Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are some verb prefixes in Hungarian?
Krisztina: And why are they useful to know?
Michael: At HungarianPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Ben Lee hears a new word that sounds familiar, but he isn't sure about the meaning. He asks his friend,
"What does "kimegy" mean?"
Ben Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy "kimegy?"
Ben Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy "kimegy?"
Dudás Diána: Azt jelenti, hogy "to go out."
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Ben Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy "kimegy?"
Michael: "What does "kimegy" mean?"
Dudás Diána: Azt jelenti, hogy "to go out."
Michael: "It means 'to go out.'"

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, you will be learning about verb prefixes in Hungarian, and you will find out why they are useful to know. Let me start by explaining that these prefixes can be better understood as co-verbs. That is, they are like small words that join to a stem or root word in order to change the meaning of the root word. They function in much the same way as adverbs do in English, but, in Hungarian, they are attached to the verb. The best way to explain this is to show it. In the dialogue for this lesson, Ben asks his friend what
Krisztina: kimegy
Michael: means. He is told that it means "to go out." The English "to go out" consists of the verb "go" and the adverb "out" as two separate words, but, in Hungarian, they are joined together and form a new verb with a different meaning than the original stem. The stem was "go" or
Krisztina: megy
Michael: and the co-verb or prefix is
Krisztina: ki
Michael: which, as you will have guessed, means "out." Now, listen to the word again.
Krisztina: kimegy.
Michael: This means "to go out," as you now know. The original meaning of the root word has changed and a new word has been formed.
There are quite a number of these verbal prefixes so, in this lesson, we will look at a few of the more common ones with a focus on those that have a specialized function.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Ben Lee says "What does "kimegy" mean?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Jennifer as Ben Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy "kimegy?"
Michael: Remember how I said we would focus on verbal prefixes that have a special function in this lesson? Well,
Krisztina: ki
Michael: is one of those specialized prefixes. It belongs to a group of three prefixes that perform the functions of perfection or completion. What does that mean? Well, unless we want to get very technical, the best way to explain it is through some examples. Let's start with the most challenging of these prefixes. It sounds like this:
Krisztina: meg.
Michael: I say that it is the most challenging because it is extremely versatile, but some of its uses are very rare and chances are you will never encounter them, so we will stick to the most common uses. In most instances, this prefix is used to tell us that something has been completed, that it has been achieved in full, or that it is finished. Let's compare, for example, these two words.
Krisztina: csinál
Michael: and
Krisztina: megcsinál.
Michael: Both of these words mean "to make something," but the second one, with the prefix, implies that something has been completed or finished. It could be used in a sentence like
Krisztina: Végre megcsináltam!
Michael: which means "I have finally made it!" As you can hear, this sentence is in the perfect tense. It is in this sense that the action is now perfect, as denoted by the prefix. Another example that illustrates this usage well is that of the words
Krisztina: talál
Michael: and
Krisztina: megtalál.
Michael: Again, these mean more or less the same thing. They both mean "to find" but the first one implies that the thing is found more by chance, while the second one denotes a sense of completion or accomplishment. It suggests that the thing that was searched for has been found and it can be used in the perfect form in the following way:
Krisztina: Megtaláltam!
Michael: This means "I have found it!" Hopefully, these two examples have helped you to see how this special prefix functions. There are two other prefixes that have a similar function but that are not as versatile. The first of these we have already discussed. It is
Krisztina: ki.
Michael: To illustrate this one, let's take the Hungarian verb for "read," which is
Krisztina: olvas
Michael: and put it in a sentence meaning "He was reading a book," like this -
Krisztina: Olvasta a könyvet.
Michael: Now, let's change it to mean "He read the book," by adding the prefix to the verb. Listen:
Krisztina: Kiolvasta a könyvet.
Michael: This indicates that he read the book from beginning to end. Another prefix that serves this function is
Krisztina: el.
Michael: We can add this prefix to a word like
Krisztina: ment
Michael: which means "he was going" and change it to mean "he went" or
Krisztina: elment.
Michael: Again, the verb has been changed to express a sense of completion, where
Krisztina: meg
Michael: can indicate perfection or completion; the other two indicate only completion.
Michael: In this lesson, you've learned that there are certain verbal prefixes in Hungarian that carry specific meanings, and that can affect the aspect of a root verb. For instance, the prefix
Krisztina: ki
Michael: means "out" and the prefixes
Krisztina: meg, [pause] ki
Michael: and
Krisztina: el
Michael: can denote perfection or completion of an action. Let's look at a few more examples of verbal prefixes or co-verbs in Hungarian. The first one is
Krisztina: be
Michael: and it should be easy to remember because it means the opposite of the prefix
Krisztina: ki.
Michael: It tells us that the action has an inward movement or direction. Let's take the same word we used previously, which was
Krisztina: megy
Michael: and means "to go." Then, let's add the prefix, like this:
Krisztina: bemegy.
Michael: With this prefix added, the new word means "to go into." The next prefix is
Krisztina: fel
Michael: and it tells us that the action has an upward direction or motion. If we add it to the Hungarian word for "to call," which is:
Krisztina: hív
Michael: we end up with
Krisztina: felhív
Michael: which means "to call up." It will make more sense in a sentence. Here's an example:
Krisztina: Felhívod Mártát?
Michael: It means "Are you going to call Martha?" If we were to translate it more literally, it would mean "Are you going to call Martha up?" And, in keeping with our theme of opposites, let's now hear a prefix that tells us that the action has a downward motion or direction. It sounds like this:
Krisztina: le.
Michael: If a Hungarian person wants to say that they are going to a place outside of Budapest, they often use this prefix. For instance, the sentence
Krisztina: Megyek Szegedre.
Michael: means "I am going to"
Krisztina: Szeged,
Michael: but, if you were Hungarian and traveling from Budapest, you would probably say,
Krisztina: Lemegyek Szegedre,
Michael: which means "I am going down to
Krisztina: Szeged.
Michael: The opposite is also true. If a Hungarian person is traveling to Budapest, they will usually say that they are going "up to" Budapest. In order to do so, they will use the prefix we discussed just a few moments ago. Listen to it in this sentence meaning, "I am going up to Budapest."
Krisztina: Felmegyek Budapestre.
Michael: Did you hear it? The prefix was, of course,
Krisztina: fel.
Michael: There are many of these verbal prefixes, and it is a very good idea to get to know them because they will be of immense help when attempting to learn Hungarian.
Michael: An important point to repeat is that, for a very good reason, these prefixes are sometimes called co-verbs. This is because they can be separated from the verb and can function as independent words as well. Let's see an example of when the co-verb is separated from the verb. Listen to this sentence in which you can hear the co-verb being said just before Martha's name is mentioned:
Krisztina: Nem hívom fel Mártát.
Michael: This sentence means "I will not call Martha." In this example, due to the negation, the co-verb separates from the verb and their order is inverted. Let's now see an example when not only separation occurs but actually the co-verb appears independently. Let's stay with the same example. In the question: "Are you calling Martha?"
Krisztina: Felhívod Mártát?
Michael: everything is in order. Co-verb and verb are stuck together, since this is a simple question. This is a yes/no question. However, Hungarians have a third way to respond to such questions besides yes and no, or
Krisztina: igen és nem,
Michael: and this is simply by repeating the co-verb. Thus, the following answer to the question we have just heard would be totally natural and correct in Hungarian:
Krisztina: Fel.
Michael: This one-word sentence only means "Up," and its meaning is identical to "yes," or: "Yes, I'm calling her." Let's see yet another example of this very common rule. We have already mentioned the word for "to find,"
Krisztina: megtalál.
Michael: Let's suppose someone asks you whether you have found the keys that you have been looking for for a while:
Krisztina: Megtaláltad a kulcsot?
Michael: If you have found them, you could reply:
Krisztina: Meg.
Michael: or, of course, the generic "yes" could also work:
Krisztina: Igen.
Michael: If you haven't found them though, you have to stick with the "no" for an answer:
Krisztina: Nem.
Michael: These are just a few examples of the many ways in which co-verbs can function. As you can see, they are not only versatile but also plentiful in Hungarian, so it's a good idea to acquaint yourself with as many of them as you can.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Krisztina: Viszontlátásra!
Michael: See you soon!