Possessive affixes

Genitive is expressed absolutely different in Hungarian compared to the Indo-European languages, however it shows similarities with Finnish, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian and Malay languages. In Hungarian, there are 18 noun cases, but Genitive isn’t one of them, because it’s expressed totally differently. Let’s see an example sentence:

  • Péter háza. = Peter‘s house.

As you see, in English (similarly to other Indo-European languages), the possessor (owner) gets the affix (or also called: suffix) of Genitive case. The ‘s ending in English comes from the Latin ~is ending of Genitive. For example in Latin: Corona regis. = The king‘s crown. In Hungarian it’s absolutely reversed compared to Indo-European languages as possessed objects get the affix, while the possessor can be kept in Nominative or put to Dative.

This means that while the possessor is surely either in Nominative- or Dative case (usually Nominative is used because of it’s shortness), in the same time the possessed object gets the Possessive affix. Furthermore the possessed object (after getting the Possessive affix) can also be put into one of the 18 noun cases. For example:

  • Péter házában. = In Peter‘s house.
  • A ház ablakánál. = At the window of the house.

In this case ~a (which can also be ~ja, ~e, ~je in case of different words) shows the Genitive, while ~ban and ~nál show the Inessive- and Adessive case.

Regarding the above sentences, the possessor could also have beeb put into Dative, which doesn’t change the meaning at all, but in this case the possessed object gets the definite article, which can be a/az (=the) depending on whether the word begins with vowel or consonant (just like in English in case of the indefinite articles a/an):

  • Péternek a házában. = In Peter‘s house.
  • A háznak az ablakánál. = At the window of the house.

If we want to express multiple possessive structures, then the word(s) in the middle has (/have) to stand in Dative for sure:

  • Péter házának az ablaka. = The window of Peter‘s house.
  • Péter barátnak a házának az ablaka. = The window of Peter‘s friend‘s house.

But usually the maximum is 2 possessed objects, so my second example, which contains 3 possessed objects is not likely (just wanted to show the rule which would apply also for 4 or 5 possessed objects). So let’s see the formula of the first sentence having 2 obsessed objects: [nominative] – [dative] – [any of the 18 cases]. The word in the middle first gets the Possessive affix (which can be ~a, ~ja, ~e, ~je depending on the word) and then gets the affix of the Nominative case (~nak, ~nek) as well. Then the last word gets the definite article (a/az = the).

Regarding the Genitive, Hungarian language is strict, as the order of the words can’t be changed.

Possessive affixes instead of Possessive pronouns

In Hungarian (just like in Finnish, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian and Malay languages) we don’t use Possessive pronouns, which in English are: my, your, his, her, its, our, their. Instead of these words, we add Possessive affixes after the words. Let’s see one font vowel- and one back vowel word:

ház = house   kert = garden
SINGULAR
possessed object
  PLURAR
possessed object
  SINGULAR
possessed object
  PLURAR
possessed object
házam házunk házaim házaink kertem kertünk kertjeim kertjeink
(my house) (our house) (my houses) (our houses) (my garden) (our garden) (my gardens) (our gardens)
házad házatok házaid házaitok kerted kertetek kertjeid kertjeitek
(your house) (your house) (your houses) (your houses) (your garden) (your garden) (your gardens) (your gardens)
háza házuk házai házaik kertje kertjük kertjei kertjeik
(his/her/its house) (their house) (his/her/its houses) (their house) (his/her/its garden) (their garden) (his/her/its gardens) (their garden)

Sometimes in case of Singular 3rd person and in the whole Plurar a letter j also becomes part of the affix.

The affix of the Plurar in Genitive is ~i (unlike in any other cases as ~k is the affix of Plurar in Hungarian). So let’s see a general table of Possessive affixes:

front vowel affixes   back vowel affixes
SINGULAR
possessed object
PLURAR
possessed object
SINGULAR
possessed object
PLURAR
possessed object
the possessor S/1 ~m, ~öm, ~em ~im, ~eim, ~jeim ~m, ~om, ~am ~im, ~aim, ~jaim
S/2 ~d, ~öd, ~ed ~id, ~eid ~jeid ~d, ~od, ~ad ~id, ~aid ~jaid
S/3 ~e, ~je ~i, ~ei, ~jei   ~a, ~ja ~i, ~ai, ~jai
P/1 ~nk, ~ünk ~ink, ~eink, ~jeink ~nk, ~unk ~ink, ~aink, ~jaink
P/2 ~tek, ~tök, ~etek, ~ötök ~itok, ~eitek, ~jeitek ~tok, ~otok, ~atok ~itok, ~aitok, ~jaitok
P/3 ~ük, ~jük ~ik, ~eik, ~jeik ~uk, ~juk ~ik, ~aik, ~jaik

Also important to mention that general words as you saw above, get the same affixes that is the affix of S/3 (even if the possessor is in Plurar, so this row is bold in the table above). Let’s see comparisons between nouns and personal pronouns as possessors:

háza
(his/her house)
Péter háza
(Peter‘s house)
házai
(his/her houses)
Péter házai
(Peter‘s houses)
házuk
(their house)
a szomszédok háza
(the neighbours house)
házaik
(their houses)
 a szomszédok házai
(the neighbours houses)

Words to which we’ve added the above mentioned Possessive affixes can also be put into the different 18 noun cases. So let’s see some examples:

  • házamban = in my house      (ház + am + ban)
  • kertedben = in your garden      (kert + ed + ben)
  • ablakaiknál = at their windows      (ablak + aik + nál)

Long form of genitive (if the possessor is a personal pronoun)

If personal pronouns are the possessors, a long form is also feasible. The nominative of the pronouns can also be used as possessive pronouns (I -> my, you -> your etc.). In this case we have to take the table from above and put the nominative form of the pronouns before the possessed object with the possessive suffix. With this long form the meaning doesn’t change, but we can empasize the possessor. Important, that if we use the nominative of the pronouns as possessive pronouns, then the word ő means both his/her and their as its plurar form ők (they) can’t be used in the term their. So completing the above tables:

ház = house   kert = garden
SINGULAR
possessed object
  PLURAR
possessed object
  SINGULAR
possessed object
  PLURAR
possessed object
az én házam a mi házunk az én házaim a mi házaink az én kertem a mi kertünk az én kertjeim a mi kertjeink
(my house) (our house) (my houses) (our houses) (my garden) (our garden) (my gardens) (our gardens)
a te házad a ti házatok a te házaid a ti házaitok a te kerted a ti kertetek a te kertjeid a ti kertjeitek
(your house) (your house) (your houses) (your houses) (your garden) (your garden) (your gardens) (your gardens)
az ő háza az ő házuk (!) az ő házai az ő házaik (!) az ő kertje az ő kertjük (!) az ő kertjei az ő kertjeik (!)
(his/her/its house) (their house) (his/her/its houses) (their house) (his/her/its garden) (their garden) (his/her/its gardens) (their garden)

Words and affixes referring to the possession (and singular – plurar) in bold:

háza
(his/her house)
az ő háza
(his/her house)
Péter háza
(Peter‘s house)
házai
(his/her houses)
az ő házai
(his/her houses)
Péter házai
(Peter‘s houses)
házuk
(their house)
az ő házuk
(their house)
a szomszédok háza
(the neighbours house)
házaik
(their houses)
az ő házaik
(their houses)
 a szomszédok házai
(the neighbours houses)

As you see, if the possessor is a plurar noun, then the possessed object gets the singular affix, but if the possessor is the P/3 personal pronoun (in meaning), then the affix keeps being in plurar, but the personal pronoun becomes S/3 (in appearance). This is very consistent with the logic of the Hungarian language according to what we don’t say things twice or unnececcarily.

Example for the usage of the short- and long forms

In case of the following sentence, the emphasized word is expensive, so we don’t use the long form:

  • Drága volt az autóm. = My car was expensive.

In case of the following sentence, the emphasized word is my, so we use the long form: (for example someone accidentally tries to open your car in the parking lot instead of their one)

  • Elnézést, de az az én autóm. = Exuse me, but that’s my car.
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