I have trouble with Hungarian Grammar. I am just a beginner, so it would be helpful to know the order you say things in a sentence. It is very different from English. I am getting the words and their meanings, but the grammar is very hard for me. In languages, there is a specific order you say something. What is it in Hungarian? Any suggestions on helping me out?
Most important rule - the focus goes before the verb. So you can often say the same thing in a different order but it will have a slightly different meaning (ie answer a different question).
For a simple neutral sentence it normally Subject Object Verb. But a neutral sentence can have the object after the verb if the object/dependent noun has an article.
Question words (Mi, Ki, etc) always have focus so must be followed by the verb. If you negate a verb the "nem" has to go before the verb.
Postpositions go after (hence "post-"). So mellett, föllöt, etc go after the thing they reference.
An adjective describing a noun goes before it. But if you are equating them eg "The girl is beautiful" it goes after (just like English).
I can recommend Szita Szilvia & Görbe Tamás' "Gyakorló maagyar nyelvtan: A Practical Hungarian Grammar". It has a page (in both English and Hungarian) on a topic (or sub-topic), then a page of exercises (with answers) It includes 50 pages on sentence construction - with half of these on word order - word order (although half of these are exercises).
"In languages, there is a specific order you say something. "
That is the difficulty in Hungarian: there is no specific order. It has free word order, but not totally free. Free within some rules...
When I take a sentence and try to find all the possible word orders:
There are the clearly good ones: The word orders that feel natural.
There are the incorrect ones: when I know a rule that forbids this word order.
And there is the grey zone. The sentence is somehow unnatural, but I don't know any rule that would exclude it. And maybe, if you really want to emphasize this and that part, it could work. But it is hard to come up with a scenario when you would use it.
With this definition, I would put the three sentences Gabor dislikes to the grey zone. Néz Péter egy filmet. Néz egy filmet Péter. Egy filmet Péter néz.
Switch egy fimet to a filmet.
Now, A filmet Péter nézi. works. It is Peter who is waching the movie.
To make it even more fun, let's take Péter nézi a fimet, and add a nem.
Nem goes before the part it negates.
Péter nem nézi a fimet. The most natural one. Péter is not watching the movie.
Nem nézi a filmet Péter.
Nem nézi Péter a filmet.
Péter a filmet nem nézi.
A filmet Péter nem nézi.
A filmet nem nézi Péter. These ones are also ok, but less natural than the first one.
Péter nem a filmet nézi. Péter is watching not the movie (but something else)
Nem a filmet nézi Péter. Péter is watching not the movie (but something else)
Nem Péter nézi a filmet. It is not Péter who is watching the movie.
A filmet nem Péter nézi. It is not Péter who is watching the movie.
Now, the incorrect ones:
You cannot put nem at the end.
*Nem Péter a filmet nézi.
*Nem a filmet Péter nézi. These two don't work because the negated part should take the focus position, right before the verb.
Is it the general practice of the course to include or exclude the grey area sentences? In Russian, for instance, I think they decided to include only the most common word orders, leaving out the more special-case ones (even if clearly correct in the right context).
It is a good question. We think accepting more is better than accepting less (because then there will be less reports). But there is no clear guideline. So somewhere in the middle, depending on the sentence.
For example, there are sentences with "Somebody is doing something somewhere". In Hungarian, the two most frequent solutions are Subject Place Verb, or Subject Verb Place.
Which one is the better choice? That depends on the meaning of the sentence. But I try to accept these 2 orders everywhere to make it more consistent for learners.
I am quite new to this forum, so please correct me if I am wrong but I think that the goal of this forum is not to give academic answers to the questions but to give guidance that learners can benefit from.
Now, if we accept this approach then there is no point in listing sentences that I have never heard and that I would never use just because there is no rule excluding them.
I'm sorry, it's not fully clear to me why you came up with the translations of "Somebody is doing something somewhere". The solutions that you mentioned don't start with the verb either!
In Hungarian, the two most frequent solutions are Subject Place Verb, or Subject Verb Place
I'm a native Hungarian speaker but not a teacher of Hungarian, so I'm not sure I can give you an overall answer to your question. However, after thinking of a few example sentences, containing a subject, an object and a verb, I concluded the following.
First of all, the word order in Hungarian is quite flexible. This is because the role of each word in a sentence is clearly indicated by the ending (suffix) of the word. For example, in German or in English, the object of the sentence is not distinguished from the subject by the ending of the word, so the only way to make a difference between them is the word order. This is not the case in Hungarian.
Let's see an example sentence: Peter is watching a movie. All the following translations are correct, with slight differences in the word that carries the emphasis:
Péter néz egy filmet.
Péter egy filmet néz.
Egy filmet néz Péter.
I would say that the first two translations are neutral. The third translation emphasizes that the thing that Peter is watching is actually a movie. Usually, the word that we say first carries the emphasis.
The other possible word orders (e.g. "Egy filmet Péter néz." or "Néz egy filmet Péter.") are incorrect.
I would also point out that the word order doesn't always change if we want to phrase a question. For example, if we want to transform the above sentence into a question (Is Peter watching a movie?) then we can say:
Péter egy filmet néz?
Péter néz egy filmet?
again with a slight difference in the emphasis. I think you can already guess that in the first sentence the movie is a bit stressed, and in the second sentence the activity itself (watching) is emphasized.
You can also ask "Egy filmet néz Péter?", which clearly emphasizes "a movie", so the most accurate English translation of this question would be "Is it a movie that Peter is watching?"
Now, if we want to translate the question "What is Peter watching?", we have two choices:
Mit néz Péter?
Péter mit néz?
I think both of these sentences are equally correct and neutral. The other word orders (e.g. "Mit Peter néz?") are incorrect.
However, there is only one correct translation of the question "Who is watching a movie?":
Ki néz egy filmet?
Unfortunately, I cannot provide you with some useful rules here but I hope I could help you a little.
Just to complete the possible orders of "Péter," "néz," and "egy filmet," "Néz Péter egy filmet" is also incorrect, I suppose?
Néz Péter egy filmet is good. But I would also accept Néz egy filmet Péter. (Egy filmet Péter néz is the weirdest, I guess we can exclude that one.)