In this Hungarian lesson we will see how to give someone permission to perform
a verb, or the possibility that the verb might be performed. We will
see how to combine verb endings to express "could".
To express the potential or permissions form of a verb, i.e. might,
may, we add –hat/het to the stem.
- ír he writes
- írhat he may write
- segít he helps
- segíthet he may help
- ül he sits
- ülhet he may sit
You can think of this "may" as meaning that he is allowed to write, or that
he might write .
As you can see from the below we can think of words with –hat/het-
endings as independent verbs. It’s important to note that the resulting word can
take any endings and coverbs as it would do without the –hat/het-.
Vowel harmony applies to the new stem. See below.
- hív call
- hívhat may call
- hívhatok I may call
- felhívhatlak ma este I may call you up
tonight (i.e. on the telephone)
- felhívhatsz engem you may call me.
- engem hívhatsz fel you may call me.
- megnéz watch
- megnézheted a filmet, már elmúltál 18 éves
you may (you have permission to) watch the film as you are alreay over (passed)
This is a very important concept. We combine the potential with the conditional
to create "could". This is used just like in English, such as expressing potential
uncertainty or making very polite requests.
You can think of its derivation – i.e. verb + potential + conditional as meaning
"possibly would". I possibly would do it = I could do it.
verb + potential + conditional = could
- ad give
- adhat may give
- adnál you would give
- adhatnál (you) could give
- adhatnál nekem egy kicsit segítséget? could you
give me a little help?
- megkér ask
- megkérhet may ask
- megkérlek I ask you
- megkér + het + né + lek ask + potential
+ conditional + [I-you] combination
- megkérhetnélek egy szívességre? could I
ask you a favour?
- segít (to) help
- segíthet may help
- segíthetnének they could help
- segíthetnének nekem, ha itt lennének they
could help me if they were here.
Take care when applying "could" suffixes to tud able to, can in such sentences as
tudok énekelni I am able to sing, I can sing.
This will change the meaning not to "I could sing" (which we express using
énekelhetnék I could sing) but "I could be able to
- tudok énekelni I am able to sing, I can sing
- tudnék énekelni I would able to sing
- tudhatok énekelni I may be able to sing
- tudhatnék énekelni I could able to sing
- énekelhetnék I could sing
Not that sometimes the simple present is used in Hungarian where we in English would use the
above constructions. For example, látok
is often used in lieu of tudok látni
when the meaning is "I can see".
Thanks to Viktor Götz for this gotcha.
Note that we can think of the combination of the stem and the potential ending to
be an entirely new verb, the endings of which would be applied independently of
the original stem.
For example: olvas to read
Since this is an –s stem, we would normally have to apply
a special version of the indefinite present conjugation for the second person singlular.
i.e. olvasol rather than olvassz.
When we add –hat- to this, we have a new verb
olvashat may read. This new verb does not end
in –s and so the second person singular indefuinite follows
the regular congugation and not the special –s version:
olvashatsz you may read. Note, it's
Similarly, since this ending is a 2-form version, all front-vowel words take the
–het version, and form a new short-front version of the
verb. We then apply short-front ends of other conjugations, even if the stem started
life as a long-front.
See how in the below, ül would give us ülök
but ülhet gives us ülhetek.
- ül sit
- ülök I sit
- ülhet may sit
- ülhetek I may sit
Note: not ülhetök.
The [big seven] irregular verbs (and a few friends) change their original stem slightly
when they are placed into this case. You must simply learn them:
- lesz / lenni become, will be
- van / lenni is
- vesz / venni take, buy
- visz / vinni take, carry
- hisz / hinni believe
- eszik / enni eat
- iszik / inni drink
- megy / menni go
- jön / jönni come
Other than being irregular, this is not a special verb. However, it is used almost
like an auxilliary verb to mean "possibly", or like a full verb to mean "be possible".
- lehet menni it is possible to go
- lehet mennem it is
possible for me to go, I might possibly go
- nem lehet inni it is impossible to drink
- nem lehetett inni it was impossible to
drink past tense