elöl = in the front, relative to the bigger space in which we are. for example, in a train, someone can be sitting in the front (elöl ül), relatively to the direction the train is going, but i guess the logic is the same in english. előtt = something/someone who is in front OF e.g. the hypothetical train mentioned above, is positioned, as i said, in front OF the train, so relatively to another thing (in front of the train = a vonat előtt) + 2 facts about these: 1. "elöl" (in the front) is not the same as "elől" (~ away from). Ex.: I am sitting in the front of the train = a vonaton elöl ülök (one possible translation); I am running away from the train = a vonat elől futok (which almost has the meaning "escaping from the train" in this context) 2. "előtt" can refer to physical position or a position in time. a vonat előtt = in front of the train a film előtt = before the film
"Elöl van" also has a special meaning, an idiomatic meaning. It is used when something is not at its place, it is out. Like all your children's toys, strewn all over the room.
Would it be possible to translate as "There is always a chair in front." ? Or would that requiere a different word order?
No, that would be a different sentence. See, you changed "the chair" to "a chair". That difference is also reflected in Hungarian.
"There is always a chair in front." - "Mindig van elöl egy szék."
The word order is still variable here but maybe this is the most neutral way.
Oh yes, I see. (I really need to take care of this "false friend") Köszönöm. - by the way, is there any hungarian word to express these pitfalls with regards to translation?
You mean the "a"? Yes, that can be confusing. :)
For "false friend", I checked Wikipedia. It is usually a very good tool for finding out the matching expression for the same concept in another language. Look up the topic in question and switch languages. Hopefully, "Magyar" will be one of the selectable languages.
"False friend" is "hamis barát" in Hungarian, which is a literal translation. I don't recall ever hearing it in this context. But I am not a linguist.
Thank you very much. And yes, Wiki is often helpful. I wonder, why I haven't used it myself this time.
There are some cases when "van" cannot be omitted. like when you say:
- where something is
- how something is
- when something happens / occurs
Any other cases it can be omitted and you can also leave a sentence without any verb.