Unit 1

II. Introducing oneself/introducing somebody


    1. Kiss Anna vagyok.
      Magyar vagyok.
      I am Anna Kiss.
      I am Hungarian.


    2. Te Inge vagy.
      Te német vagy.
      You are Inge.
      You are German.


    3. Ő John.
      Ő amerikai.
      He is John.
      He is American.

      The Conjugation of the Verb "to be" (Singular)

      Pronoun Verb "to be" Pronoun Verb "to be"
      Én vagyok I am
      Te vagy You are
      Ő van He/She is

      In Hungarian there are no gender distinction in the third person pronoun. Nouns and adjectives have no gender either.

      Note that there are sentences in Hungarian in which we do not use the verb "to be" when in English we do. Here are some examples:

      Ő amerikai.
      Ő John.
      He is American.
      He is John.

      These sentences can be called “equational sentences,” because something or somebody is “equated” with something or a quality; as though “is” was an equation mark and the other parts of the sentence are items equated (He = American; He = John). In other words, these are sentences that describe something or somebody. In the third person (he or she), such sentences in Hungarian have no verb; the two things equated (the person/thing described and the descriptive element) are simply juxtaposed. Remember, this omission of the verb “to be” is only in the third person and only in equational sentences. If the subject is the first or second person (I, you and all the plural subjects), we use the appropriate form of the verb “to be,” e.g. “Te magyar vagy” [You are Hungarian]. Also, if the sentence is not an equation, then we use the verb “to be” in all persons, the third person as well, e.g.: “John itt van” [John is here]. This last sentence does not “equate” “John” and “here”; it does not give information on who is John or what he is like, it states where he is.

      • Omission of the Subject Pronoun

      Note the following sentences:

      Kovács Andrea vagyok.
      Magyar vagyok.
      I am Andrea Kovács.
      I am Hungarian.

      In the English sentences we always say the subject, while in Hungarian it is often omitted. In general, the pronoun subject is omitted from Hungarian sentences because the verb usually clearly shows who the subject is. When we do not omit the pronoun subject, it is because the verb does no clearly show who the subject is or it is not clear from the context. We might also want to use the subject pronoun in order to give emphasis to it.

      Word order

      As you probably noticed, the word order in the Hungarian sentences was different from the word order in the English sentences. Hungarian word order is different from English word order and is one of the most challenging and most fascinating feature of the language. While in English the word order follows a strict rule: subject + verb + other components, in Hungarian word order follows a different and less straightforward logic. The most important difference is that in Hungarian there is not one single correct word order; the words can be rearranged in the sentence. However, this will change the emphasis (what is emphasized) in the sentence. There is a pattern that we can call the basic (neutral) word order: subject (if pronoun, often omitted) + time expression + verb + place/object. If the verb is the verb “to be” the neutral word order is: subject (if pronoun, often omitted) + adjective/place name + verb “to be.” Depending on the context (what we want to emphasize) this basic pattern changes and what we want to emphasize will move right in front of the verb (replacing what was there previously). In general, it is good to keep in mind that what we want to emphasize comes right in front of the verb.

  1. Questions

    Te magyar vagy?
    Igen, magyar vagyok.
    Are you Hungarian?
    Yes, I am Hungarian.

    Te amerikai vagy?
    Nem, német vagyok.
    Are you American?
    No, I am German.

    Ő német?
    Nem,
    ő magyar.

    Is he German?/Is she German?
    No, he is Hungarian./No, she is Hungarian.

    To form a question in Hungarian you do not need any auxiliary verbs (such as “do” or “is”). For yes or no questions it is the question mark at the end of the sentence and a different intonation that makes a question from a statement. If there is a question word, you simply put the question word first. E.g.:
    John amerikai. --> John amerikai? [Is John American?]
    John amerikai. --> Milyen nemzetiségű John? [What nationality is John?]

    In yes or no questions your intonation will suddenly rise on the one before the last syllable, then drops on the last syllable. In sentences that have fewer than three syllables this rise and fall takes place in one syllable (the last syllable); e.g. in the sentences “Ő német?” and “Ő magyar?” We could demonstrate the intonation with the following drawing:
    Question 1

    In questions with a question word your intonation starts high and then is gradually falling till the end of the sentence. We could demonstrate the intonation with the following drawing:
    Question 2

  2. Negations


    1. John Small vagyok.
      Amerikai vagyok.
      Nem vagyok magyar.

      I am John Small.
      I am American.
      I am not Hungarian.


    2. Te Inge vagy.
      Te német vagy.
      Te nem vagy amerikai.

      You are Inge.
      You are German.
      You are not an American.


    3. Ő John.
      Ő amerikai.
      Ő nem magyar.

      He is John.
      He is American.
      He is not Hungarian.

      Negative Sentences

      To negate a Hungarian sentence you only need to add one word to the sentence: “nem” [no/not]. You place this word right in front of the phrase you wish to negate (usually the verb). Thus in the sentences above you put “nem” in front of the verb (“vagyok,” “vagy”) or in an equational sentence the adjective (“magyar”). Due to certain word order rules, as you could see above, the word order also changes; the name of the nationality gives way to “nem” and goes to a position after the verb (“Amerikai vagyok” -->“Nem vagyok amerikai”). The reason for this is that in a negative sentence the negating word “nem” is emphasized, thus that is the word that goes right in front of the verb (see word order rules above).