Noun cases

In Hungarian language there are 18 noun cases which may seem too much compared to German, Slavic languages or Latin (where they use 4 to 7 cases), but if we understand their meanings, it can become much clearer. Instead of prepositions (like in, on, from, for, with, etc. in English), Hungarian language likes to use different noun cases. This practically means that when in English they use prepositions in the sentences e.g. in the house or from the garden, etc., in the same time a suffix is being put after the word in Hungarian which has the same meaning as the English preposition. So házban means in house (ház = house, ~ban = in ~).

The hardnesses of the Hungarian declension are that

  1. most of the noun cases have one back vowel suffix and one (or two) front vowel suffix(es), and the proper one has to be added to the words
  2. in Accusative- and Supressive cases and in Plurar if the word ends with a consonant then an additional vowel has to be put between the word and the suffix for which it’s very hard to define an absolute rule when to use which vowel.

The easinesses of the Hungarian declension compared to the Polish and Latin ones are that

  1. there are no grammatical genders in Hungarian at all, so suffixes of the same noun case of different words differ only in one vowel
  2. the different cases never have the same suffixes, so it’s always obvious which is the noun case of a word
  3. the plurar form of the noun cases are the sum of the suffix of the plurar (~k) and the suffix of the actual noun case
  4. the etymon never changes

Summarizing the hardnesses and easinesses of Hungarian declension, my opinion is that declension is much less hard in Hungarian language than for example conjugation (which is truely very hard as one verb have more than 70 different variations). So let’s see the declension:

name of the case suffix(es) meaning of suffix back vowel (or mixed) word front vowel word very front vowel word
singular plurar singular plurar singular plurar
Nominative [this word is the subject] ház (house) házak kert (garden) kertek tető (roof) tetők
Accusative ~t [this word is the object] házat (house) házakat kertet (garden) kerteket  *5
Dative ~nak, ~nek for ~, of ~ háznak (for house) házaknak kertnek (for garden) kerteknek
Illative ~ba, ~be into ~ házba (into house) házakba kertbe (into garden) kertekbe
Inessive ~ban, ~ben *1 in ~ házban (in house) házakban kertben (in garden) kertekben
Elative ~ból, ~ből from ~, out of ~ házból (out of house) házakból kertből (from garden) kertekből
Allative ~hoz, ~hez, ~höz *2 to ~, towards ~ házhoz (to house) házakhoz kerthez (to garden) kertekhez tetőhöz (to roof) tetőkhöz
Adessive ~nál, ~nél at ~, by ~ háznál (at house) házaknál kertnél (by garden) kerteknél
Ablative ~tól, ~től away from ~ háztól (away from house) házaktól kerttől (away from garden) kertektől
Sublative ~ra, ~re onto ~ házra (onto house) házakra kertre (onto garden) kertekre
Supressive ~n on ~ házon (on house) házakon kerten (on garden) kerteken
Delative ~ról, ~ről about ~, from off ~ házról (about house) házakról kertről (about garden) kertekről
Instrumental ~val, ~vel 3 with ~ házzal (with house) házakkal kerttel (with garden) kertekkel
Causal ~ért for ~, because of ~ házért (for house) házakért kertért (for garden) kertekért
Terminative ~ig until ~ házig (until house) házakig kertig (until garden) kertekig
Temporal ~kor at ~ time – *4
Translative ~vá, ~vé
turning into ~ ház (turning into house) házak kert (turning into garden) kertek
Modal ~ként as ~ házként (as house) házakként kertként (as garden) kertekként

*1: in some local dialects or in case of uneducated speaker, the Inessive case is also used as ~ba’, ~be’, so that it equals to the Illative case, in standard language this is a huge mistake
*2: in some local dialects or in case of uneducated speaker, in Allative case the suffix ~hoz is sometimes pronounced as ~ho’ and the suffix ~höz is used in more cases instead of ~hez
*3: the Instrumental- and Translative cases are more tricky than just having one back- and one front vowel form as the letter v of the suffix assimilates to the last consonant of the word if it ends with a consonant (in case of foreign words it assimilates according to the pronunciation and written with a hyphen: Pierre-rel = with Pierre), in Székely dialect they keep the v in every cases
*4: Only numerals, pronouns and the words hour, minute, etc. can be put to Temporal case, for example: 3 órakor / 3-kor = at 3 o’clock
*5: I declinated the word tető only in Allative case as it differs from the front vowel group only in this case


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