sem vs. nem

I encounter this a lot. Can someone explain to me when you use sem as opposed to nem? I'm pretty sure that we learned that sem = se + nem, and that se means "either", and that therefore sem means "neither" or "not... either".

And then every now and then it will pop up in a sentence and mean something like "not even one". That still sorta makes sense, I guess.

What I keep getting stuck on is where the sentences use sem where it seems like nem should suffice. I finally just reached the end of my daily patience with Hungarian when I came across a sentence like Sajnos a repülőgép rossz, és sehova sem repül, if I remember correctly, and got dinged for translating the second half as "and doesn't fly anywhere either". Apparently "either" doesn't belong here! Because... why, exactly? If I wanted to just say "and doesn't fly anywhere", why wouldn't I just say és sehova nem repül? What have I missed?

October 2, 2016


Actually in the example sentence: Sajnos a repülőgép rossz és sehová sem repül in Hungarian it would be also correct with "nem" too. Maybe this sentence will help: Nem szeretem a kekszet (I don't like biscuit) Én sem szeretem a kekszet (I don't like buiscit TOO) This is the most common use of "sem"

Or just simply: Neither do I - Én sem

If there are multiple things that you would like to say like at enumerations:

Neither Madrid nor Ottawa nor Tbilisi is going to organize olympic games. -

Sem Madrid, sem Ottawa, sem Tbilisi nem fog Olimpiai játékokat rendezni.

Egyik sem - None of these.

Bizonyíthatóan vagy sem. - Whether justifiably or not.

Pair with Sehol, Soha, and Sehová both "nem" or "sem" work.

Sehol sem/nem kérdőjelezik meg. - That it is not questioned anywhere.

Még soha sem/nem voltam Amerikában. - I've never been to the USA.

És sehová sem/nem repül. - And doesn't fly anywhere ( your example )

Use nem in stand-alone sentences.

Nem tudtam, hogy fontos. - I didn't know, that it was important.

You may find this site useful:

Yes, in this sentence, both "sehova sem" and "sehova nem" are correct.

I think, sem can be also used if there are more than one negatives in the sentence:

sehova sem = to nowhere

sehol sem = nowhere

senki sem = nobody, Senki sem szereti a spenótot = Nobody likes spinach.

soha sem = never (can be shortened to sosem, sose ) Sosem megyek iskolába = Soha sem megyek iskolába = I never go to school. Here, "soha nem" is also a good option.

Nem nekem kell leírni :)

Nem neked szólt elsősorban, hanem a kérdezőnek, csak jól passzolt, ha ide írom válaszként.

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