Word Order

Grammar again for this one entry. I want to help you form correct sentences by telling you about a little trick. It’s about Subject + Verb + Object/Adverb.

The English word order is: SVO or SVA

The standard Hungarian word order is: SOV or SAV > Obviously the verb goes to the end of the sentence because the object or the adverb precedes it. This is not topic-prominent aspect! This is the usual word order when saying sentences like this:

Dávid újságot olvas. (> újságot = object)
David is reading a newspaper.

Az elnök beszédet mond. (> beszédet = object)
The president delivers a speech.

Az osztály Londonba megy. (> Londonba = adverb of place)
The class is going to London.

A rendezvény holnap kezdődik. (> holnap = adverb of time)
The program starts tomorrow.

A csapat jól dolgozik. (> jól = adverb of manner)
The team is working well.

I hope I helped you a little bit. Next time we’ll get down to vocabulary, going through several topics like: BODY, FAMILY, HOUSE, SHOPPING, TRAVEL and so on. Not only have I been planning to do this for a long time (but first I wanted to cover the grammar part), but also visitors suggested that this is ‘proper’ way to continue. 🙂

See ya!

Word Order – Verbal Prefix


You already know this:

1. The verbal prefix precedes the verb and is written together with it in normal / general statements.

Felkelek. – I get up.
Megesszük a levest. – We eat up the soup.
Kitakarítják a szobát. – They tidy up the room.

2. The verbal prefix follows the verb and is written separately from it in imperative mood, negation.

Keljek fel? – Shall I get up?
Nem kelek fel? – I won’t get up

Együk meg a levest! – Let’s eat up the soup.
Nem esszük meg a levest. – We won’t eat up the soup.

Takarítsák ki a szobát! – They’d better tidy up the room.
Nem takarítják ki a szobát! – They won’t tidy up the room.

3. The verbal prefix is written separately from the verb if a third word is inserted between them.

Fel akarok kelni. – I want to get up.
Meg kell ennünk a levest. – We must eat up the soup.
Ki tudják takarítani a szobát. – They can tidy up the room.

What you don’t know (yet) is that certain expressions require the verbal prefix to behave like in imperative mood and negation. These are expressions with contrasted / excluding / negative meaning. Examples:

alig, aligha, kevésbé, nem annyira, kevesen, nem sokan, nehezen, ritkán, csak, csupán, mindössze, kizárólag

Alig néztél bele a könyvbe. – You hardly looked into the book.
Nem annyira eszem meg a spenótot. – I don’t really like spinach.
Kevésmondja meg az életkorát. – Few women tell their age.
Nehezen írok le ilyesmit. – It’s difficult for me to write down such things.
Csak ketten jöttek el. – There were only two people.


Word Order – Double Question

So this time it’s about DOUBLE QUESTION. At least in Hungarian. Take a look at this to understand what I mean:

Mit mondtál, hova megy?
Where did you say he’s going?

First let’s translate the Hungarian sentence literally:

What did you say, where is he going? 

As you see there are two question words Mit? (What?) and Hova? (Where?), while the English sentence is satisfied with one question word Where?

That would be the rule: If you ask what a person said/heard… about a second person and you’re interested in what the second person does, you need two question words in Hungarian. The first question is usually: Mit? Hogy? Note that Mit? is accusative case.

More examples with literal translations:

Mit mondtak, mikor érkezünk meg?
When did they say we’ll arrive?
What did they say, when will we arrive?

Mit gondolsz, ki vagy te?
Who do you think you are?
What do you think, who are you?

Mit hallottál, hogyan halt meg a nő?
How did you hear the woman died?
What did you hear, how did the woman die?

Hogy mondtátok, mit követtem el?
What did you say I committed?
How/What did you say, what did I commit?

Mit hittél, honnan került elő?
Where did you think he came up from?
What did you believe, where did he come up from?

Mit mondott, milyen színű a ház?
What color did he say the house is?
What did he say, what color is the house?

Mit képzeltél, melyik felnőtt bárba engednek be?
Which adult bar did you think they’ll let you in?
What did you think, which adult bar will they let you in?

Mit láttak, kinek adta a tolvaj a szajrét?
Who did they see the thief gave the swag to?
What did they see, who did the thief give the swag?

Of course, a language always offers mor possibilities to express something in a different way. The sentences above can be said like this with no double question:

Mikorra mondták, hogy megérkezünk?
Kinek gondolod magad?
Hogy hallottad, hogy a nő meghalt?
Mit mondtatok, hogy elkövettem?
Honnan hitted, hogy előkerült?
Milyen színűnek mondta a házat?
Melyik felnőtt bárba képzelte, hogy beengedik?
Kinek láttad, hogy a tolvaj átadja a szajrét?

If you take my advice, you should use Kinek gondolod magad? without hesitation. However, even if the other sentences are valid, the ones with double questions sound more like Hungarian. Just like English sentences with one question sound more like English, if you see what I mean.

All right. The next topic will be NEGATION. See ya! 🙂

Word Order – With And Without Question Words


If there is a question word, it’s easy to see we have to deal with a question :). You don’t even need to rise your voice. The word order doesn’t change.

Mit főzöl? -Pörköltet (főzök).
What are you cooking? -(I’m cooking) stew.

Miért nem voltál a bulin? -Mert beteg voltam.
Why weren’t you at the party? -Because I was ill.

Let’s see these sentences without question words:

-Főzöl? -Igen, (főzök).
-Are you cooking? -Yes, I am (cooking).

-Nem voltál a bulin? -Nem, (nem voltam).
-Weren’t you at the party? -No, I wasn’t.

As you see, all you have to do is to put the question word at the beginning of the sentence. Without a question word, it is a yes or no sentence.

If the question word is ’embedded’ in a sentence, English uses direct word order again! Hungarian doesn’t deal with this because there is no inversion for the sake of a question in the first place.

Hány embert láttál a bankban?
How many people did you see in the bank?

Mondd el, hány embert láttál a bankban!
Tell me how many people you saw in the bank.

Next time we’ll take a look at the question words for one more time and we learn how to form questions like these:

Where did you say he went?
Who do you think you are?

Why are these kind of questions worth of more explanation? You’ll see next time. Bye! 🙂

Word Order – Unalterable Rules


The definite/indefinite articles precede the noun:
a vaj – the butter
az iskola – the school
egy lány – a girl

The demonstrative pronouns ez, az are followed by the definite articles a, az in constructions like:
ez a ház – this house
az az ember – that man

Adverbs of manner usually precede the verb they refer to:
Vidáman futkos. – It’s running happily.
Kiválóan énekel. – She’s excellent at singing.
Literally: She sings excellently.

Adverbs of state/condition take a position at the beginning of the sentence:
Nyilván nem jön. – Obviously he won’t come.
Összességében jó gyerek. – All in all, he’s a good child.

The negative word nem precedes the word it refers to:
Nem tudom. – I don’t know
Ő nem a könyvet olvassa. – He’s not reading the book.

The conjunctions is, se follow the word they refer to:
én is/én seme too/me neither

Accusative and dative pronouns follow the verb if unstressed:
Látom őt. – I see him.
Adok neki egy könyvet. – I give him a book.

Accusative and dative pronouns precede the verb if stressed:
Őt látom. – I see him (not them).
Neki adok egy könyvet. – I give him a book (not them).

Dative pronouns precede impersonal verbs and impersonal contructions (kell, szabad, könnyű, lehetetlen…), but are not mandatory to say:
(Nekem) fel kell kelnem. – I must get up.
(Neked) tilos oda menned.You must not go over there.
(Nekik) könnyű hazudni. – It’s easy for them to lie.

Word Order – Rearranging


Now let’s create a longer sentence with adverbs and things like that, and see how many ways there are to rearrange it in order to suit our need for emphasis. We won’t go through all possibilities. That’s impossible! English uses verbal stress on more important parts of the sentence or there’s another solution: it is…that… I also indicate the words of primary and secondary importance.

Az egér vidáman futkos a padláson egész nap.
The mouse is running happily on the loft all day.

Az egér a padláson futkos vidáman egész nap.
The mouse is running happily on the loft all day.

Az egér futkos a padláson vidáman egész nap.
The mouse is running happily on the loft all day.

Az egér egész nap a padláson futkos vidáman.
The mouse is running happily on the loft all day.

More rearranging:

Vidáman futkos az egér a padláson egész nap.
It is a happy way the mouse is running on the loft all day.

Egész nap vidáman futkos az egér a padláson.
It is all day that the mouse is running happily on the loft.

A padláson futkos vidáman az egér egész nap.
It is the loft where the mouse is running happily all day.

Futkos vidáman az egér a padláson egész nap.
It is running what the mouse is doing happily on the loft all day.

You see there’s actually not much you can mess up in a Hungarian sentence. If you put a word somewhere else, that alone doesn’t make the sentence unintelligible. However, that doesn’t mean there are no rules. So far we’ve been talking about the topic prominent point of view, not rules! And what are the rules? Basically, the same rules any other language has in a way or another.

These are rules you can’t change under any condition!

We’ll discuss them in the next entry. But now let’s see another sentence.

The boy is embracing the girl slowly.

A fiú lassan átkarolja a lányt.
A fiú átkarolja lassan a lányt.
A fiú átkarolja a lányt lassan.
A lányt átkarolja lassan a fiú.
A lányt lassan átkarolja  a fiú.
A lányt a fiú lassan átkarolja.
Lassan átkarolja a fiú a lányt.
Lassan karolja át a fiú a lányt!*
Lassan átkarolja a lányt a fiú.
Átkarolja a fiú lassan a lányt.
Átkarolja a lányt lassan a fiú.
Átkarolja lassan a fiú a lányt.
Átkarolja lassan a lányt a fiú.

These sentences are all possibilities for that one English sentence above. What you see in these sentences is NOT RULES. It is topic-prominent aspect meaning you choose how to speak. You think the verb is more important? Put the verb at the beginning of the sentence. You think the adverb lassan/slowly is not really important? Put it at the end of the sentence if you want.

As I said, English uses verbal emphasis or the construction: it is…that/who…

The sentence marked with an * is an exclamation, so the prefix of the phrasal verb goes after the verb.

Word Order – Direct Word Order, Direct Question

I’d like to drop a note right here at the beginning. You surely know that certain types of word order are described for each language. For example, English is a SVO language. Japanese is SOV. Now what category does Hungarian belong to? Generally speaking one might say that Hungarian is an SVO, an SOV and also OVS language. The problem with Hungarian is that you can’t really put it in a drawer with a label saying: This is a language like this or a language like that.

If Ireally want to be honest to you, I should say this:


In fact, Hungarian sentences are influenced by the information itself and not by a syntactical rule. It means that, theoretically, you can begin and finish the sentence with any part of speech. Of course, there unalterable rules like: adjectives precede nouns, articles precede nouns, and so on…

So basically there is no strict word order. While English has to put words in a specific order to express the right thing, Hungarian gives a damn to Germanic sentence structure and could be rather parallelled with the Indo-European word order. Don’t take this Indo-European thing literally! I’m just trying to say that the Hungarian word order is way looser than anything you know. Yeah, that’s what the topic-prominent aspect gives you: Headache! 🙂

Let’s get started with some basic rules about creating sentences. There are rules in spite of the freedom for expressing yourself.


S = subject; V = verb; O = object; A = adverb

Let’s pretend there is a usual formula for standard Hungarian sentences:

SVO or SOV or SAV or AVS

These possibilities include the topic-prominent aspect already. See some examples for them:

SVO: Péter nézi a tévét. – Peter is watching tv.
SOV: Péter tévét néz. – Peter is watching tv.
SAV: Péter Londonba megy. – Peter is going to London.

It would be quite difficult to explain the difference between the first two sentences. Actually, both mean the same thing without emphasing anything. It is because ’tévét néz’ is an expression used like you see it. However, if I say ’a tévét nézi’, adding the definite article to it, that’s an emphasis on ’a tévét’. He’s watching tv and not something else.

The third sentence could be rearranged like this:

Londonba megy Péter.

You see the subject goes to the end of the sentence! Now it is more important that Peter is going specifically to London (not somewhere else), than the subject (Peter) itself.

You could put emphasis on the verb, too:

Megy Péter Londonba, nem úszik.
Peter is going to London and not swimming!


That is correct. If you can form a valid Hungarian sentence in an indicative way, you’ve already created the interrogative sentence, too. How’s that possible? It’s simple. Hungarian does not change word order for such interrogative sentences. Expressing your will of asking or stating something is indicated by your intonation. Intonation for questions wants the speakers to rise their voice a little bit. That’s how we do it!

S+V+O: -Péter nézi a tévét? –Igen.
-Is Peter watching tv? –Yes, he is.

S+O+V: -Péter tévét néz? –Nem.
-Is Peter watching tv? –No, he isn’t.

S+A+V: -Péter Londonba megy? –Talán.
-Is Peter going to London? –Maybe.

It’s the same sentence structure. The difference in the writing is the question mark replacing the period. For Hungarian people it’s all the same! 🙂 

More next time. See ya!