Vocabulary – used to and koromban


English has a simple method to express an event that happened long ago: used to. Hungarian, in turn, uses several adverbs of time to express such events:

régen long ago, a long time ago
azelőtt earlier, in the past
valaha once

These adverbs require the verb to be in the past tense.

Régen sokat jártunk a parkba.
We used to go to the park a lot.

Azelőtt mindig húst ettek vasárnap.
They used to eat meat for lunch on Sunday.

Valaha kívülről tudtam, hogy kell írni a japán Hiragana jeleket.
I used to know by heart how to write the Japanese Hiragana signs.

You can talk about a certain period of your life, too. Examples:

gyerek koromban when I was a child
iskolás koromban when I was a student

Gyerek koromban gyakran ettem édességet.
When I was a child, I often ate sweets.

Idős korában már nem hallott túl jól.
When he got older, his hearing was not too good.

So the scheme is:

gyerek, iskolás, felnőtt, idős
koromban (when I was a child, a student, an adult, old)
korodban (when you were…)
korában (when he/she was…)
korunkban (when we were…)
korotokban (when you were…)
korukban (when they were…)

Of course, the noun kor (age) is fitted with the possessive endings as you see above and the suffix -ban is added.

Suffixes -ít -ul, -ül (make get)

-ÍT vs. -UL, -ÜL

The difference between these suffixes is that –ít expresses an action that has an effect on someone/something, but –ul, -ül refer back to the person like –ik verbs.

You can depend on these English verbs: make, get. Take a look at this:

javít to make better <> javul to get better 

The suffix –ít can be parallel with make and –ul, -ül with get.

More examples:

tanít to teach <> tanul to learn, to study
alakít to form <> alakul to take shape
szorít to press <> szorul to get pressed/squeezed
terít to spread out; to lay <> terül to be situated; to lie
merít to dip, to plunge <> merül to dive, to submerge
lazít to loosen <> lazul to loosen, to get loose
szorít to press <> szorul to get pressed/squeezed
hevít to heat <> hevül to get heated
mozdít to move; to get sg to move <> mozdul to move, to get moving
békít to conciliate <> békül to reconcile oneself
megrendít to stagger; to shake <> megrendül to shake, to be shocked
ámít to delude <> ámul to marvel
készít to prepare, to make <> készül to prepare, to be made

A tanár tanít. – The teacher teaches.
A diák tanul. – The student learns/studies.

Kisujját sem mozdítja. – He never stirrs a finger.
A kutya nem mozdul. – The dog won’t move.

A politikusok csak ámítanak. – Politicians delude us.
A nézők ámulnak a filmen. – The viewers marvel at the movie.

Omitting Or Not Omitting? That Is The Question.


The very first reason the definite conjugation developed is not the fact that Hungarian people were eager to refer to specific/definite objects with a different conjugation type. The reason the definite conjugation survived the language reforms is: COMPRESSION.

Compressing the meaning of the direct object makes sentences shorter and allows to express nuances, as well as the use of the accusative and dative pronouns (may) become obsolete.

Take a look at how other languages form the following sentence:

English: I write you a letter.
German: Ich schreibe dir einen Brief.
Italian: Ti scrivo una lettera.
Spanish: Te escribo una letra.

It is the same pattern. Either you need two pronouns (English, German) or you need one pronoun and you conjugate the verb (Italian, Spanish). The point is that you always form sentences of this kind in these languages.

What is the Hungarian translation?

Hungarian: Írok neked egy levelet. OR Írok egy levelet.

If you know who you’re talking about, you can omit the dative pronoun neked. Let’s say we’re in this situation:

You’re walking on the street and you meet an old friend.

You: I haven’t seen you for ages.
Friend: I know. It’s been a long time since high-school.
You: We really should meet sometime.
Friend: Yes, we should. I’ll give you my address.
You: Then I’ll write you a letter and we’ll see the rest.

(Of course, nowadays you would write an e-mail or make a call, but that doesn’t matter now.)

So we have this conversation where it is obvious who’s talking to who and who’s giving the address / writing a letter to who. English can’t make it in a different way, it uses the personal pronoun I and the indirect pronoun (dative pronoun) you actually meaning to you.

And that’s when Hungarian says ’BULLSHIT!’ Why should I refer to someone if I know exactly who the talk is about? So I just forget about the fact that dative pronouns even exist because I write a letter to you and I give my address to you, obviously.

How does the conversation above sound in Hungarian?

Te: Ezer éve nem láttalak.
Barát: Tudom, sok idő telt el a gimi óta.
Te: Találkozhatnánk egyszer.
Barát: Igen, tényleg. Megadom a címemet.
Te: Én meg írok egy levelet, a többit meg majd meglátjuk.

Wait a sec! You can omit dative (and accusative) pronouns with indefinite conjugation, as well? Sure you can. That’s the beauty of the Hungarian language.

Take a look at the English sentences if we omit the pronouns. Is the text understandable anyway?

You: I haven’t seen you for ages.
Friend: I know. It’s been a long time since high-school.
You: We really should meet sometime.
Friend: Yes, we should. I’ll give my address.
You: Then I’ll write a letter and we’ll see the rest.

YES, IT IS! It might sound strange like that, but everything is understandable from the context.

And this phenomenon works for all numbers and persons, not just for the I-you relation. Nevertheless, you need to have a context giving you a hint who or what the talk is about. With no context, that’s what we get:

Elmondod? Will you tell?

Tell? Who should I tell? There is no context whatsoever for me to deduce who I should tell. However, it is already unambiguous what I should tell. That’s why the definite conjugation is used. You could complete the question like this:

Elmondod azt? Will you tell about that?

But you don’t need to. The definite conjugation already refers to azt. What we don’t know is who the person is we should tell. It’s impossible to figure out with no context. Let’s give it a context.

Girl1: I cheated on my boyfriend last night?
Girl2: Will you tell him (about that)?

Lány1: Tegnap este megcsaltam a barátomat.
Lány2: Elmondod neki (azt)?

So she should tell HIM = NEKI. And now that there’s a context, we don’t need neki.

Elmondod? Will you tell him?

What if I ask ’Will you tell him everything?’ Then you use indefinite conjugation because everyhing = minden is an indefinite numeral.

Elmondasz mindent? Will you tell him everything?


Elmondasz neki mindent? Will you tell him everything?

Despite all these explanations above, remember this:


But sometimes omitting them definitely makes the conversation ’more Hungarian’.

Vocabulary – Same Adjective, Different Meaning Part 2

sima felület – smooth surface
sima ügy >figurative sense: smooth sailing

gyenge ember – weak man
gyenge egészség – poor health

könnyű / nehéz bőrönd – light / heavy suitcase
könnyű / nehéz feladat – easy / difficult task

alap = basis, base, foundation > this word is a noun, but can be used as adjective and then it is written together with the word it modifies.

alapműveltség – basic education
alapelv – fundamental principles

Vocabulary – Same Adjective, Different Meaning Part 1


nagy ember – tall man
nagy ember – great man
nagy ház – big house

kis ember – short man
kisember – common man (>written together)

vékony lány – slender girl
vékony fal – thin wall
vékony hang – high voice

ritka állat – rare animal
ritka erdő – thin forest

borús ég – cloudy sky
borús kilátások – gloomy prospects

érdes felület – rough, uneven surface
érdes hang – raucous voice

lapos tető – flat roof
lapos előadás – dull performance

finom étel – tasty meal
finom anyag – fine material
finom hölgy – fine lady

élénk gyerek – lively child
élénk szín – bright colour

józan ember – sober man
józanész – common sense (>written together)

erős férfi – strong man
erős paprika – hot pepper
erős jellem – firm character

képzett tanár – educated/trained teacher
képzett szó – derivative (>literally: formed word)

komoly tudós – earnest scientist
komoly kár – heavy damage

enyhe időjárás – mild weather
enyhe kifejezés – understatement (>literally: mild expression)