Negation is basically putting don’t or did not into the sentence, making it negative (hence the name).

Negating with nem & sem

You can negate most sentences with nem, it means no, or not. As a rule, nem comes directly before the part of the phrase you are negating, in most cases the verb.

If the same subject negates more verbs in a sentence, sem is used instead. The use of sem can also be used with pronouns for emphasis.

Consider this scenario:

It should be noted that English treats the sentence as one whole value whereas Hungarian treats the sentence as a series of values. If you want to negate the sentence, every part of the sentence is negated.

Quick note: ismer and tud are both verbs that can be used as the equivalent to know. ismer has connotations of possesing knowledge whereas tud has connotations of possessing skills and skillsets (hence, why tud also means can, in the sense of ability).

Useful negations

Negating with nincs & sincs

Recall that van is the verb for existence. In Hungarian, nem van nincs/nincsen is used to negate a noun’s existence (and nincsenek for negating multiple nouns). Likewise with sem, sincs is used as a further negation to really emphasise the lack of existence.

Although nincs is used for the present tense, nem volt and nem lesz are used for the past and future respectively.

Challenge! Frodo

Ha van Balrog, miért nincsen Jobbrog? (Free image by Yukatan, fetched from Wikimedia Commons)

If there is a Balrog/Leftrog, why is there no Rightrog?

Negating with ne & se

With the imperative and subjunctive mood, the negation becomes ne and se. Sometimes ne is is used instead of se. This concept will be expanded upon in later sections.

Challenge! Yoda

Tedd, vagy ne tedd, de ne próbáld! - Yoda, Star Wars V (Original Image)

Do or do not, but do not try!

Negative questions

It isn’t uncommon to ask questions in the negative, especially if they are yes or no questions.

Consider these situations, Barnabás could respond with the following:

Notice how igen de (but) is used to counter a negative question.


Jani and Pisti are talking, try to work out what they are saying! Source:

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