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Difference between "mellett" and "-nél/-nál"?

Hello, dear Hungarian native speakers. I have a question about the difference between "mellett" and words with the suffix/case-ending "-nél/-nál". I know that there are some uses of the "-nél/-nál" suffix that differ greatly from the meaning of "mellett" (e.g. "pénz van nálam"), but in the general case do you feel a difference between the two?

For example, if I say "Péter a fánál van" vs. "Péter a fa mellett van" do you sense any difference in meaning?

Thank you in advance for your explanations.

July 28, 2016



The word 'mellett' ('mell' means chest/breast, so lit. "by one's chest") is a postposition which:

  • describes a clear relative position where two things or people are side-by-side
  • also has a figurative meaning similar to "besides" when used as "in addition to"
  • can also form adverbs: 'emellett/amellett' (compare to: "e mellett a fa mellett")

The suffix '-nál/nél' is used to make the locative case of nouns, commonly translated as "by":

  • not a strict relative position, just closeby: "A fánál fordulj jobbra." means "Turn right at the tree."
  • relative quality/quantity: "A fánál nagyobb." and "Nagyobb, mint a fa." both mean "Bigger than the tree."
  • also has a figurative meaning similar to a different postposition: 'közben' (during). "Ebédnél" and "Ebéd közben" both mean "During lunch" or "At lunch."


There is a smack of difference between the meaning of the two words, and between their usage. Mellett = beside, next to, near by. -nál/-nél = at, and they both define a location.


"-nál/-nél" refers to a less definite location than "mellett." I'd say it means "somewhere in the close proximity of ...", while "mellett" is exactly "beside/at the side of ..."

Often they are interchangeable, just like in your example. When you want to express or emphasise that the subject is at the side of someone/something, that's when you can only use "mellett".


By the way, could you please explain the difference between mellett, emellett and amellett?

  • 807

"e" and "a" here are short for ez and az (this and that)

mellett - next to
emellett - next to this
amellett - next to that

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