The Difference Between Definite And Indefinite Conjugation


I’m trying to give you the simplest explanation ever. Here it is:

Definite conjugation: I see the tree. – Látom a fát.

Indefinite conjugation: I see a tree. – Látok egy fát.

The definite conjugation requires verbs conjugated with the definite suffixes, while the indefinite conjugation requires verbs conjugated with the indefinite suffixes. And what’s the difference?

If you talk about a specific/definite thing/person, you conjugate the verb with the definite suffixes. If you talk about an indefinite/unknown thing/person, you conjugate the verb with the indefinite suffixes.

Here’s the key to know when you should use one or the other:

DEFINITE AND INDEFINITE ARTICLES!

Take a look at the definite example: Látom a fát. You see the definite article, which means I see a definite tree. I know exactly what tree I’m talking about.

Take a look at the indefinite example: Látok egy fát. You see the indefinite article, which means I see a tree of some sort. I don’t know what tree it is. I’ve never seen it before.

NOTE! Purely intransitive verbs cannot be conjugated with the definite suffixes. Such verbs express existence or motion: van (to be), megy (to go), jön (to come)…

It is a vital grammatical rule because you can’t avoid using it!

WHAT IF THERE IS NO DEFINITE OR INDEFINITE ARTICLE IN THE SENTENCE?

USE THE INDEFINITE CONJUGATION IN THESE CASES:

– If there is no article at all, apply the indefinite conjugation.

Indefinite numerals and indefinite pronouns also cause the verb to be conjugated with the indefinite suffixes.

– This rule is also visible if the noun is plural: Fákat látok. – I see trees. It is because the indefinite article is not used in the plural. If it is expressed with néhány (some), that’s no problem because it is an indefinite numeral!

USE THE DEFINITE CONJUGATION IN THESE CASES:

The demonstrative pronouns require the verb to be conjugated with the definite suffixes given the fact that those pronouns refer to something specific/definite.

Proper names (John, David, Bugs Bunny…) also need the definite conjugation since names already refer to a specific/definite person.

More examples:

Nézem a lányt. – I‘m watching the girl.
Nézek egy lányt. – I‘m watching a girl.

Azt a lányt nézik. – They‘re watching that girl.
Sok lányt néznek. – They‘re watching a lot of girls.

A fiúkat szereti. – She loves the boys.
Fiúkat szeret. – She loves boys.
Néhány fiút szeret. – She loves some boys.
Sehány fiút nem szeret. – She doesn’t love any boys.

NOTE! The nouns in such sentences are in the accusative case because follow/precede a transitive verb! (Remember the accusative case: Látom a folyót.)

Besides, different pieces of information in a conversation may allude to something determined or undetermined and then the answer has to agree with it.

In the following examples, the stress is on the verb. What is important is whether I’m watching the/a girl or I’m doing something else with her. To makes things simple, I’ll use the Present Simple Tense in English.

-Nézed a lányt? -Igen, nézem (őt).
-Do you watch the girl? -Yes, I watch her.

-Nézel egy lányt? -Igen, nézek (egyet).
-Do you watch a girl? -Yes, I watch one.

Next time, we’ll finally get to how to conjugate verbs. Bye now! 🙂

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4 comments on “The Difference Between Definite And Indefinite Conjugation

  1. dana says:

    very good explanation, thanks.

  2. Mr Happy says:

    I’ve spent days trying to figure out indefinite and definite conjugation. You’ve explained it in minutes:)

    This site is now very much bookmarked.

    Koszi:)

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