FREE Basic Hungarian HELP

How To Split A Word Into Syllables

On this web page I will show examples of splitting words into their syllables, so you can more easily identify how to pronounce a word. I must thank Tünde for teaching me this invaluable lesson.

NOTE WELL: The rule below is 100% sure for one word. However, when two or more words are joined together you should separate them (dissect them) first and then apply the rule below to each of the separated words.

The SPLITTING RULE

You split a Hungarian word into syllables depending on the number of continuous consonants within it. So when looking at a word, from left to right, get into the habit of noting its continuous consonants. Words generally follow either a one or two consonant rule.

The ONE CONSONANT RULE

When a word begins with a consonant followed by a vowel (a, e, i, o or u) followed by another consonant, the first syllable is made up of the first consonant of the word and the letters that follow it until you reach the next consonant. The next consonant is the stop point and is NOT used as part of the first syllable.

Example Word: HÁROM (Three).

With HÁROM you count H (the first consonant) and Á as the letters that make up the first syllable whereby R is then used as the starting point (first consonant) for the second syllable. This means the second syllable should be made up of the letters R and O only, with the letter M being the starting point for the third syllable. However, because the letter M would be a lonely letter (which is not possible) you need to include it as part of the second (last) syllable; therefore making the second (last) syllable ROM. Hence, why you pronounce HÁROM as HAH-ROM. Here is another example.

Example Word: KÖZEL (NEAR).

With KÖZEL you count K (the first consonant) and Ö as the letters that make up the first syllable whereby Z is then used as the starting point (first consonant) for the second syllable. This means the second syllable should be made up of the letters Z and E only, with the letter L being the starting point for the third syllable. However, just like the letter M in HÁROM, the letter L also needs to be included with letters Z and E to make the second (last) syllable of KÖZEL; as L cannot be a lonely letter. Hence, why you pronounce KÖZEL as KUR-ZEL and NOT as KUR-ZEH-L. Here is another example.

Example Word: MENEDZSER (MANAGER).

Its first syllable is ME, pronounced as MEH, made from M and E only; because the next consonant N is not counted as part of the first syllable. The second syllable is NE, pronounced as NEH, made from N and E only; because the next consonant DZS (one letter, one consonant) is not counted as part as of the second syllable. And the third (last) syllable is made from DZS (one letter, one consonant), E and R (because R cannot be lonely); making the last syllable DZSER (pronounced as JARE). Hence why you get MENEDZSER pronounced as MEH-NEH-JARE.

The TWO CONSONANT RULE

The two consonant rule means if a word contains a consonant followed by a vowel (a, e, i, o or u) followed by two continuous consonants for example, you then include the first of those two consonants as part of the current syllable whereby the second consonant of those two consonants is used as the starting point for the next syllable.

Example Word: GOMBA (MUSHROOM).

With GOMBA you count G (the first consonant), O and M (the first consonant of the double/two consonants) as the letters that make up the first syllable whereby B is then used as the starting point (first consonant) for the second syllable. This means the second syllable is made up of the letters B and A. Hence, why you pronounce GOMBA as GOM-BOH. Here is another example.

Example Word: KELBIMBÓ (BRUSSEL SPROUTS).

With KELBIMBÓ you get the syllables KEL, BIM and BÓ, pronounced as KEL-BIM-BOE.

One thing to remember at this point is that some words look like they contain two continuous consonants (double consonants) when in fact those two continuous consonants are really two separate single consonants. Here is an example.

Example Word: SZERECSENDIÓ (NUTMEG).

With SZERECSENDIÓ: SZ is actually one letter (one consonant), as is CS, making the first syllable SZE (SZ and E only) because the single consonant R is not included as part of the first syllable. It is used as the starting point (first consonant) for the second syllable; as described above.

The second syllable is made up of R and E only, pronounced as REH, because CS is actually one letter (one consonant) only and therefore not included as part of the second syllable. It is used as the starting point (first consonant) for the third syllable.

The third syllable is made up of CS (one letter, one consonant), E and N only, pronounced as CHEN, and not CS, E, N and D simply because the consonant D is part of a double consonant (N and D) and therefore cannot be included as part of the third syllable. The split is between the N and D (stop point for the third syllable). Hence why the letter D is used as the starting point for the fourth syllable.

The fourth syllable is made up of D and I only, and not D, I and Ó. This is because you cannot have a syllable made from a double vowel, such as I and Ó. The split has to be between the I and Ó. Anyway, the complete five syllables of SZERECSENDIÓ are SEH-REH-CHEN-DEE-O.

The 'BEGINS WITH A VOWEL' RULE

When a word begins with a vowel (a, e, i, o or u) followed by a consonant, the vowel makes the first syllable; because the consonant immediately after it will be the starting point for the second syllable whereby the rest of the word will follow either a one or two consonant rule, as described above.

Example Word: ÜLÉS (Seat).

The first syllable is made up of the Ü only. As said above, this is because the next letter is a consonant and therefore is the starting point for the second syllable.

The second syllable should be made up of the L and É only. However, because the S would be a lonely letter (which is impossible) you are forced to attach it to the end of the last (second) syllable. Hence why ÜLÉS is pronounced as OO-LAYSH.

Hopefully I have explained the pattern clearly enough for you to understand it. You basically walk through a word until you bump into a consonant each time. That consonant will be the starting point for the next syllable. Where there are two consonants, the stop point is on the second consonant; which then forms the starting point for the next syllable. A more complex example would be if a word contained multiple consonants. Example (made up word): ÖDZSGYCSER. In the case the syllables would be split as follows: Ö-DZS-GY-CSER.

The ENGLISH RULE

The above rules work with English words too. DICTIONARY for example would be DIC-TI-O-NARY. Not very pronounceable, but still valid.

The reason I point out this ENGLISH rule is because of the pronunciation of English words in Hungarian. The supermarket ASDA is an example. It is pronounced OSH-DOH because the syllables are split as AS and DA, but pronounced as OHSH-DOH and not as AS-Da like in English. In other words, some English words sound weird in Hungarian! Something you will need to get used too.


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BASIC HUNGARIAN
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