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The Hungarian indefinite conjugation

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This Hungarian lesson talks about the indefinite conjugation in Hungarian. You should read the section on [when to use the definite and when to use the infdefinite conjgations] so that you have some background on the matter; when you are comfortable with understanding when to apply this conjugation, this page will detail how to do so.

The indefinite conjugation is the most basic Hungarian conjugation conceptually, but its apparent irregularities and its non-conformance to the symmetry of the rest of the language make it slightly harder to learn that the [definite conjugation.]

See the page about [when to use the Hungarian definite conjugation and when to use the indefinite] for a discussion of which to use when.

Three groups of verbs

There are three groups of verbs, each with a slightly different set of rules. Having categorised a verb thusly, one must then apply the appropriate rules to conjugate it.

In summary, the classes are as follows:

Regular verbs

These are always conjugated in the same way. They are always written in the dictionary with just their stem. An example is:
ad - to give

Person Endings
back front
short long
én -ok -ek -ök
te -sz
ő (nothing)
mi -unk -ünk
ti -tok -tek
ők -nak -nek
én/téged -lak -lek

Here are some examples:

Person Examples
back vowels front vowels
short long
én maradok I remain élek I live ülök I sit
te maradsz thou remain élsz thou live ülsz thou sit
ő marad s/he remains él s/he lives ül s/he sits
mi maradunk we remain élünk we live ülünk we sit
ti maradtok ye remain éltek ye live ültek ye sit
ők maradnak they remain élnekk they live ülnek they sit

-ik verbs

These verbs take different conjugations for "I" and "he", but are generally the same as the above for the other 4 persons.

They are characterised by the fact that the take -ik in the "he" conjugation, and therefore are written in the dictionary with the -ik ending.

It's up to you whether you deem their stem to have, or have not, the -ik. I prefer to think of the stem as being without the -ik. This allows me to say, like below, "words whose stem ends in -z", which will include dolgozik work.

When applying endings, the -ik must be removed first.

The characteristic differences are -om for "I" and of course -ik for "he". This means that the "I" conjugation for -ik words is identical for definite and indefinite, be careful!

An example is lakik reside, live.

Conjugation table Example
Person Endings
back front
short long
én -om -em -öm
te -sz
ő -ik
mi unk ünk
ti tok tek tök
ők nak nek
lakom I reside
laksz thou reside
lakik he resides
lakunk we reside
laktok ye reside
laknak they reside

-s like verbs

You'll notice in the regular indefinite conjugation, we add -sz for the "thou" conjugation. Well, if the stem of the verb already ends in an s-like letter, it'll be awkward to add another.

In this case, we do not add -sz but -ol/el, in the indefinite conjugation.

In the definite, we see a feature called assimilation, which is where the -j- in the ending turns into the last letter of the verb's stem.

If the stem ends in:

  • -s
  • -sz
  • -z
  • -dz

then apply the rule.

Here are some examples:

  • mos (to) wash
  • mosol ye wash
  • néz (to) look
  • nézel ye look
  • olvas (to) read
  • olvasol ye read
  • vesz (to) take, (to) buy
  • veszel ye buy

Irregular verbs

Irregular verbs must simply be learnt. As in most languages, the "ancient" verbs such as to be, to eat, to drink, etc, are irregular.
Note also that the rules of Hungarian are very complex and what may appear to us as an irregularity is simply the application of a very obscure, but real, rule.

Combinations of classes

Note that some words can fall into more than one category! This means that the rules for both apply!
For example, dolgozik work.
You can see from the way it's written in the dictionary, with the -ik, that it's an -ik category. But its root, dolgoz, ends in a -s type sound, and so it's ALSO in the -s category.

Its conjugation is

  • dolgozom I work Ending due to it being an -ik verb
  • dolgozol thou work Ending due to it being an -s verb
  • dolgozik he works Ending due to it being an -ik verb
  • dolgozunk we work Regular ending
  • dolgoztok ye work Regular ending
  • dolgoznak they work Regular ending

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