Coverbs and Telicity


Coverbs are those things that add directionality or modify the meaning of the verb. Coverbs are so important that some of the verbs that use them change completely in meaning.

This is the same deal with Hungarian so it’s important to get these right. Here are some that you’ve seen in the previous sections as well as some more:

Coverb Meaning
fel up
le down
be in
ki out
át through/across
ide to here
oda to there
össze together
haza towards home
vissza back
el away

Special case: Átláttam a szitán. - (I saw past the ruse)

Even though át- means through/across, when the noun has -n attached, the meaning changes slightly.

Challenge! háború

A kő legyőzi az ollót! (Original image, merging free images together)

Rock beats scissors!


Telicity (lit. end or goal) is a property of a verb that indicates completion. If a verb is telic, it is goal-oriented.

First, let’s see it in English.

The first example represents a person running within a general time-frame and realing that they ran for half an hour. The second represents a person with the goal of running around the block in half an hour, he has the goal of completing this within a time limit.

The same kind of deal applies in Hungarian, but to a whole lot more verbs. Typically either meg- or el- will represent telicity but there are exceptions, naturally. Here are some examples:

Using meg-

Eszik translates to he/she/it eats. Because this isn’t telic, this verb can be used when you are in the process of eating or idly eating. Megeszik is telic, so now the goal is on eating all of it, used when you finish a meal.

Lát translates to he/she/it sees. It isn’t telic, so this is used when you happen to see or notice something. One can intentionally néz something, but not for lát. So because of this, when meg- is added, it makes the verb even more spontaneous, to catch a glimpse or sight of something.

Beszél translates to he/she/it speaks. Being not telic, this is used when you are speaking in general. Megbeszél makes the verb telic and is used when the goal is to speak, this changes the verb from speaks to discuss a topic until completion, to have a talk.

Hív translates to he/she/it calls. It can be used either to contact someone (e.g. via telephone), call someone by name or just call for something in general. Meghív now has the purpose of calling, so the meaning changes from calling to invite.


The kapitány and the rabszolgák are talking, try to work out what they’re saying! From Family guy Season 5, Episode 16

Using el-

Olvas translates to he/she/it reads. This can be used when you are leisurely reading, but elolvas means that the goal is to read the book in its entirety, to peruse it.

Megy is the general verb for he/she/it goes, and is a useful verb for going in general. Elmegy can be used with the intention of going, to leave.

Mesél is the verb for when he/she/it tells a story or recounts. Naturally, elmesél means that the goal is on telling the story in its entirety.

Challenge! nyelvek

Aki megtanul egy új nyelvet, megszerez egy új lelket. (Free image by GDJ, fetched from

He/she who learns a new language, acquires a new soul.

The topic of telicity is quite hard to wrap the head around, you may want to download this pdf. if it helps explain.

You are encouraged to review the previous sections to see more examples of telicity.

Yet to Learn