This is our Hungarian class blog! Köszönöm
This is our Hungarian class blog! Köszönöm

Past tense

OK, today we were studying past tense (singular). By “we” I mean Linda and I; Dima is on vacation and Alex has some personal issues. We only covered singular, but both definite and indefinite conjugations.


The idea is to add ‘-t’ suffix, possibly followed by a personal ending. The specifics vary:

First person

Remember, we are talking only singular here.

1) For regular verbs: add ‘-tam/-tem’. There is no difference here between definite and indefinite. Of course, the correct suffix is chosen based on vowel harmony, as usual.


Examples: olvastam, néztem, főztem.

2) Verbs that end with multiple consonants, making it hard to add ‘-t’ to them: double the ‘t’ and add a vowel before it: ‘-ottam/-ettem/-öttem’. Note that the last vowel is still the same for ‘e’ and ‘ö’ cases, as in (1); it’s not ‘-öttöm’.


Verbs ending with ‘-ít’ fall into the same category, but verbs ending with ‘-d’ do not. Don’t try to understand it, just memorise. For some reason ‘fáradt’ is easier for Hungarians than ‘segíttem’, so the last one is lengthened (see examples below).

Also, very short verbs — one syllable, short vowel — ending with “-t” fall here as well. Apparently, Hungarians think those are too short.


And of course, there are exceptions that do NOT fall into this category, instead being regular verbs: “küld”, “mond”, “áll”.

Examples: tanítottam, segítettem, hallottam, értettem, futottam, sütöttem.

3) Irregular verbs — those that are always freaky. The idea, however, is to form an infinitive of that verb, remove ‘-ni’ suffix (or ‘-nni’, if there is one), and add ‘-tam/-tem’.


Examples: mentem (form of “megy”), jöttem (jön), ettem (eszik), ittam (iszik), tettem (tesz), vettem (vesz), vittem (visz), hittem (hisz), aludtam (alszik — infinitive is “aludni”), feküdtem (fekszik), dohányoztam.

And there is a great verb “van”, which has TWO past forms: “lettem” (as it is an irregular verb with infinitive “lenni”) and “voltam”. The difference is that “voltam” means “(I) was”, while “lettem” means “(I) became”.


Second person

Well, here the ending for definite conjugation is easy to guess: ‘-tad/-ted’. For indefinite, however, it’s ‘-tál/-tél’. Note that here the vowels are long.


Everything about the first person applies here as well, with the only difference that instead of ‘-tam/-tem’ you should use the correct second-person ending, depending on whether it’s definite or indefinite conjugation. Yes, here there is a difference.

Third person

1) Regular verbs. Here we have three options for indefinite conjugation: ‘-ott/-ett/-ött’. The rule of thumb is that if the suffix starts with a vowel, then there are three options; otherwise, there are only two.


For definite conjugation we get ‘-ta/-te’. No third option here.

2) Verbs with multiple consonants on the end, or ‘-ít’, or really short ones — see above. For indefinite conjugation there is no difference with (1): just add ‘-ott/-ett/-ött’. Makes sense, as we already have a vowel to separate the ‘t’s from the stem.


For definite conjugation use ‘-otta/-ette/-ötte’.

3) Irregular verbs. Well, here things get tricky. Let’s just see the examples, not trying to find a scheme.


Examples: ment (for “megy”), jött (jön), evett/ette (for indefinite/definite conjugation and the verb “eszik”), ivott/itta (same for “iszik”), tett/tette (tesz), vett/vette (vesz), vitt/vitte (visz), hitt/hitte (“hisz” — you might think you found the pattern now, haha), aludt (alszik), feküdt (fekszik), dohányzott (dohányzik). And, of course, the infamous “van”, which, in this case, becomes “volt” (was) or “lett” (became).


“to talk about something” — “beszélget valamiről”. So, “I talked about a cat” — “beszélgettem macskáról”.


“one week/two hourse/etc. ago” — “egy héttel/két órával ezelőtt”

“looks like (is similar to) something” — “úgy néz ki, mint valami”.


Múlt idő — past tense.

Múlt — past.

Előző — previous; for example “az előző főnököm” — “former boss of mine”

Share This Story

Get our newsletter