The next lesson will be up very soon, like in a day or two. Until then, please have a listen to the first lesson below, and try to memorize as much as you can! Thanks to everybody who left a comment about our first lesson. I hope you’ll keep listening to and enjoying our podcast.
Ok, so we received our first listener question, from Fatima. It’s kind of an intermediate-level grammar-type question, so if you are just a beginning learner, this may not interest you very much.
I have a question – something that I cannot figure out and maybe you can help.
If you are stating something in the plural from the singular, example, kedves to kedvesek it has taken the ending ek.
Now from my understanding:
Front vowel words take the ek ending – kedvesek.
Back vowel words take the ok ending – autok (strip on o) and viragok (strip on a).
My question is:
What is the rule for: poharak. (strip on first a)
Where does the ak ending come from and what is the rule is making use of it?
If you know, pray tell, pleeeeeeeeease.
Thanks for the question, Fatima! You’ve hit upon one of the trickiest areas for foreign learners of Hungarian: the correct ending that a conjugated word should take.
First of all, I want to recommend that every serious learner of Hungarian should own a copy of Hungarian Verbs And Essentials of Grammar by Miklós Törkenczy. It’s a bit of a tough read as you might expect of a serious grammar book, but it’s also short, concise, and the conjugated verb tables make it invaluable. He also does a great job of explaining the entire mess that is Hungarian endings. Unfortunately, my copy is not with me at the moment so I can’t look up your question.
And as I mentioned in the podcast, neither Györgyi nor I are Hungarian teachers, so there’s a lot of stuff we don’t know how to explain. That said, I’m going to venture an answer to your question:
I’m tempted to say that all multi-syllable words ending in “-ár” conjugate to “-arak” in the plural. E.g. “mocsár” –> “mocsarak,” “pohár” –> “poharak,” “bogár” –> “bogarak” et al. BUT there’s also “tanár” –> “tanárok” which doesn’t follow this pattern!
Which is the rule? I’m guessing that “-ár” to “arak” is the general rule, with the exception of “tanár” and maybe a few others. You’ll see that there’s a lot of confusing exceptions when it comes to word endings, unfortunately.
But I’d also like to tell you not to worry about it so much. In my opinion, word endings are an area of the language that, with repeated exposure through listening and reading, you CAN pick it up and remember it. And if you get it wrong, usually it’s not such a big deal. People will still be able to understand what you wanted to say for the most part. This is quite different from choosing the correct verb prefix, which I personally think is the hardest aspect of learning Hungarian and something that is far more consequential if you get wrong!
Well, if anybody can offer a better explanation of has an opinion on this, I’d love to hear it, so feel free to leave a comment on this post.
Thanks for this guys. I have gone out and bought the book and have started reading. Will let you know what I think in due course.
Am soooooo looking forward to your next pod.
This whole plural issue gets very complicated quickly. Who knew?!
You brought up the example of tanÃ¡r. Well, here are some others with the same vowels a-Ã¡ in them: hatÃ¡r becomes what? MadÃ¡r is madarak in plural, while kabÃ¡t will become kabÃ¡tok. So even the a-Ã¡ construction isn’t consistent. Yikes!
Yes, good point Eszter! HatÃ¡r also becomes hatÃ¡rok, right?
I wish there was an easy way to explain/understand this grammar point, but I don’t think there is. The good news is that it can be learned, it just takes a while…
i learned a couple words and phrases on your podcast and surprised my hungarian girlfriend with them. she was quite pleased!
nem ertem comes in quite handy!
Hi All! I looked up this topic a bit, and what I found is the following (although it is just the regular stuff):
If the back-vowel suffix has â€œoâ€ and â€œaâ€ variation as well, the latter (-ak, -at, -adik etc) only goes with a limited circle of words, in general:
*back-vowel adjectives (except for nationalities (magyarok) and a few others like â€œnagyâ€ or â€œfiatalâ€)
*back-vowel cardinal numbers (except for â€œhatâ€, â€œmilliÃ¡rdâ€)
*many back-vowel, monosyllabic nouns (â€œhÃ¡zâ€, â€œfalâ€, â€œtollâ€ etc.)
*back-vowel, v-rooted words (lÃ³/lov, tÃ³/tav, szÃ³/szav- etc.)
*those words ending in -alom, which loses one vowel in their plural form (tÃ¡rsadalom/tÃ¡rsadalm-, alkalom/alkalm-)
*those back-vowel words, which last vowel becomes short in their plural (kanÃ¡l/kanal-, madÃ¡r, madar-, Ãºt/ut,-, nyÃ¡r/nyar- etc.)
*and a few others (ajak/ajk-, vÃ¡szon/vÃ¡szn-).
wow, my head is spinning. Thanks for the contribution!
I wonder though, isn’t it possible for a word to take the ending “-ok” but ALSO “-at”?
Or is a given word always either “-ok”, “-ot” OR “-ak”, “-at”? I really need to re-read the TÃ¶rkenczy book…
I don’t know, but I cannot think of any example when the word gets different vowels (a & o) in plural and in (singular) acc. case. But here you are the (hungarian) website I found the information from the vowel harmony: http://bme-tk.bme.hu/other/kuszob/hangok.htm#A.3.; http://bme-tk.bme.hu/other/kuszob/nyelvt.htm)
Emma B says
This website is fab thank you. I am moving to Hungary in September and need to basically conversant by then, so please keep up the good work!
Thanks Emma, we’re glad you’re enjoying the podcast. Good luck in Hungary!