"Mondtam egy viccet."

Translation:I told a joke.

August 12, 2016

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While "to tell a joke" may be the classical English expression, this sentence does also translate as "I said a joke", right? Because "mondani" is "to say".

But on that note, could somebody explain the different usages of "szól" vs "mond"?


I think "to say a joke" may be considered incorrect by some. But I am not in position to make that judgement. Anyway, yes, "mondani" probably covers both "tell" and "say".

The word "szólni" is what you would call "intransitive". It does not use an object. "Mond" is, however, transitive.

So, "szólni" is kind of like making a sound, making your voice heard. You can use it to express:

  • hozzászólni - to make a comment
  • szól a rádió - the radio is on
  • szól a harang - the bell is ringing
  • tücsökszó - the sound a cricket makes
  • mit szólsz? - "what say you?" / "what do you think?" - OK, this is kind of transitive, sorry

and many many more intransitive situations.

"Mondani" is usually transitive, it needs an object.

  • to tell a joke - viccet mondani
  • to tell a story - történetet mondani


Now, I am trying to define the difference between these two:

"Mit szólsz hozzá?" - What do you think about this / What is your opinion?
"Mit mondasz erre?" - What is your answer/reaction to this?

Let's say the first one is more indefinite, more generally asking about your reaction, which may not be verbal. And the second one more specifically asking for a verbal answer.

Let's see what others think about this.


Thanks for the detailed response!

So.. with the "mit" for the later examples: with "szól", the "mit" is more what you thought (ie, more abstractly related to the actual words), where as the "mit" for "mond" is asking about what it is that you would say?

I read an example dialogue (set in a workplace) where they used: "Jó, szólok a főnöknek, hogy útan vagy." In this, "szól" sort of translates as "give word (to)", right? As in "I will let (them) know".

But I also have heard "(valami-ról) szólt" being used as something like "it spoke about something" (correlating to the more abstract form of "spoke" that one uses in English to talk about texts, poems, arguments etc, like an in essay where you write "This passage speaks to the plight of the domestic cat etc etc ".

(Oh yeah, it was a lyric on Hungarian radio: "Ahol minden csók csak a csókról szólt." In that sense, "szól" sort of means "speaks about", or even "signifies"? Quite a different sense to "szólok a főnöknek"! But either way, both require a different case ending to the accusative...so its "speaking" or "signifying" or "giving word" in a more abstract, intransitive sense.)


I think you got it!
But even the "valamiről szól" is not necessarily actual speaking. Consider this, about a book or a movie:

"What is it about?" - translates to "Miről szól?"

And just a small correction for you: "útOn", and "valamirŐl". :) Otherwise, perfect!


ok! Thanks!

and: The "valamirŐl" is because the "hangrend" is "magas" to match the "mi" and disregards the "vala" as though this is a compound word (vala-mi), right? Like "Budapesten" takes "-en" despite the "u" and "a" in Buda, because of the compound Buda-pest?



That sounds like a reasonable explanation, yes! :)

Yeah, now that you mention it, the actual rule is something like this: if it is a mixed "hangrend", the suffix will be "mély hangrendű". Kivéve összetett szavaknál, ahol az összetett szó utolsó tagja határozza meg a toldalék hangrendjét.
Oh, sorry, I got carried away. Except for compound words, where the "hangrend" is determined by the last component of the compound word.
So, yes, you are absolutely right!


I don't think you can "say a joke", though you can "say 'a joke'" (i.e. speak those two words).


I am a native English speaker, so my question was not really concerned with whether it would be precisely correct in English to say "to say a joke" versus "to tell a joke". There are many instances in commonly spoken English where using "said a joke" would be perfectly acceptable and heard a fair bit (sure, maybe not the Queen's English, or in the type of English taught in classes as a second language).

I more was asking whether "mond" specifically referred in any particular way to "to tell" or "to say". Otherwise, this distinction is a problem for the English translation, not a problem in comprehending the Hungarian.. Either way, I'm of the opinion that this course should probably be much more lenient anyway with regards to various English translations that are accepted, as we are here to learn and discuss Hungarian (well..I am!)


That could be a great big discussion somewhere else. Personally, I think both sides should be as correct as possible, with a possible explanation of the literal translation, and the nuances, both ways. It is very easy to pick up bad habits, even in learning a language. It does not need to be taught. :)
And many people use even the reverse course to learn. For example, I am not here to learn either English or Hungarian, yet I am learning so much about both. So, I am supporting cleaning up the mistakes on both sides. And this course still needs a major quality check on the English side, and a lot on the Hungarian side, as well.
Maybe these not-exactly-correct translations could be accepted with a warning of "you really shouldn't say that but we will let it pass this time". :)


Literal translation would be so helpful with the Hungarian, but I have seen this done in some books / articles and it gets pretty freaky quite fast, one example was: "Péter becsomagolta az ajándékot" gets broken down as: "Péter be-csomagol-t-a az ajándék-ot" translated literally: "Péter into-wrap-Past-3rd person singular Definite. the gift-Accusative."

= "Péter wrapped the gift." (and that's a simple one...)

Haha yeah: sometimes I would find an "Ok, you understood the sentence, and that's not right in any language, but you may move on," very useful in some lessons!


Good discussion here.

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