Language Information

Hungarian is written using a variant of the Latin alphabet, and has a phonemic orthography, i.e. pronunciation can generally be predicted from the written language. In addition to the standard letters of the Latin alphabet, Hungarian uses several additional letters.

Hungarian alphabet

Latin alphabet for Hungarian



One of the characteristic features of Hungarian is the vowel harmony (A language is said to possess vowel harmony when it has a phonological rule that requires all vowels in a word to belong to a single class.)

Vowels can be high/front (e, é, i, í, ö, ő, ü, ű) or deep/back (a, á, o, ó, u, ú). Hungarian words can be classified from the point of view of vowel harmony into three groups:

Words of deep sound order. These words contain only deep vowels (ablak, ajtó).

Words of composite sound order. These words contain also deep and high vowels (ásít, papír).

Words of high sound order. These words contain only high vowels (kefél, zizzen).

For the most part, words contain vowels primarily of one of the two types. Most mixed words are of foreign origin (e.g. "telefon") or consist of compound words (e.g. "pénz|tárca" [purse]). For purposes of determining the class of suffix to use (Suffixes usually have two forms, one for each of the classes of vowels) compound words take the suffix corresponding to the vowel-class of the last unit of the compound, and loanwords use the vowel-class of the last vowel.

Almost every consonant has a geminate counterpair, written by doubling: bb, pp, ss etc., or by doubling the first element of the grapheme cluster: ssz, nny, ddzs, etc. Additionally, the letter pairs <ny>, <ty>, and <gy> represent the palatal consonants /ɲ/, /c/, and /ɟ/ (like the "dy" sound in British "duke"). Hungarian uses <s> for /ʃ/ and <sz> for /s/. <zs> is /ʒ/ and <cs> is /ʧ/. All these digraphs are considered single letters. <ly> is also a "single letter digraph", but is pronounced like /j/, and mostly appears in old words. More exotic letters are <dz> and <dzs> /ʤ/.

/n/ becomes [ŋ] if followed by a velar consonant (e.g. hang [hɒŋg])

/j/ becomes [ç] if preceded by one of /p t k/ in an imperative at the end of the word (e.g. kapj [kɒpç])

/h/ may become [ɦ] between two vowels (eg. tehát [tɛɦa:t])

/h/ disappears at the end of the word in some cases: méh [me:], cseh [ʧɛ]

/h/ becomes otherwise [x] at the end of a syllable, even possible pronunciation for the words mentioned (méh [me:], but colloquially can be [me:x]), otherwise compulsory: doh [dox], ihlet [ixlɛt], or [içlɛt]

/h/ becomes [x:] when geminate: méhhel [me:x:ɛl], peches [pɛx:ɛʃ]


The order of words in a sentence is determined not by syntactic roles, but rather by pragmatic - i.e., discourse-driven - factors. Words can be compound and derived (with suffixes). The passive voice is almost extinct. Many grammatical and syntactic functions, elements and constructions are based on suffixes. The mark for the plural of a noun is a suffix -k, preceded by a vowel if the word ends in a consonant. Usually, vowels are inserted between the word and its suffix to prevent a buildup of consonants. The inserted vowels must follow the rules of vowel harmony.

Most common of the cases in Hungarian are the nominative case, accusative case and dative case.

Hungarian uses the plural sparsely, i.e. only if quantity is not marked otherwise. Therefore the plural is not used with numerals or indefinite adjectives showing quantity.

Hungarian verbs have two conjugations: definite and indefinite. The definite conjugation is used when there is a definite direct object, present or implied. For example: várom a buszt "I am waiting for the bus", várok "I am waiting". The first person singular possesses an additional ending to indicate a second person object. For example: várlak "I am waiting for you".

Pronouns do not usually appear (since the suffix is enough by itself to mark the person), unless they are contrasted or emphasized.




you (sg)



you (pl)








Beside te and ti, which are used informally, there are polite forms for the second person pronouns: ön or maga. Ön is official and distancing, maga is personal and even intimate. (There are some older forms for you, like kend, which is still used in rural areas.) Hungarian does not have gender-specific pronouns. The infinitive of verbs is the radical suffixed by -ni.

The substantive verb "to be" in Hungarian is lenni. Hungarian uses the verb "to be" much less frequently than English.

Hungarian uses verbal prefixes which modify the meaning of the verbs and form separate verbs out of them. These prefixed verbs usually have meanings which are consistently built up from the basic meaning of the elements, and many of them have figurative, idiomatic meanings as well. For example: ír he writes, leír he writes down, kiír he writes out, beír he writes into etc. On the other hand, leír may also mean "declare as useless", and beír "give a written warning". There are also compound words using verbs which have their individual meanings.

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