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The word 'van', its use, omission and opposite (nincs)


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The word van means is, and in this sense behaves just like one would expect. It serves as the present-tense third-person singular conjugation of "to be", applicable to "he/she" and "it".

However, in many cases it can be omitted, leaving a sentence that apparently contains no verb! This is perfectly legal under certain circumstances which will be detailed here.

Van is also used in possessive constructions in Hungarian, and in that context is means more like "exists." For example, kutyám van literally means "my-dog exists" but generally means "I have a dog". See the main section on Hungarian possession.

Keeping 'van'

We must keep van is under these circumstances:

  • When using an adverb:
    • When mentioning or asking how someone/something is
    • When mentioning or asking where someone/something is
    • When mentioning or asking when something occurs
    • Using an adverbial participle (info)

Some examples of each of these...

  • hogy van Ági? how is Ági?
    • Ági jól van, köszi Ági is well, thanks
  • hol van Ági? where is Ági?
    • Ági mellettem van Ági is next to me
    • itt van Ági here is Ági
  • mikor van ebéd? when is lunch?
    • ebéd 6-órakor van dinner is at 6
  • ez a szoba fútve van. this room is heated

Omitting 'van'

There are several common places we must omit "van." The omission is not optional, it is mandatory. The resulting sentence looks strange to us, because it contains no verb, but the verb is implied.

Luckily, the situation is simple: we omit "van" when stating what something is using an adjective or a noun.

  • Ági diák Ági is (a) student (noun)
  • Ági szép Ági is beautiful (adjective)
  • Daniel angol Daniel is is English (adjective)
  • mi ez? what is this? ((pro)noun)
    • ez kutya this is a dog (noun)

Vannank - the plural of 'van'

In any situation where we keep 'van', and where our sentence is in the plural, we turn 'van' into vannak are.

  • hogy vannak (ő) how are they?
  • jól vannak they are well

Nincs and nincsenek - 'is not' and 'are not'

When used negativly, van's opposite number is nincs. Simiarly, vannak's brother is nincsenek.

  • itt nincs Ági Ági isn't here
  • ott nincs a diák the student is not there
  • ott nincsenek a diákok the students are not there

Again in Hungarian possession, nincs(enek) means "have not got."

See also the section on sincs and sincsenek.


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