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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What Are Some Other Prefixes in Hungarian?
Krisztina: And why are they useful to know?
Michael: At HungarianPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Sasha Lee reads a pamphlet together with her classmate, Orsolya Olah. She sees an unknown word, and asks,
"What does "aluljáró" mean?"
Sasha Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy "aluljáró?"
Sasha Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy "aluljáró?"
Oláh Orsolya: Azt jelenti, "subway."
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Sasha Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy "aluljáró?"
Michael: "What does "aluljáró" mean?"
Oláh Orsolya: Azt jelenti, "subway."
Michael: "It means 'subway.'"

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, you will be learning about prefixes other than verb prefixes in Hungarian. You will also find out why they are useful to know. Let's begin by talking about what prefixes are exactly. The Hungarian word for "prefix" is
Krisztina: előtag
Michael: and a prefix is a, usually, small element of language that is attached to the beginning of a word in order to modify the meaning of that word. An example in English would be the prefix "con-" which is used in many words, like "confused," "conjunction," and "contained," among others. Hungarian contains many prefixes because it is an agglutinative language. What this means is that it is the kind of language where you can join words together, without changing their spelling or sound in any way, to form new words. The result is that Hungarian has some pretty impressively long words!
However, that is not the topic for this lesson. In this lesson, we are simply going to look at some common Hungarian prefixes. They can be used in long words, of course, but, just to make things a little easier for you, we'll avoid talking about those in this lesson.
The first prefix we will talk about is
Krisztina: mű.
Michael: This prefix carries the meaning of "artificial" or "false" and thus it is used as a prefix for words that require this connotation. For instance, the Hungarian word for "tooth" is
Krisztina: fog
Michael: and if you want to talk about an "artificial" or "false" tooth, you would use this prefix to create the word
Krisztina: műfog.
Michael: Let's hear another example with this prefix. For instance, the Hungarian word for "flower" is
Krisztina: virág
Michael: and if you want to talk about flower decoration that doesn't require any watering, then you can add this prefix and form the word "artificial flower"
Krisztina: művirág.
Michael: Let's look at another common prefix in Hungarian. This one is
Krisztina: magán
Michael: and it precedes nouns. It carries the meaning of "private," and so it can be combined with a word like
Krisztina: személy
Michael: which means "an individual person." When it is combined with this word, it forms the word
Krisztina: magánszemély
Michael: which denotes a private individual who is not an official or a representative of the government. Another example of how this prefix can be used is when it is combined with the word for "teacher" or
Krisztina: tanár.
Michael: Together, they form the word
Krisztina: magántanár
Michael: which means "private teacher." As you can see, this prefix is always compounded with nouns.
Now, let's look at two prefixes that carry the same meaning. They are
Krisztina: akár
Michael: and
Krisztina: bár
Michael: and they both convey the meaning of "any." For instance, if someone wants to say something like, "Whatever you decide, I will accept it" in Hungarian, then they can say either:
Krisztina: Bárhogy döntesz is, elfogadom
Michael: or
Krisztina: Akárhogy döntesz is, elfogadom.
Michael: Let's look at the very first word in both these sentences. They both contain the word
Krisztina: hogy
Michael: which follows after the prefix. This word means "how" but, in this context, one must understand it as conveying the meaning of "method" or "means." If we attach either of the prefixes under discussion to this word, we end up with a new word meaning "anyway," "anyhow," or "whatever." You should be able to see that all these words refer to a means or a method, talking about how or in which way something is achieved. In each case, they also imply that any means is acceptable. This is the result of adding the prefixes. Listen to those words again:
Krisztina: bárhogy
Michael: and
Krisztina: akárhogy.
Michael: It's interesting to contrast these two prefixes with the prefix
Krisztina: se
Michael: because this one conveys almost the opposite meaning. It means "no" or "none" as in "no person, thing, way" and so on. If we attach this prefix to the same word we used before,
Krisztina: hogy
Michael: then it forms the word
Krisztina: sehogy
Michael: which means "in no way" or "by no means."
Michael: A word that carries a similar meaning to
Krisztina: hogy
Michael: is
Krisztina: úgy
Michael: and it means "so," if you want to translate it into a single word. In essence, though, it also conveys a sense of "means" or "method." For that reason, it might be easier to understand if I translate it as "like so." If we join this word with the prefix I just mentioned we come up with the word
Krisztina: ugyanúgy
Michael: which means "similarly" or "in the same way as…." This prefix is often used to compare things. For instance, if you wanted to say "They think just like I do" in Hungarian, you would say:
Krisztina: Ugyanúgy gondolkodnak, ahogyan én.
Michael: As you can see, these prefixes are very useful to know. I'll say a bit more about this shortly.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Sasha Lee says "What does "aluljáró" mean?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Krisztina as Sasha Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy "aluljáró?"
Michael: The word that Sasha is asking about here means "subway," as you know from listening to the dialogue earlier. What's important about this word is that it contains the prefix
Krisztina: alul
Michael: This prefix is similar in meaning to the English prefixes "sub" or "under." It precedes the word
Krisztina: járó
Michael: which translates to "ambulatory" or, more simply, "moving." The same word can also mean "underpass." The prefix can also be used in other words that refer to something that is "sub" or "under" such as:
Krisztina: alulexponálva
Michael: which means "underexposed." Interestingly, this prefix also has a prefix, in a sense. The prefix
Krisztina: al
Michael: which is the first part of
Krisztina: alul
Michael: also means "under" and can be used to form words like
Krisztina: alvállalkozó
Michael: and
Krisztina: alkancellár
Michael: which mean "subcontractor" and "vice chancellor," respectively. It is used to denote the rank of a person who holds office, and is useful for other words that one often uses in business and official settings.
Michael: In this lesson, you learned some non-verb prefixes in Hungarian. These included:
Krisztina: alul [pause], al [pause], mű [pause], akár [pause], bár [pause], ugyan,
Michael: and
Krisztina: magán.
Michael: I mentioned earlier that I would say something more about the importance of learning prefixes in Hungarian.
Hungarian is not an easy language to learn. This is partly because it is so unique. There is very little similarity between Hungarian and most other European languages, which means that one has to learn it from scratch, so to speak. It doesn't help you to know other languages because you won't find correlations between them and Hungarian. Hungarian also has complex grammatical rules and a complex case system. And, to top it all off, it is agglutinative, meaning that prefixes and suffixes are what determine the grammatical role of the words in the language. This is why it is so important to get to know the prefixes in Hungarian.


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