Sometimes I ask myself: What kind of a language our old old ancestors were using? Which tenses or which structures were in the language? And I think reported past tense can be one of the first tenses. Here’s why:
I remember hearing in a documentary that languages have evolved by many means but most commonly by gossiping!
Because gossiping helps you to pass vital information about who to trust, or what’s right or wrong for you, for the group. It creates a better bonding inside the group.
And for gossiping you need a developed a language. Anyways, if you willing to learn more, here is a book of evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar from Oxford university on this subject.
But why I am telling you these things?
Because in Turkish, there is a distinct mood used particularly when gossiping: -m(I)ş (by grammatical terms, this suffix is of reported past tense)
This ‘I’ inside of brackets mean that you are going to be choosing one of (ı,i,u,ü) according to the last syllable of the word you are attaching to.
Function of reported past tense
Of course, that’s not the only function of reported past tense.
(I heard that) S/he bought
Speaker didn’t witness the event, it’s an hearsay.
Since the only vowel in the verb stem is –A (Al-), you attach –mış.
Here, the vowel in the verb stem is ‘o’, you must attach –muş.
You should review your knowledge of vowel harmony if you’re not understanding what we are talking about here.
Let’s take it a step further:
O pahalı çantayı sonunda almış.
(I heard that) s/he bought that expensive purse at the end.
Most grammar books use the name miş-past to refer reported past tense. In Turkish, it is called ‘Mişli geçmiş zaman‘ and this title is used most commonly.
But the most appropriate name of it is “duyulan geçmiş zaman” (en. heard past tense). It describes past actions which the speaker have not witnessed but only heard.
If you need to describe an action that you have not seen, you have to use miş-past. (Do not confuse this past with the inferential of “to be”, “-imiş”.)
Let’s explain with another example:
You just read miş-past is used to describe an action that you have not witnessed. But how this is possible with the first singular person?
If someone says “gitmişim”, this means
“I went but I have not witnessed”?
The answer is yes.
Let’s imagine that you are on the subway and you fell asleep. When you open your eyes, you realized that you are in the terminal station. Then, you’d say,
Son istasyona kadar gitmişim.
I have gone to the last station (I wasn’t aware of it).
Imagine that your friend recommended you a movie and you began to watch. But at its fifth minute, you realize that you have already watched it but forgot. Then, you’d say
Bu filmi izlemişim.
I have watched the movie
Yet this is only for the first singular person. For the second singular person, it is translated as “I gather that you have gone”
And for the third singular person as “I gather that s/he has gone“.
Reported Past Tense – Table
So, what do you see with the pattern? What’s the suffix of reported past tense?
So, it could be one of mış, miş, muş, müş. It’s the 4-way vowel harmony.
What’s interesting here?
If you are familiar with Turkish verb suffixes, they usually get a buffer letter to prevent the repetition. For example:
-yor is the present continuous tense suffix. If it’s attached to a verb stem ending with consonant, it takes (I) as a buffer letter.
But for the suffix of mış-past, you don’t need a buffer letter. For example:
I stayed / I failed
“-ım” here is personal pronouns suffix. The base is “Kalmış” meaning S/he stayed.
Okay, let’s study the miş-past with more complex examples.
Reported Past Tense – Examples
Let’s imagine that you just heard excessive sugar consumption is unhealthy for your body and now you want to inform your friend about this, you’d say:
Fazla şeker tüketimi vücut için çok zararlıymış.
Excessive sugar consumption is harmful to body (I didn’t know it).
Mis-past – Examples
Akşam yemeğini yaptım.
I prepared the dinner.
Akşam yemeğini yapmışım.
(I do not remember preparing the dinner but I have found the dinner in my fridge!)
Akşam yemeğini yapmışımdır.
I must have prepared the dinner.
In some situations, one may use the miş-suffix two times which leads to the idea of disbelief.
Usually used with third person singular.
Reported past tense – Examples:
S/he did (S/he didn’t do it, s/he is lying).
Kaza olmadan önce sezmişmiş.
S/he had sniffed the smell of accident before (Yeah of course…).
Negative of miş-past
The pattern is pretty obvious that’s why only the singular is given. For the plural, the same rules apply.
The negative suffix comes into the picture. –m(A)
What –m(A) means?
It’s rather a or e, depending on the vowel harmony.
Negative reported past tense – Example:
(I gather that) You have not finished your meal.
Verdiğim kitabı daha bitirmemişsin.
(I gather that) You have not finished the book that I gave you.
Interrogative of miş-past (Have I read?)
Question form of miş-past – Examples:
Nasıl yani? Sınıfı geçmiş miyim?
How? I have passed the class?
İşlerini bitirmişler mi?
Have they finished their works?
Sor bakalım: Yemekleri sevmiş mi?
Ask her/him: Has s/he liked the food?
Do not forget that miş-past gives the meaning of hearsay, or something that has not witnessed. Since there is no tense like that in English, you’d have to translate with ‘Have Verb3‘ pattern or ‘did‘, but the focus here is if you witnessed the action or not.
Fun Part (A song with miş-past):