"The boys are not stepping out through the door, but crawling out through the window."

Translation:A fiúk nem kilépnek az ajtón, hanem kimásznak az ablakon.

September 26, 2016

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Is ... nem lépnek ki ... wrong?


Yes, it is wrong here but it is the hardest to explain why.

When it is just a simple statement, without a contrasting statement, it is good:

"A fiúk nem lépnek ki az ajtón."

You can add the second statement as a separate sentence:

"A fiúk nem lépnek ki az ajtón. Kimásznak az ablakon."

And now comes what is being negated here. Back to the whole sentence. We could negate the door, offering the window, but then we would have only one verb. "Ajtó" would come right after "nem", as that is what is being negated. And the verb would be split, as the emphasis is not on the verb:

"A fiúk nem az ajtón lépnek ki, hanem az ablakon."

Or we could negate the boys, with a similar result:

"Nem a fiúk lépnek ki az ablakon, hanem a lányok."

But what happens when we want to negate the verb itself? Then, naturally, the verb is in focus, it is emphasized. And, as such, it stays intact, it does not get split.

But let us stay with the door for now, in both clauses, so, clearly, the focus is on the verb:

"A fiúk nem kilépnek az ajtón, hanem kimásznak (az ajtón)."

We are definitely emphasizing the mode of going outside: the verb. It is intact.

And now let us bring back the window, as well. This is where it becomes ambiguous, and I may need to revise my first statement. Instead of walking out through the door, they climb out through the window. What is really being negated/contrasted here? What is "A" and "B" in "Not A but B"? It looks like it is not just the verb but the whole phrase.

  • A: "kilépnek az ajtón"
  • B: "kimásznak az ablakon"

So, these two statements are placed in strong contrast. For best results, it is advisable for both to have the same structure. So, the verbs better stay intact in both clauses. Because, clearly, the verb must stay intact in the second clause. So, the sentence is:

"A fiúk nem kilépnek az ajtón, hanem kimásznak az ablakon."

Maybe the best way to think about this is as a conversation about who said what:

Q: "What did you say? Did you say they 'are stepping out through the door'?"
A: "No, I didn't say the boys 'are stepping out through the door', I said they are 'crawling out through the window'."

And, if we remove the extra words, we arrive at the original sentence. So, two whole statements are put in contrast here, without modifying their inner structure.

But then the question remains. Why can't it be " ... nem lépnek ki ... "?? Especially considering the fact that, as a single statement, "A fiúk nem lépnek ki az ajtón." is perfectly fine.

Well, after much consideration, now I believe that both versions are viable. With some difference in meaning, contrast and emphasis.

"A fiúk nem kilépnek az ajtón, hanem kimásznak az ablakon."
Here, the two statements are compared, they are put in strong contrast, as I explained above. As if I were saying "they are 'stepping out through the door' is incorrect, they are 'crawling out through the window' is actually what is happening." So, almost like someone thought that the first thing was happening but, instead, the second one is true.

"A fiúk nem lépnek ki az ajtón, hanem kimásznak az ablakon."
Here, the contrast is not as strong. The two statements are less related to each other. And the second statement is more of an alternative, or a piece of additional information, rather than an opposing statement.
As such, the connecting word "hanem" may not be the best choice in this version, as that word naturally tries to establish a contrast. I would suggest using "inkább" ("rather"), or maybe "hanem inkább" ("but rather"). Or "helyette" ("instead (of that)"). Or some other, less "confrontational" word. Or just omit the connecting word.

"A fiúk nem lépnek ki az ajtón, helyette kimásznak az ablakon."
Yes, it sounds better like this.

A few more sentences where this concept is clearer:

"Nem megyünk haza, inkább elmegyünk moziba." - We do not go home but, rather, we go to the cinema.
"Nem veszem meg az autót, (hanem) inkább/helyette elutazom Magyarországra." - I am not going to buy the car, instead I will travel to Hungary.
"Nem eszem meg az almát, hanem (inkább) megsütöm lepénynek." - I will not eat the apple, I will make apple pie instead.

In these sentences, the first clause is an independent, full sentence, a full statement. It could stand on its own. The second clause adds more information to it, rather than directly opposing it.

So, really, both versions work, but, with strong contrasts/comparisons, especially connected with "hanem", the verb should stay intact. So, in the spirit of the creators' probable intent, the "... nem kilépnek..." version is the good one.

I know, these are seemingly small nuances. Anyway, the information is here, ready to use whenever the time comes.


Thanks a lot, your explanation us perfect!


Köszönöm... this really helped a lot!

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