". See Auxiliary verbs (modal and temporal).

-at-/-et- and -tat-/-tet- have a causative meaning. It can express "having something done" or "having/making someone do something". For example: beszélek "I speak", beszéltetek "I make sb speak". (Incidentally, it is the same form as "you [pl] spoke", analysed beszél|t|etek, see Past tense.)

-tat/-tet is used if the word ends in vowel + -t or if the stem ends in a consonant different from -t but it has two or more syllables (excluding the verbal particle). In other cases, -at/-et is used: that is, with words ending in a consonant + t and with one-syllable words ending in a consonant different from -t.

Ending -t not -t
vowel + -t consonant + -t
One syllable süttet "to have sth baked", láttat "to make sth seen" gyűjtet "to have sth collected", festet "to have sth painted" írat "to have sth written", mosat "to have sth washed", fürdet "to give sb a bath"
Also: ki+dobat "to have sb. thrown out", el+fogat "to have sb caught"
(See the exceptions below)
Several syllables taníttat "to have sb taught", felszólíttat "to have sb warned" felébresztet "to have sb woken up", halasztat "to have sth postponed" beszéltet "to have sb speak", dolgoztat "to make sb work", olvastat "to have sb read"

The monosyllabic words which don't end in vowel + -t but have -tat/-tet in the causative are áz|ik (áztat), buk|ik (buktat), kop|ik (koptat), szop|ik (szoptat), hány (hánytat), él (éltet), kel (keltet), lép (léptet), szűn|ik (szüntet [!]), jár (jártat), szök|ik (szöktet).

Verbal noun

A noun is formed from a verb by adding -ás/-és to the verb stem (cf. gerund in English), e.g. Az úszás egészséges. ("Swimming is healthy.")

Participles

There are three participles in Hungarian. They are formed by adding the following suffixes to the verb stem:

  • -ó/-ő - present participle, eg író ember ("a writing person")
  • -ott/-ett/-ött/-t - past participle, eg megírt levél ("a written letter" /"the letter that has been written")
  • -andó/-endő - future participle, eg írandó levél ("a letter to be written")

Since the past participle usually expresses a perfected action/event, the verb sometimes changes into its perfective counterpart by taking a verbal particle (igekötő) with this function, as seen in the above example (megírt levél). This verbal particle may, however, be replaced by a noun, e.g. Annának írt levél ("a letter written to Anna"). – See more under Hungarian syntax.

Verb particles /prefixes (igekötők)

Hungarian verbs can have verb particles or prefixes, similar to phrasal verbs in English. The most common ones are meg- (perfective but some other ones, too, can take this function), fel- ("up"), le- ("down"/"off"), be- ("in"), ki- ("out"), el- ("away"), vissza- ("back"), át- ("over"/"through"), oda- ("there"), ide- ("here"), össze- ("together"), szét- ("apart").

The above meanings are the literal meanings but they all can have figurative, idiomatic meanings. Examples of literal meanings for the verb ír ("write"): leír ("write down"), beír ("write into") as opposed to the non-literal meanings: leír ("declare as useless", cf "write off"), beír ("give a written warning [to a schoolchild]"). Different prefixes can express subtle differences (eg meghízik "get fat" vs. elhízik "get obese") as well as independent concepts (eg rúg "kick", kirúg "fire sb", berúg "get drunk"). They often serve to change the verb into perfective (along with other factors).

When the particle precedes the verb without any other inserted word, they are used as one word, eg Leírja ("He writes it down"). Syntactically, the particle may go behind the verb for various reasons. It may occur due to a stressed part in the sentence (the focus), eg Ő írja le ("It's him who writes it down") or a negation, eg Nem írja le ("He doesn't write it down"). The inverted order is also used in the imperative, eg Írja le! ("Write it down!"). Finally, it may also refer to continuity, like Lement a lépcsőn ("He went down the stairs") vs. Ment le a lépcsőn ("He was going down the stairs").

If the verb with the particle is in the infinitive, the finite verb will be wedged between them, eg Le akarja írni ("He wants to write it down") or Le tudja írni ("He can write it down").

The particle may considerably affect the case of the complement: for example, the verb kezd ("start sth.") can take several different verb particles, all expressing the same concept (with minor differences) but their complement differs depending on the particle:

It happens because certain verb particles (the latter three among the examples) come from personal pronouns in the given case and they require agreement.

When giving a short positive answer to a yes/no question, the particle can refer back to the whole sentence, see Yes/no questions.

Cases needing attention

There are a few words which happen to begin with letters like in the above particles, e.g. felel ("reply"), lehel ("breathe/puff"), kiált ("give a shout") and beszél ("speak") where fel-, le-, ki- and be- are parts of the words themselves, rather than actual particles. The difference is important in the above-mentioned syntactic cases when these elements will – naturally – not function like particles do. Compare the above kiált (no compound) with ki|áll ("stand out", a compound): nem kiált ("he doesn't give a shout") but nem áll ki ("he doesn't stand out"). – A similar case is fellebbez ("appeal [in court]"), from the adverb fellebb ("upper", today: feljebb), containing no particle.

A verb may occasionally be a homonym in the above sense, ie being a single word or containing a particle, e.g. betűz ("spell [by letters]", no compound) but be|tűz ("stick in" or "shine in", a compound).

The other misleading cases are those verbs which were historically formed from nouns deriving from verbs with particles, so they seemingly begin with particles but they don't behave like them. An example is befolyásol ("influence", v) which derives from befolyás ("influence", n), a calque from German Einfluß, literally "in-flow", including the particle be- ("in"). This element, being part of the original noun, will not act as a particle of the derived verb befolyásol. There are few such words, e.g. kivitelez ("implement") from kivitel ("exportation", cf "carrying out"). Kirándul ("go hiking") used to be a compound (ki + rándul) but people don't usually treat it like that any more so they say e.g. Kirándulni akar. ("s/he wants to go hiking") instead of Ki akar rándulni, which is obsolete and only used jokingly.

Auxiliary verbs (modal and temporal)

Most Hungarian auxiliary verbs are impersonal; beside them, the suffixed infinitive is used. A few are conjugated. (Note: personal suffixes are marked in bold.)

Auxiliary verb Meaning Form Example with meaning
kell obligation impersonal kell mennem I must/ have to go
kellene /kéne advice & suggestions impersonal kellene mennem
kéne mennem
I should/ought to go
muszáj strong obligation impersonal muszáj mennem I have got to go
szabad permission impersonal szabad mennem I am allowed to go
tilos prohibition impersonal tilos mennem I must not go
fog future intention conjugated fogok menni I am going to go
tud ability conjugated tudok menni I can go
Modal suffix
-hat/-het opportunity, permission conjugated mehetek I can go
I may go

The suffix -hat/-het mentioned in the last row can be further conjugated, just like any verb.

The verb lehet is most usually used impersonally, e.g. oda lehet menni "one can go there". It's possible but uncommon to use it in the personal form, e.g. lehet mennem ("I can go").

szokott

The verb szokott is conjugated like a regular past tense one (though it can have the indefinite and the definite forms, too), however, used with an infinitive, it has the meaning of a habitual action which includes the present time.

Examples:

  • Szoktam álmodni ("I dream usually", lit. I "was" used to dreaming)
  • Meg szoktam mosni ("I usually wash it", lit. I "was" used to washing it)

As there is no present tense form for szokott, the verb szokni, meaning to get used to something (eg.: "megszokja a klímát", gets used to the climate) may cause ambiguity.

Irregular verbs

The verbs van ("to be"), jön ("to come") and megy ("to go") have an irregular present tense and irregular stems for different tenses. jön also has irregular forms in the subjunctive. A further group of 9 verbs have irregular stems for different tenses but follow the same pattern of irregularity as each other. A few other verbs shorten or drop a vowel with certain suffixes.

A regular verb compared to an irregular
Regular verb: él (to live) Irregular verb: megy (to go)
Past Present Past Present
éltem élek mentem megyek
éltél élsz mentél mész (sometimes also mégy (archaic))
élt él ment megy
éltünk élünk mentünk megyünk
éltetek éltek mentetek mentek
éltek élnek mentek mennek

van (to be)

The verb "to be" in Hungarian is van (3rd person), lenni (infinitive).

Use

When the verb is used as a copula ie if one speaks about what someone or something is, it is omitted in the third person singular and plural of the present tense. The verb is required in all other tenses and persons, when speaking about where or how something is, or to emphasize the existence or availability of something. Examples:

  • Péter orvos . – Peter is a doctor. (present tense, third person, speaking about what someone is: no linking verb in Hungarian)
  • Péter jól van. – Peter is well.
  • Péter itt van. – Peter is here.
  • Péter orvos volt. – Peter was a doctor.
  • Orvos vagyok. – I am a doctor.

The non-copula form of van is also used to express the equivalent of "There is /are":

  • Van orvos a szobában.There is a doctor in the room.

The negation of the third person van (plural vannak) as a non-copula verb is the suppletive nincs (plural nincsenek):

  • Itt van Péter. – Peter is here.
  • Nincs itt Péter. – Peter isn't here.

Hungarian has no verb which is equivalent to "to have". Instead, ownership /possession are expressed using van with a possessive suffix on the noun:

  • Van könyvem. ("I've got a book.", literally "There is a book-my")

Conjugation

Like the verb "to be" in most other languages, van is irregular. It comes from three (or four) bases: vagy- (or van-), vol-, and len-. These overlap to some extent with the verb lesz ("become"). As it cannot have an object, it doesn't have definite forms. It is the only verb in Hungarian which has a future form.

Indicative Mood
Present Tense vagyok vagy van vagyunk vagytok vannak
Past Tense voltam voltál volt voltunk voltatok voltak
Future Tense leszek leszel lesz leszünk lesztek lesznek
Conditional Mood
Present Tense lennék
or volnék
lennél
or volnál
lenne
or volna
lennénk
or volnánk
lennétek
or volnátok
lennének
or volnának
Past Tense lettem
volna
lettél
volna
lett
volna
lettünk
volna
lettetek
volna
lettek
volna
Subjunctive Mood
Present Tense legyek legyél
or légy
legyen legyünk legyetek legyenek

There is little difference between the two conditional forms. In theory, lennék etc are preferred when an option is considered as possible (eg Ha otthon lennék, "if I were at home") and volnék etc are preferred when it is considered impossible (eg Ha rózsa volnék, "if I were a rose"), but the limits are rather vague. It is probably not by chance that the former is akin to the future form (leszek), which might still become true, and the latter to the past form (voltam), which is already determined. In practice, the lennék series is somewhat more frequently used in both senses.

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