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The Hungarian conditional mood

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In this lesson we will explore the conditional in Hungarian. To express that you would be able to do something, use the conditional case. This is essentially would in English, and is characterised by the letter -n- in Hungarian.

The conditional is actually a tenseless mood and so there is not actually a concept of "present" or "past" tense, however for the purpose of this explanation we shall treat I would go as the "present" and I would have gone as the "past".

Putting verbs into this case is quite easy, only a little more difficult than the present tense, but we have some subtle differences in the formation of sentences compared to English. Unlike in English, in Hungarian we put the main verb into the conditional mood in both the main and subordinate clause in a sentence formed around an if. That is to say that in Hungarian we say:

I would go out if the sun would shine. (conditional in both clauses) Whereas in English we might say simply I would go out if the sun shines. (conditional in only one clause)

As mentioned, the characteristic letter of this conjugation is -n-, but of course we may need a link vowel between this and the stem. The same rules about forming [infinitives] apply here: if the infinitive requires a link vowel, then so does the conditional.

  • mond say
  • mondani to say
  • mondana he would say
  • segít help
  • segíteni to help
  • segítene he would help

Another way of thinking of this is that you can simply remive the –i from the infinitive and you’re set with the startings of the conditional.

Present conditional

The present conditional has, of course, two forms, [definite and indefinite]. These are listed below. It also has an [I-you] formation:
Én szeretnélek téged, ha nem lennél olyan csúnya I would love you, if you were not so ugly

Here are the complete listings and some examples. NB. The first person singular indefinite ending is –nék for both front and back vowels! Take care!



Person Back Front
én -nék -nék
te -nál -nél
ő -na -ne
mi -nánk -nénk
ti -nátok -nétek
ők -nának -nének
én/téged -nánlak -nélek
Person Back Front
én -nám -ném
te -nád -néd
ő -ná -né
mi -nánk -nénk
ti -nátok -nétek
ők -nák -nék


Person indefinite definite
  ad szeret segít ad szeret segít
én adnék szeretnék segítenék adnám szeretném segíteném
te adnál szeretnél segítenél adnád szeretnéd segítenéd
ő adna szeretne segítene adná szeretné segítené
mi adnánk szeretnénk segítenénk adnánk szeretnénk segítenénk
ti adnátok szeretnétek segítenétek adnátok szeretnétek segítenétek
ők adnának szeretnének segítenének adnák szeretnék segítenék
én-téged/titeket adnálak szeretnélek segítenélek - - -

NB there are certain homonyms, such as –nék being both the first person singular indefinite and the third person plural definite. To avoid ambiguity, use the subject or the object to help understanding.

  • szeretnék I would love, or they would love it
  • én szeretnék I would love
  • ők szeretnék they would love it
  • szeretnék ezt they would love it. There is no subject here, but the present of a definite object means the subject must be "they".

Past conditional

Before reading this section, please take a look at the section on [irregular verbs], notably lenni to be. We take the volna form of this, i.e. he/it would be and use it to form a very easy "past conditional".

We take volna and the past tense form of the verb.

Note that we conjugate the main verb appropriately for person, but that volna is always in the 3rd person, no matter whom we are discussing.

  • Elmentem volna I would have gone out
  • Elment volna He would have gone out
  • Elmentem volna, ha meghívott volna I would have gone out, if he had invited (me)

Just as in all other examples, the coverb may split from the main verb and be shuffled accordingly. It is moved to after the volna. An explanation of when this happens is given in the coverbs page, but as a quick example let’s look at splitting due to a question word, and splitting due to change in focus:

  • megmondtam I told
  • miért mondtam volna meg neked? Why would I have told you?
  • elhitte he believed it
  • ki hitte volna el ezt? Who would have believed it? (NB, here ki means who. It’s not the coverb) .

Future conditional

There is no future conditional. Simply use the present conditional with a future time reference.

  • Elmennék holnap I would go out tomorrow.

Some irregular verb stems

The [big nine] irregular verbs (plus alszik) form the following bases, most of which end in –n-. They are:

  • van is
    • vol- or len-
  • megy go
    • men-
  • jön come
    • jön-
  • alszik sleep
    • alud-
  • eszik eat
    • en-
  • hisz believe
    • hin-
  • iszik drink
    • in-
  • lesz becomes
    • len- * just like van
  • tesz put
    • ten-
  • vesz takes, buys
    • ven-
  • visz takes, carries
    • vin-

Examples of use

  • El szeretnék mondani valamit I would like to tell something
  • Szeretnénk egy üveg bort We would like a bottle of wine
  • Megmutatnád a fényképeidet? Would you show (me) your photos?
  • Szeretném, hogyha a barátom a barátnőm lenne I would like it if my friend would be my girlfriend

Expressing "could"

To turn would into could, we combine the conditional mood with the potential. See the full discussion of this on the [potential] page.

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Need/must: kell
Conditional: would Next
Permission -hat/het

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