- Turkish grammar
This article concerns the
grammarof the Turkish language. A companion to this article is Turkish vocabulary. Three features that, together, distinguish Turkish from many other languages are the following:
#Turkish is highly agglutinative: its words are able to carry many
suffixes (or "endings").
#Turkish exhibits vowel harmony: when a suffix is attached to a stem, the vowel in the suffix is adjusted to harmonize with the last vowel in the stem.
#Turkish has no gender.
A suffix ("ek") is attached to a stem ("gövde"). This stem may be a root ("kök"), or it may be further analysable. The suffixes used in Turkish fall approximately into two classes:
*constructive suffixes ("yapım ekleri"), and
*inflexional suffixes ("çekim ekleri").
The distinction here involves the distinction between words as found in "dictionaries" and words as found in "sentences".A constructive suffix makes a new dictionary-word from an old one (i.e. it is a derivational suffix); an inflexional suffix allows a dictionary-word to take its proper place in a sentence. Thus the distinction between constructive and inflexional suffixes is somewhat arbitrary, depending on the judgements of grammarians and lexicographers. The present article is concerned mainly with inflexional suffixes; the article on
Turkish vocabularytreats the constructive suffixes.
This article assumes familiarity with the
Turkish alphabetand its phonetic use in writing down the language, and with Turkish phonology. Spelling changes, such as those reflecting vowel harmony, will be used without further comment.But let it be noted that a Turkish suffix can be called "enclitic" if its vowel "does" harmonize with the last vowel of the stem that the suffix is attached to. All suffixes mentioned here can be assumed enclitic unless otherwise specified.
Turkish is a completely gender-neutral language except a few sex-specific compound words (mostly professions). English third person singular pronouns "she", "he", and "it" all correspond to a single Turkish pronoun "o". Since many given names in Turkish are also sex-neutral, it is possible to tell somebody all about somebody else without the listener's knowing the sex of the person being described. In this article, translations from Turkish will use expressions like "he or she" or "s/he"; even then, the possibility of "it" should be remembered.
Also, in translations, this article will use the archaic "thou/thee/thy/thine" in translating Turkish second-person singular forms. As English always does now, so Turkish sometimes uses second-person plural forms to refer to individuals, especially as a sign of respect.That is, Turkish has a
As has already been done under
#Suffixes, this article gives some grammatical terminology in Turkish as well as English. The Turkish terms themselves serve to illustrate features of the grammar. For example, in the Turkish terms for the constructive and inflexional endings, three roots are involved:
*"ek" "supplement, affix" (but note that Turkish has no prefixes);
*"çek-" "pull, draw".To the latter two roots, both verbal, the constructive suffix "-im" can be added to form nouns for "instances" of the actions denoted by the roots:
*"çekim" " [a] pull or draw" (or a "take" in cinema).Either of these nouns can be compounded with the noun "ek"; the result is an indefinite compound ("belirtisiz tamlama"), the sign of which is the inflexional suffix "-i" attached to "ek":
*"yapım eki" "structure-suffix";
*"çekim eki" "inflexion-suffix".The inflexional suffix "-ler" goes before the "-i" to make the plural: "yapım ekleri, çekim ekleri".
It should be noted that many words in Turkish—in particular, many grammatical terms—are
neologismsinvented to replace earlier words borrowed from Arabic or Persian. (See the main article on Turkish language for more on this point.) In some cases, the old term is also still in use. In such a case, no consistent attempt will be made below to indicate whether the old or the new term is the more prevalent. (However, literal translations of the terms may be offered.)
Parts of speech
By one count, there are nine parts of speech ("sözcük türleri" "word-kinds"):
noun("isim" or "ad" "name");
pronoun("zamir" "inner being", or "adıl" from "ad");
adjective("sıfat" "role, quality", or "önad" "front-noun");
verb("fiil" "act, deed", or "eylem" "action" from "eyle-" "make, do").
adverb("zarf" "envelope", or "belirteç" from "belir-" "determine");
postposition("ilgeç" from "ilgi" "interest, relation");
conjunction("râbıt" [obsolete] , or "bağlaç" from "bağ" "bond");
interjection("nidâ" [obsolete] , or "ünlem" from "ün" "fame, repute, sound").Postpositions are like prepositions in English, except that they follow their objects.Postpositions can be considered merely as particles, but there are particles in Turkish that are not postpositions. The notion of a part of speech applies both to a dictionary-word and to a word in a sentence.In Turkish, only nouns, pronouns and verbs are inflected. (An adjective can usually be treated as a noun or pronoun, so that it can be inflected too.)By inflexion, a noun can be given features of a verb (such as person, tense and so forth).Also by inflexion, a verb can become one of the following:
* verbal adjective ("sıfat-fiil") or
* verbal adverb (called a "gerund" by Lewis (1967)).These have peculiarities not shared with other nouns, adjectives or adverbs. For example, some participles take a "person" the way verbs do.Also, a verbal noun or adverb can take a direct object. Some verbal nouns are "not" inflected forms in Turkish, but are borrowed from Arabic or other languages.
The dictionary-form of a noun (or pronoun) can make a complete sentence: "köpek" "dog"; "Köpek" "It is a dog."Most dictionaries give verbs as "infinitives", which usually will not be construed as complete sentences: "koşmak" "(to) run".However, instead of the infinitive, the Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary gives the stem of a verb as its
headword, and the present article follows this convention.The verb-stem is also the second-person singular imperative: "koş-" "run"; "Koş!" "Run!"Thus both a noun and a verb, with no endings, can be a sentence.
Many verbs are formed from nouns by addition of "-le": "köpekle-" "make like a dog" (in any of several ways). The aorist tense of a verb is formed by adding "-(i/e)r". The plural of a noun is formed by adding "-ler". Hence: "Köpek + ler" "(They are) dogs." "Köpekle + r" "S/he cringes (like a dog)."Thus "-ler" can indicate either a plural noun or a finite verb.
As noted above, most adjectives can be treated as nouns or pronouns: "genç" "young" or "young person" or "the young person referred to". An adjective or noun can stand, as a modifier, before a noun. If the modifier is a noun (but not a noun of material), then the second noun word takes the inflexional suffix "-i": "beyaz diş" "white tooth"; "altın diş" "gold tooth"; "köpek dişi" "canine tooth".
Comparison is achieved, not by inflexion of adjectives (or adverbs), but by other means (described below).
Adjectives can serve as adverbs, sometimes by being repeated: "yavaş" "slow"; "yavaş yavaş" "slowly".
A general rule of Turkish word-order is that the modifier precedes the modified. Therefore, usually,
*adjective (used attributively) precedes noun;
*adverb precedes verb;
*object of postposition precedes postposition.Also, in a sentence,
*subject precedes predicate;
*objects precede verb;
*indirect object precedes direct object.In particular then, Turkish is SOV.However, because the distinction between subject, indirect object, and direct object is shown also by inflexion, the rules of word-order are not inviolable.
The order of
morphemesin Turkish is often opposite to English: "Avrupa" Europe "Avrupalı" European "Avrupalılaş" become European "Avrupalılaştır" Europeanize "Avrupalılaştırama" cannot Europeanize "Avrupalılaştıramadık" whom could not Europeanize "Avrupalılaştıramadıklar" those whom could not Europeanize "Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımız" those whom we could not Europeanize "Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımızdan" one of those whom we could not Europeanize "Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımızdan mı?" one of those whom we could not Europeanize? "Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımızdan mısınız?" Are you one of those whom we could not Europeanize?
The "use" of the following endings will be discussed in more detail later.
The plural suffix ("çoğul eki") can be used with nouns and with third-person verbs:
Several series of endings show distinctions of person ("kişi"); they are given here, along with the personal pronouns for comparison:See
#Negation and potential in verb-stemsunder #Verbsbelow.
Some third-person verbs are also participles. Participles can be classified as personal, if they take a suffix of possession, and impersonal, if they do not. The following suffixes attach to verb-stems:These are used only predicatively:
* with the sense of the English "There is" and "There is not": "Gökte bir bulut yok" "There is not a cloud in the sky";
*in the construction that supplies the lack of a verb "have": "Balcının var bal tası," "Honey-seller's exists honey his-pot, "oduncunun var baltası." wood-cutter's exists his-axe." (This is a proverbial expression: "The honey-seller has a honey-pot; the wood-cutter has an axe"; "bal" "honey", "odun" "(fire) wood", "tas" "bowl", "balta" "axe"; the more usual order would make the saying "Balcının bal tası var, oduncunun baltası var").
The cardinal "bir" "one" can be used as an indefinite article. Word-order can make the difference: "güzel bir gün" "a nice day"; "bir güzel gün" "one fine day".
Unless it is being used by itself, elliptically, the adjective "hiç" "no" requires an additional word with negative force: "Hiç param yok" "I have no money" ("para" "money"); "Hiç bir adam ada değildir" "No man is an island" ("adam" "man", "ada" "island", "değil" "not"). "Bir şey görüyorum" "I see something", but "Hiç bir şey göremiyorum" "I can't see anything."
It is noted under
#Parts of speechthat Turkish participles ("sıfat-fiiller") can be classified as
*personal, if they take a suffix of possession;
*impersonal, if they do not.In a personal participle, the suffix of possession signifies the "subject" of the underlying verb; if this possessor is third person, then the possessor may be further specified with a noun in the genitive case.
The noun modified by a personal participle as an adjective may be the direct object of the underlying verb; the connexion may also be more vague.
The noun modified by an impersonal participle is generally the subject of the underlying verb (but see Lewis (1967: IX,2)).
The aorist tense ("geniş zaman" "broad time") is for habitual actions; the present tense ("şimdiki zaman" "time that is now") is for actions ongoing or contemplated.
Aorist: "akarsu" "water that flows", hence "stream" ("ak-" "flow", "su" "water"); "akaryakıt" "fuel oil" ("yakıt" "heating fuel"); "çıkmaz" "not going out, "cul-de-sac"; "inilir" "got down from" (sign at rear door of bus; "in-" "go down") "sürdürülebilir turizm" "tourism that can be continued", that is, "sustainable tourism" ("sür" "drive"; "sürdür" "continue")Present:"geçen hafta" "passing week", that is, "last week"; "Silahları çekip" "Guns pulling-out-and "havaya ateş açan" to-air fire opening "AKP'liler hakkında" AKP-members about-them "yasal işlem başlatılmadı" legal process was-not-begun"that is, "No legal process has begun concerning the AKP members who pulled out guns and fired them in the air" ["Birgün Halkın Gazetesi", 25 July 2005] ; for "-ip" see
Future: "gelecek hafta" "week that will come", that is, "next week"; "okunacak bir kitap" "a book that will be read" ("okun-" "be read"); "okuyacağım bir kitap" "a book that I shall read" ("oku-" "read").Past/present: "okunmuş bir kitap" "a book that was read"; "okuduğum bir kitap" "a book that I read/am reading"; "'Yaşamın bittiği yer'de hayat" "Life in the place where life ends." (The last example is a newspaper headline ["Birgün", 20 July 2005] about cemetery workers; "bit-" "end"; "yer" "place"; "hayat" [Arabic] and "yaşam" [neologism from "yaşa-"] "life".)
A personal participle can be construed as a noun and used in parallel with verbal nouns: "Çocukların" "yüzde 68'i evinin ihtiyaçlarına katkıda bulunmak," "yüzde 21'i ailesi istediği için," "yüzde altısı iş öğrenmek ve meslek edinmek için," "yüzde 4'ü ihtiyaçlarını karşılaşmak için" "çalışıyor" "Children's in-100 their-68 house's for-its-needs in-aid be-found, in-100 their-21 their-family that-they-wanted for, in-100 their-six work learn and profession be-made for, in-100 their-4 their-needs meet for are-working."("Source:" "Birgün Halkın Gazetesi" 13 August 2005, Saturday, p. 1.) That is,
Children are working, 68% to provide for their family's needs, 21% because their family wants it, 6% to learn a job or profession, 4% to meet their [own] needs.
The following sentence from a newspaper headline contains twenty-two words, nine derived from verbs, four of these as participles, three as gerunds. Note also the use of "kontrol" from French as a verbal noun with "et-": "Türkiye'nin AB'ye girmemesi ve" "Turkey's to-the-EU its-not-entering and "İslam dünyasına yaklaşması halinde" Islam to-its-world its-drawing-near in-its-state "şeriatçılığın kucağına itilmiş" sharia-favorer-ness's to-its-embrace pushed "olacağını" that-it-will-be "söyleyen Fransız senatör Duireux," saying French senator Duireux, "İslami akımların" Islamic current's "kontrol edilmesi" control its-being-made "gerektiğini" that-it-is-necessary "belirtti." he-made-clear."Source:" "Cumhuriyet", 17 July 2005; more smoothly:
Saying that, by not joining the EU and by drawing close to the Islamic world, Turkey would be pushed into the lap of those who favor sharia, French senator Duireux made clear that it was necessary to control the Islamic tide.
The adverb of negation is "değil". It is used to negate sentences that are without verb or "var"; then it takes the appropriate personal ending: "Evde değilim" "I am not at home."It may also negate part of sentence: "İŞGALE DEĞİL DİRENİŞE DESTEK" "To-invasion not to-resistance support", that is, "Support the resistance, not the invasion"(slogan on placard at demonstration).
A number of adverbs are derived from verbs:
The ending "-e" is seen in: "Güle güle" " [Go] smilingly" (said to somebody departing); "Güle güle kullanın" "Use [it] smilingly" (said to somebody with a new acquisition); "Beşe çeyrek kala kalktım" "To-five a-quarter remaining I-got-up", that is, "I got up at a quarter to five"; "Onu yirmi geçe uyudun" "You slept at twenty past ten" ("uyu-" "sleep", although "uy-" "heed").
The ending "-erek" denotes action at the same time as, or preceding, that of another verb: "Geceyi konuşarak geçirdik" "The-night talking we-caused-to-pass", that is, "We spent the night talking." "Akıl yürüterek bu sonuca ulaşıyorum" "By using reason, I arrived at this conclusion" [the latter is
Bülent Ecevitas quoted in " Cumhuriyet", 20 July 2005] . "Doğaya en az zarar vererek yaşamak" "To live while giving the least harm to nature" ["Buğday" magazine, 7–8/2005, no 32] .
From "ol-" "be, become", "olarak" forms adverbial phrases corresponding to those in English with "as": "Size bir dost olarak söylüyorum" "To-you a friend as I'm-telling", that is, "I'm telling you this as a friend"; "ciddi olarak" "seriously" ("ciddi" "serious").
The ending "-meden" on a verb-stem looks like the ablative gerund, but it is not (Lewis [XI,12] ). It indicates an action not occurring at all, or following that of the main verb: "Bakmadan atlama" "Don't leap without looking"; "Bakmadan önce atlama" "Don't leap before looking." "Bir soruyu cevaplamadan tartışmak," "tartışmadan cevaplamaktan iyidir" "A particular-question without-answering to-debate without-debating from-to-answer is-good," that is, "It is better to debate without answering than to answer without debating."("Source of the last sentence:"
Joseph Joubertas quoted on p. 20 of "Gündelik Bilmeceler" by Partha Ghose and Dipankar Home, translated by Özlem Özbal, Tübitak Popüler Bilim Kitapları 25, Ankara, 1996.)Complementing "önce" "before" is "sonra" "after", which can follow a verb-stem given the ending "-dikten": "Baktıktan sonra atla" "After looking, leap"; "Ayşe baktıktan sonra Neşe atladı" "After Ayşe looked, Neşe lept."Simultaneity is expressed by "iken" or its (not enclitic) suffixed form "-(y)ken"; but if it follows a verb, then the verb appears, not as a stem, but as a "base"; see #Bases of verbs: "Eve girmekteyken, bir şey hatırladım" "As I was entering the house, I remembered something"; "Ben eve girmekteyken, telefon çaldı" "As I was entering the house, the telephone rang."
If two verbs of the same grammatical form have the same subject, the endings on the first verb can be replaced by "-ip"; see the example under
The third-person personal pronoun "o" "she/he/it" is declined as if it were the noun "on".The other persons, "ben" "I", "sen" "thou", "biz" "we", "siz" "you", are declined like nouns, except for a vowel change in the dative, and an anomalous genitive; also the plural forms do not involve "-ler":Such stems are not used for aorist forms, which have their own peculiar means of forming negatives and impotentials.
Bases of verbs
The characteristics with which verb-bases are formed from stems are given under
#Inflexional suffixes. Note again that aorist verbs have their own peculiar negative and impotential forms.
The progressive base in "-mekte" is discussed under
#Verbal nouns.Another base, namely the necessitative ("gereklilik"), is formed from a verbal noun.The characteristic is "-meli", where "-li" forms adjectives from nouns, and "-me" forms gerunds from verb-stems. A native speaker may perceive the ending "-meli" as indivisible; the analysis here is from #Lewis[VIII,30] ).
The present base is derived from the ancient verb "yorı-" "go, walk"
#Lewis[VIII,16] ; this can be used for ongoing actions, or for contemplated future actions.
The meaning of the aorist base is described under .
There is some irregularity in first-person negative and impotential aorists: :"Gelmem" "I do not come"; :"Gelmeyiz" "We do not come".
The definite past or "di"-past is used to assert that something did happen in the past.The inferential past or "miş"-past can be understood as asserting that a past participle is applicable "now"; hence it is used when the fact of a past event, as such, is not important; in particular, the inferential past is used when one did not actually witness the past event.
A newspaper will generally use the "di"-past, because it is authoritative. The need to indicate uncertainly and inference by means of the "miş"-past may help to explain the extensive use of "ki" in the newspaper excerpt at
Turkish vocabulary#The conjunction ki.
The conditional ("şart") verb could also be called "hypothetical"; it is used for remote possibilities, or things one might wish for. (See also
The various bases thus give distinctions of tense, aspect and mood. These can be briefly tabulated:
The interrogative particle "mi" precedes predicative (type-I) endings, but follows the complete verb formed from a verbal, type-II ending::"Geliyor musunuz?" "Are you coming?":"Geldiniz mi?" "Did you come?"
Optative and imperative moods
Usually, in the optative ("istek"), only the first-person forms are used, and these supply the lack of a first-person imperative ("emir"). In common practice then, there is one series of endings to express something wished for:
"-(y)eyim, -(y)elim, —, -(y)in, -sin".
(The longer second-person plural imperative ending "-(y) iniz" is generally used only in writing.)
The defective verb "i-"
The ancient verb "er-"
#Lewis[VIII,2] exists in Turkish in three bases:
*"ise".The form "iken" given under
#Adverbs from verbsis also descended from "er-".Since no more bases are founded on the stem "i-", this verb can be called defective. In particular, "i-" forms no negative or impotential stems; negation is achieved with the #Adverb of negation, "değil", given earlier.
Verbs "i-" are often made into suffixes; the corresponding bases then are
*"-(y)se",where the "y" is used only after vowels.
The verb "i-" serves as a
copula. When a copula is needed, but the appropriate base in "i-" does not exist, then the corresponding base in "ol-" is used; this stem otherwise means "become".
The verb "i-" is irregular in the way it is used in questions: the particle "mi" always precedes it::"Kuş idi" or "Kuştu" "It was a bird";:"Kuş muydu?" "Was it a bird?"
The bases so far considered can be called "simple". A base in "i-" can be attached to another base, forming a compound base. One can then interpret the result by reading backwards. The following list is representative, not exhaustive:
**continuous past: "Geliyordum" "I was coming";
**aorist past: "Gelirdim" "I used to come";
**future past: "Gelecektim" "I was going to come";
**pluperfect: "Gelmiştim" "I had come";
**necessitative past: "Gelmeliydim" "I had to come";
**conditional past: "Gelseydim" "If only I had come."
**continuous inferential: "Geliyormuşum" "It seems (they say) I am coming";
**future inferential: "Gelecekmişim" "It seems I shall come";
**aorist inferential: "Gelirmişim" "It seems I come";
**necessitative inferential: "Gelmeliymişim" "They say I must come."By means of "ise" or "-(y)se", a verb can be made conditional in the sense of being the hypothesis or protasis of a complex statement::"önemli bir şey yapıyorsunuz" "You are doing something important";:"Önemli bir şey yapıyorsanız, rahatsız etmeyelim" "If you are doing something important, let us not cause disturbance."The simple conditional can be used for remote conditions::"Bakmakla öğrenilse, köpekler kasap olurdu" "If learning by looking were possible, dogs would be butchers."
**cite book | author = Robert Underhill | title = Turkish Grammar | location= Cambridge, MA | publisher=MIT Press | year = 1976 "A classic, still used to teach Turkish grammar in many universities."
**cite book | author = Kaya Can | title = Yabancılar İçin Türkçe-İngilizce Açıklama Türkçe Dersleri | location= Ankara | publisher=Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi, Fen ve Edebiyat Fakültesi | year = 1991 "Turkish lessons with Turkish-English explanation [s] for foreigners."
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**cite book | author = G. L. Lewis | title = Turkish Grammar | publisher = Oxford University Press | year =2000 | id = Second edition. Structural differences between the two editions are not named in the second, but appear to be as follows: IV,4 "-çe", VI,7 "Arithmetical terms", XI,16 "-diğinde", and XII,25 "tâ" are new, while XV,1 "Nominal sentences and verbal sentences" in the first edition was dropped.
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