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A tad confused about ami and aki

Hello! I am having a few difficulties with "ami" and "aki." I am unsure of exactly how to use them, and the sentence word order baffles me.

Could someone give me a helping hand?


September 17, 2016



Roughly the first could be a question word (mi/ki) the second its conjunctive "equivalent" (ami/aki) introducing a subsentence giving extra information about a thing or a person.

Mi van a dobozban? What is in the box? - Ami a dobozban van, nem rád tartozik. What(ever) is in the box is none of your business.

Ki van itt? Who is here? - Egy ember, aki nem beszél franciául. A man who doesn't speak French.

They are either in the beginning of a sentence. or behind a comma.

Mi, ki, hol.. are interrogatives, while the forms with a- (ami, aki, ahol ..) are subordinating conjunctions..


"ami" and "aki" are called subordinating conjunctions. Here is an example using "amikor:"

  • "Tizenegy órakor megyek aludni." = I go to sleep at eleven o'clock.
  • "Akkor megyek aludni, amikor akarok." = I go to sleep when I want to.
  • "Ami*kor akarok, ak*kor megyek aludni." = I go to sleep when I want to.

The main clause is that you go to sleep, and let's say that you want to say when in another clause. In the main clause, you defer specifying the time by using akkor (then), only to expand on that in the other clause, which you introduce with amikor (when); not to be confused with "Mikor...?" (when...?), the interrogative word, which appears is questions.

To make things a bit more confusing to learn, the a is sometimes dropped from words like amikor, but it's still the same part of speech.

It's a bit like as if all Hungarians talked like "I live there... where the great river springs..." but there's nothing romantic about it; it's just how Hungarian grammar works: Ott lakom, ahonnan a nagy folyó fakad.

Also, if emphasis hadn't been on "Akkor" in the complex sentence above, "Akkor" could be omitted.

More examples, starting each time with an interrogation:

  • "Melyik? Az, amelyik zöld." = Which one? The one that is green.
  • "Mennyi? Annyi, amennyi kell nekünk." = How much? As much as we need.
  • "Mekkora? Akkora, mint amekkora ez a ház." = How big? As big as this house.
  • "Hogy vagy? Ugyanúgy, mint ahogy tegnap." = How are you? The same as yesterday.
  • "Miben segíthetek neked? Abban, amiben tudsz." = How can I help you? However you can.

In the third and fourth sentences, because of "mint" (as), amekkora/ahogy can be omitted.


Thank you! That is quite helpful!


A very rough approximation based on English that might help to get you on your way faster:

Words like when, who, that and which have two uses in English:

Usage 1: When did you wake up? Who did this? Which book do you want? I wonder who my secret admirer might be. I want to know when this happened. Usage 2: I woke up when I heard the noise. I talk to the man who did this. I want the book that you gave me. There was a time when dinosaurs were not fossils.

See the difference? Usage 1 is questions. Direct questions (Who?), and indirect ones (I want to know who.). Usage 2 is basically anything else. (Notice that some of this words have only one of these uses: you can't use "that" as a question word, whereas "how" is only for questions).

In Hungarian, for questions, you use the version without the initial A, for anything else, the version with the A.


Other people have already explained what subordinating conjunctions are; I'll just additionally throw in that ami is used for things (parallel with mi "what") and aki is used for people (parallel with ki "who").

The sentence order isn't that complicated, actually. Consider how we make relative clauses in English, by creating an awkward interruption forming a clause within a clause:

"The man who I saw is a police officer." (Outer clause Inner clause Same outer clause as before)

In Hungarian, you just take that inner clause out and move it to the end of the main clause "The man is a police officer" and separate it with a comma:

A férfi rendőr, aki láttam. "The man is a police officer, who [the man] I saw".

When there is no cut-and-dried noun to refer back to, you have to make one up with az or ez:

Az, aki láttam "Who I saw" (lit. That [person], who I saw)


That would be: A férfi rendőr, akit láttam. - "The man is a police officer, who [the man] I saw".

Ez az a gyűrű, amit neked vettem. - This is the ring, what i bought for you.

Who did you see? - Kit láttál?

What did you buy? - Mit vettél?

So for answering question words like Kit?/mit?, end the subordinating conjunction with an extra "t".

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