Lesson Four: Using Verbs
Page last updated December 7, 1997.
For all nouns, the accusative suffix (see below) is given in parentheses
ház (-at) - house
There are a lot of sample sentences given in the grammar section:
ismer - to know (to be acquainted with, French 'connaitre',
küld - to send
olvas - to read
könyv (-et) - book
szeret - to like, love
valami (-t) - something
gulyás (-t) - goulash (Hungarian stew)
akar - to want
kér - to ask for, to want (polite)
kérek/kérem - please (literally, 'I ask for')
In the following table, only forms which differ from a regular front verb
are in boldface:
A direct object is the receiver of the action of a verb. 'Cake' is the
object in the sentence 'I eat the cake' and 'me' is the object in the
sentence 'he likes me'. A verb which can take a direct object is
called a transitive verb. Some verbs like 'be', 'go' and 'live' are
unable to take direct objects. These are called intransitive
verbs. In English, we can identify the direct object by word order.
The sentences 'Mike likes Jane' and 'Jane likes Mike' contain the same
words but are different because of the order in which they appear. In
Hungarian word order is flexible and the direct object is recognizable by
a suffix -t. This is called the accusative suffix. Many
words ending in a consonant need a link vowel before the suffix, e
words and most often o but sometimes a for back words. For
words ending in vowels, often the final vowel is lengthened. This sounds
tricky and it kind of is, so don't worry too much about the link vowel,
the important part is the -t.
Just try to learn each form as you come across it, and eventually you
will get a feel for it. Look at the following sentences:
Látok egy házat.
I see a house.
Ismerek egy pincért
I know a waiter.
I am studying Hungarian.
Note: this means I am studying a Hungarian lesson (or something), for
general sense of 'I study Hungarian', most likely magyarul would be
Mit olvasol? (remember -sz becomes -l after stems ending in s,sz,z)
What are you reading?
There will be more examples with the accusative suffix
following the next grammar section.
Indefinite and Definite Verb Conjugations
In Hungarian there are two types of verb conjugation for each tense. Last
lesson you were presented with the indefinite and in this lesson
you will learn the definite. This is an essential part of
Hungarian grammar and it may seem difficult at the beginning. Here are
the basic rules just to give you an idea of what we are dealing with
The indefinite conjugation is used when:
1. The verb is intransitive (incapable of taking a direct object).
The definite conjugation is used when:
2. The object of the transitive verb is indefinite (something general,
the indefinite article egy). Also when there is no object as in the
sentence 'Now I am reading'.
3. The object of the verb is a 1st or 2nd person, e.g. 'they like you', 'you
like me'. It is not necessary to state the 1st or 2nd person object, the
use of the indefinite is enough (see samples below).
1. The object of the transitive verb is definite (preceded by the
article 'a, az'; a personal or place name)
Take at look at some English examples to help get a better understanding:
2. The object of the verb is a 3rd person, e.g. 'I like him', 'We
understand it', They like you (formal). Again it is not necessary to
use the object, the use of the definite conjugation implies it.
|Indefinite Sentences ||Definite Sentences|
|I eat a cake. ||I am eating the cake.|
|I am going to the store. ||I like the movie.|
|We ran today. ||You understood the question.|
|Did you buy something? ||He gave the gift to John.|
|What did you do? ||I know Eva.|
|He likes me. ||She likes him.|
|I live in Philadelphia. ||Do you understand? (implied 'it')
The Definite Conjugation
Here are the suffixes for the definite
conjugation in the present tense, followed by the conjugations of the
back verb tud and the front verbs ért and küld
||-om, -em, -öm
||-od, -ed, -öd
tudni - to know
érteni - to understand
Sample sentences using both indefinite and definite verbs: (Pay close
küldeni - to send
1. For verb stems ending in -s, -sz, or -z with any
suffix beginning with the letter j, the j is dropped and the
final consonant of the stem is doubled. Remember, sz becomes
ssz when doubled. Here is the back verb olvasni 'to read'
with the exceptional forms in bold: olvasom, olvasod, olvassa,
olvassuk, olvassátok, olvassák.
2. For -ik verbs, the -ik suffix is dropped from the stem in all
forms of the definite conjugation.
Olvasni szeretek. (indef.)
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I like to read
Szeretem a könyvet. (def.)
I like the book.
Ez a pincér ismeri a no"t. (def.)
This waiter knows the woman.
Nem értem. (def.)
I don't understand (it).
Do you understand me (or us)?
Egy házat akarok. (indef.)
I want a house.
A gulyást kérem. (def.)
I'd like (I ask for) the goulash. Also: The goulash, please.
Ismerem Rómát. (def.)
I know Rome.
Tanul magyarul? (indef.)
Does he study Hungarian?
Ismered a nyelvet? Igen, ismerem. (def., def.)
Do you know (Are you familiar with) the language? Yes, I know it (Yes, I
Hol dolgoztok? (indef.)
Where do you (plural) work?
Laci szeret. (indef.)
Laci loves me OR us OR you.
Note: In cases like this, context will usually make it clear.
Translate the following sentences into English:
1. Jó reggelt, mit olvasol?
Translate the following into Hungarian:
2. Szeretem a magyar nyelvet.
3. Hol tanulnak?
4. Én ismerem Évát, de o" nem ismer. (Note use of personal pronouns for
5. Látsz egy asztalt? Ülni akarok.
6. I would like (want) to speak Hungarian.
Click here for the answers.
7. Do you see the woman there?
8. This house is very pretty.
9. Where is the restaurant? I don't see it.
10. We live in the city.
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