Conjugation I (explanation)

One of the hardest part of Hungarian language is the conjugation (much harder than the declension), although there are only 3 tenses (past, present, future). The hardest thing for the learners of the language is that Hungarian verbs can be conjugated in a determined and in an indetermined way (explanation and usage below). These conjugation types exist only in Basque and Hungarian languages. So in Hungarian verbs in sentences can be:

  1. Singular or Plurar
  2. 1st, 2nd or 3rd person
  3. Present tense, Past tense, Future tense
  4. Realis mood, Conditional mood or Imperative mood
  5. Indetermined or Determined conjugation (only transitive verbs have determined forms)

So this gives a lot of forms of the same verbs (although Conditional mood exist only in Present- and Past tenses, Imperative mood exists only in Present tense), there are more than 70 variations.

Verbs (and thus their conjugations) can be grouped according to the following properties:

  1. front vowel verbs or back vowel verbs (mixed vowel verbs also belong to the second group)
  2. ~ik verbs and non~ik verbs, means whether the Present tense, S/3, Realis mood, Indetermined form gets the ~ik ending or it equals to the etymon (which we get by leaving the ~ni suffix from the infinitive)

Thus there are 4 main groups of conjugation, of which verbs have same or very similar conjugation.

The only irregular verb is lenni = to be, however most of the verbs can’t be said regular in an absolute meaning as there is problem with most of the verbs in at least one of its forms.

Indetermined or Determined conjugation

The hardest part for a learner of Hungarian language about verbs is to decide whether the verb should be put into indetermined or determined conjugation in a sentence. To make it clearer, my following samples are English sentences of which case in Hungarian language indetermined- or determined conjugation would be used making the words bold that are the reasons for the choosen conjugation:

  • using indetermined conjugation if:
  1. there is no object in the sentence, e.g. I love to sing. I’m cooking for Esther.
  2. the object is indefinite (using indefinite articles a/an or nothing before the object), e.g. I love a girl., I love girls.
  3. the object is an Indefinite- Relative- or Interrogative pronoun (anyone, who), e.g. I love someone., Whom do you love? or I’m cooking something for Esther.
  4. the object is a Personal pronoun which stands in the 1st or 2nd person, e.g. I love you., You love me. or She loves us.
  • using determined conjugation if:
  1. the object is definite (using the definite article: the, or names, etc.), e.g. I love the world. or  I love Jessica.
  2. the object is a Demonstrative pronoun (this, that, these, those), e.g. I love that girl. I’m cooking this for Esther.
  3. the object is a Personal pronoun which stands in the 3rd person, e.g. I love her., You love him. or We love them.

Personal pronouns as the object of the sentence are very important and I’m explaining below under the title What are Indetermined and Determined conjugations good for? why 1st and 2nd person Personal pronouns are conjugated indetermined way while 3rd person Personal pronouns are conjugated determined way.

suffixes and auxiliaries of different tenses, moods, etc.

  • Infinitive: ~ni
  • Past tense: ~t
  • Future tense: Expressed using the auxiliary verb fogni of which original meaning is catch, but as an auxiliary verb means: will. The future tense is the easiest one in Hungarian as only the 12 conjugated forms (6 indetermined + 6 determined) of fogni has to be learnt. Future tense also can be expressed by the word majd. In this case we put the conjugated form of the verb after the word majd which isn’t conjugated. E.g. Telefonálni fogok. Majd telefonálok. = I’ll call you (by phone). One exception is the verb to be which has an own future form, which is lesz.
  • Conditional mood: ~na, ~ne (depending on whether the verb is back- or front vowel verb)
  • Conditional mood Past tense: using the Conditional mood form of the verb to be, which is volna, and putting after the Realis mood Past tense form of the verb.
  • Imperative mood: ~j, or duplicating the the last letter if it’s s, z, or changing the last t to double s, or not addig anything after the word if the last letters are: tsz.

The suffixes of the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person in Singular or Plurar come after the above mentioned suffixes or auxiliaries. For example szeretnék = I would like (in Indetermined conj.) and is put together from szeret + ne + k, where ~ne referrs to the Conditional mood and ~k referrs to the S/1 (it’s an other question that vowels get extra accents in some cases). Not to confuse this with the P/3 form of the same verb, which is szeretnek (without accent on e) and means: they love, which is put together from szeret + nek, where ~nek referrs to the P/3.

See the conjugation tables.

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