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Lesson Transcript

Michael: How many tenses are there in Hungarian?
Boglárka: And do you need to know all of them?
Michael: At HungarianPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Sasha Lee is confused about the number of tenses in Hungarian. She asks a befriended teacher, Borbala Balogh,
"How many tenses are there in the Hungarian language?"
Sasha Lee: Hány igeidő van a magyar nyelvben?
Sasha Lee: Hány igeidő van a magyar nyelvben?
Balogh Borbála: Három fő igeidő van.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Sasha Lee: Hány igeidő van a magyar nyelvben?
Michael: "How many tenses are there in the Hungarian language?"
Balogh Borbála: Három fő igeidő van.
Michael: "There are 3 main tenses."

Lesson focus

Michael: There are three main tenses in the English language, and these are the past, present, and future tenses. When we speak of tense, we refer to the time an action has been performed. In Hungarian, we have the same main tenses: The present, or
Boglárka: [NORMAL] jelen [SLOWLY] jelen
Michael: the past, or
Boglárka: [NORMAL] múlt [SLOWLY] múlt
Michael: and future, or
Boglárka: [NORMAL] jövő [SLOWLY] jövő
Michael: This similarity is what makes Hungarian quite easy for English speakers to study. Since the three main tenses are the same, it's simpler to express one's thoughts in Hungarian than in other languages. What makes Hungarian even easier in terms of tenses is that it has only one present tense. This means that Hungarian does not differentiate between simple and continuous present tenses as other languages like English or Spanish do.
Michael: For instance, "I go to the school" and "I am going to the school" can both be expressed with the same conjugation form. You can say
Boglárka: megyek az iskolába
Michael: for, "I go to the school," and
Boglárka: most megyek a iskolába
Michael: to say, "I'm going to the school now." The conjugation of the verb is the same, only this time, in order to express the continuous action, we added the word "now," or
Boglárka: most.
Michael: We can also use
Boglárka: éppen
Michael: or
Boglárka: épp
Michael: to say "right now."
Let's talk about the past tense with the help of some examples. Just as there is only one present tense in Hungarian, there is also one past tense. In English, we know that the past tense of the verb is formed by adding -ed at the end of the root word, at least for regular verbs. In Hungarian, we also add suffixes, which are
Boglárka: -t or -tt
Michael: Keep in mind that these endings come before the personal endings, so if you want to say "I watched," you say
Boglárka: [NORMAL] néztem [SLOWLY] néztem
Michael: Here, we have the root word, which is "watch," or
Boglárka: néz
Michael: plus the suffix -t, followed by the personal ending for the first person singular, which is
Boglárka: -em.
Michael: One thing about the Hungarian past tense is that verbs in this tense can be divided into three groups. The first group includes verbs that take the one -t ending. An example would be the word,
Boglárka: beszél
Michael: or "talk," which in the past tense becomes
Boglárka: beszélt
Michael: or "talked." So, if you want to say, "I talked," or "I was talking," you say
Boglárka: [NORMAL] beszéltem [SLOWLY] beszéltem
Michael: Another example would be
Boglárka: marad
Michael: or "remain," which, in the past tense, becomes
Boglárka: maradt
Michael: "remained." If you want to say "I remained," or "I was remaining," you say:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] maradtam [SLOWLY] maradtam
Michael: The second group of verbs are those that take the long consonant -tt at the end. An example would be the word "build,"
Boglárka: épít
Michael: which, in the past tense, becomes
Boglárka: épített
Michael: or "built." To say, "I built," or "I was building," you say
Boglárka: [NORMAL] építettem [SLOWLY] építettem
Michael: Verbs ending in two consonants also take the long consonant -tt. For instance, the past tense for the word
Boglárka: tekint
Michael: or "consider" becomes
Boglárka: tekintett
Michael: or "considered." And then there are those verbs ending in -t, such as the word
Boglárka: fűt
Michael: or "heat," which, in the past tense, becomes
Boglárka: fűtött,
Michael: "heated." Now, the third group of verbs are those that do not simply get a -t or -tt ending, but their stem also changes. These are verbs whose past tense is irregular. There are not too many of these though. Here is one very common such verb, the verb "to go,"
Boglárka: megy
Michael: which becomes
Boglárka: ment
Michael: or "went" in the past tense. So, as you can see, the -t ending is still there, but the stem of the verb changed.
Now, what about the future tense? Well, just like in English, we can form the future tense in several ways. The most common one would be to add the word "will," before the verb. This can be done with the auxiliary word
Boglárka: fog.
Michael: So, if you want to say "I will buy a book," you can say
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Venni fogok egy könyvet. [SLOWLY] Venni fogok egy könyvet.
Michael: Here, the word "to buy," or
Boglárka: venni
Michael: is in the infinitive form, while the word for "will" that demonstrates the future tense is conjugated in first person singular:
Boglárka: fogok
Michael: In this lesson, we learned that, in Hungarian, there are three main tenses: present, past, and future. To create the right tense, we take the verb stem and add a prefix or a suffix, conjugating it to agree with the subject in number.
Michael: In Hungarian, there is a clear tendency to prefer the present tense to the more complex future tense in everyday speech but more and more in formal environments as well. Nowadays, the default way of expressing "I'll go to school tomorrow." would be:
Boglárka: Holnap iskolába megyek,
Michael: which literally means "Tomorrow I go to school." The more traditional or formal way to express the same would be using the auxiliary word
Boglárka: fog
Michael: which is used to form the future tense as we have discussed earlier. So "I'll go to school tomorrow" would be:
Boglárka: Holnap iskolába fogok menni.
Michael: See the difference? Instead of using "I will," or
Boglárka: fogok,
Michael: we used "I'm going," or "I go,"
Boglárka: megyek
Michael: The first version is the one that you would hear almost exclusively in everyday speech.


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