Copula ‘to be’

The no longer productive bound stem i- is used to form following ‘to be’ copulas in Turkish (Göksel & Kerslake 2005),
‘was’ (hearsay)
‘as if’

However, these stand alone forms are rarely heard in modern Turkish (except in Turkish soap operas about Ottomans). Instead their suffixed forms, -(y)di, -(y)miş, -(y)se, -(y)ken, are used,
‘he used to come’
‘(he/she/it) used to come’ (hearsay)
‘if (he/she/it) comes’
‘while (he/she/it) was/is coming’

-y is inserted before the suffix when stem ends with a vowel,
‘was at home’
‘was/is at home’ (hearsay)
‘if (he/she/it) is at home’
‘while (he/she/it) was/is at home’

Perhaps one exception to the statements above is the contrastive use of ise. Depending on the context ise can be translated as ‘whereas’,
kendisi Türk, koca ise Alman
herself-ACC Turk, husband-3S.POSS be.COND German
‘(she) is Turkish whereas her husband is German’

or as ‘but if’,
Ankara kedisi ise bembeyaz
Ankara cat-3.POSS be.COND INTS-white
‘but if it is an Ankara cat then it should be very (bright) white’

Turkish Interrogatives – Which?



Hangi ‘which’ act like determiners of noun phrases and as such always appear at the head of the noun phrase,

(1) Uzmanlara göre hangi bitkiler daha fayda?
expert-PL-DAT according-to which plant-PL more benefit-ADJ
‘according to experts, which plants are more beneficial?

(2) hangi araba aln?
which car-ACC buy-PT-2s
‘which car did you buy?


Hangi can take on the following personal suffixes,
(3) hangisi?
‘which one?’

(4) hanginiz camı kır?
which-2PL.POSS glass-ACC break-PT
‘which one of you broke the glass(window)?

(5) hangimiz daha uzun?
which-2PL.POSS more tall
‘which one of us is taller?

Above suffixed forms can take on case markings,
(6) hangimizi sevdin?
which-1PL.POSS-ACC love-PT-2S
‘which one of us did you love?’

(7) hangimize verdin?
which-1PL.POSS-DAT love-PT-2S
‘to which one of us did you give?’

(8) hangimizden aln?
which-1PL.POSS-ABL take-PT-2S
‘from which one of us did you take?’

(9) hangimizin boyu daha uzun?
which-1PL.POSS-GEN height-ACC more tall
‘which one of us is taller?’

Hangi can also take the plural marker -ler concurrently with the personal markers above. The difference between the hangi+POSS and hangi+ler+POSS is akin to the contrast between one and ones. That is, when the plural suffixed form is used to form the interrogative, the questioner is expecting multiple subjects/objects as the answer. Whereas in the plain singular form, the expectation is for only one subject/object. Please note that notwithstanding -leri, these forms are seldom used.
(10) hangileri yeni geldi?
which-PL-3S.POSS new come-PT-3S
‘which are the newly arrived ones?’

(11) hangileriniz camı kır?
which-2PL.POSS glass-ACC break-PT
‘which one of you broke the glass(window)?

(12) hangilerimiz?
‘which ones of us?

Subordinate clause

Hangi can also function as a complementizer,
(13) Bakalım bugün hangi öğretmen İngilizce dersini verecek?
look-COM which teacher English class-ACC give-FUT-3S
‘Let’see which teacher is going to teach the English class today’

Turkish Interrogatives – Who?


Interrogative kim ‘who’ is used to form who questions in Turkish,
kim geldi
who come-PT
‘who came?’

Kim is subject to suffixation,
‘who has it?’
kimlere verdin?
who-PL-DAT give-PT-2S
‘whom did you give (it) to?’
kimden alnız?
who-ABL buy-PT-2PL
‘whom did you buy (it) from?’
kimin defteri?
who-GEN notebook-3S.POSS
‘whose notebook?’

Turkish Interrogatives – How?


Nasıl is the fourth interrogative derived from ne ‘what’ by compounding, in this instance with asıl ‘basis’ (Lewis, 2000),
how (he/she/it)

Nasıl can take on a limited number of suffixes,
‘how are you?’
‘how was it?’
‘how was it?’ (evidentiary)

In a non-interrogative clause it can be suffixed with the conditional -se/-sa (from ise),
bu iş nasılsa olmayacak
this work how-be.COND happen-NEG-FUT
‘this is not going to work anyhow’

Turkish Interrogatives – Why?

Neden? Niye? Niçin?

There are three interrogative forms in Turkish that can be translated as ‘why’ in to English: (i) neden, (ii) niçin and (iii) niye.

(i) Neden ‘why’ comes from the ablatives case of ne ‘what’. :
neden durdu?
what-ABL stop-PT-3S
‘why did it stop?’

(ii) Niye on the other hand is related to the dative case of ne,
niye durdu?
why stop-PT-3S
‘why did it stop?’

but it differs in meaning from the actual dative case of ne,
niye lâzım?
why needed
‘why is it needed?’
neye lâzım?
what-DAT need
‘to what is it needed?’

(iii) Niçin is a juxtaposition of ne ‘what’ + için ‘for’,
niçin durdu?
why stop-PT-3S
‘why did it stop?’

All three can be used interchangeably as interrogatives and sub-ordinate markers.
neden/niye/niçin kısa bu?
why short this
‘why is this (one) short?’
benim için neden/niye/niçin böyle olduğu önemli değil
1S-POSS for why this-like be-PT-ACC care-ADJ not
‘it is not important to me why he/she/it is like this’

Also note that these interrogatives are not subject to suffixation.

Neden can also be used as a regular noun meaning ‘reason’ or ’cause’, hence subject to suffixation in this form,

nedeni neymiş
reason-ACC what-BE.EVI
‘what was the reason?’
sen neden oldun
2S cause happen-PT-2S
‘you caused it’
nedene gerek yok
reason-DAT need not exists
‘no need for a reason’
o nedenden
3S reason-ABL
‘because of that’

Please note that unlike the rest of the interrogatives, these ones are not placed in situ. They are generally either the first or the last word in an interrogative.

Turkish Interrogatives – Where?


When paired with the no longer productive directional suffix -re, ne forms the basis for nere which means ‘where’ in Turkish,
nere ora?
what-DIR that-DIR
‘where is there?’

-re/-ra are old directional suffixes from Turkic. They are no longer productive in modern Turkish, but they can still be found in fossilized forms in directional nouns such as bura, şura and ora (‘this, that, that (that) location’, respectively).

Nere will most often appear in the suffixed forms (especially locational ones) instead of the the plain one which is seldom used,
okulun nerede?
school-2S.POSS where-LOC
‘where is your school?’
nereden buldu?
where-ABL find-PT.3S
‘where did he/she/it find (it)?’
nereye taşınnız?
where-DAT move-PT-2PL
‘where did you move to?’
nerenin elma bunlar?
where-GEN apple-3S.POSS this-PL
‘where were these apples produced?’
nereleri gezdiniz?
where-PL-ACC visit-PT-2PL
‘what places did you visit?’
‘Where are you from?’

Although rarely used, equivalents of some of these suffixed location interrogatives also exists in English. i.e., nereye DAT ‘whither’, nerede LOC ‘where’ and nereden ABL ‘whence’.

Turkish Interrogatives – When?

Ne zaman?

In Turkish, ne ‘what’ is combined with zaman ‘time’ to form when questions:
Bu olay ne zaman oldu?
this event what time happen-PT
‘when did this event occur?’
Dün oldu
yesterday happen-PT
‘it happened yesterday’

Please note that although the phrase ne zaman literally translates to ‘what time’ in English, its most accurate meaning in English is ‘when’. For example, while next summer is not a proper response to the question what time? in English, it is in Turkish:
Ne zaman?
what time
gelecek yaz
come-FUT summer
‘upcoming summer’

If you want to ask what time in the English sense then you have to combine saat ‘clock’ with kaç ‘how many?’:
saat kaç?
clock how many
‘what time is it?’
iki buçuk
two half
‘two thirty’

Turkish suffixes are attached at the phrase level to the right most word,
ne zamana varırız
when-DAT arrive-AOR-1PL
‘When will we arrive?’
tren ne zamanlar kalkar
train when-PL depart-AOR
‘What is the usual departure times for the train?’
en son ne zaman
most last when-BE.PT
‘when was the latest (episode or incident)?’

Turkish Interrogatives – What?


Turkish ne is generally similar to English what both in usage and meaning. Can be used to question objects:
(sen) ne içersin?
(you) what drink-AOR-2S
‘what would you like to drink?’
su lütfen
water please

or actions with the help of yap ‘make or do’ or auxiliary verb ol ‘happen’:
ne yapn?
what do-PT-2S
‘what did you do?’
ne oldu?
what happen-PT
‘what happened?’

ne can be used to question subjects in limited contexts such as when the actor is an animal:
ne ısır seni?
what bite-PT 2S-ACC
‘what bit you?’

Although Ne can take on many suffixes, some are seldom used in questions.
neyi sevdi?
what-ACC love-PT-3S
‘what did (he/she/it) love?’
neye göre?
what-DAT according
‘according to what?’
nede hak?
what-LOC right-INS
‘on what is (he/she/it) right?’
nenin nesi?
what-GEN what-3S.POSS
‘what of what?’
neyle geldiler?
what-INS come-PT-3PL
‘What did they come with (or by)?’ ambiguous
neli dondurma?
what-ADJ ice-cream
‘What flavor ice-cream?’ ambiguous
o neymiş öyle?
that what-BE.EVI so
‘What is/was that?’ or ‘what did you hear that was’

Note that ne with ablative case forms the basis for one of the words for why in Turkish,
neden olma?
what-ABL happen-NEG-PT
‘why didn’t it happen (work)?’

Turkish ne also provides the basis for four other interrogatives in Turkish: when, where, why and how.

Turkish Interrogatives

Content questions

Content questions in Turkish include the wh-, how and how many/much interrogatives. Unlike English, auxiliary verbs are not used to form content questions in Turkish. Phrases with interrogatives in absence of subordinate markers understood to be questions.

Turkish content question words are placed in situ. In other words, an interrogative goes into the same position in the sentence as the answer:
(sen) ne pişirdin?
(you) what cook-PT-2S
‘what did you cook?’
(ben) köfte pişirdim
(I) meatballs cook-PT-1S
‘I cooked meatballs’

but subject might be shifted to the end of the sentence for emphasis on the content question:
Q. Ne demiş Ahmet?
  what say-EVI.3S Ahmet
  ‘What DID Ahmet say?’
A. hayır demiş
  no say-EVI.3S
  ‘He has said no (I heard)’

or subject can be dropped altogether if it can be inferred from the context (see, Turkish Pro-Drop):
Ne demiş
what say-EVI.3S
‘What did (Ahmet) say?’

Content questions are subject to suffixation as well:
Hangileri daha iyi?
which-PL-ACC more good
‘which are the better ones?’
kimin o?
who-GEN that
‘whose is that?’

Negative content questions are formed by negating the verb,
kim gelmedi?
who come-NEG-PT.3S
‘Who didn’t come ?’

or using değil not:
hangisi mavi değil?
which-3S.POSS blue not
‘which one (of these) is not blue?’

Below is a list of Turkish content interrogatives:
Ne zaman?when
Neden? or Niye?why
kaç?how many
ne kadar?how much