Turkish Grammar

Turkish is a language of the Ural-Altaic family. It’s quite logical, with no genders and only a few exceptional rules, but its agglutinative structure is so different from Indo-European languages that speakers of those languages may find its grammar a challenge to learn at first.

(Agglutinative means that words and sentences are made by adding suffixes to a root-word. Read on.)

Suffixes

English uses only a few suffixes, such as -‘s for possessive, -s or -es for plural, but Turkish has dozens of suffixes. A Turkish word starts with a short root (such as git-, ‘go’). One or more suffixes are added to modify the root (gitti, ‘she/he went’). You can make whole sentences in Turkish out of one little word root and a lot of suffixes.

Noun Suffixes

Plural: -lar, -ler
Bankalar, banks
Oteller, hotels

To, Toward: -a, -e (or -ya, -ye)
Bankaya, to the bank
Otele, to the hotel

From: -dan, -den
Bankadan, from the bank
Otelden, from the hotel

Possessive: -ın, -in, -nın, or -nin
Bankanın, the bank’s
Otelin, the hotel’s

With: -lı, -li, -lu, -lü
Et, meat; etli, with meat
Süt, milk; sütlü, with milk

Without: -sız,-siz,-suz, -süz
Et, meat; etsiz, without meat, meatless
Süt, milk; sütsüz, without milk

You may see -ı, -i, -u or -ü, -sı, -si, -su or -sü added to any noun. An ev is a house; but the ev that Mehmet lives in is Mehmet’in evi.

Verb Suffixes

Infinitive: -mak, -mek
Almak, to take or buy
Gitmek, to go

Simple present: -ar, -er, -ır, -ir, -ur, -ür
Alır, he/she/it takes or buys
Gider, he/she/it goes

Future: -acak, -ecek, -acağ-, -eceğ-
Alacak, he/she/it will take, buy
Gidecek
, he/she/it will go

Simple past: -dı, -di, -du, -dü
Aldı, he/she/it took, bought
Gitti, he/she/it went

Continuous: -ıyor-, -iyor- (like English ‘-ing’)
Alıyor, he/she/it is taking, buying
Gidiyor, he/she/it is going

Question: -mı, -mi, -mu, -mü
Alıyor mu? Is he/she/it taking (it)?
Gidecek mi? Will he/she/it go?

First Person Singular (I):ım, -im, -um, -üm
Alırım, I take

Second Person Singular (you-informal): -sın, -sin, -sun, -sün
Alırsın, You take

Third Person Singular (he/she/it): (no additional suffix)
Alır, he/she/it takes

First Person Plural (we): -ız, -iz, -uz,-üz
Alırız, we take

Second Person Plural (you-formal): -sınız, -siniz, -sunuz,-sünüz
Alırsınız, You (plural) take; or You (singular-formal) take

Third Person Plural (they): -lar, -ler
Alırlar, They take.

Buffer Letters

Suffixes are sometimes preceded by a ‘buffer letter’ such as ‘y’ or ‘n’ for smooth pronunciation. (You’ll see.)

Stress is usually on the last syllable of a word.

Vowel Harmony

When added to a root, suffixes are modified according to Turkish vowel harmony whereby most vowel sounds in a word are made either in the front of the mouth or the back, but not both. More…

Word Order

Nouns and adjectives usually come first, followed by the verb. The subject of the sentence is often the final suffix (unless the sentence is a question):

İstanbul’a gideceğim, I’m going to Istanbul. (Literally ‘Istanbul-to go-will-I’)

Halı almak istiyorum, I want to buy (take) a carpet.  (Literally ‘Carpet to-buy wanting-am-I’)

The Fun Begins

Now you can slap a lot of suffixes together and get Afyonkarahisarlılaştıramadıklarımızdan mısınız? It’s actually a word, and also a complete sentence! But, it must be admitted, it was made up just to show off the agglutinative facility of Turkish.

What does it mean? “Are you from among that group of people whom we were unable to make to resemble the citizens of Afyonkarahisar?”

Yeah, right.

Well… are you?

Turkish Vowel Harmony

Turkish-English Glossary

English-Turkish Glossary