Grammatical cases of nouns

Discussion in 'Magyar (Hungarian)' started by Ritterbruder, Mar 29, 2008.

  1. Ritterbruder Member

    Chinese(Mandarin and Shangahainese), English
    I have heard that the Hungarian language has 18 cases. How is it even possible to have so many cases in a language?

    Does anyone mind giving me a list of cases in Hungarian and a short description of how they work?

  2. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Hungarian is an agglutinative language, so the declensions are very regular and predictable, at least compared to those of Latin or German.

    From what I understand, though I don't speak Hungarian, many of its "cases" refer to concepts of location or motion. They convey ideas like "inside", "on", "towards", and so on. Instead of using independent prepositions like in English, you inflect the nouns. Some of these notions may be represented by pairs of independent affixes, so I assume that in practice you can just learn the affixes themselves (plus a few phonotactic rules like vowel harmony and so on). Here's a good example of what I'm talking about.
  3. Orreaga

    Orreaga Senior Member

    New Mexico
    USA; English
    In addition to the fairly regular declensions of nouns, one must also learn how to decline each personal and demonstrative pronoun in all plausible cases, which is a daunting task.

    These case endings also combine with plural forms and possessive forms of nouns. So for example:

    apa - father
    apám - my father
    apámmal - with my father (instrumental-comitative case)
    apád - your father
    apáddal - with your father
    apja - his/her father
    apjával - with his/her father
    apánk - our father
    apánkkal - with our father
    apáink - our fathers
    apáinkkal - with our fathers... etc., etc.
  4. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    In the link provided by Outsider, it's the table called "Case endings" that provides the 17 cases.
    The 18th could be the suffix "temporal": kor, like in "Hatkor." = At 6 (o'clock).

    Orreaga, don't frighten people off just when they're beginning to be interested!:D
  5. Orreaga

    Orreaga Senior Member

    New Mexico
    USA; English
    Speaking as a former winner of the Debrecen Summer University magazine's semiannual Hungarian crossword puzzle contest (it's true!), let me add that, while the Hungarian case system presents many challenges to the learner, studying it is WORTH IT! ;) In fact the case system and definite and indefinite verb conjugations are what have interested me most about Hungarian, inspired me to continue studying and wrestling with the language, and eventually to travel to Hungary a few years ago. If it were easy I probably would have lost interest. :D

    Another ending not in the same table which is useful (and which doesn't have a good translation in other languages that I know of) is the "-ék" ending after a personal name, as in "Pistáék", meaning "Pista and the people associated with him".

    A related ending (just "-é" (pl. "-éi"), similar to the English possessive "'s") turns up in some interesting places as with egymás (each other) -- "egymásé" (or "egymáséi"), which means something like in love with or belonging to each other. A happy ending to a romantic folk tale is often "egymáséi lettek", literally meaning "they became each other's". :)

    A novel that interestingly connects Outsider's language and Hungarian is Chico Buarque's Budapeste (the Portuguese spelling), in which a Brazilian writer who ends up in a Budapest hotel through some mistake of an airline, listens to Hungarian TV in his room and becomes obsessed with the seemingly impenetrable language, ends up staying in the city, shacking up with a native speaker who is also his tutor (leaving his wife behind in Brazil) and learning to become near-native in proficiency. Just to show that Hungarian cases don't necessarily frighten people away!
  6. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Oh sorry! I took you for a "classical" native speaker. (With the right dose of pessimism! Or rather, what others misinterpret as pessimism...) :)

    Warm congratulations for your Hungarian, then!:)

    I would have to "dig" a bit about that "Pistáék" - not the meaning but the suffix(es) itself (themselves). It is not a typical suffix a native speaker would think about... (This is why I cannot even tell whether it is one or two... ék or é+k. Probably the latter though.)

    And "egymáséi" is perfectly logical: even in English you can say "you are mine and I am yours" in one word and in Hungarian it gives "egymáséi".

    But again, I find it very interesting to read what other speakers find in our language worth mentioning or interesting...

    Yes, I've heard about that book. I think it became very popular in Hungary! :)
  7. Russianer Senior Member

    Russia,St.-Petersburg City.
    Russian language- Russia.
    Hungarian: grammatical cases of nouns.

    About Hungarian I did hear about an existence of 24 grammatical cases of nouns in Hungarian language. Are there 24? Is it true(?)

    For example, what are forms of a noun "horse" in different grammatical cases in Hungarian language:
    How to say in Hungarian:
    "It is a horse\ head of a horse\ food for a horse\ road to a horse\look at a horse\ a heart into a horse\ speech about a horse\under a horse\ call a horse\ be on a horse\ with a horse\..?"
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 27, 2011
  8. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Hello Russianer,

    The number of the cases vary according to the different opinion of linguists who have looked into that matter. (Apparently it goes from min. 4 to max. 30.) I usually quote 17 following those established by Antal László in 1977.
    I have a vague remembrence of having cited them already here, but I could do it again:
    (Please note that a) the word horse has some irregular forms, that is normal for some other short words like that in Hungarian b) when not sure about the case name in English, I put it in inverted commas c) I could not always use your examples.)

    1. nominativus - ló A horse is a big animal. - A ló nagy állat.
    2. accusative - lovat He sees a horse. - Lát egy lovat.
    3. dative - lónak This food is for the horse. - Ez ennivaló a lónak.
    4. instrumental - lóval He walked there (together) with a horse. - Lóval (együtt) sétált oda.
    5. causative/"final" - lóért He came for the horse. - A lóért jött.
    6. "factive" - lóvá ... and then suddenly it became a horse! - aztán hirtelen lóvá változott!
    7. "supressive" - lovon He slept sitting on the horse. - Lovon ülve aludt.
    8. "sublative" - lóra He put a saddle on(to) the horse. - Nyerget tett a lóra.
    9. "delative" - lóról He spoke about a white horse. - Egy fehér lóról beszélt.
    10. "inessive" - lóban There is a lot of energy in this horse. - Ebben a lóban sok az energia.
    11. "elative" - lóból A lot of steam came from (the inside of) the horse. - A lóból csak úgy áradt a pára.
    12. "illative" - lóba I put a lot of work into [training] that horse. - Sok munkát fektettem abba a lóba.
    13. "adessive" - lónál He was standing at (near) a horse - A lónál állt.
    14. "allative" - lóhoz He went to(wards) a horse - Odament a lóhoz.
    15. ablative - lótól He was standing 5 metres from the horse. - A lótól 5 méterre állt.
    16. "terminative" - lóig He walked up to a horse. - Elsétált a lóig.
    17. "formal/modal - lóként He was treated as a horse. (= as if he were a horse) - Lóként bántak vele.

    It does not fit our word (= ló) but, eventually, one could also add the case of "temporalis" (having the suffix of "kor"), meaning: "at the time of". (E.g. at 2 o'clock = 2-kor.)

    Expressing the possessive and the plural is done by suffixes but do not belong to the cases (in question) in Hungarian.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2010
  9. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    That's baffling! Do normal nouns have different forms for all these cases or are many forms same?
  10. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    I'm not quite sure that'll answer your question but

    a) certain nouns may change their form (slightly) like the above ló when the "t" of the accusative (= only one form) is added to it. Instead of lót, it becomes lovat. (No to worry, there are rules for nearly everything! :))

    b) the suffixes can have 1, 2, 3 or even 4 forms (there is only one of this, n°7 above : n, -on, -en, -ön). N°14 is the only in this list that has three forms.

    The different forms of the suffixes have different vowels in them mainly to fit words in "low" or "high" vowels.
    E.g. our has a low vowel in it so when there is a suffix of two forms (like n°3: -nak/-nek), the one with a low vowel (-nak) will fit it.
  11. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    Hmm, does that mean that a student can predict these forms?

    It is going to be very very difficult anyhow to get fluency in using the correct form for the correct case, and it will be outright hellish if there are no rules governing this!!!

    And I thought Sanskrit had it complicated enough!
  12. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Being a native speaker, I can only speculate about what a language learner can do but in theory yes, I would think, a language learner can predict the "tricks" the suffixes can do.
    One suffix = no problem with the choice,
    two forms for the same suffix= choose according to low/high vowels,
    3 suffixes = the same as the previous + one form for the vowels like ö and ü,
    4 forms for the suffix = the same as the previous + one form (-n) for the words ending in a vowel.

    (I am aware that the above list does not include all these variations but they have to be learnt separately anyway, so you get familiar with their different forms when you see them individually.)

    It is a bit more difficult to predict the changes in the roots of the nouns themselves but even they are mostly predictable and it is possible to learn them "in a row" (like: ló, szó, hó, fű, etc.).

    For me Sanskrit would be certainly more difficult!:)
  13. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    Thanks, Zsanna!

    No wonder Hungarian is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn for an English speaker! :)
  14. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    No, please don't think so. Everything looks complicated when explained in details.
    Just think about the plural in English. It looks very simple at the beginning (just an "s") but the more you look at it the more exceptions you'll see!

    And you haven't seen the enormous advantages Hungarian has: no gender, only 3 verb tenses, only a few irregular verbs, etc. It is not that difficult at all... :)
  15. Russianer Senior Member

    Russia,St.-Petersburg City.
    Russian language- Russia.
    Hello, Zsanna!

    Thank you. :)
    17 Hungarian noun's cases are too much cases.. :)
    It is more difficult case's system than in our Russian language. For example, In Russian there are 6 noun's cases only.

    In Hungarian is there an existence of a genitive case of nouns ?
    For example how to say in Hungarian: "a book of Maria\ Maria's book \ a room of a house\ house's room? \ light of a star\ star's light..?"
  16. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    Everything around expressing a possession is rather different in Hungarian as opposed to other languages in general. (And the difficulties/complications are in "minor" things only.)
    There is no difference between "of" and " 's" like in English.

    Let us see your examples:

    Maria's book = Marinak a könyve (or shortly: Mari könyve) (= owner + owned thing)

    green - suffix to mark the proprietor (/owner) (disappears in the short form)

    orange - definite article (disappears from the short form)

    purple - suffix to mark the possession (= part of a "conjugation" of my book, your book, his/her book, etc. - in Hungarian the possessive pronouns are also expressed by suffixes, which the lucky language learner will find very familiar because they are practically identical to those used in verb conjugation, I'll give an example for that in the end.)

    the room of a house = a ház(nak a) szobája
    a room of a house = a ház szobája

    - only one form is possible in the sense of "one room, any of those in the house"
    - the "ja" is the same "his/her/its" as the "e" was above! (Believe it or not...!)

    There are 4 forms for "his/her/its"= 1. (j)a and 2. (j)e:
    1. after words with low vowels ending by a vowel or certain consonants (which? this is where the difficulty lies...)
    a) kapu+ja (or kalap+ja)

    and "normal" (or just "other") consonants
    b) ablak+a

    2. after words with high vowels ending either by a vowel or those special consonants
    a) zselé+je (or szemét+je)

    or "normal" consonants
    b) zseb+e.

    The other suffixes are not as complicated as this (except for the 3rd pers. Pl. which involves exactly the same problem).

    But, as I've mentioned, one "line" of suffixes serve serveral things - here the possessive pronouns in fact coincide with the verb conjugation (in the present) tense.
    the "m" in kalapom (= my hat) is practically the same as the "m" in olvasom (= I'm reading it/ I read it).
    In the second person it is the "d" that is shared: kalapod (= your hat) - olvasod (= you are reading it/ you read it)

    Grammatically the o is definitely the same everywhere (= it is a vowel connecting the suffix to the word).
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2008
  17. n-ray Member

    near Budapest
    Zsanna is right: our language is not extremely difficult. English has mostly prepositions where we have cases. Cases may seem more numerous, but it's because we have for example specific endings for approaching to or coming from a direction or being at a place in the three following cases:

    - speaking about the surface: ra/re=onto; on/en/ön=on; ról=from
    - speaking about the inner space: ba/be=into; ban/ben=in; ból/ből=from
    - speaking about the surrounding space: hoz/hez/höz=to; nál/nél=at; tól/től=from

    This may be just a tip for learning them in a more logical way.
  18. Bosta

    Bosta Member

    English, UK
    I do agree with n-ray. The endings are really regular (no variations for masculine and feminine as they don't have that) and they tend to represent ideas which many languages would use a preposition for.
    a ház = the house, the ending -ban means 'in' so 'in the house' = a házban.
    Of course, there can be more to it than that but nothing worse than learning prepositions. You just have to get used to it.
  19. Andris New Member

    Well, in Wikipedia, there's a quite good page with all 25 "possible" case endings. I wouldn't really call these "cases" however, as they are features of inflexing languages, and not of agglutinative ones.

    For example, if we say "for my horse" it's "lovamnak" - and you can see that we're speaking about several parts of the ending here:

    ló (horse) - v (linking consonant) - a (linking vowel) - m (reverse possessive marker 1st p. sing.) - nak (dative "case" ending).

    I prefer to call these "endings" or "suffixes", although this isn't a very efficient way to call them either. Just like in Arabic, these "case endings" may behave as prefixes when attached to possessive markers:

    "For me" = "Nekem" ---> nek (dative ending) + e (linking vowel) + m (reverse possessive marker)

    The same works with postpositions: "under me" = "alattam" ---> alatt (under) + a (linking vowel) + m (rev. pos. m.)
  20. mstr New Member

    Should cases for nouns be memorised for verbs as compliments or can they be 'reasoned out'?

    Moderator's note:
    Thread merged to an already existing one.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 27, 2011
  21. Ateesh6800 Senior Member

    As a native speaker, I have no experience in what helps a foreign speaker best master Hungarian. So take my answers with a grain of salt. :)

    Short answer: I'd say it's a good idea to memorize what verb complement functions the most common suffixes represent (-t for the accusative), but without trying to waste your energy on trying to memorize all the possible "cases" as an exhaustive list. In addition, I would also say that most noun suffixes (case markers) can indeed be 'reasoned out' or 'figured out'.

    A comparison between English, Russian, and Hungarian:

    (1) English practically does not have any cases (except for pronouns: she/her etc.) but it has direct objects + indirect objects (give her an apple vs give an apple to her), prepositions, and phrasal verbs (do away with someone, do without something, etc.). So no cases to memorize; but there are phrasal verbs to memorize, plus you have to learn and practise how the direct object/indirect object structures work.

    (2) Russian has six cases marked by suffixes. You must memorize the noun declination paradigms (the case endings for every single noun) but realize that these few cases will represent a wider array of verb complement functions ("meanings") because the suffix-marked cases are often combined with prepositions, so the structural unit you need to become familiar with is the verb plus the preposition plus the noun case.

    (3) Suffix-marked noun cases are way too abundant in Hungarian to memorise them the way you memorise six cases in Russian (or just a few more in Latin). There are about three times as many cases in Hungarian as in Russian or Latin.

    Based on the above, this is the insight I can offer you:

    Remember that the case-marking suffix is just one of a whole bunch of suffixes that may be appended to the root of the noun:

    - fi (son; szótő, "root")
    - fia (his/her son; in Hungarian, it is the possessed thing that normally gets a suffix and not the person possessing it)
    - fiai (his her sons; suffix of the plural -- a többesszám jele)
    - fiaié (suffix of the possessive when the possessed object is not mentioned: (that thing) belonging to his/her sons
    fiaiét (those things <in the accusative> that belong to his/her sons).

    Ne István kocsiját kérd kölcsön, hanem a fiaiét.
    Don't borrow Stephen's car; instead, borrow that of his sons.

    As you can see, the accusative case marker suffix -t is the last thing you add. So memorizing each noun in the accusative case isn't that much help when another fifteen suffixes might have to be inserted between the root and the case marking suffix... You know what I mean? :)

    Another insight:
    because of this very reason, when Hungarians learn about their mother tongue, they usually do not speak about "cases" (esetek) but rather about suffixes (rag/ragok, jel/jelek, képző/képzők). Then they learn how these can be combined and what the sequence is.

    a suffix that serves word formation; either the basic meaning changes or even the word category: nő + s = nős; noun (woman) + s = adjective ("married").
    Jel: a suffix that does not change the basic meaning but things like singular/plural: ember + (e)k = man => men.
    Rag: a suffix that only changes the function of the word within the sentence: kutya + t => kutyát (this is your accusative case marker; still a dog; still one dog only; but in the accusative).

    Hungarians therefore will not memorize "the cases" by heart -- simply because it is not efficient enough (they have more to worry about than just the very last suffix).
    Instead, they practise analysing complex forms; they learn that one or more képző come first, then one or more jel, and finally you can add a rag.


    Memorise the most common case marker suffixes.

    As you go deeper and deeper into the language, slowly expand the set of case marker suffixes that you are familiar with, but without frustrating yourself to death over whether you know every case suffix or not.

    Rely on your language instinct to 'reason out' or figure out the added meaning of each rag.

    For example, the triple set of suffixes indicating spatial relations are pretty nifty: -ra/-re (dynamic: "onto"), -on/-en/-ön (static: "on"), -ról/-ről (synamic: "off of").

    Then you can fairly easily identify when spatial suffixes are used with a temporal meaning (ötre gyere; literally: arrive onto five; meaning: arrive by five).

    As a third step, you will be able to recognise when these same suffixes are used in a figurative meaning:
    - "a babámra gondolok" (literally: "I think onto my baby"; for insight: "my thoughts drift to may baby")
    - "a babámon gondolkodom" (literally: "I am thinking on my baby"; this simply means "I am thinking about my baby")
    - "azt gondolom a babámról, hogy..."
    (literally: "what I think from my baby is that..."; for insight: "as far as my baby is concerned, I think that...").

    So memorizing -ra/-e, -ról/-ről, and -on/-en/-ön as case marking suffixes may not be the most efficient option; it's just too isolated an approach. Instead you can learn the individual verb with its complement structures:

    (0) gondol valamit: think something (transitive verb with a noun in the accusative)

    (1) gondol valamire/gondol valakire: think of something/someone (in the sense of his/her thought drift to something/someone: "Amikor megláttam az ajándékot, rád gondoltam"; "When I saw the gift, I thought of you/you came to my mind.") (intransitive verb with a noun having the -ra/-re suffix attached)

    (2) gondolkodik valamin/valakin: to be thinking about a subject matter (a longer process) (intransitive verb with a noun having the -on/-en/-ön suffix attached)

    (3) gondol valamit valamiről/valakiről: to think something about something/someone (transitive verb with a noun in the accusative plus a noun having the -ról/-ről suffix attached)

    These are the structures you need to learn one by one. Memorising the "cases" only may be less efficient.

    Also, if you learn these verbal structures (verb plus complement(s) as marked by suffixes), you will rule out other possible combinations that we never use:

    *gondol valamin is not a verb plus a complement. So if you see a sentence like this:

    Azt gondolom a lovon, hogy szép az élet.

    it is not a verb + complement structure; here, "a lovon" is just a location:

    "Sitting on a/the horse, I think that life is beautiful."

    So what you have here in fact is gondol + valamit plus an optional phrase of location (on the horse).


    Azt gondolom a lóról, hogy szép állat.

    "What I think of horses is that they are beautiful animals."

    Here, we have a verb plus a complement with its suffix.

    Hope this helps. I'd be really grateful if you could give me some feedback whether the insights have been helpful at all.

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2011
  22. mstr New Member

    I am aghast that I received such well written answers to my questions.

    The first answer satisfies my question. The distinction in the usage of verbs with a compliment and verbs acting on a noun with a concrete spatial suffix was unclear before I read your answer. A follow up question is: what is the main distinction between the concrete usage of the external set (ra, ról, n, etc) and the proximal set (nál, hoz, tól)? (In your provided example in the second answer you used the spatial case től for the noun, why? I assume this is in the concrete spatial case rather than a construction.)
    Thanks for the replies.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 27, 2011
  23. Ateesh6800 Senior Member

    :D Thanks. I'm just trying to offer what I'd like to get when I am the one asking for help. :)

    The basic difference may be demostrated by taking a look at the contrast between the static -on/-en/-ön < = > -nál/-nél. We're talking spatial now.

    Basically, -on/-en/-ön means "on top of something", "on the surface of something".

    Két könyv van (fekszik, hever, porosodik, stb.) az asztalon.
    There are two books (two books lie, two books are gathering dust, etc.) on the table.

    In contrast:

    Két lány beszélget a kútnál.
    Two girls are chatting at the well (near the well, in the vicinity of the well).

    They are not on top of the well; they are near/in the vicinity/at the well.
    Basically: they are very close to where the well is.

    Now, you can extend this to all three suffixes of each set:

    Tegyél egy könyvet az asztalra. (dynamic)
    Please put a book on(to) the table.
    The result:
    Van egy könyv az asztalon. (static)
    There is a book on the table.
    Now change the situation again:
    Vedd le a könyvet az asztalról.
    Take the book off of the table. (dynamic)


    Odamegy két lány a kúthoz.
    (Two girls are going to the well. = Two girls approach the well.)
    Beszélgetnek a kútnál.
    (They are chatting near/at/in the vicinity of the well.)
    Utána elmennek/eljönnek a kúttól.
    (Then they come away/go away the well.)

    The same applies to the triplet -ba, -be / -ban, -ben / -ból, -ből.

    Leengedjük a dinnyét a kútba.
    We're lowering down the watermelon into the well.
    (A traditional way to chill your melons before you had refrigerators or even an ice box in the summer.)
    Két dinnye hűl a kútban.
    (There are two melons chilling in the well.)
    Felhúzzuk a hideg dinnyét a kútból.
    (We're pulling out the chilled melons from the well.)

    * * *

    When you say "external set", it rings a bell. -on/-en/-ön is not only on top. It is more generally on the external surface of sg.
    There is a fly on the wall: Van egy légy a falon.

    It may then be somewhat more figurative as well:

    Van ezen a CD-n valami?
    (Is there anything on this CD?)
    Vvagy írhatok ?
    (Or can I go ahead and burn something onto it?)
    Letöröljem a CD-ről a régi adatokat?
    Should I delete the old data from the CD?

    It is easy to see that the choice language makes to express this is somewhat arbitrary. Are the files on the CD or in the CD? I guess we just followed the usage applicable to paper:

    Ír valamit a papírra.
    Ír valamit a CD-re.


    Van egy bogár a levélen.
    There is a bug on the leaf.

    Van egy szép mondat a levélben.
    There is a nice sentence in the letter.

    * * *

    So I'd say that the main difference between the external set and the proximal set is exactly this: the external set expresses spatial relations in relation to the external surface of something, while the proximal set expresses spatial relations in relation to proximity, closeness.

    * * *

    Don't forget that so far we discussed the spatial aspect. As you start using these suffixes for temporal expressions, your choices become a bit more restricted. We say these:

    Kedden jövök. (I'm oming on Tuesday.)
    Keddre meglesz. (I'll have finished it by Tuesday.)
    Keddtől szabadságon vagyok. (I'll be off from Tuesday on.
    Keddig járok suliba. (I go to schol until Tuesday; Wednesday is the first day of the spring vacation).

    So these are not the mechanical uses of al the versions of the triplets.
    We don't say *keddben, *keddhez, *keddből.

    It's just a choice language makes.

    (1) So spatial suffixes (and there triplets) are used very widely as long as they mean spatial relations.
    (2) They are used with somewhat less flexibility when they express temporal relations (it's a more abstract thing).
    (3) And finally: when spatial suffixes become the markers of compliments for a given (abstract) verb, they become "fixed" -- just like in the case of English phrasal verbs.

    My English examples:
    Spatial: go in works; go out works.
    Phrasal verb: do someone in (kill someone) works; do someone out (?revive someone?) does not work.

    So for example:

    Ülök a lovon.
    Felülök a lóra.
    Leszállók a lóról.

    Végignézem a farm összes állatát, és hosszan elidőzök a lónál, mert az a kedvenc állatom.
    (I visit all the animals of the farm, and take more time 'at the horse' because it is my favorite animal.)
    Explanation: when you express several stages of a trip or in a process, -nál/-nél can express "when I am at this stage".

    But when it becomes even more abstract, it starts behaving like a set phrase:

    A lovon gondolkodom.
    This is ambiguous, but with both interpretations being grammatically correct. Either:
    I am on horseback and I am thinking (about anything).
    I am wherever and I am thinking about the horse. Probably I am thinking about whether to sell it, or whether it will have a good season, etc.

    A lóra gondolok.
    I'm thinking of the horse; my thoughts drift to the horse.
    I should be doing my homework but the horse comes to my mind every other minute because I don't know if it will survive the operation or not.

    So these are more abstract uses where the the triplets are not really functional any longer. It's not like I think to the horse, from the horse, on the horse. Here you just have to learn, verb by verb, the possible complements.

    * * *

    Interesting usages arise. For example: we never say "gondol valamibe".
    However, we do have two verb + complement phrases:
    (1) belegondol valamibe: verb (nontransitive) is to really think through something. Often we say: "Ha jobban belegondolok, nem is olyan rossz, hogy kirúgtak, mert így átgondolhatom az életemet. "Now that I come to think of it, it might not be such a bad thing that they have fired me; now I can think through my life."
    (2) belegondol valamit valamibe: verb (transitive) + complement. It means to project (a thought, an idea) into something (usually a text or piece of art).
    "Ez nincs benne a versbe, csak belegondolod."
    "This is not (explicitely) stated in the poem; you're just projecting it into (the text)."

    This is the sort of phrase I had in mind when I said: memorize the triplets for spatial relations; then learn the temporal usages one by one (they are a more restricted set); and then learn the verb (transitive/intransitive) + complement (marked with a specific suffix) phrases as set phrases.

    * * *

    There are combinations as well:

    A fűzfáról mindig anyámra gondolok.
    (When seeing) a willow, I always think of my mother.

    You have a lot of time to pick each of these up; you have to read a lot. I'm not sure there are that many good Hungarian dictionaries that help you do this. It's a small language. :)

    Last edited: Apr 25, 2011
  24. Ateesh6800 Senior Member

    Do you mean arzéntől? Here you need to know that the spatial "-tól/-től" also expresses, figuratively, the concept of "because of something".

    Nem látok a dühtől!
    (I can't see for fury! I'm so mad I can't even see a thing!)

    Beteg lett a víztől.
    (He got sick because of the water/the water made him sick.)

    If this isn't what you had in mind, please clarify.

  25. Ateesh6800 Senior Member

    Zsanna will agree that no Hungarian native speaker can possibly list these terms in any language unless they are linguists specialized in case grammar. :D

    So how does this work in real life?

    18 cases may seem to be a lot--but there are ways to make the whole system transparent, meaningful, and in fact simple and logical. The key is this: half of these cases can be organised into logical triplets that belong together and make the whole system transparent.

    Triplet I.

    You put something onto a horse. Then the thing is on the horse. Later you take the thing off of the horse. Three cases out of 18? Yes. But they clearly belong together... As if it were a storyline.

    8. "sublative" - lóra He is putting a saddle on(to) the horse. - Nyerget tesz a lóra.
    7. "supressive" - lovon The saddle is on the horse. - A nyereg a lovon van.
    9. "delative" - lóról He took the saddle off the horse. - Levette a nyerget a lóról.

    Triplet II.

    Another triplet by the same logic is putting something into something; something is in something else; and taking something out of something. As you don't normally put things into a horse, the following examples will be somewhat more figurative:

    12. "illative" - lóba I put a lot of work into [training] that horse. - Sok munkát fektettem abba a lóba.
    10. "inessive" - lóban There is a lot of energy in this horse. - Ebben a lóban sok az energia.
    11. "elative" - lóból A lot of steam came from (the inside of) the horse. - A lóból csak úgy áradt a pára.

    So it may be a good idea to bring a simple example as well:

    - put salt into the soup (levesbe);
    - there is too much salt in the soup (levesben);
    - can't just take salt out of the soup (levesből).

    Triplet III.

    The third storyline: you walk up to a horse; you stop at (near) the horse; you walk away from the horse.

    14. "allative" - lóhoz He went to(wards) a horse - Odament a lóhoz.
    13. "adessive" - lónál He was standing at (near) a horse - A lónál állt.
    15. ablative - lótól He walked away from the horse. - Eljött/elment a lótól.


    In fact, the terminative case could be seen as an addition to this last triplet:

    16. "terminative" - lóig He walked up to a horse. - Elsétált a lóig.
    It emphasizes that he walked up to the horse and then he stopped. The difference between lóhoz and lóig is that you use lóhoz is when you walk to the horse because you want to do something with it; but whe you say lóig, the horse is really just a distance marker.

    It is usually combined with -tól, -től: háztól házig means door to door (literally: from house to house).
    -- Mennyi idő volt az út? (How long was your trip?)
    -- Háztól házig két óra. (Two hours door to door.)

    * * *

    Many cases? Yes. But you just took care of nine (in fact, ten) out of the eitghteen!

    I would say that the key of success in learning the Hungarian case system is not in trying to learn what the Hungarian equivalent of a given English (or other foreign language) case would be--but instead in trying to think in terms of these and similar storylines and just practicing short stories like this.

    (1) The first level should be very basic: locations. Into the house, in the house, out of the house.

    (2) The second level may be more figurative. You don't really put anything into a horse (physically) when you put work into training it--but then this is pretty much the same in most languages, so no sweat.

    (3) And then there are the individual set phrases where the language itself decides to use one case and not another.

    Beleszeret valakibe is literally "*to love into someone" and it means to fall in love with somebody. Why into and not in or with or to? No explanation. It's just a choice that language makes. The triplets work very well at the physical level; they are still useful at the figurative level; and then when it comes to set phrases, you just have to learn what complement is used--but, again, this is the same in most languages. Why interested in something and not *interested about something? It's a choice language makes.

    Of course, most suffixes will have two or three versions (-ba, -be, and -hoz, -hez, -höz etc.) based on vowel harmony, but that's something you can learn as a separate chapter. Similarly fascinating stuff. :D

  26. Akitlosz Senior Member

    the room of a house = egy ház(nak a) szobája
    a room of a house = egy ház(nak) egy szobája

    a room of the house = a ház(nak) egy szobája
    the room of the house = a ház(nak a) szobája
  27. Ateesh6800 Senior Member

    Someone already mentioned that Hungarian should not be approached from the perspective of cases. Yes, we have these 18 or so cases formed with suffixes, bit learning these will not give you enough flexibility.

    I also explained in my previous comment how we have triplets of suffixes to express spatial relations, e.g.: -ba/-be (into; dynamic); -ban/-ben (in or within; static) and -ból/-ből (from; dynamic).

    However, in addition to these suffixes or "cases", Hungarian also has postpositions (névutó). These are very similar to English prepositions (under the house) except that they are placed after the noun (a ház alatt).

    Now, these postpositions (at least a good many of them) also come in triplets. These triplets, again, are easily understood if you think of storylines:

    Apa befeküdt az autó alá.
    (Dad lay under the car <so he can fix it>).
    This is dynamic; it expresses the action of getting under the car.

    Apa fekszik az autó alatt.
    (Dad is lying under the car <and he is fixing it>).
    This is static; it expresses the position of being under the car.

    Apa kimászott az autó alól.
    (Dad has just come out from under the car <he stopped fixing it>).
    This is dynamic; it expresses the action of getting out from under the car.

    Similar "storyline" triplets are:

    alá, alatt, alól (under);
    fölé, fölött, fölül (above, over);
    elé, előtt, elől (in front of);
    mögé, mögött, mögül (behind);
    mellé, mellett, mellől (next to);
    közé, között, közül (in between)

    So to pick one randomly, you can stop in front of the TV and block someone's view (action: a tévé elé áll); you can just stand there (location, position: a tévé előtt áll); and then you can move on or move away (action: eláll a tévé elől, elmegy a tévé elől).

    These triplets work the same way as the triplets of suffixes, and in fact spatial relationships are expressed using both suffixes and postpositions. The full set of suffixes and the full set of postpositoins creates a complete set of ways to express spatial relations.

    * * *

    In fact, most suffixes used to be postpositions in Hungarian. A piece of old Hungarian says "utu rea", a noun (utu = road) and a postposition (rea = onto); in modern Hungarian, this is útra (út = road + -ra = onto).

    Over time, some postpositions became suffixes (developed two or three different versions for the sake of vowel harmony, and ended up being "glued" ar "agglutinated" to the noun), while others remained postpositions (only one form, and not written together with the noun).

    This may give you an insight. Instead of focusing on "cases" and then suffering with the postpositions as a separate batch, start thinking in triplets of spatial relations.

    Some relations will be expressed by triplets of suffixes:

    -ba/-be = "dynamic into": get/put sg into position within sg
    -ban/-ben = "static within": being within sg
    -ból/-ből = "dynamic out of something": get/take sg out of position from within sg

    Some other relations will be expressed by triplets of postpositions:

    valami alá = "dynamic under": get sg into position under sg
    valami alatt = "static under": being under sg
    valami alól = "dynamic from-under": get/take sg out of position from under sg

    These two systems complete together and there are no overlaps (as far as I know).

  28. mstr New Member

    This is what I was looking for.

    Are there uses for the adessive and allative cases which carry figurative meanings such as this?
  29. Ateesh6800 Senior Member

    Do you mean -nál/-nél?

    Basic meaning: near, next to, at, wthin the proximity of, etc.
    It comes in the triplet -hoz/-hez/-höz + -nál/-nél + -től/-től.

    It has figurative uses; for example, we use it in comparisons:

    Pista nagyobb Attilánál.
    Steve is taller than Attila.

    Attila alacsonyabb Pistánál.
    Attila is shorter than Steve.

    The same applies with quantities (which are also comparisons in a way):

    Száznál több ember jött a buliba.
    More than 100 people came to the party.

    A kettő kevesebb az ötnél.
    Two is less than five.

    There's no need to think why we use this suffix and not another one.
    (In fact, in dialects you also find -tól/-től in this role, which is a suffix in the same triplet -- but this isn't something you should worry about just yet.)

    Another example:

    Az angoloknál sose lehet tudni.
    You never know when it comes to the English.
    With the English, you never know.

    (Meaning: I mostly understand understatement, but with the English, you never know whether they mean what they say or the opposite.)

  30. Ateesh6800 Senior Member

    Please give me the exact suffix you have in mind.

    As I said, almost no Hungarian is familiar with case terminology like "allative" simply because we don't think in terms of cases. These more "sophisticated" cases are only used by Indo-European speakers in an attempt to understand Hungarian, Finnish, etc. better... We think in terms of word formation: rag, jel, képző.

    So give me the suffix and I'll answer. :D

    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011
  31. Zsanna

    Zsanna ModErrata

    Hungarian - Hungary
    We don't, it's true, but language learners often do - this is why I gave those forms in my post #8 : it is -hoz/-hez/-höz.

    I don't think it is practical to go into details about them here, though. (You could say quite a lot about most of them.)
    Maybe it would be more useful to have a look at them in a separate thread.
  32. franknagy

    franknagy Senior Member

    The 18 or even more cases of the Hungarian language are false facts in orther to frighten people intending to learn Hungarian.
    Where does this elevated number come from? It comes from linguists who force the grammatical categories of Indoeuropean languages to the description of the Hungarian grammar. The application of Indoeuropean cases to the Hungarian nouns procrustean bed.

    rstand that the students who learn Hungarian have to mug up the pecularities like "lovak", "hidak" just like I had to lean the gender of Spanish words ending with -e.
    :) Two opposite poles of your body is absolutely necessary in order to learn languages: you head to grasp and your ass to keep sitting on.

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2013

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