"The man swims well."

Translation:A férfi jól úszik.

July 18, 2016

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Could someone explain the word order in this to me? Why "jól" is before "úszik" specifically? I'm used to putting it last in English


Here is a simple model for the Hungarian word order:

1. subject (optional) 2. something (required) 3. verb 4. something (optional)

You always have to put something in the 2nd position (except if you only have a subject and the verb: A férfi úszik.). It means that there must be something between the subject and the verb, which is very different from English. That's why your sentence was not correct, "a férfi" (subject) can't be directly before "úszik" (verb). It also means that the sentence (usually) can't start with the verb.

Some additional remarks:

Positions 1, 3 (if you omit "van" or if you stress the verb and put it in the 2nd position) and 4 can be empty. Sometimes you can put the subject to the end of the sentence, too. (Jól úszik a férfi.)

You can put more than one word in the 2nd and in the 4th position. (A gyerekek a kertben a kutyával játszanak. = The children play in the garden with the dog. But this sentence is a bit crowded, it sounds better if you put either "a kertben" or "with the dog" at the end.)

If you emphasize something, you should put that word/phrase in the 2nd position and the less important ones in the 4th. (Egy piros almát veszek a boltban (és nem répát). = I buy a red apple in the shop (and not carrots). or A boltban veszek egy piros almát (és nem a piacon). = I buy a red apple in the shop (and not in the market).)

Adverbs of time tend to show up before the 1st position but they are pretty flexible, they can be almost anywhere in the sentence. (Este moziba megyek. = I go to the cinema in the evening.)

This is a simple model and it can get more complicated but I hope it helps you for now. Maybe someone who is more familiar with syntax will check what I just wrote here.


In Hungarian adverbs of manner usually come before the noun (in indicative mood).

  • "Keményen dolgoztam egész héten." -- "I worked hard all week."
  • "Szépen írsz." -- "You write beautifully." (either your handwriting is beautiful, or you are a good writer)
  • "Ákos nagyon gyorsan tud futni." -- "Ákos can run very fast."

Though there are still cases where you can change this order for emphasis:

  • "Szeretek lassan olvasni." -- "I like reading slowly."
  • "Lassan szeretek olvasni." -- Emphasis on lassan


Why "az ember jól úszik" is not accepted? To my knowledge, "ember" also means "man".


I believe ember means man in the sense of "person" - like the phrase "all men are created equal," where (at least now) "men" is assumed to refer to any human, male of female, or how many rules and laws used to refer only to "he" or "him" but applied to women as well. Conversely, férfi means man as in the opposite of woman, and cannot be used in the more general sense.


I wrote EXACTLY your correction ( no typo or stress omitted) and it was rejected. Not the first time.

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