Technically you need to use the addessive case "-nál/nél" to say near. So that would be "A folyónál pihensz."
"Beside the river" means you're right there at it. Near means you're close, but not necessarily that close. As I non-native speaker I can't say for sure, but I would guess the same applies in Hungarian.
I think there's a bit of a mismatch here.
- I would translate -nál pretty consistently with 'at' or 'by'. You're right there, could reach out and touch it if you want.
- Mellett is 'next to' or 'beside'. The important part here is that, unlike -nál, it refers to a certain relative position. Not in front or in the back or under, but to the side. Like one house stands next to another in a street.
- A pretty direct translation for 'near something' is közel vmi.
At this point, we should note that közel goes with -hoz/-hez/-höz rather than plain nominative, pretty much like "close to something". I think "close" and "near" translate basically the same here.
Or you could go fancy and say "valaminek a közelében" which is a possessive structure.
Could someone explain how word order works in Hungarian, as I've seen several different structures and this one is exactly the opposite of the English word order. Is it a language like Latin or Greek where word order is not as relevant as case and conjugation?
Thanks in advance.
i found these two websites on hungarian grammar word order:
http://www2.ku.edu/~magyar/courses/103/unit1/introducing.shtml on the second link, scroll down to the end of the first section. thanks for your question because i needed help with this too!
Let's see what those sentences are. "You are resting by the river" is a complete sentence with a conjugated verb (are resting) and an adverbial of place (by the river). You have the same in the Hungarian sentence, the conjugated verb pihensz and the place adverbial "a folyó mellett".
"The river you are resting by" is something else, it's a closer description of a noun, not a complete sentence. It consists of a truncated main clause (the river) and a relative clause which describes the river ((that/which) you are resting by). And that's where the important part is: while in English you can throw out the relative "that" or "which" quite frequently and conceal the fact that it's a relative clause, that's a lot harder to do in Hungarian. In many cases, like here, you need to spell that conjunction out. Your sentence would look like this: A folyó, amely mellett pihensz - literally "the river, which-by you rest".