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.
mondani to say
mondana he would say
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.
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!
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".
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) .
There is no future conditional. Simply use the present conditional with a future time reference.
- Elmennék holnap I would go out tomorrow.
The [big nine] irregular verbs (plus alszik) form the following bases,
most of which end in –n-. They are:
- van is
- megy go
- jön come
- alszik sleep
- eszik eat
- hisz believe
- iszik drink
- lesz becomes
- tesz put
- vesz takes, buys
- visz takes, carries
To turn would into could,
we combine the conditional mood with the potential. See the full discussion of this on the [potential] page.