I ordered a pizza – how to express telicity with indefinite direct object

Lazar_Bgd

Member
Serbian - Serbia
Dear all,

I understand that generally speaking verbs with prefix are used with objects with definite article and verbs without prefix are used with objects without the article or with indefinite article. How do we then express telicity (the perfectiveness or completeness of an action) when the direct object (tárgyeset) is not specified, like in:

I (have) ordered a pizza.

This would probably be: "(Egy) pizzát rendeltem", but how do we know that this is not meant as a continuous tense (I was ordering a pizza, or I used to order a pizza every day)?

Is it wrong to say: '"Megrendeltem (egy) pizzát"...?
Or
"Egy pizzát rendeltem meg"...?

Another example: She made a delicious meal. Could this be translated as:
"Elkészített egy nagyon finom ebédet"...?
If not how to render this into Hungarian?

Thank you!
 
  • AndrasBP

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Dear Lazar,

    As usual, your questions are very interesting but hard to answer, even for a native speaker! :)

    This would probably be: "(Egy) pizzát rendeltem", but how do we know that this is not meant as a continuous tense (I was ordering a pizza, or I used to order a pizza every day)?
    "Pizzát rendeltem" is correct and commonly used, but as you noted, the sentence can be translated into English in (at least) three different ways. The exact meaning is determined by the context and the optional use of some additional words:

    1) Pizzát rendeltem, és kinyitottam egy üveg sört*. - I ordered a pizza and opened a bottle of beer.
    2) (Éppen) pizzát rendeltem, amikor a telefon kicsúszott a kezemből. - I was ordering a pizza when the phone slipped out of my hand.
    3) (Régen) (Mindig) pizzát rendeltem, amikor üres volt a hűtő. - I used to order a pizza when the fridge was empty.

    Is it wrong to say: '"Megrendeltem (egy) pizzát"...?
    I wouldn't say 'wrong' but it is definitely unusual. You need 'egy', though. "Megrendeltem pizzát" is ungrammatical.

    Or
    "Egy pizzát rendeltem meg"...?
    I would omit "meg".
    Also, if you start your sentence with the object ("egy pizzát"), it often suggests some kind of emphasis (e.g. Egy pizzát rendeltem, nem hamburgert!)

    Another example: She made a delicious meal. Could this be translated as:
    "Elkészített egy nagyon finom ebédet"...?
    If not how to render this into Hungarian?
    Your sentence sounds strange but perhaps it isn't grammatically wrong. I think "(készített) egy nagyon finom ebédet (készített)" is more common, with the verb in either position.

    *I've just realized that "kinyitottam egy üveg sört" is a perfectly normal example of a prefixed verb used with an indefinite object. :D
    I suppose it also depends what verb and prefix you use...
     
    Last edited:

    Lazar_Bgd

    Member
    Serbian - Serbia
    Dear Andras,

    Thanks a lot for the clarification!

    I must say this is a bit of a grey area in the teaching of Hungarian as a foreign language. When they introduce prefixed verbs it is usually said that one of their main functions, besides to express the direction, is to mark the completeness of action. What they forget to mention is that verbs without prefix can also express action that has been completed... 😊

    And thanks for pointing out that in some cases the verbs with prefix can also go with indefinite direct objects. I’ve found another example: János eltört egy vázát. No shortcuts in language learning...
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    What they forget to mention is that verbs without prefix can also express action that has been completed... 😊
    In my opinion the situation is as follows:

    megrendeltem - perfective aspect (action that has been completed)
    rendeltem - no aspect, indifferent (simply past tense, similar to English "I ordered")

    Some illustrative examples (the English translations are not necessarily exact):

    Rendeltem pizzát - I ordered pizza
    Rendeltem egy pizzát - I ordered a pizza
    Én rendeltem a pizzát - "It is me that ordered the pizza"

    * Megrendeltem pizzát (not idiomatic) - I have/had ordered pizza
    Megrendeltem egy pizzát - I have/had ordered a/one pizza
    Megrendeltem a pizzát - I have/had ordered the pizza

    .... I think "(készített) egy nagyon finom ebédet (készített)" is more common, with the verb in either position.
    I agree, but for me also "Elkészített egy nagyon finom ebédet" is perfectly idiomatic, e.g. in case we want to emphasize the perfectiveness (=the action has been really completed).

    As conclusion, I'd say that in general the verbs without prefix do not express that the action has been completed or not, they rather express the action "as is". If it is important to express/emphasize explicitely the "completedness", then the prefix has to be used. Thus the usage or omission of the prefix depends on the concrete context.
     
    Last edited:

    Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    It is indeed a very complex problem and I think we could not give a full, clear cut answer to it. You may find this article useful (sorry, all in Hungarian) or this (pdf. to be downloaded) in English.
    As far as I can tell, telicity depends on quite a lot of factors in Hungarian not only on whether there is or not a preverb, a definite/indefinite article. To start with, it may depend on the meaning of the verb itself.
    E.g. the verb győz (win) expresses completedness already without a preverb (so if a preverb is added, it will just give a different shade or meaning to the verb but it won't change its completedness).
    Equally, using a definite or indefinite article doesn't change its completedness: "Győzőtt a bajnokságon." (He won the championship.) or "Győzött egy bajnokságon." (He won a championship.)
    However, you can also hear sentences like this: Épp győzőtt (=győzésre állt), mikor elesett. (He was just winning when he fell over.) I am not sure how correct is "épp győzőtt" in this case (in theory, it isn't) but if yes, it means that this verb could be used in a continuous tense*, which seems to contradict its basic nature of completedness. (Other examples should be examined but I suspect that they would confirm the possibility that these verbs become atelic in a progressive tense.)

    Completedness can be modified e.g. when a verb like "megy" (which does not express completedness to start with) is used with a preverb before it or after it:
    1. Pista átment/átmegy a hídon. (Pista crossed/crosses the bridge.) - the action is completed (and the use of definite or indefinite article does not change anything about this)
    2. Pista épp ment át/megy át a hídon, amikor.... (Pista was/is just crossing the bridge when...) - the action isn't completed - but the use of definite or indefinite article is irrelevant to completedness here again.

    In both cases it seems that the verb tense can modify telicity but I am not conviced that it is true in 100% of the cases because there are far too many factors to take into consideration. But it would be an excellent topic to compare different languages from this point of view.

    *Of course, only from an English point of view as there is no such a verb tense in Hungarian.
     
    Last edited:

    Fredsky

    Member
    USA
    Hungarian
    After almost 40 years in an English speaking environment, I find the lack of perfect and continuous tenses in Hungarian a bit lacking. So for instance when I talk to people and try to say "I had been watching tv for 2 hours when the earthquake hit", ilyesmi jön a fejembe: "Már két órája néztem volt a tv-t, amikor ..." And I read somewhere recently, that, likely as a result of lots of young people now speaking English, the following "continuous" construct is seen spreading: "olvasásban voltam, amikor ..."
     

    Lazar_Bgd

    Member
    Serbian - Serbia
    Dear Zsanna,

    Thanks for the additional info and also for the links. The document in Hungarian actually addresses my question in full detail (examples 23 c, d & 24).
     
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