Dialogue - Hungarian



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. This is 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 of our lower beginner series, we’re going to learn how to use the past tense form of “to be.”
Csaba:The dialogue takes place on the street.
Simone: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:Here we go.
Simone:So, Anne is back from... which holiday again?
Csaba:From the summer holiday. As you remember, she is working as an English teacher in Hungary, and she left for the US at the end of the school year.
Simone:Right. Schools stop in Hungary for about 2 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. Holiday 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, March 15, May 1, Pentecost...
Simone:And the extra day you usually get when any of these happen to be a Tuesday or Thursday.
Csaba:Right. Well, who doesn’t love 4 day weekends?
Simone:On with the vocab then.
Simone:Where do we start from?
Csaba:Rég láttalak. This one means “long time no see” and here it is of course used in the informal.
Simone:We have already covered the formal version of this expression. Can you repeat that please?
Csaba:Rég láttam. 2X. That is so last season Simone. This time we’re informal.
Simone:Please repeat:
Csaba:Rég láttalak.
Simone:How did she answer?
Csaba:Én is téged. 2X This means something like “me too you.” Téged is “you” in the accusative.
Simone:Remind the listeners quickly what there is to know about the accusative.
Csaba:Basically, if the noun or pronoun is the object of a verb, you use the accusative form.
Simone:Can you give us another accusative?
Csaba:Szeretlek téged.
Simone:“I love you.” Repeat please.
Csaba:Szeretlek téged. “You” is the object of “love,” therefore we use téged, the accusative form.
Simone:All right, moving on. There was a question word we haven’t covered yet.
Csaba:Milyen. This question word means “what kind of, what type,” or in some constructions you may translate it simply as “what.”
Simone:Please say this one now: “What color would you like?”
Csaba:Listeners, please repeat: Milyen színűt kér? 2X This is formal, preparing you to a store situation.
Simone:Ok, one more example of this. Please repeat:
Csaba:Milyen nap van ma?
Simone:“What day is it today?”
Csaba:Milyen nap van ma?
Simone:All right. What else?
Csaba:We’ve heard two versions of the same word. “At home” is either itthon or otthon.
Simone:What is the difference?
Csaba:Itthon is used when you are close to the actual location, the house or the apartment. Let’s say your friend’s roommate opens the door for you, and you want to ask “is Peter home?”
Simone:Please repeat!
Csaba:Itthon van Péter? 2X
Simone:And the short answer is?
Csaba:Itthon. Both of us used the word itthon, since we are close to the location. But if the same question comes up in a phone conversation, where you are far away, you ask...
Simone:“Is Peter home?”
Csaba:Otthon van Péter? 2X
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 see the grammar for today.
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 did 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.
Simone:Let’s repeat.
Csaba:Tanár voltam.2X
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. 2X
Simone:“We were, you were, they were.”
Csaba:Voltunk, voltatok, voltak. 2X
Simone:As usual, dictionaries normally list the third person singular. We also put that into the vocab 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:How would you say “We were soldiers?”
Csaba:Katonák voltunk. 2X See? No pronoun. Katonák is “soldiers.”
Simone:OK, 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 first lessons, we said that in third person singular, the word “be” is not used, instead there is a pronoun there actually.
Simone:Please enlighten us with an example.
Csaba:Sure. Please repeat: Külföldi vagyok. 2X
Simone:This means “I’m a foreigner.”
Csaba:Yes. But you say ő külföldi. 2X
Simone:Which means: “He is a foreigner.”
Csaba:In third person we used the pronoun and dropped the verb. Well, in past tense, you need the verb as well.
Simone:For example?
Csaba:Diák voltam. 2X
Simone:“I was a student.”
Csaba:All right. Do you want a couple of examples still?
Simone:Sure. Let’s learn to make excuses. How do you say: “I was sick.”
Csaba:Beteg voltam. 2X A goof excuse when you didn’t do something. Another thing that you might be interested is that since Hungarian has no perfect tenses, present perfect is also used in past.
Simone:So, “have you ever been to the US” is?
Csaba:Please repeat everyone: Voltál már Amerikában? 2X
Simone:What is that már there?
Csaba:Már means already. What you would think of as present perfect is very often a past tense sentence plus már. This is not a rule though.
Simone:All right, I think this is a strong enough opening lesson for Season 1.
Csaba:I agree. Please check back often and listen to the entire Season 1 here, we have a lot of great lessons for you!


Simone:That’s right, and don’t forget to check out the lesson notes, which have even more detail. Until next time, bye!