Can someone tell what's the purpose of the word "legyek"?

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  • Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    I think it is not connected to Hungarian (I can think of sentences in English and in French with the equivalent) and I can imagine that in Finnish there must be some equivalent, too... You'll see. (Hopefully.)

    It is the imperative form of the verb of existance conjugated in the 1st person Sing. As imperative is used in various cases in Hungarian, I just give an example where it expresses a demand for advice (with some surprise or indignation):

    A: Légy okos és körültekintő. = Be smart and careful.
    B: De hogy legyek okos és körültekintő? Nem ismerem a helyzetet egyáltalán! = But how shall* I be smart and careful? I don't know the situation at all.

    *Shall could probably be replaced by should, can and could according to the context and the exact meaning of B.
     

    Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    I didn't mention must because it didn't fit my example but it is true that it can imply general obligation, too.

    Imperative doesn't have present/past and future possibilities, this form is used in all verb tenses (the sentence uses). (Formally it is in the present. I know it looks very much like the future "leszek" but the form may simply come from the infinitive: lenni.)
     
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    Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    OK. Then think of this example in English containing a verb in imperative:

    Be good!
    He told me to be good.
    He will want me to be good.

    Is be in different verb tenses? No, it is not. It stays an order that is/was/will be expressed in different moments in time.
    And in each case it expresses the speaker's wish for me to act in a certain way from the moment of speaking onwards. (Immediately or later.)
     

    thunderbirz

    Member
    Finnish
    I actually didn't mean that it was in future tense but that the word shall means that something happens in future. Think about this, "Mene pois" or "Go away" but saying that to yourself... doesn't sound right at all. Could you give me another example in Hungarian where the word "should" can't replace the 1st person imperative verb.
     

    frugnaglio

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hi, of course it's not used to issue commands to oneself. The name 'imperative' is misleading.
    I think that giving a definition of the meaning of this mood is quite difficult. I might seem simple or intuitive to Hungarians, but its various uses can be expressed in rather different ways in other languages. For example, in different contexts it can be translated with the Italian imperative or the subjunctive or the indicative or a different construction altogether. I remember I had your same doubt about the “first person imperative” at first.
    So you should probably just look at the different ways in which it's used, and form your idea of it from that. It will turn out to be a coherent picture.
    The sense that is always present in some form is “having to (do something)”.

    Azt akarják, hogy odamenjek. They want me to go there.
    Elkísérjelek? Shall I accompany you? Should I accompany you? Do you want me to come with you? Would it be better if I came with you?
    Nem tudom, hogy visszatérek-e. I don't know if I will return. Nem tudom, hogy visszatérjek-e. I don't know if I should return. I don't know whether to return or not.
    Nem tudom, kitől kérdezzem. I don't know whom to ask. Kitől kérdezzem? Who should I ask? (Who could I ask?)

    In none of these examples it has an imperative sense.
     

    SReynolds

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    That's because Hungarian does have a subjunctive mood, it's the same thing as the imperative mood, whether you consider the two to be a single entity based on conjugation or a different thing on the basis of grammatical function is entirely up to you (here's a Wikipedia article, an article and a paper on this topic in Hungarian.). There is a small difference between the conjugation of the two moods which is only apparent when a coverb is attached to the main verb. This is discussed at the end of the post. There's also a paper which seems to explain this a lot better than I have managed to do so, it also gives you a list of verbs that usually take the subjunctive and/or the infinitve.

    Structures taking relative clauses that express necessity, obligation, duty or a circumstance that's desirable usually take the subjunctive in Hungarian. Similar structures often take the present subjunctive in English as well:

    It is imperative that I be calm. = Elengedhetetlen, hogy nyugodt legyek.
    It is important that you tell me the truth. = Fontos, hogy elmondjad az igazságot.
    We asked that it be done yesterday. = Azt kértük, hogy tegnapra legyen kész.
    (this sentence takes the subjunctive in English but is considered a form of reported speech in Hungarian, so the imperative mood is used instead of the subjunctive)
    That he appear in court is a necessary condition for his being granted bail. = Az, hogy megjelenjen a bíróságon, szükséges követelménye annak, hogy óvadékot kapjon.
    I am running faster lest she catch me. = Gyorsabban futok, nehogy elkapjon.
    He wrote it in his diary in order that he remember. = Beleírta a naplójába, hogy megjegyezze.


    Although the two meanings of the verb insist don't translate well into Hungarian, the different meanings they convey depending on whether the verb is in the subjunctive or the indicative is clearly visible:

    I insist that he be here. (I want him to be here.) = Ragaszkodom ahhoz, hogy itt legyen.
    I insist that he is here. (I am certain that he is here.) = Itt kell lennie.


    There are obviously cases where English doesn't use an imperative but the structure still refers to an obligation or a command. The equivalent sentences in Hungarian do usually to take the imperative, however:

    The doctor told me to take the medicine twice a day. = Az orvos azt mondta (nekem), hogy szedjem be a gyógyszert naponta kétszer.

    The English imperative also translates into Hungarian perfectly, even in the case of archaic expressions:

    So help me god. = Isten engem úgy segéljen. (segéljen is an archaic variant of segítsen. It's only really used in this one expression (Google). )
    Long live the King. = Soká(ig) éljen a király!


    Good wishes (especially those collocated with may) and expressions indicating purpose take the subjunctive in Hungarian (in Hungarian, they're often used with ahhoz, hogy, azért, hogy, or simply hogy, in English, they can be expressed by a variety of different expressions including may/might/shall/should/can/could, to+infinitve, in order to, so that, in order that, or the subjunctive):

    May the force be with you. = Az erő legyen veled!
    May all your wishes come true. = Válj(on/ék) valóra minden kívánságod!
    May god bless you. = Isten éltessen!
    (éltet is the causative form of the verb él, the whole sentence literally means: Let god make you live, it's a wish commonly said when a person has a birthday, for example)
    We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. = Azért jöttünk ide, hogy ezen a harcmezőn felavassuk a végső nyugvóhelyét azoknak, akik ehelyt az életüket adták (azért), hogy a nemzet tovább éljen.
    God forbid that the same thing happens again. = Isten ments, hogy ugyanaz a dolog előforduljon.
    He wrote it in his diary in order that he remember. = Beleírta a naplójába (azért), hogy megjegyezze.
    Without further ado = (Azért,) Hogy ne szaporítsuk tovább a szót
    He worked very hard to pass the exam. = Keményen dolgozott (azért), hogy átmenjen a vizsgán.
    You need to live in Hungary for 10 years for you to become a Hungarian citizen. = Tíz évig kell Magyarországon élned ahhoz, hogy magyar állampolgár legyél.
    I didn't come to listen to this for hours. = Nem azért jöttem, hogy órákig ezt hallgassam.


    Sentences expressing an offer, suggestion or choice also take the subjunctive. I think your specific sentence is an example of this. The following sentences are upfront suggestions:

    Should I open the window? = Kinyissam az ablakot?
    Should I let you go? = Elengedjelek?
    Should I pay in cash? = Készpénzzel fizessek?


    It's important to mention at this point that only offers can be used in this way. For example, if I wanted to order someone to open the window, I'd say something like:

    Kinyitod az ablakot? = (Lit: Do you open the window?) Can you open the window?
    Kinyitnád az ablakot? = Would you open the window?
    Ki tudnád nyitni az ablakot? = Could you open the window?
    Nyisd ki az ablakot! - Open the window.


    However, it would be very strange to ask Kinyitnám az ablakot? if I offered someone to do the same thing.

    The following sentences are more metaphorical, but still fall under this category. They usually convey an inner dilemma with regard to the actual choices one has:

    How am I supposed to be calm? = Hogyan legyek nyugodt? (I would not expect an actual reply to this question from someone.)
    Should I commit suicide? Should I kill myself? = Legyek öngyilkos? Öljem meg magam?
    I don't know if I should come back. = Nem tudom, hogy visszatérjek-e.


    Verbs or verb phrases expressing remote possibilites can also take the subjunctive in Hungarian, but they can also take the future tense or the conditional mood. The latter two can be used in the case of non-remote possibilities as well, so it's really not important to learn this usage:
    I find it impossible that the government would introduce the new law. = Kizártnak tartom, hogy a kormány bevezesse az új törményt. or Kizártnak tartom, hogy a kormány be fogja vezetni az új törvényt.
    He can't believe that someone could be capable of this. = Nem tudja elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes legyen.
    or Nem tudja elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes lenne.

    Verbs expressing allowance or denial also take the subjunctive if they're followed by a subordinate clause:
    I'll let you finish. = Megengedem, hogy befejezd.
    He has the right to appeal in court. = Joga van ahhoz, hogy fellebbezzen a bíróságon.
    (although this can be considered a verb that happens to be conjugated with ahhoz, which incidentally takes the subjunctive, as presented above)
    My classmates prevent me from being able to concentrate in class. = Az osztálytársaim akadályoznak abban, hogy az órán koncentrálni tudjak.
    I don't allow you to go out with your friends. = Megtiltom, hogy elmenjél a barátaiddal.


    Verbs expressing hypothetical willingness or wishes can be followed by the subjunctive when followed by a subordinate clause:
    He tries to become a good runner. = Igyekszik, hogy jó futó legyen.
    I desire only to be left in peace. = Csak arra vágyok, hogy békén hagyjanak.
    He's longing to find out the truth. = Szomjazik arra, hogy megtudja az igazságot.


    In case you haven't noticed, I was careful to distinguish between the subjunctive mood and the imperative mood throughout this post. That's because there is a small difference between the two moods. The coverbs in Hungarian don't detach from the main verbs when the subjunctive is used:

    He ordered us to go home. = Felszólított (arra), hogy menjünk haza.
    He allowed us to go home. = Megengedte (azt), hogy hazamenjünk.
    He ordered us to eat the soup. = Megparancsolta (azt), hogy együk meg a levest.
    We began eating the soup. = Hozzáláttunk (ahhoz), hogy megegyük a levest.


    As you can see, sometimes it is possible to use both, depending on whether you consider the clause to be an example of a direct or an indirect statement.

    He insisted that we tell the truth. = Ragaszkodott ahhoz, hogy mondjuk el az igazságot. (It almost feels like the person is actually saying these very words, it's a lot more direct.) or Ragaszkodott ahhoz, hogy elmondjuk az igazságot. (This is more like a general statement that might appear in a narrative.)

    She wanted her husband to be released from prison. = Azt akarta, hogy a férje kiszabaduljon a börtönből. (this is indirect) Azt akarta, hogy a férje szabaduljon ki a börtönből. (this is weird and not idiomatic, the direct nature of this sentence is actually quite comical, it almost feels as if the man could get out of jail if he tried hard enough)
     
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    frugnaglio

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Wow, you do like to write, eh?

    That's because Hungarian does have a subjunctive mood, it's the same thing as the imperative mood, whether you consider the two to be a single entity based on conjugation or a different thing on the basis of grammatical function is entirely up to you
    And indeed, I prefer to call it subjunctive or imperative according to the different uses. But it's often presented as imperative, while presenting it as subjunctive would be more intuitive to speakers of languages with a subjunctive.

    Now that I read all of your examples, there are a few usages I didn't know about:
    My classmates prevent me from being able to concentrate in class. = Az osztálytársaim akadályoznak abban, hogy az órán koncentrálni tudjak.
    and this:
    Verbs or verb phrases expressing remote possibilites can also take the subjunctive in Hungarian, but they can also take the future tense or the conditional mood. The latter two can be used in the case of non-remote possibilities as well, so it's really not important to learn this usage:
    I find it impossible that the government would introduce the new law. = Kizártnak tartom, hogy a kormány bevezesse az új törményt. or Kizártnak tartom, hogy a kormány be fogja vezetni az új törvényt.
    He can't believe that someone could be capable of this. = Nem tudja elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes legyen.
    or Nem tudja elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes lenne.
    This was until now the main difference I thought there was between the Italian and the Hungarian subjunctive, and apparently it is not so: Italian uses it to express unlikeliness, and I didn't know that Hungarian did too!
    So I have a question about tenses. How do you express the same thing if it refers to the past? I mean if the subordinate clause is in the past, but not the main clause. For example:
    He can't believe (today) that someone (in the past) could be capable of this. Can you still use legyen and the meaning has to be clear from the context, or do you have to avoid the subjunctive and say Nem tudja elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes lett volna?
     

    SReynolds

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    This is a bit difficult to answer. I can answer your first question instantly: no, legyen does not work here, it's only really used to express future possibilities that are very remote from the speaker's point of view.

    The problem is that I would not use the past tense here, or in English, for that matter. You need to distinguish between those cases where would, could, etc. are used to form conditional sentence and those where they're the subjunctive forms of their respective main verbs (will, can, etc.). One of the definitions of would in the dictionary I consulted is:

    Used to impart a sense of hesitancy or uncertainty to the present; might be inclined to. Now sometimes colloquially with ironic effect.

    So, just to throw in a couple of examples:

    - Hallottál a tegnapi gyilkosságról? (Have you heard of the murder yesterday?)
    - Igen, szörnyű, hogy mik vannak. Nem tudom elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes lenne. (Yes, it's horrible. I can't believe that someone could be capable of this. Could [the subjunctive form of can] and lenne in this case expresses disbelief, not a past action, as in was able to.)

    - A középkorban sok kínzási techikát alkalmaztak. (A lot of torture methods were used in the middle ages.)
    - Nem tudom elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes volt. (I can't believe that someone was capable of this. We know it happened, but it's still horrible that that someone did it.)
    OR
    - Nem tudom elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes lett volna. (I can't believe that someone could have been capable of this. Again, we express disbelief by using the conditional mood (lett volna) in Hungarian and the subjunctive mood in English.)

    Just to give you some examples of future events as well, here's two more examples:

    - Állj be a garázsba. A múltkor ellopták valakinek az autóját az utcából. (Park your car in the garage. Someone stole someone's car from the street the other day.)
    - Nem fogok beállni, nem tudom elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes (Ø/lenne/legyen). (I won't. I can't believe that someone is/would be/should be capable of this. Using legyen and would/should implies a more remote possibility, but in Hungarian, all of these can be used with practically the same meaning. Again, would is the subjunctive equivalent of will and should expresses a more remote possibility than would, akin to the Hungarian legyen.)

    - Az emberiség egyszer el fogja hagyni a Naprendszert. (Mankind will leave the solar system once.)
    - Nem hiszem. Nem tudom elhinni, hogy valaki erre képes lesz. (I don't think so. I can't believe that anyone will be capable of this.)
     

    franknagy

    Senior Member
    The Hungarian grammar taught for native Hungarian does not know the Subjunctive mood.
    It states only the Imperative mood.
    This mood has however forms for each person unlike in the Indoeuropean languages where the Imperative has form for thou, you and in Russian for we.
    This mood is taught for foreign students as Imperative and Subjunctive mood. This way the students can understand that the mood is has perfect conjugation from I to they.
     

    SReynolds

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    What do you mean by perfect conjugation?

    Aside from that, franknagy is correct, when you take Hungarian classes in Hungary, you only learn about the indicative, the conditional and the imperative mood, but then again, most native speakers wouldn't actually realize the difference between the imperative and the subjunctive and knowing the difference wouldn't add anything substantial to their knowledge anyway.
     

    Zsanna

    ModErrata
    Hungarian - Hungary
    Moderator's note:
    Please note that this thread is about the "purpose of legyek", not all the possible implications of imperative in Hungarian (no matter how interesting it is becoming). I would also like to remind you that long explanations tend to go off topic (sooner or later) so please just keep close to the subject as much as possible.
     

    frugnaglio

    Senior Member
    Italian
    (To Zsanna: sorry, I had began to write this reply before your intervention... I'm just posting this and then I'll stop drifting off topic!)

    Thank you! This is much more that I asked for, and your examples are great!

    (on a side note, I think that
    - Az emberiség egyszer el fogja hagyni a Naprendszert = Mankind will leave the solar system one day.
    - Mankind will leave the solar system once = Az emberiség egyszer fogja elhagyni a Naprendszert. (csak egyszer, mert majd elveszíti az űrhajó-építési képességét)
    Not meaning to correct your English – and as I'm not a native speaker I might well be mistaken on this – but just as an exercise in Hungarian for me. Which pushes me to open a new thread.)
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    ... And indeed, I prefer to call it subjunctive or imperative according to the different uses ...
    So am I. I think the Hungarian term felszólító mód is intended to cover (even if not fully) both the uses/aspects: kötőmód (subjunctive) and parancsoló mód (imperative).

    Mod note:Answer to OT deleted, no SMS language, please
     
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    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    However, one of the reasons may be the non-existence of the consecutio temporum, i.e. the tense of the subordinate clause is "seen" from the point of view of that of the main clause and not from the "absolute" point of view. E.g.:

    Azt akarom, hogy boldog legyen.
    Azt akartam, hogy boldog legyen.
    Azt fogom akarni, hogy boldog legyen.

    In all the above examples the present form legyen is used (and this seems to be "sufficient" in most of the practical situations) because the "real" tense of legyen is not seen from "now" (from the present moment), but in relation of the tense of the verb akarni in the main clause.

    In other words, in Hungarian the grammatical present in the subordinate clause essentially expresses the contemporaneity with the main clause and, eo ipso, the grammatical past expresses the anteriority.

    Mod note: OT deleted
     
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