Here’s a basic but important question from Angela:
I would like to know the difference between “két” and “kettő” and in which contexts I can use them.
Steven: Thanks for the question, Angela. We may have addressed this previously in one of our audio lessons, but it certainly is worth repeating!
Györgyi: They both mean “two,” but are used in slightly different ways. Briefly, “két” is only used when it directly precedes a noun, as in “két jegyet kérek” (“I would like two tickets, please.”)
“Kettő” is used when you just say the number two on its own, that is, when it doesn’t immediately precede a noun that it modifies. When you just say the number by itself.
Steven: Pretty simple! But there’s a potential problem with this, isn’t there?
Györgyi: The problem is that “két” can sound an awful lot like “hét,” which means “seven!” So the person listening to you may be unsure if you are specifying “two” or “seven” of something.
Steven: I notice that Hungarians typically make the “k” sound really clear when they say “két” in order to avoid this misunderstanding.
Györgyi: Right, or they ask back for clarification, which is when you can specify “kettő.”
Steven: What would be an example of this?
Györgyi: We might have a conversation like this:
– Kérek szépen két Unicumot. (I would like two shots of Unicum.)
– Mennyi? (How many?)
– Kettő. (Two.)
Steven: Thanks Györgyi, that’s really clear!
Please send us your questions about the Hungarian language, and we’ll do our best to answer them!
FOTO:FORTEPAN / Lencse Zoltán [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons