A reference guide to Hungarian grammar, designed with English-speakers in mind

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Plurals in Hungarian


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The key feature of plurals in Hungarian is -k.

Of course, according to vowel harmony, we often apply a link vowel. These are: o, e and ö.
We sometimes see a too, for [low-vowel] words.

The usual [lengthing] of -a and -e occurs.

  • kar arm
  • karok arms

  • ember person
  • emberek people

  • sör beer
  • sörök beers

  • autó car
  • autók cars. Note the attach the -k directly, lengthening the -o.

  • ház house
  • házak houses (low vowel word)

One can see -k at work in the plural forms of pronouns. For example, ő he becomes this when made plural: ők they. Similarly, neki for/to/of him becomes plural as nekik for/to/of them.

Notion of a plural

Note that Hungarians have a different concept of plural than we do in English. It is sufficient to use a qualitative or quantitive amount prefixing a noun, and not have to put the noun into plural.

Examples:

  • kutya dog
  • kutyák dogs. Note the -k.
  • három kutya three dogs. Note that kutya is singular!
  • sok kutya many dogs. Note that kutya is singular!

See also the section on possession. A shout to young Balazs Toth for this, for trying to catch me out at the salonna sütés party :)

Applying several endings

With the exception of possession, the plural ending is usually applied first, and then the other regular noun endings.

  • hal fish
  • látok halat I see a fish
  • látok halakat I see fishes (one of those words that takes -a- as the link vowel)

  • gyerek child
  • gyerekek children
  • mentem a gyerekekkel I went with the children

Note! When ownership of more than one item is shown, DO NOT apply the regular plural ending!
It is WRONG to say: gyerek+ek+em my children
It is correct to say: gyerek+eim my children. See the section on multiple object possession.

Some quantitive plural amounts

  • sok many, much
  • néhány a few
  • kevés few
  • (egy) kicsi (a) little
  • több more

Látok sok embert I see many people. N.B. it's not embereket.

Plurals appling to several words

In Hungarian the words in a phrase (N.B. in linguistics a phrase is not the same as a sentence!) generally have to all agree. This is particularly true of plurals.

In the section on adjectives we see how predicative and attributive adjectives behave differently.
As a quick introduction, we see

  • a magyar lány szép the Hungarian girl is pretty
  • a magyar lányok szépek the Hungarian girls are pretty

The point to note here is that the attibutive adjective (Magyar Hungarian ) does not adjust, but the predicative one (szép pretty) does.

We can see that when we make the below sentence plural, there are a lot of changes!

  • Ez a város nagyon szürke. This city is very grey.
  • Ezek a városok nagyon szürkék. These cities are very grey.
  • Ezek a városok, amelyekből elköltöztek, nagyon szürkék. These cities, away from which they moved, are very grey.

(see demonstrative pronouns, relative pronouns, and the elative case.)


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