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The causative suffix in Hungarian

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In this Hungarian lesson we will see how to express that someing is causing someone to do something. We will turn "I read the book" into "I cause Ági to read the book".

This effect can be as literal as the above, or can create words with a mode everyday meaning. For example, saying, "I caused the baby to eat," is less comman than, "I fed the baby," but the effect is the same (well, so long as you don't add "to the lions" to the latter!).

Endings -at/et and -tat/tet

The endings we apply are -at/et and -tat/tet.

These endings will turn "to do something" into "to make somebody do something".

The choice of endings is governed thus: generally, one-syllable stems get the -at/et ending, and polysyllabic stems get the -tat/tet endings.

Of course, Hungarian vowel harmony then comes into play.

Some examples:

  • mos wash
  • mosat make somebody wash

  • hív call
  • hívat make somebody call

  • olvas read
  • olvastat make somebody read
  • keres seek
  • kerestet make somebody seek

  • öltöz|ik dress (oneself)
  • öltöztet make somebody get dressed, to dress somebody

Conjugation after adding the causative ending

Having added the causative ending, we continue to conjugate as normal based on subject and object. The conjugation of the verb is based upon who is doing the making, not who is doing the action.

Later we will see how to show whom we are making.

  • mosatok I make (somebody) wash
  • hívatsz you make (somebody) call
  • olvastatnak they make (somebody) read

Examples with a single direct object

Lets have a look at some sentences with just a single direct object. Later we'll see some examples with indirect objects.

  • várom őt I await him (I wait for him)
  • váratom őt I make him wait

  • ismerem őt I know him
  • ismertetem őt I make him be known - I introduce him
  • ismertettem őt I introduced him (past tense)

  • kitisztít clean
  • kitisztíttattam a ingomat I had my shirt cleaned

  • csinál make
  • kellett csináltatni egy speciális fényképet I needed to have a special photo made

Who is actually doing the deed? Whom did we make do the deed?

The above shows that we made something happen, and we saw that we made it happen to a grammatical object. Now we need to show who will be doing the deed.

We use the Hungarian instrumental case (-val/vel) to show who is doing the action.

  • Daniel a Ágival keresteti a kutyát Daniel makes Ági seek the dog
  • Ági Daniellel hívat egy taxit Ági makes Daniel call a taxi
  • Ági velem olvastatta a könyvet Ági made me read the book
  • hozatok Ágival bort I make Ági bring wine (I'll have Ági bring wine)
  • hozatsz Ágival bort you make Ági bring wine
  • hozatnak Ágival bort they make Ági bring wine
  • Daniel Ágival írat levelet Daniel makes Ági write a letter

This is a great example, because it demonstrates that the teacher is doing the making, we are the ones made to do it, it was done in the past, and to a definite object.

a tanár olvastatta velünk a könyvet the teacher made us read the book


  • a tanár subject
  • olvas reading
  • -tat- makes do
  • -ta past definite, 3rd person sngular (agrees with "a teacher" and "the book")
  • velünk we are made to do the reading
  • a könyvet definite object, in accusative case

Could have someone do something

We may even want to say that we could cause someone to do something. Just like when we make the regular could mood, we can also apply the same rule here.

The construction is:
stem + causative + permission/potential + conditional = could make do something

  • Daniellel hív + at + hat + nál egy taxit Daniel{instrumental} call + cause + may + conditional{you}
  • Daniellel hívathatnál egy taxit you could have Daniel call a taxi

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Usually: szokott
Causative: -at/tat Next
Need/must: kell

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