The direct object of the verb – how Hungarian tackles flexible word order

Many of you who have, or who are studying Hungarian with us at Hungarian Language Solutions speak more than one language, so you are familiar with various grammatical terms, and with how grammatical structures work in the languages you speak. It can be reassuring to hear your teacher talk about, for example, the dative and genitive case, as this serves as a reminder that no matter how exotic or way-out a ‘foreign’ language may be, we humans have been able to observe and identify the linguistic building blocks of LANGUAGE, and we are able to apply this knowledge when learning any language we decide we want to. If only it were as simple as that! Because, not all of us are multilingual, or even bilingual.  For some of you who are interested in learning Hungarian, it may have been many years since you had any kind of language lesson at school, and perhaps you found the grammar constructions you were taught then to some extent confusing , and you may have forgotten much of the terminology you were expected to learn at the time. Don’t let that discourage you! Remember, human language is an intrinsic natural phenomenon. Some linguists consider language to be faculty humans are born with, and that we have a natural ability to develop this capacity. My point is that human language is not something mystical and unfathomable. I am convinced that it is natural for any of us to connect with other languages, and that we all have the ability to absorb and utilize non-native languages.

Of course, knowledge of grammar speeds up and facilitates the language learning process. So, don’t be intimidated by grammar rules, because discovering how a language works is fascinating and fun. When in real, living linguistic expression we recognise the grammatical structures and parts of speech we learnt about during language study, it can be a true revelation and very exciting. Let us consider the accusative case in Hungarian, and then read a poem which demonstrates beautifully how this case functions in the Hungarian language.

In the accusative case, the object receives the direct action of the verb. In some languages, a noun takes a specific position in a sentence to make it function as a direct object. This happens when a language uses strict syntax or word order. Hungarian is a language with flexible word order, and to tackle this, in the accusative case the direct object of the verb takes the accusative suffix –t. Sometimes this suffix is presented with its linking vowel, and so we have a choice of –t, -ot, -at, -et, -öt as the accusative suffix.  Those of you who are familiar with vowel harmony in Hungarian will understand why the linking vowel for the suffix -t is not always the same! Thus, although in the Hungarian language the position of a direct object in a sentence depends on, for example, what one wishes to emphasise with the sentence structure, the direct object will always be identifiable, and there will be no confusion as to the meaning of the sentence.  Of course, remember that not every Hungarian word ending in ‘t’ functions as a direct object in the sentence! When learning nouns, pay attention to the accusative forms and look out for exceptions.
The general rules are the following:
– If the word ends in a vowel, or the consonants l, ly, n, ny, r, s, sz, z, zs the ending is usually -t without a linking vowel: kocsit (car), lányt (girl), banánt (banana).
Of course do not forget that if the last vowel of the word is -a, or -e it becomes long when the suffix –t is added: medve  medvét, alma  almát, éjszaka→éjszakát.
– Back and mixed vowel words usually take -o as a linking vowel: szomszédot (neighbour), virágot (flower), paradicsomot (tomato).
– Front vowel words take ‘e’ as a linking vowel: gyereket (child), mézet (honey).
– Rounded vowel words (where the last syllable contains a rounded vowel: ö ő ü ű) usually take -ö as a linking vowel: gyümölcsöt (fruit), bőröndöt (suitcase). Even so, there are exceptions and they are usually short, one-syllable words:
(book) = könyv→könyvet;
(ear) = fül→fület;
– Those short, one syllable words we mentioned above are quite often problematic, not only when they have a rounded vowel in the stem. With these, the linking vowel may be an -a: házat (house), tollat (pen). So it’s best to check your dictionary.
– With compound words follow the rule you have learnt already: the last part of the compound decides vowel harmony: számítógépet (computer), óratervet.
– In foreign words you need to check the last syllable to determine the linking vowel: koncertet (concert). *

In the following poem by Nagy László you will be able to recognize the accusative case, and you will notice how the nouns are inflected in the accusative.  You can listen to Nagy László’s rendering of his poem at this link:
Nagy_László_1972 The poet László Nagy

Some words from the poem:
szerencse = luck;
szerelem = love;
kemence = kiln, oven;
gabona = grain;
parola (from the French) = word of honour expressed by a handshake;
láng = flame;
válasz = answer;
fények = lights;
élet = life

The title of the poem is God give me (adni = to give;  Isten = God)

Nagy László: Adjon az Isten

Adjon az Isten
Adjon az Isten
szerelmet, forró
üres vékámba
árva kezembe
lámpámba lángot,
ne kelljen
korán az ágyra hevernem,
kérdésre választ
ő küldjön,
hogy hitem széjjel
ne dűljön,
adjon az Isten
temetők helyett
életet –
nekem a kérés
nagy szégyen
adjon úgyis, ha
nem kérem.

Few literary translations of this poem have been produced. But the language and expression used is clear and natural, and with some dictionary work, you will be able to understand it, and perhaps you could even write your own translation of this beautiful piece of poetry. I hope you feel inspired to!
How did you like this poem? Have you managed to find all the objects? Please let us know in a comment – we would love to hear what you think!


*: We have used our favourite grammar book: Szita Szilvia – Görbe Tamás: Gyakorló
magyar nyelvtan (A Practical Hungarian Grammar) page 124, Akadémia Kiadó,
Budapest, 2014. You can buy it here:






Hungry for more Hungarian? Let’s make 2016 a good year!

As we start the new year here at Hungarian Language Solutions, we can’t help looking back at 2015 and think of the amazing people we worked with and the goals we helped achieve. We worked hard and completed several important translating projects, as well as having continued our usual translation work involving official documents and specialised texts. Because we can provide certified translations that are endorsed by the Embassy, we are able to offer this translation service to those of our clients who are studying on our language courses in preparation for the Hungarian Citizenship Interview. Feedback from our clients shows that they are impressed with the flexibility with which we work, and it is convenient to have the whole package available from one service provider.
Since Hungarian Language Solutions began in 2009, we have helped numerous individuals prepare for successful citizenship interviews, which are part of the naturalization procedure. Hungarian citizenship is very close to our hearts: both of us have dual, British-Hungarian citizenships.       Hungry for more Hungarian - architecture
During a Hungarian Citizenship Interview, the applicant is required to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency in the Hungarian language. Understandably, we are very proud of our clients when they clear this hurdle, for they have worked very hard at their language learning in order to be able to declare that they “understand and speak the Hungarian language”. For this reason, our Hungarian language courses are built on the communicative approach to language learning. Our aim is for our learners to be able to understand and respond to the questions or inquiries posed to them, and to be relaxed and confident enough to show that they are friendly, open individuals. All of them are excited about the possibility of gaining Hungarian citizenship, and of course very proud of their Hungarian origin and fond of the cultural ties. We want these things to be evident at the interview, and this is what we aim for as we work with our learners.    Hungry for more Hungarian - cakes
We have a number of learners who passed their Citizenship Interviews in 2015 and are now sitting tight waiting to be granted citizenship. 2016 started well: two of our lovely learners have just received invitations to attend their oath ceremonies and we couldn’t be more excited for them.

Hungry for more Hungarian - Christmas markets


Stepping into 2016, we are full of plans for developments, but one thing won’t change: we treat every single client as we would like to be treated ourselves. With translation projects we produce high-qualitiy translations that read like originals, always meet the agreed deadlines and it goes without saying that we adhere to strict confidentiality. When it comes to delivering Hungarian language lessons, we treat every learner as they were our only client and feel privileged to be able to join them on this very important, special journey. We carry on offering a first, free lesson to each new learner so that people can see what they get for their money before they commit themselves.
In 2016, we continue to build our bridge between cultures.


No, seriously – who is he? (Communication can be fun in a bilingual, English-Hungarian family!)

I’m sure many of us, finding ourselves in a foreign-language environment, and using the elementary knowledge we have of the language – which to our mind ‘isn’t bad’ – have been able to get a pretty good idea of what those around us are talking about. At the level preceding this, the foreign language is so new to us we are extremely surprised at how similar it is to our own native language! They use so many of our words, and the names of objects and people are so familiar… Our languages must be related somehow, even if they belong to completely different language families!
This is how my brother Peter must have felt many years ago when he was still at pre-elementary level in his Hungarian. Peter and his family were staying with us at our home in Martfű, a pleasant little town in the Great Hungarian Plain beside the River Tisza. You can imagine the bustle and excitement in a house full of four- to fourteen-year-olds, with animated interaction between adults and children, and everyone wanting to be heard and understood in their own language. The irate mother (me) is trying desperately to keep discipline and order among her Hungarian-speaking sons and daughter and her English-speaking nieces. Likewise Peter and Miranda, who are attempting the same with their daughters, niece and nephews. “Téboly!” – a Hungarian speaker would cry; “It’s a madhouse!” – so the Englishman.
Knowing little of the mysteries of Hungarian grammar, Peter was still oblivious of the ‘roppant érdekes’ (extremely interesting) way in which the infinitive tenni (to put) takes its form in the imperative. Nor was he quite clear on the meaning of the word vissza (adverb, means ‘back’ in Hungarian) – although it certainly sounded familiar to him! Finally, no longer able to suppress his curiosity, and with Hungarian-English words and expressions whistling past his ears, Peter asked, “Who’s that bloke Ted Vissza you keep mentioning?” All I could do was laugh and say:”He’s a friend of that guy Ted Le!” *


For Theodore, who did so well preparing for his citizenship interview, so he knows why I laughed when he said I could call him Ted.

Communication can be fun in a bilingual, English-Hungarian family!

* Julia’s comments: ‘Tedd vissza!’ means ‘Put (it) back!’ in Hungarian. ‘Tedd le!’ means ‘Put (it) down!’.

Do schools kill creativity?

Do schools kill creativityThe other day I watched a video on YouTube dealing with the education system and the influence it has on natural human creativity. The video was of the 20-minute talk given at the end of a conference by Sir Ken Robinson. He raised some interesting points, and gave a very graphic explanation of how the aim of most schools is to train and programme children to meet academic requirements. Gradually, the creative instincts of children die because they are not nurtured, and individuals who are artistic rather than academic eventually believe they are inferior to those who are good at maths and science.
It is strange how great a shift takes place when children go to elementary school. In Hungary children start ‘real’ school at the age of six or perhaps seven. Until then, during the years they attend nursery school, their days are filled with play, fairy and folk stories, music and children’s rhymes, painting and drawing. Children are encouraged to be creative; at least, they are exposed to many things that provide an outlet for their creativity. Then, when children leave nursery school and begin their first year at elementary or primary school, they are suddenly faced with new demands. They must learn to conform to standard requirements. Children must practise until they are able to form letters that precisely match those the teacher has inscribed on the board, and a picture that is an expression of a child’s most creative thoughts is pigeonholed according to a number (mark) the teacher scribbles at the bottom of the drawing.
And yet, creativity is said to be an important aspect of intelligence. Most modern IQ tests include sections that measure creativity, because we now realise that human intelligence is not purely a mental thing, but is also emotional and creative. Why is it, then, that so much emphasis is placed on the sciences, and that mathematics is still at the top of subject hierarchy? One reason is that parents encourage their children to study and do well in subjects that will help them find employment. Hardly anyone would agree that studying art or acting was the sure way to a successful career. Likewise, very few writers can boast of being financially secure. If so, it has taken them years to make themselves a name.

Most schools feel obliged to offer a curriculum in line with society’s expectations; indeed, there are certain governmental stipulations that regulate what is taught in schools, and even the methods that can be used.
However, there are schools that diverge from generally accepted content and methodology in order to allow children to develop their abilities and natural creativity. These include the Waldorf and Montessori schools, which are not mainstream, but are still the choice of thousands of parents all over the world, who want their children to have an education that nurtures creativity and allows children to develop their natural talents and abilities. The existence of such schools shows that there is still hope for human creativity.

At Hungarian Language Solutions we try using this natural creativity during our lessons and help you reconnect with your inner creative self. We watch you very closely to see which are the areas you enjoy and where you feel most creative. This is very important, as this happens to be the same place where you can achieve the creative state called the ‘Flow’ (for more information on this please read our article)
Our aim is to keep you in this creative state and use it wisely, so we design exercises that help us do this. This way, hopefully, we don’t just teach Hungarian, but add something you enjoy, something extra that enhances your life!
What do you think? Do you find it easy to reconnect with your inner creative self? Do you find doing this helps when learning Hungarian?

Julia’s early impressions of Hungary

I arrived in Hungary on a dazzling, boiling-hot day in August. The year was 1981, and as I stepped out of the plane’s exit door onto the movable stairway leading down onto the concrete of the aerodrome, I was confronted by the first of many of the differences I was to experience, differences that contrasted Hungary and England. The heat! It literally hit me as I stepped out of the air-conditioned plane. When I had taken off from London a couple of hours earlier it had been about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, but as we were preparing to land, the captain had spoken of a temperature of 35 degrees Celsius in Budapest!
Walking across the concrete to the terminal building (as I remember, theJulia's early impressions of Hungaryre was no airport bus to transport us those several hundred yards) I had mixed feelings when I saw the armed soldiers positioned at various points over the area. They did not look very threatening, they seemed to feel quite at home, but they were armed, they were holding machine guns, and there was a reason for that. I was reminded that this was communist Hungary, it was a country occupied by Soviet Russia. I tried to shrug off recollections of calls from family members to be wary, of supplications to think twice before making any decision to leave England and come to live in this Eastern Bloc country. But then I thought of my fiancé, who was waiting for me at Arrivals, who I would be seeing as soon as I was through passport control and for me, Julia's early impressions of Hungary_the small town she arrived in 1981that was all that mattered, the cloud of apprehension was lifted.
Thus began a process of adapting that went relatively smoothly for me because I was young and wanted to learn. I knew it was vital that I settled in as soon as possible, and not consciously, but instinctively, I knew that the first step to this was to gain the acceptance and approval of my immediate environment – who cared about the communist government?!
When learning a foreign language we soon experience that the way native speakers communicate in everyday life can be very different to how we learnt the language in a non-native environment. Although I am half English – half Hungarian I still had to learn how people in Hungary communicate. But I quickly got a hold of the “real” Hungarian language.   I worked really hard to learn, and I said to myself that when I could read, understand, enjoy and appreciate a work of fine literature (that is how I translated the term “szépirodalom”) then I would be able to say that I was beginning to know Hungarian. The first book I read in such a way was Az arany ember by Jókai Mór. What individual, characteristic ideas the author had! I realised that because the Hungarians were still reading the works of great writers like Jókai and Petőfi, because they had preserved the old customs and folklore of their nation, because of these things the Hungarian people were able to take Communism in their stride. In some ways, I feel that Hungary has lost more since the change in political system that came about after 1989 than it lost during the years under the Communist Regime.
There are many contrasts I could mention while describing the way of life I experienced when I came to Hungary in 1981. I had grown up in London and now I was living in a “község” that to me was like a village.  True, it had a shoe factory that provided work for thousands of people (4494 in 1988), but everyone kept pigs and chickens in their backyard, and they grew grapes and vegetables in their gardens – not just flowers – and there were even fruit trees by the roadside. At that time the side roads were non-asphalted, and after a lot of rain you were lucky if you could drive the car up to the house without getting stuck in the mud…it was dangerous on a bicycle, too! Speaking of cars, there was not a western car in sight, but I soon learned to identify the Moszkvics, Warburg, Volga and Trabant – all collector’s items these days!
Reminiscing over those early days, I could talk of food, humour, “pop” music; of television (no broadcast on a Monday), working hours (only every other Saturday was free), the 1st of May (parades in the streets), pálinka (you distilled it at home), policemen (they carried guns), queuing at the bus stop (nobody did or does it), weddings (so traditional), pig-killings (a ritual, really) – and I could go on…
Today Hungary has moved closer to the West. These days there are many more similarities between the British and Hungarian way of life than there were 30 years ago. What has not changed is that Hungary is still a beautiful country, it has customs and traditions that can still be kept alive, and more and more people from other nations are showing an interest in, and an appreciation of Hungary. Hungary is a wonderful place to visit – and, really and truly, not a bad place to live!