Hungarian grammar

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This article describes Hungarian grammar , in particular those features that are particularly characteristic of Hungarian compared to German and other languages.

The Hungarian language has an agglutinating morphology . In contrast to the inflectional languages , in which the formation of word forms is relatively compact and sometimes comes about by interfering with the entire word form, this is sometimes done in Hungarian. By adding a series of separate endings ( suffixes ) (this process is called agglutination ). In addition, relationships of possession, direction, temporality, etc., which are formed in German by possessive pronouns, prepositions or prepositional phrases, are also formed in the same way in Hungarian. The suffixes are attached to the root of the word in a precisely defined order.

Vowel harmony

Vowel harmony is an essential characteristic of Hungarian . The suffixes and other endings that are added to the root word adapt to the high (light, palatal) or low (dark, velar) sound of the root word.

Velar vowels in Hungarian are: a, á, o, ó, u, ú
So: The vowels a, á, o, ó, u, ú in the root word (asztal, madár) are followed by o or a (asztalok, madarak) .
In the suffixation of nouns the o is the more common connecting vowel, in the suffixation of adjectives the a is more often used as a connecting vowel.

Palatal vowels in Hungarian are: e, é, i, í, ö, ő, ü, ű
Here there is also a distinction between the unrounded vowels (e, é, i, í) and the rounded vowels (ö, ő, ü, ű) distinguished when a suffix has three forms.
So: The vowels e, é, ö, ő, ü, ű (gyerek, bükk) in the root of the word are followed by e or ö (gyerekek, bükkök) .

However, there are two options for i / í.
I, í in the root usually follows e, less often o or a. There are no rules here, the connecting vowel has to be learned by heart. An example with a velar binding vowel is a hídon keresztül = "over the bridge" ( híd = "bridge").
However, this phenomenon can be explained in terms of linguistic history. In words with i / í that have o or a as a connecting vowel, the i was replaced by a diphthong or a "dark" i sound such as the Russian ы , the Polish y or the Turkish ı , to the vowel harmonic o or a belong.

There are also exceptional cases in vowel harmony. A well-known example are the endings of the word férfi (man). Férfi only contains palatal vowels, but has velar endings: férfi val , férfi ak . This has a linguistic-historical explanation: the word was originally called férfiú , so it was “mixed”.

Words that have been in the language for a long time are in most cases either purely palatal or purely velar. Newer, mixed vowel words (often loanwords such as telephone ) usually have velar endings, but there are fluctuations in some cases.

The noun

No grammatical gender

Hungarian has no grammatical gender. In pronouns , too , no natural gender is differentiated in the same way as with German “he” and “she” (“he / she” is both = ő - in the plural ők ). This is a rare case among European languages, but not unusual in a global comparison of languages ​​(see the article on gender ).

If the speaker needs an emphasis on gender, it can be made recognizable by adding the word (= woman) ( tanár = "teacher", tanárnő = "teacher"). However, Hungarian distinguishes between a "person class" and a "non-person class". For non-persons (animals, plants, objects, terms), the third person uses singular az , which is functionally and formally not identical to the seemingly similar article formation (see below), because in the plural it becomes azok .


The definite article (the / die / das) is called a (before vowels: az ) and is immutable, as is the indefinite article (an / an) egy (see “the, a / an” in English).
In contrast to German, the article is used much less often, usually only to emphasize the relevant subject or factual situation. This is especially true for the indefinite article, which has a much larger numerical character in Hungarian than in German.

Formation and use of the plural

The plural formation in Hungarian is quite simple. The suffix -k is added to the corresponding noun . It is more difficult to find the correct connecting vowel, which is often necessary for the sake of pronunciation, which results from the vowel harmony (see above):

az asztal - asztalok (the table - tables)
a madár - madarak (the bird - birds)
a gyerek - gyerekek (the child - children)
a Könyv - Koenyvek (the book - books)
a bükk - bükkök (the beech - beeches)

The majority is sparsely used in Hungarian. If the context clarifies the plural (e.g. with a numerical word that implies more than one piece), the word is used in the singular. The plural is only used when the plural is not apparent from the context. Example: öt fiú = "five boys", literally "five boys". Látom a fiúkat. = "I see the boys."

For numerical congruence, the verb is only conjugated in the plural after subjects that are in the plural, so it is called A halak úsznak ("The fish swim"), but Öt fiú jön (* "Five boys are coming") ) and not * jönnek .

If the word has a possessive suffix (e.g. my houses), the plural is expressed by an i as an infix . So: ház = "house", házam = "my house", háza i m = "my houses".

Suffixes instead of prepositions

The Hungarian noun can have many suffixes with different functions. In many textbooks and grammars of Hungarian, the term " case " is often used , the number of which is usually just under 30. These are given a Latin-German name such as B. nominative , dative , accusative , superessive , delative , sublative , inessive , elative , illative , adessive , ablative , allative , terminative , comitive-instrumental , causal-final , factive-translative , essive-modal , essive-formal ( see above after Béla Szent-Iványi: “The Hungarian language structure. Leipzig 1964, Hamburg 1995). However, only three of them - nominative, dative and accusative - have equivalents in German .

Regardless of whether the remaining constructs are viewed as "real" cases or whether they are adverbial suffixes , these can only be translated into German using prepositional phrases. The following tables contain both forms (see morphology ) that are formed in German by inflection and those that are formed in German by prepositional phrases:

Surname suffix example Explanation
Nominative O ház the House
dative -nak / -nek ház nak the House
accusative -t ház at the House
Instrumental comitive -val / -vel ház zal with the house
Causal final -ért ház ért for the House
Translative -vá / -vé ház (becomes) a house
Terminative -ig ház ig to the house
Essive-Formal -ként ház ként as a house, like a house
Essive modal -ul / -ül ház ul as a house, for a house, instead of a house

In the case of suffixes with a v at the beginning of the suffix, the one merges with the last consonant of the noun stem and mines it .

Since there is no genitive in the strict sense of the word, ownership is expressed by suffixes attached to ownership and sometimes also to the owner. There is the Hungarian two structures: a tanító autója ( "the teacher his car" - only the ownership gets a suffix) or a tanítónak az autója ( "the teacher his car" - a formulation that also in German dialects is present , both the owner and the property are given a suffix). Both forms are used, although the first, simpler form often sounds better stylistically. The second variant emphasizes ownership more and is often essential if the expression would otherwise be unclear.

The spatial relationships, which Hungarian describes with the help of the following nine local cases, are expressed in other languages, such as German, using prepositional phrases.

3 × 3 - spatial relationships
  the inner the surface concerning the proximity
where from? -ból / -ből
ház- ból
from the house
( Elativ )
-ról / -ről
ház- ról
from the house (down)
( delative )
-tól / -től
ház- tól
from the house (away)
( ablative )
Where? -ban / -ben
ház- ban
in the house
( inessive )
-n / -on / -en / -ön
ház- on
on the house
( superessive )
-nál / -nél
ház- nál
at the house
( Adessive )
where? -ba / -be
ház- ba
into the house (into)
( illative )
-ra / -re
ház- ra
on the house (up)
( sublative )
-hoz / -hez / -höz
HAZ hoz
the house (out)
( allative )

Occasionally, the following circumstances are also considered to be cases:

Circumstance provisions
Surname suffix example Explanation
Temporal -kor éjfélkor at midnight
Comitative -stul / -stul családostul together with the family
Temporal distributive -nta / -nte naponta a day, every day
Distributive -nként fejenként per person
Modal -képpen ajándékképpen as a present

No possessive pronouns

There are no possessive pronouns. Instead, suffixes are used to indicate ownership:

  Basic form Owner stressed German
1. P. Sg. az autóm az (én) autóm my car
2. P. Sg. az autód a (te) autód your car
3. P. Sg. az autója az (ő) autója his / her car
1. P. Pl. az autónk a (mi) autónk our car
2. P. Pl. az autótok a (ti) autótok your car
3. P. Pl. az autójuk az (ő) autójuk her car

The specific article is usually also used in its basic form. The additional personal pronouns, as indicated in the brackets, emphasize the ownership relationship : az én autóm, nem a te autód . ( My car, not your car.)

Post positions

There are no prepositions in Hungarian (in the strict sense). Instead, post positions used, so the word trailing relationship words (as in English "the weather because "). These usually just follow the nominative, only a few ask for the ending for "auf" (-n; superessive), e.g. B. a ház on keresztül - "through the house" or az autó n kívül - "outside the car".

3 × 12 - other spatial relationships
  under over in front Behind Next between around behind, after along by beyond through ... (through)
where from? alól
Where? alatt
where? alá

conjugation of verbs

The Hungarian verbs are conjugated in two ways:

  1. with certain object
  2. with an indefinite object or without an object

The specific conjugation (tárgyas ragozás) is used when the object in the sentence has a (unambiguously) specific character, but can only be formed with targeting ( transitive ) verbs. The personal pronouns of the 3rd person are also considered a specific object. In all other cases and with intransitive verbs, the indefinite conjugation (alanyi ragozás) is used. Personal pronouns are only used to emphasize the person. Otherwise, mostly only the conjugated verb is used, as the person clearly emerges from the corresponding ending. The endings of transitive verbs can also refer to the personal pronoun in the accusative and replace it.
For constructions that have a subject in the 1st person singular and an object in the 2nd person, a special form is created. The often cited example of this is szeret lek (I love you). The full form would be (én) szeretlek (téged) , but this structure sounds strange and cumbersome. However, if the object in this construction is in the 2nd person plural, the personal pronoun is called: Szeret lek titeket .

Sentence examples:

  • “I see the bus.” = Láto m a buszt. (with a certain object, certain conjugation)
  • “I see you.” = Lát lak (téged). (Special verb form: I-you relationship)
  • “I see him / her” = Láto m őt. (Personal pronoun of the 3rd person as a specific object)
  • “I stand and wait.” = Állo k és váro k . (without object, indefinite conjugation)

Example for the conjugation of látni = "see":

  • Certain conjugation: lát om = "I see it", lát od = "you see it", lát juk = "we see it"
  • Indefinite conjugation: lát ok = "I see (something)" (also meaning: I see because I can see, I am not blind), lát sz = "you see (something)", lát unk = "we see (something)"
kérni (ask about, ask about)
indefinite certainly
Present kér ek kér sz kér kér ünk kér tek kér nek kér em kér ed kér i kér jük kér itek kér ik
preterite kért em kért él kért kért ünk kért etek kért ek kért em kért ed kért e kért ük kért étek kért ék
Future tense kérni
fog ok
fog sz
fog unk
fog tok
fog nak
fog om
fog od
fog yes
fog juk
fog játok
fog ják
Present kérné k kérné l kérne kérné nk kérné tek kérné nek kérné m kérné d kérné kérné nk kérné tek kérné k
preterite kért em
kért él
kért ünk
kért etek
kért ek
kért em
kért ed
kért e
kért ük
kért étek
kért ék
Present kérj ek kérj él
or kérj
kérj en kérj ünk kérj etek kérj enek kérj em kérj ed
or kér d
kérj e kérj ük kérj étek kérj ék
zár (close)
indefinite certainly
Present zár ok zár sz zár zár unk zár tok zár nak zár om zár od zár yes zár juk zár játok zár ják
preterite zárt on zárt ál zárt zárt unk zárt atok zárt ak zárt on zárt ad zárt a zárt uk zárt átok zárt ák
Future tense zarni
fog ok
fog sz
fog unk
fog tok
fog nak
fog om
fog od
fog yes
fog juk
fog játok
fog ják
Present zárné k zárná l zárna zárná nk zárná tok zárná nak zárná m zárná d zárná zárná nk zárná tok zárná k
preterite zárt on
zárt ál
zárt unk
zárt atok
zárt ak
zárt on
zárt ad
zárt a
zárt uk
zárt átok
zárt ák
Present zárj ak zárj ál
or zárj
zárj on zárj unk zárj atok zárj anak zárj am zárj ad
or zár d
zárj a zárj uk zárj átok zárj ák
lenni (to be)
Present vagy ok vagy van vagy unk vagy tok van nak
preterite volt am volt ál volt volt unk volt atok volt ak
Future tense lesz ek lesz el lesz lesz ünk lesz tek lesz nek
Present lenné k
or volné k
lenné l
or volná l
or volna
lenné nk
or volná nk
lenné tek
or volná tok
lenné nek
or volná nak
preterite lett em
lett él
lett ünk
lett etek
lett ek
Present legy ek legy él
or légy
legyen legy ünk legy etek legy enek

Special case: the group of ik verbs

The verbs that the ending in the third person singular ik have (Pikes igék) , have more special features in the conjugation. A rule that is often ignored by native speakers is that the forms of the indefinite conjugation in the 1st person singular match the particular form: Esze m a kenyeret - Kenyeret esze m (and not * esze k ). But there are exceptions: the shape hazudom (I lie) instead hazudok would, for example hyper correctly and is not in use, although the form in the third person singular hazudik is. Because of the conjugation it is necessary to be able to determine immediately whether the verb belongs to the ik group, the third person singular form is usually given as a lemma in dictionaries instead of the infinitive form.

The verb lenni ("to be") in the present tense

In the third person present tense, the verb forms van (Sg.) And vannak (Pl.) Are only used in connection with a location, otherwise they are omitted.

  • Boldog vagyok . (I am happy.)
  • Tamás boldog. (Tamás is happy.)
  • Tamás orvos. (Tamás is a doctor.)


  • Tamás itt van . (Tamás is here.)
  • Az emberek kint vannak . (People are outside.)

The negative is usually formed with the word nem . In cases where a negative meets van in the 3rd person singular or plural, however, the negation words nincs (singular) or nincsenek (plural) are used. Here, too, the verb is omitted. Thus, nincs replaces the words nem and van or nincsenek the words nem and vannak .

  • Nem vagyok boldog. (I am not happy.)
  • Tamás nem boldog. (Tamás is not happy.)


  • Tamás nincs itt. (Tamás is not here.)
  • A barátok nincsenek itt. (The friends are not here.)

Derived Verbs

In Hungarian there are a few suffixes for deriving verbs.

These include -gat / -get, - (t) at / - (t) et and -hat / -het .

The suffix -gat / -get expresses a durative or iterative .

  • ír-o- gat - "he / she / it writes long or repeatedly".
  • tanít- gat - "he / she / it teaches [gradually]"
  • int-e- get - "he / she / it waves [repeatedly]"

The suffix - (t) at / - (t) et is a factitive suffix .

  • fek- tet - "he / she / it sets, can [something / somebody] are"
  • al- tat - "he / she / it sleeps, lulls [something / someone]"

The suffix -hat / -het denotes the possibility and is translated into German as “may”, “can” or “like”.

  • fek- het - "he / she / it may / may / may lie"
  • al- has - "he / she / it may / can / may sleep"

It is used very often and is derived from the root of both intransitive verbs such as B. megy

  • me- het - "he / she / it may / can / may go",

as well as transitive verbs such as B. ír

  • ír- hat - "he / she / it may / can / may write".

It can -has / -het also be added to the other two suffixes:

  • tanul- gat - has - "he / she / it can / may [repeatedly] learn [something]"
  • tanít- tat - has - "he / she / it can / may have [something / someone] taught"

Accumulation of suffixes

Word formation through agglutination is characteristic of Hungarian. However, suffixation does not automatically lead to the formation of a new lemma. In Hungarian, a maximum suffix depth of six can be observed. Among other things, it is these structures that mean that Hungarian sentences are shorter than texts in other languages ​​and still convey exactly the same information. To do this, the stem and the endings of the respective word must be analyzed. Examples:

tehetetlenségével = with his inability (literally), through his inability

tehetetlen = incapable (< tehet (he can do) + (e) tlen (negative particle ), < ten (ni) (do) + het (may, can))
tehetetlenség = the inability
tehetetlensége = his inability

igazságtalanságunkkal = with (literally), as a result of our injustice

igaz = true
igazság = truth
igazságtalan = truthless = unjust
igazságtalanság = injustice
igazságtalanságunk = our injustice


If something is negated, the unstressed Hungarian sentence begins with the negation:
Nem látok. (I don't see.) Or Nem látom. (I don't see him / her / it.)
Nincs itt. (He / she / it is not there.)
Nem vettem meg. (I didn't buy it.)

In contrast to German, however, the double negation is often used for emphasis:
Nem látok semmit. (I don't see anything.)
Nincs itt senki. (Nobody is there.)
Nem vettem semmit. (I did not buy anything.)

If the negative indefinite pronoun is to be emphasized in order to emphasize the negation even more, it moves to the top and nem becomes sem (which elsewhere from is + nem fused “also not” means); analogously, nincs becomes sincs (which elsewhere merged from is + nincs means “is not either”):
Semmit sem látok. (roughly: I don't see
anything .)
Senki sincs itt. (roughly: there is nobody there.)
Semmit sem vettem. (roughly: I have n't bought
anything .)

Unlike in Finnish , however, there is no negative verb.

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e f József Tompa: Little Hungarian Grammar, pages 36/50/56: -gat / -get, page 54: -hat / -het, -tat / -tet, page 60: -tat / -tet , Page 63: -hat / -het


  • Pál Kövesdi: Elementa Linguae Hungaricae sive Grammatica Hungarica. Svccincta methodo comprehensa et perspicuis exemplis illvstrata . Leuschoviae, 1686 ( digitized version )
  • Anselm Mansvet Riedl: Magyarian grammar . Vienna 1858 ( Google digitized version , dto. At MEK )
  • Béla Szent-Iványi : The Hungarian language structure . Hamburg: Buske, 1995; ISBN 3-87548-101-1
  • László Keresztes : Practical Hungarian grammar . Debrecen: Debreceni Nyári Egyetem, 1992; ISBN 963-472-038-2
  • Mária D. Mátai : A Brief Hungarian Language History . Hamburg: Buske, 2002; ISBN 3-87548-323-5
  • Tamás Forgács : Hungarian grammar . Vienna: Edition Praesens, 2002 (²2004); ISBN 3-7069-0107-2

Web links