2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

It’s Santa’s Time Once Again

Hi, everyone!

I know I neglected the blog a little bit due to time issues. I want to change that next year and I hope you’ll still be with me.

Despite all that, thank you very much for visiting and following my blog.

Hoping that the year 2015 will be at least as good as 2014,

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

wp_fa_kicsi

Problems with Verbal Prefixes (or Coverbs)

GOOD ADVICE IN ADVANCE: knowing when to choose a verbal prefix and which to choose requires a knowledge of the shades of meanings Hungarian verbs can have.

1. In the present tense verbal prefixes (coverbs) can add shades to the verb. These shades can be direction and perfectivity in the future.

NOTE! The general rule is that Hungarian verbs without verbal prefixes have a continous aspect in any tense and mode.

– DIRECTION:

Megyek a pincébe. <> Lemegyek a pincébe.
I’m going to the cellar. <> I’m going down to the cellar.

Sétálunk a parkban. <> Kisétálunk a parkba.
We’re walking in the park. <> We’re walking out to the park.

Ugrál az ágyon. <> Felugrál az ágyra.
He’s jumping on the bed. <> He keeps jumping up to the bed.

– PERFECTIVITY IN THE FUTURE:

a)

Megyek a boltba. <> Elmegyek a boltba.
I’m going to the shop. <> I’m going to the shop./I’ll go to the shop.

Megyek a boltba expresses a continous aspect. I’m going to the shop right now as I’m talking. Elmegyek a boltba refers to the direction el-away because the shop is farther away from where I am now and to the perfectivity in the future because I expressed the wish of going to the shop. That’s where I will be sometime in the future. It can also express a promise (I’ll go).

Elmegyek a boltba > és mikor befejeztem az odamenetelt, vagyis megérkeztem, ott leszek.
I’m going to the shop > and when I stopped going to that place, that is I have arrived, I will be there.

You see there is no equivalent of the verbal prefix el in the English sentence because it simply expresses completion and in this case it does not have the meaning equivalent to away.

As you can see, if verbal prefixes indicating a direction are attached to verbs expressing motion, the indication of direction is implied even though the point is perfecitivity.

b)

Nézem a műsort. <> Megnézem a műsort.
I’m watching the show. <> I’ll watch the show.

Nézem a műsort expresses a continous aspect. I’m watching the show right now as I’m talking. Megnézem a műsort cannot refer to any direction as watching something has no direction. That’s why meg- is used and not el-. It definitely refers to the future because as you can see the English sentence changed, too. Hungarian uses present tense with the aspect of completion expressed by meg-, which is expressed in English by Simple Future Tense (I’ll watch).

2. What happens to this phenomenon in the past tense?

Well, it is clearer because the Hungarian past tense can only refer to the past tense (in contrast with the present tense with the sense of future actions). That is proved by the English sentences, too.

a)

Mentem a boltba. <> Elmentem a boltba.
I was going to the shop. <> I went to the shop.

Mentem a boltba expresses a continous aspect. I was going to the shop right at the moment as Iwas talking. Elmentem a boltba refers to the direction el-away because the shop was farther away from where I was then and to the perfectivity in the past because I stated the fact that I went to the shop. That’s where I was in the past. An action that happened once: I went to the shop and I was there. End of story.

b)

Néztem a műsort. <> Megnéztem a műsort.
I was watching the show. <> I watched the show.

Néztem a műsort expresses a continous aspect. I was watching the show right at the moment as I was talking. Megnéztem a műsort cannot refer to any direction as watching something has no direction. That’s why meg- is used and not el-. It definitely refers to the past because as you can see the English sentence changed, too. Hungarian uses past tense with the aspect of completion expressed by meg-, which is expressed in English by Simple Past Tense (I watched).

3. Generally speaking, any verbal prefix can be used to express completion if a certain direction is implied.

a)

Jövök a kirándulásról. <> Visszajövök a kirándulásról.
I’m coming from the excursion. <> I’m coming back/I’ll come back from the excursion.
Jöttem a kirándulásról. <> Visszajöttem a kirándulásról.
I was coming from the excursion. <> I came back from the excursion.

Mutatjuk a grafikont. <> mutatunk a grafikonra.
We’re showing the diagram. <> We’re pointing at the diagram.
Mutattuk a grafikont. <> mutattunk a grafikonra.
We were showing the diagram. <> We pointed at the diagram.

True enough, Rámutattunk a grafikonra can also mean We were pointing at the diagram as Hungarian does not have specifically a different time for continuous past tense. In this case it is the context that matters.

Rámutattunk a grafikonra és mindenki odanézett.
We pointed at the diagram and all looked at it.

Rámutattunk a grafikonra, miközben mindenki odanézett.
We were pointing at the diagram while all were looking at it.

And that’s where there can be a little bit more confusion because rámutattunk indicates a direction and completion at the same time. The form megmutat exist just as well, with no sense of direction. Let’s see the difference:

Mutattuk a grafikont. – We were showing the diagram.
Megmutattuk a grafikont. – We showed the diagram.
Rámutattunk a grafikonra. – We pointed at the diagram.

Not only a different verbal prefix, but a different meaning, too. That different meaning can be seen in English as it uses a different verb for it (point and not show). Plus, the English preposition at expresses the Hungarian rá- requiring the postposition -ra meaning onto. Literally: We pointed at onto the diagram.

b) Verbs that don’t express motion take meg-, el-. Despite the fact that el- means away, it has a neutral meaning of completion just like meg-. It is also a question of memorizing such verbs.

Verbs with no aspect of motion:

Megláttam a lányt az utcán. – I noticed the girl in the street.
Megérezte, hogy baj lesz. – He had a feeling that there would be trouble.
Megköszönték a vendéglátást. – They said thank you for the hospitality.

Elkezdett hadarni. – She started jabbering.
Elmondtuk, hogyan történt. – We told how it had happened.
Elvégeztem a feladatot. – I finished/completed the task.

c) There are verbs with no aspect of motion that can have both meg- and el- for expressing completion with apparently no change in the meaning.

Elmondtuk, hogyan történt. – We told how it has happened.
Megmondtuk, mit tegyél. – We told you what to do.

Elkezdtem írni. – I started writing.
Megkezdtem az írást. – I started writing.
>In this case both sentences mean the same, but take a different part of speech (first verb, second noun). The first sentence is used in 99% of the cases.

Sometimes it is a matter of choosing like above, other times it is about an idiomatic expression.

Megmondtuk az igazat. – We told the truth. (a while ago)

4. What if we separate the verbal prefix from the verb and make it follow the verb?

Let’s see an example:

Megyek a padlásra. – I’m going to the attic.
Felmegyek a padlásra. – I’m going up to the attic./I’ll go up to the attic.
Megyek fel a padlásra. – I’m going up the the attic.

So what’s the difference between Megyek a padlásra and Megyek fel a padlásra? The fundamental rule of continuity is definitely there. Verbs with no verbal prefixes have a continuous aspect. So why then Megyek fel is continuous? Because it is more the emphatic sense the speaker wants to express then a grammatical rule.

An example for present tense whe the action is more important:

-Mit csináltok? –Sétálunk ki a piacra.
-What are you doing? -We’re walking (out) to the market
-Azt hittem, kocsival mentek. -Nem. Mondom, hogy sétálunk ki a piacra.
-I thought you’d go by car. -No. I’m telling you we’re walking to the market.

Sometimes Hungarian uses present tense to tell a story that happened in the past.You can use this when you think the action is really important. Watch this:

“Úgy döntöttem, hogy szombaton rendet teszek a padláson. Végül is semmi dolgom nem volt. A pincét is ki kellett volna takarítani, de ahhoz két hétvége sem lenne elég. Na mindegy. Megyek fel a padlásra, amikor zajt hallok fentről. Kinyitom a padlásajtót. Hát nem egy rusnya macska rohangál fent!”

Here’s the translation:

“I decided to tidy the attic up on Saturday. After all, I had nothing to do. The cellar should’ve been done, too, but even two weekends wouldn’t be enough for that. Whatever. I’m going up to the attic when I hear some noise. I open the attic door. And, of course, it is an ugly cat running around up there!”

The speaker wanted to put emphasis on the action as he/she was going up to the attic. Some more examples:

Indulok ki a garázsból, amikor elém áll a szomszéd és…
I’m about to leave the garage when the neighbour stands in front of me and…

Mondom neki, hogy hallgasson, de ő csak kiabál vissza nekem.
I keep telling him to be quiet, but all he’s doing is shouting back to me.

Egy csomó autó várt a zöld lámpára, a pasas meg csak fordul be a kereszteződésbe.
There were lots of cars waiting for the green light, but the guy just keeps turning in the junction.

5. Change in the meaning.

Verbs with no aspect of motion can still be given a direction. The meaning may change or not. It is a matter of memorization.

A fiú virágot ad a lánynak.
The boy gives a flower to the girl.

A fiú odaadja a virágot a lánynak.
The boy gives the flower to the girl.
>It means the same, but oda- emphasizes the direction (to the girl).

A lány visszaadja a virágot.
The girl gives the flower back.

A fiú feladja.
The boy gives up.

Verbs with an aspect of motion can be given a direction, too. The meaning may change or not. It is a matter of memorization.

A fiú fut a lányhoz.
The boy is running to the girl.

A fiú odafut a lányhoz.
The boy is running up to the girl.

A lány elfut a fiútól és befut a házba.
The girl is running away from the boy and is running in the house.

A lány összefut egy másik fiúval a házban.
The girl runs into another boy in the house.

A lány visszafut, ahol még várja az első fiú.
The girl is running back where the first boy is still waiting for her.

A lány átfut a hídon, de a másik oldalon is mindenhol fiúkat lát.
The girl is running over the bridge, but all she can see on the other side is boys.

A lány már össze-vissza/oda-vissza fut az üldözői elől.
The girl is now running around/back and forth from her pursuers.

6. Everyday conversation.

– Hoznál tejfölt? (-Would you bring some sour cream?)
– Igen, hoznék. (-Yes, I would.)
– Akkor menj el a boltba. (-Then go to the shop.)

A fiú felöltözött és kilépett az ajtón, amikor visszakiabált:
(The boy put on his clothes and stepped outside when he shouted back:)

– Mentem! (-I’m gone.)

You don’t see elmentem. Because both members of this conversation knew the context. Obviously, the boy didn’t want to talk about the continuity while he was going somewhere.

Of course, the correct way of saying is Elmentem! It is just a quick note for you to be aware of this, too.

After all, everyday language doesn’t abide by the grammar book. Just think of writing on a piece of paper GONE SHOPPING. It has quite the same feeling.

The ambiguity of the definite conjugation

The advantage the definite conjugation guarantees us, that is concision and short phraseology, is the disadvantage at the same time.

Here we have a simple dialogue:

-Látod? -Igen, látom.
-Can you see it? -Yes, I can see it.

With no context, it is not possible to tell what we refer to. It is because the definite form ’látom’ can refer to the following:

Látom azt
azokat
őt
őket
magát
magukat
önt
önöket
I can see it
those
him/her
them
you-sing. polite
you-plur. polite
you-sing. polite
you-plur. polite

So who or what exactly do we refer to in the dialogue? The answer is: we don’t know until we give it a context. That is why I translated ’látod’ and ’látom’ with the pronoun ’it’. In Hungarian there is no distinction between genders. That can cause problems when you have to translate sentences without any context.

In excercises for Hungarian students references are given: Látom őt. – I can see ____ (girl). That is how the students know that they have to write the pronoun ’her’.

Now back to our example. We need a context.

-Nézd! Ott van egy csinos lány. Látod? -Igen, látom.
-Look. There’s a pretty girl over there. Can you see her? -Yes, I can see her.

Here I’ll enumerate the possibilities for you with ’lát-see’ in definite conjugation:

Látom azt, azokat
őt, őket
magát, magukat
önt, önöket
magamat
magunkat
I can see it, those
him/her, them
you (polite)
you (polite)
myself
ourselves
Látod azt, azokat
őt, őket
magadat
magatokat
You can see it, those
him/her, them
yourself
yourselves
Látja azt, azokat
őt, őket
magát, magukat
önt, önöket
magát
magukat
He can see
She can see
it, those
him/her, them
you (polite)
you (polite)
him/herself
themselves
Látjuk azt, azokat
őt, őket
magát, magukat
önt, önöket
magunkat
We can see it, those
him/her, them
you (polite)
you (polite)
ourselves
Látjátok azt, azokat
őt, őket
magatokat
You can see it, those
him/her, them
yourselves
Látják azt, azokat
őt, őket
magát, magukat
önt, önöket
magukat
They can see it, those
him/her, them
you (polite)
you (polite)
themselves

As you can see, I wrote ’magát, magukat’ twice where it is possible because these pronouns are different in English. In Hungarian they can be personal pronouns expressing politeness. In this case they are equivalent to ’you, sir/madam…’. They can also be reflexive pronouns meaning …self (himself, themselves…).