Learn the 6 Turkish Grammatical Cases [STEP-BY-STEP]

If you are native English, Turkish grammatical cases might look like alien at the beginning. Because English has lost its grammatical cases by time. (Unlike its cousin German language) In modern English, only personal pronouns and a couple of words have case system. Let’s see what are these cases so that you’ll understand better the mentality behind Turkish grammatical cases.

Nominative Case
(Subjective Case)
Dative Case and
Accusative Case
Genitive Case
Possesive Case)
ENGLISH IMeMy
TURKISH BenBeni/BanaBenim

It’s that simple. Let’s recap.

Grammatical cases, when attached to nouns, they indicate direction, location, possession etc. Romance languages such as Spanish, French etc. or English have lost their case system but some languages including Turkish, Russian, Finnish, German, Estonian still use an extensive case system.

Six grammatical cases exist in Turkish whereas this number is fourteen in Estonian, fifteen in Finnish and eighteen in Hungarian. Another reason to be grateful to Turkish people because they use only six cases(!) Only six!

Anyway, let’s explain how to use these Turkish grammatical cases. (You are making an introduction. Functions and uses are explained in detail at the end)

Case suffixes are attached to Turkish nouns and depending on the suffix attached, meaning changes. See with this basic examples:

Absolute form: Bilgisayar

Example for nominative case, also absolute case.

Example for Nominative Case: Adam Yürüyordu (eng. man was walking)

Bilgisayar çok yararlıdır
Computer is very useful

Accusative case: Bilgisayarı

Bilgisayarı bana ver
Give me the computer

Ah ha! You see, English doesn’t use accusative case, or any suffix. Instead, the meaning is given by the location in sentence. But Turkish uses a suffix. -i.

But why? If we say “Bilgisayar bana ver”, can’t we convey the same meaning?

Answer is NO.

If we say “Bilgisayar bana ver”, it means “Give (it) to me, computer”. That “ı” attached after word indicates “bilgisayar” is the subject of sentence and it is a definite object. As you see, Turkish nouns don’t have article, but accusative case’s used if definite.

Ablative case: Bilgisayardan

Ses bilgisayardan geliyor.
Noise comes from the computer.

Locative case: Bilgisayarda

Bütün dosyalar bilgisayarda.
All files are in the computer.

Instrumental case: Bilgisayarla

Bilgisayarla hesap yap.
Calculate (with) the computer

Dative case: Bilgisayara

Bu bilgisayara gönder
Send to this computer.

Turkish logic is:

Don’t use extra word, use suffixes instead and add these suffixes after nouns. What an agglutinative language you are, Turkish!

Now, you understood the logic behind it. These case suffixes are attached after Turkish nouns and changes the meaning. You’ll learn more about each case but let’s talk about Turkish nouns a little bit:

Unlike romance languages or German, Turkish is a gender-neutral language. Grammatical gender doesn’t exist in the Turkish Language. The gender of a noun (or third person singular) can’t be understood unless it is indicated. Specific words are used to indicate the gender of a person or an animal.

What does this previous paragraph mean?

It means feminist people would like to talk in Turkish. (Really?)

Well, In Spanish for instance, ‘chico’ means ‘boy’ and ‘chica’ means ‘girl’ but in Turkish, such a pattern for gender doesn’t exist. Actually, even articles don’t exist in Turkish. (In german der das die, Spanish el la etc). Instead, you use accusative case to make nouns definite.

Some names are unisex! It must be hard on the phone.

Because of the formality in the work environment, “Bay” and “Bayan” must be used to indicate gender. They are the equivalents for “Erkek” and “Kadın”, respectively.

By adding “ler” or “lar” to singular nouns, you create plural nouns.

Baylar (pl.), Beyler (pl.)
Men, Gentlemen

Bayanlar (pl)
Ladies

Baylar bayanlar or Beyler bayanlar
Ladies and gentlemen

You have seen grammatical cases on words ending with consonants so far. (Bilgisayar)

As long as the absolute form of the noun ends with a consonant, the same rules apply. In other words, to form a case, the suffix of the case is simply attached to the ending.

But, some words end in vowels and need something: BUFFER LETTER!

Let me introduce you the buffer letter: “y”. Isn’t it a beautiful letter?

Y

Did you know that Spanish people call this letter ‘i griega’ which means ‘Greek i’. But I think Greek people took it from Turkish people. (Hehe, kidding!)

Anyway, this buffer letter is essential if we are dealing with a noun ending in vowel. But why?

Araba
Car

Let’s attach accusative suffix –i : Arabaı

Okay now, you have to learn something very important about the Turkish language: two vowels together don’t get along with each other: “Arabaı”

Sequence must be like this: CVCVCV (Consonant+Vowel+Consonant+Vowel etc.)

So, the buffer letter, y, comes between vowels and helps us to form a beautiful Turkish word: Arabayı. (Accusative)

Actually, there are two more buffer letters in Turkish. But we should talk about those letters later. Because this “Greek y” gets a bit jealous if we talk about other buffer letters.

So, if “Arabayı” is the form that took accusative case, “Araba” must be absolute form, right? Let’s talk about the absolute form:

Absolute Form in Turkish

The absolute form also corresponds to the nominative, vocative, and indefinite accusative cases in Turkish.

What you should understand from this sentence: If you were learning Finnish or Hungarian, you’d have to learn more suffixes for these cases too. But now, absolute form covers nominative case, vocative case etc.

1. Nominative case:

If a noun is the subject of the verb ‘to be’, then the absolute form of that noun is used.

Nominative case example:

Öğretmen onları gördü.
Teacher saw them.

Kedi uyuyor.
Cat is sleeping.

2. Vocative case:

Even though some experts don’t consider the vocative case as a case, we assume that it exists and is a case. And also, Pluto is a planet. Poor Pluto! Don’t play with her feelings, scientists!

Vocative case example:

Günaydın, anne!
Good morning, mom!

Yes, some languages like Polish distinguish nouns when it’s vocative.

3. Indefinite:

You have learnt that Turkish does not use any article. Instead, the accusative case suffix is used to indicate whether the noun is definite or not. If the noun is indefinite, the absolute form is used.

Indefinite example:

Kerem kitap aldı.
Kerem bought a book.

OK, so far we have not covered any of these 6 grammatical cases by the way. You have just seen absolute form. So let’s study starting from accusative case but before see this table where you can find the suffixes of turkish grammatical cases:

CasesSuffixExample ending
in consonant
Example ending
in vowel
Absolute FormEvAraba
Accusative Case-IEviArabayı
Dative Case-AEveArabaya
Locative Case-dEEvdeArabada
Ablative Case-dEnEvdenArabadan
Instrumental Case-(y)lAEvleArabayla
Genitive Case-(n)InEvinArabanın

These are the Turkish case suffixes. All you need. Also, you are seeing another buffer letter here on the table. Did you guess which one?

N

Otherwise it was going to be: Arabaın

It prevented a catastrophy! Thank you ‘n’.

Accusative case in Turkish. (-i)

Example for Accusative Case

Example for Accusative Case: Adamı Getir (eng. bring the man)

Accusative case. I don’t know why but I really like the term ‘accusative’ . Somehow, I feel “intelectual” when I say it: Accusative. I love it. Ehem. Anyway, let’s focus what this “accusative” is:

Functions of Accusative Case:

1.Accusative case suffix is –i.
2.The first and most important function of Turkish accusative case is to make the nouns definite.
3.Some verbs need to go with accusative case (by their nature).

Accusative case in Turkish – Examples:

Kerem kitap aldı.
Kerem bought a book.

Kerem kitabı aldı.
Kerem bought the book.

Seni seviyorum.
I love you.

4.Let me introduce you three demonstrative adjectives in Turkish; Bu, Şu, O. There are two in English: This and That.

When the object is defined by one of them in a sentence, the accusative form must be used.

What the following sentence wants to say?

I take this.
Bunu aldım. (Bu + (n)u)

NOTE: To define objects near you, “Bu” is used. (eng. This) To define objects far from you, “O” is used. (eng. That) “Şu” is used to define objects that are neither far nor near, but just between.

The same sorting also exists in Spanish Language: Aquí, Ahí, Allí

Accusative forms of demonstrative adjactives are: Bunu, Şunu, Onu
The dative forms of demonstrative adjectives are: Burada, şurada, orada.

5. If any person, place name or demonstrative pronoun is the object in the sentence, the accusative form is used.

Gelirken Keremi getir.
Bring Kerem with you when you are coming.

Genitive case in Turkish (-in) (Possesive case)

Example for Genitive Case

Example for Genitive Case: Adamın Kalemi (eng. Man’s pen)

Not: Kalem means both ‘Pen’ and ‘Pencil’. Specifically ‘tükenmez kalem’ means ‘ball-point pen’, ‘kurşun kalem’ means ‘pencil’, and tükenmez kalem ‘fountain pen’.

You probably already understood what this case is about: possession!

Functions of Genitive case:

1. Genitive case typically marks a relationship of possessor or source

Her book
Onun kitabı

2. (n)In and (n)in are the genitive case suffix. When added to a word ending with a vowel, n the buffer letter is added.

Leyla’nın kitabı
The book of Leyla

Genitive case in Turkish – Examples:

Bilgisayarın kablosu.
The cable of computer

Dative case in Turkish (-e)

Example for dative case

Example for Dative Case: Adama çarptım (eng I hit (to) the man)

Can you guess which sentence element is the dative case?

Mehmet’e oyuncak ver.
Give (a) toy to Mehmet

It’s okay if you can’t.

Functions of Dative case:

1.Indirect objects (tr. dolaylı nesne) take the suffix of dative case. Do you really remember what was indirect object? Let’s review it anyway:

The noun phrase that is affected by the reflexive verb.

Oyuncak (eng. toy) is the direct object and Mehmet is the indirect object.

So, indirect objects take dative case suffix: Mehmet’e

And we used apostrophe because Mehmet is a proper noun. If it wasn’t a proper name, you wouldn’t use an apostophe.

2. The suffix of the dative case gives places the meaning of “whither”. (whither: to what place)

Eve
To house

3. Verbs taking the dative case suffix indicates a purpose.

4. To describe actions you are using, the dative case suffix must be attached to gerundial. This list can get longer because so many verbs in Turkish is formed with dative case suffix. Some of them are: to mention (değinmek), to continue (devam etmek), to promise (söz vermek), to swear (yemin etmek) etc.

Aramak
To search/look for/call

Aramak+a > Aramaya
Aramaya devam ediyorum
I continue searching

Dative case in Turkish – Examples:

Eve gidiyorum
I am going to home

Yapmaya söz vermek
To promise to do

Susmak
Keep quiet

Susmaya karar verdim
I have decided to be quiet

Locative case in Turkish (-de)

Example for locative case

Example for Locative Case: Para Adamda (eng. lit. the money is at the guy)

You probably guess what this case is about: location!

But be careful! It’s static location. If any movement is included, then it might be dative case or ablative case. (You’ll just learn about ablative next)

Functions of Locative case:

1. Locative case suffix indicates location.
2. Locative case suffix can be attached to a long/short period of time.

Locative case in Turkish – Examples:

Evde ders çalışıyorum
I am studying at home

4’te kafede olurum
I’ll be at the café at 4

Ablative case in Turkish (-den)

Before explaining the function, I want to shortly talk about the etymology of the word “ablative”.

Google says this: late Middle English: from Old French ablative (feminine of ablatif), Latin ablativus, from ablat- ‘taken away’ (see ablation).

Ablation: the surgical removal of body tissue. Hmm Interesting. What should you remember the next time when you see the term “ablative” ?

A direction of motion. (from)

Example for ablative case

Example for Ablative Case: Adamdan Sıkıldım (eng. I got bored (from) the guy)

Functions of Ablative Case

1. The suffix of ablative case indicates the point of departure.
2. “Through” in English.

Example: Boğaz köprüsün-den mi geldiğiniz?
Did you come through Bosphorus bridge?

3. When comparing two things, the ablative case suffix is attached to the point of reference. (den, -dan)
4. When indicating a cause. < “Because of (that)” in English >
5. To indicate the partialness, the ablative case is used.
6. When describing an object, the suffix case is attached to the material from which the object is made.

Ablative case in Turkish – Examples:

Marketten geliyor
S/he is coming from the market

Dünden beri hiçbir şey yemedi
S/he hasn’t eaten anything since yesterday

Ablative case is the last one to be covered. From now on, you should have a better idea of Turkish cases, nouns, depletions and eventually the meaning. This topic is essential and you should print or keep this page in your archive. Because, you’ll need it.

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