Hungarian, like Finnish, has a vowel harmony that determines which form of an ending you add to the end of words. Vowel harmony is a thing because hey, words gotta flow right and sound pretty. You may not notice a difference, but I found the more I got used to it, I was able to tell how words actually sound kinda strange with the wrong ending.
We can divide vowels into 2 basic groups: back vowels, and front vowels. It’s essentially determined by the way you say the letters – whether they’re produced from the back of your throat or at the front of your mouth.
In addition, front vowels can be split up into two groups: un-rounded, and rounded. This makes a difference when you have a 3-fold ending (an ending with 3 different forms). One form will be for back vowel words, one for front vowel words, and the last one for rounded front vowel words.
- Back vowels: a, á, o, ó, u, ú, (i), (í)*
- Front vowels: e, é, ö, ő, ü, ű
- Front vowels (un-rounded): e, é
- Front vowels (rounded): ö, ő, ü, ű
*i / í does not determine whether a word is front or back vowel. If the word only contains these letters (such as ír) then it is considered a back vowel word. In a word with another vowel, such as segít, the í is ignored and only the e is used to determine whether it is a front or back vowel word.
In general, the last vowel in a word determines whether it is a front or back vowel word.
It might be a foreign concept at first if you’ve never encountered it before, but you’ll find it starts coming naturally the more you practice!
Dative: -nak / -nek
gyerek – gyereknek (to/for the child)
diák – diáknak (to/for the student)
süti – sütinek* (*remember, don’t pay attention to i / í !) (to/for the cake)
erdő – erdőnek* (*as there are only 2 forms for this suffix, rounded front vowels will take the same ending as un-rounded front vowels) (to/for the forest)
Allative: -hoz / -hez / -höz
busz – buszhoz (towards the bus)
templom – templomhoz* (*although this word has both a front and a back vowel, we determine based on the last vowel in the word!) (towards the church)
Jupiter – Jupiterhez (towards Jupiter)
szék – székhez (towards the chair)
erdő – erdőhöz (towards the forest)
repülő – repülőhöz (towards the airplane)
Try to determine which endings go with which word! I’ll put the answers at the end of the post!
tanár (-nak / -nek)
tenger (-hoz / -hez / -höz)
vonat (-ban / -ben)
esküvő (-hoz / -hez / -höz)
barátnő (-val / -vel)
család (-nak / -nek)
Most endings only have 2 different forms, if that makes this any easier. It’s one of those things that I found really easy to remember and get used to the more I practiced and used it, so hopefully it will be for you too!
If you have any questions or need more explanation, please message me and I’ll do my best to answer!
Now scroll down and click the “read more” for the answers to the exercise above: