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Hungarian Grammar - Past, Present And Future Tense Verbs

In this grammar section I will explain the very basics (the pattern) of Hungarian verbs in terms of their past, present and future tenses in relation to their suffixes; as well as give examples of their usage (example sentences).

The tables below give at least two examples, showing you how easily you can change a root (stem) verb for another while still keeping the same suffixes. In other words: Hungarian is so friendly with its static suffixes (suffixes that stay the same for the same person regardless of the root word/verb) that you only need to remember the verb.....once you have remembered all the suffixes!

An Explanation Of PAST TENSE

One of the important things to remember with Past Tense is that all verbs either have a T or double T attached to them before receiving a suffix. So when you see Verb+T+Suffix or Verb+TT+Suffix, you should automatically recognise it as a past tense word.

Below is a list of past tense verbs with their I, You, He/She and so on suffixes.....

Person Pronouns Back Vowel Verb Meaning Front Vowel Verb Meaning
I Én Ain Tanultam I Learnt Féltem I Was Afraid
You Te Teh Tanultál You Learnt Féltél You Was Afraid
He/She/It Ő Ur Tanult He/She Learnt Félt He/She Was Afraid
We Mi Mih Tanultunk We Learnt Féltünk We Were Afraid
You (Plural) Ti Tih Tanultatok You Learnt Féltetek You Were Afraid
They Ők Urk Tanultak They Learnt Féltek They Were Afraid

Here are some examples for the above: Tanultam Magyarul (I Learnt Hungarian). Féltem Sötét (I Was Afraid Of The Dark). Féltem Sötétség (I Was Afraid The Darkness). Ő Tanult Úszni (She Learnt To Swim). Ő Megtanult Úszni (She Learnt To Swim).

The difference between Tanult and Megtanult is that Tanult means learnt only whereas Megtanult means knows how to actually do it - Tanult example: She learnt written English but does not know how to speak English, therefore she did not actually learn English as a whole; just a part of it. Another example: She learnt how to cook from a book but does not have physical practise. So use Megtanult instead.

Person Pronouns Back Vowel Verb Meaning Front Vowel Verb Meaning
I Én Ain Írtam I Wrote Énekeltem I Sang
You Te Teh Írtál You Wrote Énekeltél You Sang
He/She/It Ő Ur Írt He Wrote Énekelt He Sang
We Mi Mih Írtunk We Wrote Énekeltünk We Sang
You (Plural) Ti Tih Írtatok You Wrote Énekeltetek You Sang
They Ők Urk Írtak They Wrote Énekeltek They Sang

Here are some examples for the above: Írtam Egy Verset (I Wrote A Poem). Írtam Egy Könyvet (I Wrote A Book). Énekeltem A Dalt (I Sang The Song). Énekeltem Egy Dalt (I Sang A Song). Just change the suffix to change the sentences. Example: Írtak Egy Verset (We Wrote A Poem).

An Explanation Of PRESENT TENSE

With present tense you drop the T from past tense. In other words, present tense uses the same word (verb and suffix) as in the past tense, but then drops the T. Although this is true "in general", especially with verbs like those above, there are always exceptions to the rule!

Person Pronouns Back Vowel Verb Meaning Front Vowel Verb Meaning
I Én Ain Tanulok I Am Learning Félek I Am Afraid
You Te Teh Tanulsz You Are Learning Félsz You Are Afraid
He/She/It Ő Ur Tanul He/She Is Learning Fél He/She Is Afraid
We Mi Mih Tanulunk We Are Learning Félünk We Are Afraid
You (Plural) Ti Tih Tanultok You Are Learning Féltek You Are Afraid
They Ők Urk Tanulnak They Are Learning Félnek They Are Afraid

As an example of past, present and future tenses being different, look at these examples - Past Tense: Ettem Fogok Egy Almát (I Ate An Apple). Present Tense: Eszek Egy Almát (I Am Eating An Apple). Future Tense: Enni Fogok Egy Almát (I Will Eat An Apple).

Person Pronouns Back Vowel Verb Meaning Front Vowel Verb Meaning
I Én Ain Írok I Am Writing Énekelek I Am Singing
You Te Teh Írsz You Are Writing Énekelsz You Are Singing
He/She/It Ő Ur Ír He Is Writing Énekel He Is Singing
We Mi Mih Írunk We Are Writing Énekelünk We Are Singing
You (Plural) Ti Tih Írtok You Are Writing Énekeltek You Are Singing
They Ők Urk Írnak They Are Writing Énekelnek They Are Singing

Here are some examples for the above present tense verbs: Tanulok Vezetni (I Am Learning To Drive). Írok Egy Konyvet (I Am Writing A Book). Félek A Sötéttől (I Am Afraid Of The Dark). Énekelek A Korusban Holnap (I Am Singing In The Choir Tomorrow).

More Examples Of PRESENT TENSE

Here are some more present tense examples of Writing:

Írok Egy Levelet - I Am Writing A Letter

Írok Egy Levelet Az Aztalon - I Am Writing A Letter On The Table

Írok Egy Levelet A Vonaton - I Am Writing A Letter On The Train

Írok Egy Levelet Budapesten - I Am Writing A Letter In Budapest

Írok Egy Levelet Holnap - I Am Writing A Letter Tomorrow

An Explanation Of FUTURE TENSE

With Future Tense you simply add Fogok, Fogsz, Fog, Fogunk, Fogtok or Fognak after the verb. FOG means something will be done in the future.

Person Pronouns Back/Front Vowel Verb Meaning Example
I Én Ain Tanulni Fogok I Will Learn Tanulni Fogok Magyarul / I Will Learn Hungarian
I Én Ain Írni Fogok I Will Write Írni Fogok Egy Levelet / I Am Going To Write A Letter

In the two examples above I have the root words Tanul (learn) and Ír (write) plus the suffix NI attached to them. NI is the equivalent of the word TO in English. So Tanulni means To Learn and Írni means To Write. Fog (Fogok) then emphasises future tense. You might think NI clarifies future tense, but it does not. Meaning, you could say in past tense "I was going To Learn English".

Common Cases
Common Hungarian Verbs