"János rarely sees pretty lawyers."

Translation:János ritkán lát szép ügyvédeket.

August 12, 2016

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How does adverb placement work in Hungarian? I know verbs tend to be placed after the object and subject (or you can put them between, it's free form) -- e.g. "János sees pretty lawyers" could be translated as "János szép ügyvédeket lát."

How do we fit adverbs into this? The translation given is "János ritkán lát szép ügyvédeket." Is "János szép ügyvédeket ritkán lát" equivalent? What about "János szép ügyvédeket lát ritkán"? Or is the word order more strict here because we want to be talking about pretty lawyers, not pretty János?

Thanks in advance. I'm suspecting there's no hard and fast rule (although I'd be pleasantly surprised if there was), I'm just trying to get a feel for the possibilities.


The situation is not too bad with adverbs. As a basic rule, the adverb refers to what is behind it:

Ritkán János... - It is rarely the case that János...
Ritkán lát... - rarely sees
Ritkán szép ügyvédeket... - it is rarely pretty lawyers.

Now, some of these sound pretty weird, but this is the general idea.

As long as you keep "ritkán lát" together, the adverb will refer to the verb. Moving around the rest of the sentence like you did:

"János ritkán lát szép ügyvédeket."
"János szép ügyvédeket ritkán lát"

it changes the emphasis a little bit, but the two are relatively close. The first one is the neutral one. János rarely sees pretty lawyers. It is a statement. Emphasis on "ritkán (lát)". The second one, however, brings the object forward ("szép ügyvédeket"). So it gets emphasized. And it has a connotation of a contrasting statement:

"Pretty lawyers he very rarely sees. But ugly ones! Oh myyyy... every day!"


What is the rule to place the verb in a sentence?

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