Omitting Or Not Omitting? That Is The Question.


WHAT’S THE POINT OF OMITTING DATIVE AND ACCUSATIVE PRONOUNS?

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?

OR

Elmondasz neki mindent? Will you tell him everything?

Despite all these explanations above, remember this:

IT IS NOT MANDATORY TO OMIT THE ACCUSATIVE AND DATIVE PRONOUNS. IT IS YOUR CHOICE.

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

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