Dialogue - Hungarian


Vocabulary (Review)

volt it was
Örülök neki. “I’m glad to hear that. / I’m glad...”
milyen what kind?, what?
otthon home, at home
fárasztó tiring
itthon at home
út journey, road
repülőút flight
szünet break, holiday, vacation
téged you (accusative)

Lesson Notes


Lesson Focus

The Focus of this Lesson is volt, the past tense form of van, "be."
Milyen volt az út?

"How was the journey?"

Volt is the third person singular form of "to be" in the past tense.

Before giving you examples, here is a table with all the possible forms. As a reminder, we have also provided you with the present tense forms.


Person Present Past
"I" vagyok voltam
"you" vagy voltál
"he"/"she"/"it" van volt
"we" vagyunk voltunk
"you" vagytok voltatok
"they" vannak voltak

The use of these past tense forms is very similar to that of the present tense.

For example:

  1. Tanár vagyok.
    "I am a teacher."
  2. Tanár voltam.
    "I was a teacher."

In past tense however, even the third person form must be in the sentence. Compare:

  1. Fáradt vagyok.
    "I am tired."
  2. Ő fáradt.
    "He is tired" (third person form omitted)


  1. Fáradt voltam.
    "I was tired."
  2. Fáradt volt.
    "He was tired."

Here are a few ready-made sentences:

  1. Voltál órán?
    "Did you go to class?"
  2. Nem voltam.
    "I didn't."
  3. Voltatok a találkozón?
    "Did you attend the meeting?

Note that some present perfect sentences are also expressed with past tense in Hungarian.

  1. Voltál már Amerikában?
    "Have you ever been to America?"

In these cases the word már "already" is often used, although this is definitely not a rule.

Key Vocabulary & Phrases

Rég láttalak

Rég láttalak is an informal expression that means "Long time no see." We have already covered the more formal version (the difference in the conjugation, as usual), which was rég láttam. In the case of the informal sentence rég is of course "long time" and láttalak is "I saw you." In the formal sentence, you have rég again, and than láttam, which means "I saw you (formal)" and "I saw it." This is just a quick reminder—third person conjugation is the same as second person formal.


Én is téged

Én is téged is the answer to the previous, informal sentence. It literally means "I too you." The last word might be a new one, téged is you in the accusative, that is the object of the sentence.

Another example of the use of accusative personal pronouns is szeretlek téged, or "I love you."



Milyen is a question word that means "what type, what kind of, what?"

  1. Milyen az idő?
    "What's the weather like?"
  2. Milyen nap van ma?
    "What day is it today?"
  3. Milyen színűt kér? (formal)
    "What color would you like?"

Itthon and otthon

Itthon and otthon both mean "at home." Itthon is used when you are close to the actual location. For example, if someone open's the door and you're looking for Peter, you would say:

  1. Itthon van Péter?
    "Is Peter home?"
  2. Itthon.
    "He is."

Since both of you are right near the location, you use itthon (which in fact starts with itt or "here.")
If you're looking for Peter on the phone, you say:

  1. Otthon van Péter?
    "Is Peter home?"
  2. Itthon.
    "He is."

You are far from the location, but the other person is right there. The word otthon starts with ott, or "there."

Cultural Insights

Holidays in Hungary

Holidays in Hungary are plentiful. Schools are usually out between the middle of June and September, and mid-December to January 6-7. If there is a national holiday on a Thursday or Tuesday, people normally don't have to work Friday and Monday either in order to make a 4 day weekend. While  people have to make up for the lost day on the following Saturday, most workplaces do it very reluctantly or not at all. Even at places where the lost day is to be made up, work is reported to be much less efficient.

Besides the school holidays, the national holidays include August 20, March 15, October 23, November 1, May 1, Pentecost, Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter.

Lesson Transcript

Simone: Hi everyone, and welcome to HungarianPod101.com, Lower Beginner Season 1, Lesson 1, "How Were Your Hungarian Holidays?" I'm Simone.
Csaba: Sziasztok, I'm Csaba. Wow, we're on the Lower Beginner series now!
Simone: Yes, I hope you listeners had no doubts that we would be back. In this very first lesson, we're going to learn how to use the past tense form of "to be."
Csaba: The dialogue takes place on the street.
Simone: It's between Anne and Balázs, our main characters, whom you might remember from our Absolute Beginner series.
Csaba: And of course, they are good friends, therefore they use the informal language.
Simone: Let's listen to the conversation.
Simone: So, Anne is back from which holiday again?
Csaba: From the summer holiday. As you remember, she's working as an English teacher in Hungary, and she left for the US at the end of the school year.
Simone: Right. Schools take a break in Hungary for about two and a half months.
Csaba: Which we were all very grateful for once. But other than that, you get quite a lot of days off for national holidays too.
Simone: As well as Christmas and Easter too. I remember that from my time in Hungary. Holidays are plentiful.
Csaba: There is always something to celebrate and take a day off for, especially in the first half of the year. You get New Year's Day, Easter, the 15th of March, the 1st of May, Pentecost.
Simone: And the extra day you usually get when any of these happen to be on a Tuesday or a Thursday.
Csaba: Right. Well, who doesn't love four-day weekends?
Simone: That's right. Let's take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson.
The first word we shall see is...
You, accusative.
Téged. Téged.
Next is...
What kind? What?
Milyen. Milyen.
Next is...
Volt. Volt.
Next is...
Journey, road.
Út. Út.
Next is...
Repülőút. Repülőút.
Next is...
Fárasztó. Fárasztó.
Next is...
Break, holiday.
Szűnet. Szünet.
Next is...
At home.
Otthon. Otthon.
Next is...
At home.
Itthon. Itthon.
And last...
Örülök neki.
I'm glad to hear that. I'm glad that.
Örülök neki. Örülök neki.
Simone: Let's have a closer look at the usage for some of the words and phrases from this lesson.
Csaba: The first phrase is Szeretlek téged. Meaning...
Simone: I love you.
Csaba: You is the object of love, therefore we use téged, the accusative form.
Simone: Alright, moving on. There was a question word we haven't covered yet.
Csaba: Milyen. Milyen. This question word means "what kind of" or "what type". In some constructions, you may translate it simply as "what".
Simone: Tell us how you'd say this: "What color would you like?"
Csaba: Listeners, please repeat after me. Milyen színt kérsz? This is formal, something you might hear when shopping at a store.
Simone: In the dialogue we heard two versions of the same word.
Csaba: Right. "At home" is either itthon or otthon.
Simone: What's the difference?
Csaba: Itthon is used when you are close to the actual location, the house or the apartment.
Simone: Let's say your friend's roommate opens the door for you and you want to ask, "Is Péter home?"
Csaba: Itthon van Péter?
Simone: And the short answer is?
Csaba: Itthon. Both of us use the word itthon since we are close to the location. But if the same question comes up in a phone conversation where you're far away, you ask...
Simone: "Is Péter home?"
Csaba: Otthon van Péter?
Simone: What would be the short answer?
Csaba: The same as before, since the person on the other end of the line is still at the location. He would say: Itthon.
Simone: Got it. Let's move on to the grammar for this lesson.
Simone: In this lesson, we're going to learn about the use of the past tense form of "to be."
Csaba: Yes. Well, the third person form is "volt."
Simone: What examples do we hear in the dialogue?
Csaba: The first one is "Milyen volt az út?"
Simone: "How was the journey?"
Csaba: Milyen volt az út? We've just covered "milyen" in the vocab part and "az út" means "the journey."
Simone: As you can see, the order of words is exactly the same as in English.
Csaba: Right, in this case. I'll give you another example, this time conjugated in the first person singular.
Csaba: Tanár voltam.
Simone: "I was a teacher." There are different forms for every person, right?
Csaba: Right. Let’s go through them very quickly.
Simone: "I was, you were, he was."
Csaba: Voltam, voltál, volt.
Simone: "We were, you were, they were."
Csaba: Voltunk, voltatok, voltak.
Simone: As usual, dictionaries normally list the third person singular. We also put that into the vocabulary list section of the lesson notes.
Csaba: Yes, you should remember that. Another thing: since the conjugation tells us the person, the personal pronouns are not normally used.
Simone: So, how would you say "We were soldiers?"
Csaba: Katonák voltunk. See? No pronoun. "Katonák" is "soldiers."
Simone: Okay, anything else you want to say about this one?
Csaba: Well, now that you mention it, I remember an exception from this previous rule. In one of our earlier series, we said that in third person singular, the word "be" is not used, instead there is a pronoun there.
Simone: Please give us an example.
Csaba: Here it is. "Külföldi vagyok." This means "I'm a foreigner."
Csaba: Yes, but you say "Ő külföldi." Which means "He is a foreigner." In third person, we use the pronoun and drop the verb. Well, in the past tense, as we explained in this lesson, you need the verb as well.
Simone: And for more information, check the lesson notes.


Simone: Okay, that's it for this lesson. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time. Bye everyone.
Csaba: Sziasztok