Hungarian Present Tense

Mini Hungarian Lesson: Learn the Hungarian Present Tense (in 30 Minutes)

The Hungarian present tense is easier than you may think. In this mini lesson you will learn the grammar rules and the concepts in about 30 minutes. We break it down for you and show you everything you need (including many examples and memory hooks) for a quick learning experience.

 

 

While the Hungarian grammar is often the cause for serious headaches, it also has its shiny and sunny sides. Good news: Conjugating verbs in the present tense is one of them:

 

  • Hungarian has only one present tense.
    There is no differentiation between simple and a continuous present as in other languages such as English, Spanish or Italian).

    “I go to the market.” and “I am going to the market.”
    can be expressed in Hungarian with the same conjugation form; adding “most” (=now) or “éppen” (=right now) is enough:
    “Megyek a piacra.” vs. “Most / Èppen megyek a piacra.”
  • Most of the Hungarian verbs are regular.
    There are no more than 23 irregular verbs in Hungarian. You can find a list of them for example on the page of this useful Hungarian verb conjugator.

    While admittedly some of the most important verbs such as “van” (lenni, ‘to be’); “megy” (menni, ‘to go’); “jön” (jönni, ‘to come’); “eszik” (enni, ‘to eat’), are irregular.

    But the good thing is, that as soon as you understand the rules for the regular verbs (which we’ll explain and break down for you in this article), also the irregular verbs are easier to remember, because most of the time only some small differences are to be memorized.
  • The Hungarian present tense can be used for future actions as well.
    “Tomorrow I will go to the market.” – “Holnap megyek a piacra.”
    By mastering the Hungarian present tense you’ll kill two birds with one stone!

 

This mini-lesson is subdivided in the following sections:

 

What you Need to Learn beforehand

1. Learn the Difference between the Indefinite and Definite Conjugation of the Hungarian Present Tense

2. The Indefinite Conjugation of the Hungarian Present Tense

3. The Definite Conjugation of the Hungarian Present Tense

 

 

What you Need to Learn Beforehand


The only thing you need to know/learn beforehand for this lesson is the Hungarian Alphabet and the Hungarian vowel harmony.

 

And of course you should know what a conjugation is (since thats what this article is about).

Broadly speaking, verb conjugation is the changing of a verb’s form to express a different person (I, you(sing.), he / she / it, we, you(pl.), they) and its tense. In that way, a conjugated verb can tell us who is doing the action and when.

 

 

English is blessed with a very easy conjugation:

 

“I”, “you”, “we”, “you” and “they” all “GO”; only “he”, “she” and “it” “GOES”.

 

 

In many other languages (including Hungarian), the verb changes with every grammatical person:

 

E.g. “Èn megyek.” (I go) vs. “Te mész” (You go.), etc.

 

 

In this lesson, we will show you what you have to look out for and how to remember the rules best.

 

 

But that’s enough of introduction; let’s dive straight in and start your stopwatch!

 

 

 

1. Learn the Difference between the Indefinite and Definite Conjugation of the Hungarian Present Tense


Estimated time effort to learn/understand:  approx. 3 Minutes

 

 

One of the tricky specialties of the Hungarian present tense is that there are two different conjugation forms depending on the object of the sentence/statement:

 

  • When you talk about an unspecific/unknown/indefinite thing or person, you conjugate the verb with the indefinite suffixes (word endings).

 

  • When you talk about a specific/definite thing or person, you conjugate the verb with the definite suffixes (word endings).

 

 

The use of the definite article “a(z)” (“the”) and/or the pronouns “az” and “ez” (this and that) are good indicators to use the definite conjugation.

 

 

Let’s see an example:

Indefinite conjugation: “I see a flower.” – “Látok egy virágot.”

Definite conjugation: “I see the flower.” – “Látom a virágot.”

 

 

In reality it is a bit more complicated than that (dry and boring grammer books are good proof), but in most of the cases this is enough. And even if you confuse the conjugation forms, everyone will still understand you. Even Hungarians themselves confuse the two forms sometimes, so there’s really no need to worry.

 

 


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2. The Indefinite Conjugation of the Hungarian Present Tense


For a better understanding we subdivided this chapter into the following 7 sections:

 

  1. Regular verbs with back vowels
  2. Regular verbs with front vowels
  3. Regular verbs with connecting vowels
  4. Verbs ending in -ik
  5. Verbs ending in -s, -sz, -z
  6. Verbs ending in -sik, -szik, -zik
  7. Irregular verbs

 

 

2.1 Regular verbs with back vowels

 

Estimated time effort to learn/understand: approx. 6 minutes

 

The regular verbs with back vowels are the biggest chunk. All other verb groups can be deviated from these.

 

Don’t worry, as we will also help you to memorize the endings with some smart memory hooks, so you will master them in no time (ok, let’s say 6 minutes… ).

 

The following table shows the indefinite conjugation of  the verb “tudni”, representing the the back vowel verbs.
The suffixes/endings, which you’ll have to memorize, are marked in red:

 

Person
back vowels front vowels ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
tud(ni)
to know
* *
Én tud-ok * *
Te tud-sz * *
Ő /Ön tud- * *
Mi tud-unk * *
Ti tud-tok * *
Ők / Önök tud-nak * *
Én -> téged, titeket tud-lak * *

*see next chapter

 

 

Memory hooks and deconstruction for easier/quicker learning:

 

  • In almost every conjugations (except for “Te” and “Ő/Ön”) there is a “k ” at the end of the suffix (with this in mind, you already  learned more than 30% of the letters of the suffixes in this chapter!)

  • Én: “-ok” is easy to remember, because “I’m OK with it.”

  • Te : “-sz –> pronounced like the s in Second Person Singular.

  • Ő / Ön:    –> no suffix; this one is our absolute favourite!

  • Mi: “-unk“.  If you turn around the first ark of the m (in “mi”) you get an “un“, which you simply have to combine with the omnipresent “k“.

  • Ti: take the “t” from “ti” and combine it with the “ok (which you already know from “Èn”)

  • Ők / Önök: “-nak“. Just imagine that they are all naked.

  • Én -> téged, titeket: “-lak –> replace the “n in “nak” with an “l” (think of the “L” in “Love you”). Note that “téged” and “titeket” means “you” (in singular and plural). “-lak is a Hungarian specialty/feature and expresses the relationship between I  and you (singular or plural), e.g. “I see you.”  can be translated to “lát-lak“.

 

Done! That wasn’t so bad, was it?

 

 

2.2 Regular Verbs with Front Vowels

 

Estimated time effort to learn / understand:  approx. 4 minutes

 

 

Now let’s have a look at the front vowels (which includes the words with ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable):

 

Person
back vowels front vowels ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
tud(ni)
to know
Szeret(ni)
to love
ül(ni)
to sit
Én tud-ok szeret-ek ül-ök
Te tud-sz szeret-sz ül-sz
Ő /Ön tud- szeret- ül-
Mi tud-unk szeret-ünk ül-ünk
Ti tud-tok szeret-tek ül-tök
Ők / Önök tud-nak szeret-nek ül-nek
Én -> téged, titeket tud-lak szeret-lek *

*ül has no conjugation for Én -> téged, titeket (since “I sit you” doesn’t make sense).

 

 

 

As you can see, the endings above run things by the following “vowel rule“:

(This is not an official rule; it’s just a concept we found useful.)

 

back vowels front vowels ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
  a e e
  o e ö
  u ü ü

 

 

Memory hooks to remember the “vowel rule”:

 

  • the transformation of the “u is the easiest to remember, only add two dots to get the “ü” for the front vowels (incl. ö, ő, ü, ű)

  • same for the a, but since there is no ä in Hungarian, the a is transformed into e  (which comes closest to the ä)

  • the o is always a bit indecisive and in love with the a, therefore it is transformed into e  and ö .

 

 

That’s basically it!

 

Keep in mind that you only have to memorize the endings for the back vowels; the front vowels (incl. ö, ő, ü, ű) follow the simple “vowel rule”.


By now, the biggest chunk is through, the rest is a walk in the park.

 

 

 

2.3 Regular Verbs with Connecting Vowels

 

Estimated time effort to learn/understand: approx. 3 minutes

 

 

 

Verbs ending with two consonants (e.g. “mondor  “-ít” (e.g. segít) get an additional vowel in some conjugations in order to simplify the pronunciation.

 

Also the infinitive form gets an additional vowel, e.g. mond(ani) and küld(eni).

 

Sounds complicated, but it’s really not that big of a deal.

 

Let’s have a look at some examples (connecting vowel marked in red) to get the concept:

 

Person
back vowels front vowels ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
mond(ani)
to say
segít(eni)
to help
küld(eni)
to send
Én mond-ok segít-ek küld-ök
Te mond-asz segít-esz küld-esz
Ő /Ön mond- segít- küld-
Mi mond-unk segít-ünk küld-ünk
Ti mond-otok segít-etek küld-ötök
Ők / Önök mond-anak segít-enek küld-enek
Én -> téged, titeket *-alak segít-elek küld-elek
 *mond has no conjugation for “Én -> téged, titeket”
 

The good thing is that the connecting vowels are following simple rules:

 

  • Only the endings which start with a consonant need a connecting vowel (that certainly makes sense); therefore nothing changes for “Én”, “Ő/Ön” and “Mi”

  • “Te”: the back vowel “a” is added for back vowel verbs; and can be transformed with our “vowel rule”: –asz  / –esz / –esz

  • for the other personal forms just clone the existing vowel in the ending:
    • Ti: otok / –etek / –ötök
    • Ők / Önök: anak / –enek / –enek
    • Én -> téged, titeke: alak / –elek / –elek

 

 

2.4 Verbs Ending in -ik

 

Estimated time effort to learn/understand: approx. 2 minutes

 

 

There are only two things to remember, and one of them is optional:

  1. the suffix (ending) is added to the verb-stem, and not after the -ik.
    e.g. it’s “lak-ok”, and not “lakik-ok”.

  2. For “Én” 2 forms are possible; both are correct:
    • -ok/-ek/-ök is the form we already know. Nothing new here so far, but if you are super motivated you can use the next form as well:
    • om / –em / –öm  –> just replace the “k” with an “m” and get the new suffix, which at the same time corresponds to the definite conjugation form (you will see in chapter 3.1).

 

An example is worth a thousand words:

 

Person back vowels front vowels ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
lakik
(lakni)
to live [reside]
történik
(történni)
to happen
vörösödik
(vörösödni)
to redden
Én lak-ok
lak-om
történ-ek
történ-em
vörösöd-ök
vörösöd-öm
Te lak-sz történ-sz vörösöd-sz
Ő /Ön lak-ik történ-ik vörösöd-ik
Mi lak-unk történ-ünk vörösöd-ünk
Ti lak-tok történ-tek vörösöd-tök
Ők / Önök lak-nak történ-nek vörösöd-nek
Én -> téged, titeket * * *

 

 

2.5 Verbs ending in -s, -sz, -z

 

Estimated time effort to learn/understand: approx. 1 minute

 

 

  • Only “Te” is affected here.
    • adding a “-sz” after a “-s/-sz/-z”  would hurt the harmony-spoiled Hungarian ear, therefore the ending “-ol” is used instead (for back vowel verbs)
      Why “-ol“? most probably because it’s partly cool!
    • for the front vowel verbs of course our “vowel rule” can be applied: –ol -> –el  -> –öl

 

Person back vowels front vowels ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
HOZ(NI)
TO BRING
VESZ(NI)
TO BUY
TŰZ(NI)
TO PIN
Én hoz-ok vesz-ek tűz-ök
Te hoz-ol vesz-el tűz-öl
Ő /Ön hoz- vesz- tűz-
Mi hoz-unk vesz-ünk tűz-ünk
Ti hoz-tok vesz-tek tűz-tök
Ők / Önök hoz-nak vesz-nek tűz-nek
Én -> téged, titeket hoz-lak vesz-lek tűz-lek

 

 

 

2.6 Verbs ending in -sik, -szik, -zik

 

Estimated time effort to learn/understand: approx. 1 minute

 

 

Nothing new here; it’s only a combination of the -ik verbs (see 2.4) and with –s, -sz, -z (see 2.5).

 

But see for yourself:

 

Person
back vowels front vowels
ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
mászik
(mászni)
to climb
esik
(esni)
to fall
ütközik
(ütközni)
to clash
Én mász-ok
mász-om
es-ek
es-em
ütköz-ök
ütköz-öm
Te mász-ol es-el ütköz-öl
Ő /Ön mász-ik es-ik ütköz-ik
Mi mász-unk es-ünk ütköz-ünk
Ti mász-tok es-tek ütköz-tök
Ők / Önök mász-nak es-nek ütköz-nek

 

 

2.7 Bonus: Irregular Verbs

 

The irregular verbs are actually not part of this mini lesson, since they don’t follow all of the above rules.

 

But as you will see, as soon as you know the rules, also the irregular verbs are much easier, because actually they don’t break every rule.

 

But convince yourself:

 

Person
back vowels front vowels
ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
van
(lenni)
to be
megy
(menni)
to go

(nőni)
to grow
Én vagy-ok megy-ek növ-ök
Te vagy mé-sz nő-sz
Ő /Ön van megy
Mi vagy-unk megy-ünk növ-ünk
Ti vagy-tok men-tek nőt-tök
Ők / Önök van-nak men-nek nő-nek

 

A list of all 23 irregular verbs can be found on the page of this useful Hungarian verb conjugator.

 

 

 

3. The Definite Conjugation of the Hungarian Present Tense


This chapter is subdivided into the following 3 sections:

 

1. Regular verbs (with and without connecting vowels)

2. Verbs ending with -s, sz, -z

3. Other Verb Forms

 

 

3.1 Regular verbs (with and without connecting vowels)

 

Estimated time effort to learn/understand: approx 7 minutes

 

Let’s start with the regular verbs of definite conjugation:

 

Person
back vowels front vowels ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
tud(ni) –
to know
Szeret(ni) –
to love
ül(ni) –
to sit
Én tud-om szeret-em ül-öm
Te tud-od szeret-ed ül-öd
Ő /Ön tud-ja szeret-i ül-i
Mi tud-juk szeret-jük ül-jük
Ti tud-tok szeret-itek ül-itek
Ők / Önök tud-ják szeret-ik ül-ik

 

 

Memory Hooks:

 

  • Èn: –omemöm Just replaced the “k” (from the indefinite suffixes -ok /-ek /-ök) with an “m“.

  • Te: is a bit odd:  the ending is “od (for back vowels)

    For front vowels our “vowel rule” can be applied: –ed/-öm

 

From now on Hungarian will unfold its full beauty (by refusing most of the rules we learned so far).

 

Get ready to use many “i”-s and “j”-s!

 

  • Ő /Ön is formed with –ja / –i /-i . Even after contemplation we didn’t find a systematic reason why the hell the Hungarian grammar fairy had to switch to –ja / –i /-iAt least it is easy to remember and will be used not just for Ő / Ön.

  • Mi: similar to the indefinite -unk, / -ünk / -ünk but with a “j” at the beginning instead of the “n in the middle:
    jukjükjük

  • Ti:  and here we meet our newly found love “-ja / –/-i” again, in combination with the indefinite “-tok -/tek /-tök”.
    –> “-jatok / –itek / –itek”. 
    Why not “itök”? Don’t blame us, blame the Hungarian grammar fairy!

  • Ők / Önök: We are so happy that we can close this with an easy one: Since “Ők” is the plural of “Ő” it makes sense to add a “k” to the Ő-suffixes, so we get “-jakikik“.

 

 

3.2 Verbs ending with -s, sz, -z

 

Estimated time effort to learn/understand: approx. 3 minutes

 

 

This is nothing you have to memorise; this is something you just have to understand, and luckily it’s not complicated:

In order to harmonise the pronunciation every -sj, szj and zj is transformed in -ss, -ssz and -zz.

e.g. instead of “Ő olvasja” it is “olvassa”,; instead of  “Mi hiszjük” it’s “hisszük”.

 

You get the idea… Here are some more examples:

 

Person
back vowels front vowels
ö, ő, ü, ű in last syllable
hoz(ni)
to bring
vesz
(venni)

to buy
tűz(ni)
to pin
Én hoz-om vesz-em tűz-öm
Te hoz-od vesz-ed tűz-öd
Ő /Ön hozza vesz-i tűz-i
Mi hozzuk veszzük zzük
Ti hozzátok vesz-itek tűz-itek
Ők / Önök hozzák vesz-ik tűz-ik

 

 

3.3 Other Verb Forms

 

Good news: with these 2 groups above all the definite conjugation forms are basically covered!

 

All other verb forms (ik-verbs and irregular verbs) are almost never used with or don’t even have a definite conjugation!

 

 

 

Heureka, we did it!

 

Applying these rules above you will be able to master the Hungarian Present Tense.

 

Are we completely crazy to claim this can be learned/understood in approx 30 minutes? Please let us know!

 

Of course we are aware that it will take more time and practice than a mere 30 minutes to apply these rules fluently in a normal conversation. 

 

Still, never let some grammar errors stop you from communicating, it absolutely doesn’t matter if you confuse one or the other conjugation. Trust us, even Hungarians confuse them sometimes!

 

And never forget the most important rule in language learning: HAVE FUN!

 

 

You might also like:

Mini Hungarian Lesson – Everything You Need to Know about “Meg”

Learn the Hungarian Alphabet in 4 Easy Steps!

Learn the Hungarian Numbers in 9 Easy Steps!

35 Good Reasons You Should Bother Learning Hungarian

23 Awesome Hungarian Words that Don’t Exist in English

 

2 replies
  1. Tristan Szakács says:

    I had a tough time getting a system down for theses grinding through duolingo because they don’t explain the definite vs indefinite conjugations on their app so this helps a lot!

    Reply

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