To be in Turkish

I think we will all agree that the concept of the verb “to be” is a little bit different in Turkish than the other languages. However, as you get used to using this pattern, you will see that it will take little effort to form verbs and consequently long sentences. If you have a foreknowledge, you know that Turkish verb suffixes follows a unique pattern. To develop the ability to use them while speaking, you may need to practice the conjugations. Instead of giving you a list of Turkish verbs, we decided to give you the suffix patterns that you can apply to any verbs.

Olmak ya da olmamak, işte bütün mesele bu.

William Shakespeare

Olmak “to be” in the Turkish Language

Commonly-used “to be” exists in Turkish as suffix. “-dir”, “-dır”, “-dur”, “-dür” all means “to be” when at the end of the words.

Kalem yeşildir. (eng. The pen is green.)

However, this suffix has been disappearing through the current evolution of the Turkish language. At the beginning, this may sound like incomplete for new learners like “me Tarzan, you Jane” yet it perfectly gives the meaning of “to be” without “-dir” as well.

Common uses:

Kalem yeşil. (eng. The pen is green.)
Benim adım Selim. (eng. My name is Selim)

First of all, the verbs that you see in the dictionaries are always in the form of infinitive. If you eliminate the suffix, (-mek and -mak) the form of the verb changes to imperative. So simple to form imperative!

Examples:

Sev! (eng. love!); Sevmek (eng. to love)
Kal! (eng. stay!); Kalmak (eng. to stay)

Kalmak ister misin? (eng. Do you want to stay?)

The following table shows you the suffixes meaning “to be” in the present for each personal pronouns.

 

Ben Sen O Biz Siz Onlar
-im -sin -(dir) -iz -siniz (dir)ler
-üm -sün -(dür) -üz -sünüz -(dür)ler
-ım -sın -(dır) -ız -sınız -(dır)lar
-uz -sun -(dur) -uz -sunuz -(dur)lar

Hayatta en hakiki mürşit ilimdir.
Translation: Only true mentor in life is science.

 

Examples:

Kampüste-y-im. * (eng. I am at the campus.)
Kampüste-sin (eng. You are at the campus.)
Kampüste-(dir) (eng. s/he at the campus.)

Plural:

Kampüste-yiz (eng. We are at the campus.)
Kampüste-siniz (eng. You -formal- are at the campus.)
Kampüste-(dir)-ler (eng. They are at the campus.)

* “Y” is the buffer letter here. Recall that in Turkish two vowels do not come consecutively. There has to be a buffer letter between. Consequently, ‘y’ makes the word suitable for Turkish phonetics

Examples:

Sürücü (eng. driver)
Sürücü-yüm (eng. I am driver)
Sürücü-sün
Sürücü-(dür)

Plural:

Sürücü-yüz
Sürücü-sünüz
Sürücü-(dür)-ler

More examples:

e.g. Bunu ona söyleyen sensin. (eng. You are the one who told him this.)
Başarının nedeni biziz. (eng. We are the reason for this success.)
Evin sahibi benim. (eng. I am the one who owns this house. or “I” own this house)

The past tense of “to be” in Turkish

When describing an action that happened in the past, preterite (past) tense is used. Also in Turkish, the meaning is given by the suffix “-idi-“. The same rule also applies for the verb “to be”.

Ben Sen O Biz Siz Onlar
-idim** -idin** -idi** -idik** -idiniz** -idiler**
-ydim -ydin -ydi -ydik -ydiniz -ydiler
-ydüm -ydün -ydü -ydük -ydünüz -ydüler
-ydım -ydın -ydı -ydık -ydınız -ydılar
-ydum -ydun -ydu -yduk -ydunuz -ydular

Examples:

Kampüste-ydim. * (eng. I was at the campus.)
Kampüste-ydin (eng. You were at the campus.)
Kampüste-ydi (eng. S/he was the campus.)

Plural:

Kampüste-ydik (eng. We were at the campus.)
Kampüste-ydiniz (eng. You -formal- were at the campus.)
Kampüste-ydiler (eng. They were at the campus.)

NOTE: ** Suffixes in the first row can be separately used as well.

Examples:

Sürücü-ydüm (eng. I was driver)
Sürücü-ydün
Sürücü-ydü

Plural:

Sürücü-ydük
Sürücü-ydünüz
Sürücü-ydüler

Example from a newspaper:

You were all there!

TRANSLATION: You were all there!

NOTE: For the words ending with a consonant, these suffixes slightly change. “y” disappears and “d” becomes “t” because of consonant alternation. However, the sound is almost the same! When writing Turkish, even natives confuse about “d” and “t”.

So, the good thing is:

Do NOT memorize excessively! As you spend more time reading in Turkish, you will unwittingly figure out which sound should follow.

Present conditional of to be (If clause in Turkish)

İse” is the base word in Turkish that gives the meaning of “if“. You can either apply it to the verb like it is a separate word or you can join it to the verb. Both uses are correct in literal and daily life Turkish.

Let’s check the change according to pronouns.

SINGULAR:

Ben Sen O
SEPARATE -isem -isen -ise
AFTER VOWELS -ysem / -ysam -ysen / -ysan -yse / -ysa
AFTER CONSONANTS -sem / -sam -sen / -san -se / -sa

Examples (if clause for singulars):

1. Okulda isem, genelde kahve içerim. (eng. If I am at school, I generally drink coffee)

2. Gözetim listesinde ise, daha fazla çalışması lazım. (eng. If s/he is in the probation list, s/he needs to study more.

Also, “okuldaysam” and “gözetim listesindeyse” are correct.

PLURAL:

Biz Siz Onlar
SEPARATE -isek -iseniz -iseler
AFTER VOWELS -ysek / -ysak -yseniz / -ysanız -yseler / -ysalar
AFTER CONSONANTS -sek / -sak -seniz / -sanız -seler / -salar

Examples (if clause for plurals):

1. Okulda isek, genelde kahve içeriz. (eng. If we are at school, we generally drink coffee)

2. Gözetim listesinde iseniz, daha fazla çalışmanız lazım. (eng. If you (pl.) are in the probation list, you need to study more.

Also, “okuldaysak” and “gözetim listesindeyseniz” are correct.

Inferential for to be

If you are familiar with Turkish grammar, you will easily recall that the inferential type of a verb is quite common in Turkish. Consequently, different types of uses that give different meanings exist. However, it corresponds to the meaning of “said to be“. You have not experienced the things but you are only told what has passed.

For Example, “Mehmet Ankara’ya gidecekmiş.” means “I am told that Mehmet is going to go to Ankara.

Also, “Başkan Rusya’ya gidecekmiş.” (eng. The president will go to Russia.) Here, you were not with the president when she was deciding going to Russia. Because of that, you use inferential. If you were with the president, reaching the consensus together, you’d rather say: “Başkan Rusya’ya gidecek.”

To create inferential tense, you use ‘miş’ like in the following order:

SINGULAR:

Ben Sen O
SEPARATE -imişim -imişsin -imiş
AFTER VOWELS -ymişim / -ymüşüm -ymişsin / -ymüşsün -ymiş / -ymüş
AFTER VOWELS!!! -ymışım / -ymuşum -ymışsın / -ymuşşun -ymış / -ymuş

For example, “Hastanedeymişim” means “I am said to be at the hospital”. Also, you can say “Hastanede imişim.” but this may not look good in written form.

PLURAL:

Biz Siz Onlar
SEPARATE -imişiz -imişsiniz -imişler
AFTER VOWELS -ymişiz / -ymüşüz -ymişsiniz / -ymüşsünüz -ymişler / -ymüşler
AFTER VOWELS!!! -ymışız / -ymuşuz -ymışsınız / -ymuşşunuz -ymışlar / -ymuşlar

If suffixed after consonants, the same rules apply, however; without the buffer letter “y”.

For example, “Suçluymuşum” (eng. I am said to be the guilty) or “Suçlu imişim”.

The negative of to be

Değil‘ gives the meaning of ‘Not‘. If you simply add ‘değil‘ at the end of a sentence, you would get the negative form for that sentence. Of course, it shows some changes for each pronoun. But the good thing is, the pattern is almost the same. Instead of adding to the verbs, you simply add the suffixes to ‘değil‘.

Also, ‘değil‘ can be used as ‘never mind about’ like in the following context:

1. Değil sen, annesi bile birçok laf işitti. (eng. Nevermind about you, even her/his mother is chewed out.)

However, if the position of ‘değil‘ is changed in the sentence, like ‘Sen değil, annesi birçok laf işitti.‘ the meaning dramatically changes. It means now: ‘Not you, her/his mother is chewed out.

Ben Sen O Biz Siz Onlar
PRESENT değilim değilsin değil(dir) değiliz değilsiniz değil(dir)ler
PAST değildim değildin değildi değildik değildiniz değildiler
CONDITIONAL değilsem değilsen değlse değilsek değilseniz değilseler / değilllerse
INFERENTIAL değilmişim değilmişsin değilmiş değilmişiz değilmişsiniz değilmişler

Examples (Negative forms):

1. Bunun nedeni ben değilim. (eng. I am not the reason for that.)
2. Asansördeki ben değildim. (eng. I was not the one in the elevator.)
3. Ben yeterli bir anne değilsem, ne olmuş? (eng. So what If I am not a decent mom.)
4. Ben yeterli bir anne değilmişim. (eng. I am said to be indecent mom.)

A Newspaper Highlight, <<Yalnız değilsiniz.>>

Translation: You are not alone.

If you try to write a sentence in the negative form, you will simply realize that you are just practicing all the topics we have covered so far on this page. Similar patterns also apply for other tenses. So, as you get familiar with the patterns, you will realize that practicing any grammar topic will make you practice another.

Learning an agglutinative language is a little bit different than learning others. Puzzle-like nature of the agglutinative languages may intimidate you at the beginning. However, as you get its logic, the experience will just get more fun.