1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Turkish
  4. >
  5. [Grammar] To Be: Copula


[Grammar] To Be: Copula

There are a few ways to say “to be” in Turkish depending on what you are saying. This is shocking since there is not actual verb “to be.” A suffix is used to form “to be” in the present tense. The suffixes are as follows:

There are a few points to keep in mind:

1) All except the 3rd person pl. suffix follow 4-way vowel harmony.

2) In the 1st person, you will see a buffer “-y-” be used if the adjective or noun ends in a vowel.

3) The suffix -DIr is used to clarify any ambiguity, emphasize, or state facts. This both follows 4-way vowel harmony and has consonant harmony; ‘d’ changes to ‘t’ after the following consonants (f p ç t k s ş h).

4) The suffix -lAr is optional in the 3rd person pl. However, it is only optional when referring to people. This suffix may not be used for items and animals. Only humans!

5) To use “be” as a command in Turkish, the stem of the verb olmak, which means “to become.” All you have to do is take off the -mak and you have the command for “ol.” To make it formal, add the ending -In, which according to 4-way vowel harmony, comes out as “olun.”

March 25, 2015



A remark on number 3. Please don't use -dir all the time. It's more an encyclopaedic thing, and it has variety of uses. Leave it for now and don't use anything for the 3rd person. And by the way, one phrase to remember the special consonants is: Ketçap fahişesi. (Fahişe means prostitute, might be useful… who knows ;p) And the whole phrase means: Ketchup prostitute, which is nonsensical, but just memorize it for the fun of it and the consonants are: k t ç p f h ş s. Any time you have a "d" or "c" that comes after one of these consonants, you'll say "t" or "ç" instead, for an easier pronunciation.


it is written already in the post that -dir is used to state facts. So in this case it is weird not to use it.

For example you need to say "kan kırmızıdır" (Blood is red), "kan kırmızı" sounds very weird, as if blood is normally not red.


That's right. What I wanted to make sure of was that people understand they shouldn't use -dir with sentences like "my car is a Toyota" or "my room is red" etc.


One just needs to remember that unvoiced consonants stick together: Makes a lot of sense and is much easier to use and remember than your phrase :P imho


This might be a really stupid question and please let me know if it is, but in the chart above, every suffix has the letter l.

Is this just a stand-in for the vowel that would be placed there according to vowel harmony? Because in the actual example the letter in that position is a u, not an l which of course would make no sense.


Exactly! In linguistics, it is called a dummy vowel. "I" represents four-way vowel harmony. :) The capital A that you will see later on in the course will represent two way vowel harmony.


Thanks! Would be great if that would be explained somewhere in the tree, though, because it also confused me quite a bit and needed to search for a while before I found this info here.


I love these pages and use them all the time! I still think that the Tips and Notes page for the section talked about should be included on each page. So here is the one for "to be": https://www.duolingo.com/skill/tr/To-be


Rules are great but I think it can be more helpfull when enriched with a couple of examples


The whole course is based on examples :D


Yes thats the part that I love about Duolingo :) I did not mean to be disrespectful,(elinize sağlık muhteşem bir çalışma ve müthiş bir emek) I was just talking about this topic and meant to adding examples for the 5 rules listed to make a contribution. By the way "Kan kırmızıdır" is a great example of proper use of -dir suffix, thanks ;)


What is the difference between:

Ben kadınım.

Ben bir kadin.

I know the first is correct, but the second....? If it is correct, when do I know when to use it? What is the difference?


These is no use of the second Julia, "Ben bir kadınım" is correct too but there is no difference with the first sentence, they are the same


Isn't kadınım my woman?


Yes, also. (The stress is different though: kadıNIM vs. kaDInım)

Kadınım (my woman) - kadınım (I'm a woman)

Kadının (your woman) - kadınsın (you are a woman)

Kadını (his woman) - kadın (s/he is a woman)

Kadınımız (our woman) - kadınız (we're women)

kadınınız (your woman) - kadınsınız (you're women)

kadınları (their woman) - kadınlar (they're women)


Which stress is which?

Is kadıNIM "my woman" or "I am a woman"?


kadıNım means "my woman" while kaDInım means "I am a woman"


"Kadınım" means both "I am woman" and also "My women" when used alone as just one word. but when you say "Ben kadınım" or "O benim kadınım" it becomes obvious otherwise you just can understand the meaning in the context of the conversation


I think that was a typo, "My woman" right? Where would the plural suffix go? Would "My women" be "Benim kadınlarım"?


Is consonant mutation (consonant harmony) also applied when using the verb "to be" ?

For example, "Sen acsın" (YES) or "Sen açsın" (NO) ??? Thank you!


yes, it's a natural rule of languages=> consonants tend to voice and devoice each other. Here it goes in the direction you're reading in.


I agree with Ektoraskan. Using -dir suffix can be perceived somehow priggish in many cases.


Can I ask for clarification on number 4. It says that it is only optional when referring to people. From which I infer that it is not option when referring to things, meaning that it is compulsory. However the next senses says it may not be used for items or animals. So, is it actually only ever used for people, and even then, it is optional?


It can be used only for people (on demand) so it is optional when talking about people. You can not use it for items or animals in any case. Could I make it clear ?


That makes sense. How it is described in the table should be changed to reflect that. Thanks.


Regarding the consonant harmony, is the letter "f" also included?


One cannot say kediler or köpekler??


Her "ler" is plural suffix and "personal suffix". Means: "cats dogs". It DOES NOT mean they are cats - they are dogs. As personal suffix you cannot use LAR for things or animals.


I meant in reference to "4) The suffix -lAr is optional in the 3rd person pl. However, it is only optional when referring to people. This suffix may not be used for items and animals. Only humans!"


Hey. Thank you for the explanation but sorry, I did not understand. Can anybody take the effort to break down that table into an easier version (you know, without those capitals and symbols) and the 5 rules with more explanation? Thank you very much.

Something of this sort. This was excellent: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/9041808

Also, can anybody explain what consonant harmony is? (If that is a thing). Thanks.


I want to make sure I understand how rules 3 and 4 interact on the 3rd pl. [I know that the -DIr is for other things besides just stating facts, but I'm trying to simplify in these examples.]

3rd pl. about items/animals = no suffix (same as 3rd sing.)

3rd pl. stating facts about items/animals = -DIr (same as 3rd sing.)

3rd pl. about people = no suffix, or optionally -lAr

3rd pl. stating facts about people = -DIr, or optionally -DIrlAr

Can someone clarify whether this is correct? If so, can someone describe the reason I would choose to add/not add the optional -lAr (-DIrlAr) when referring to people?

Thank you! Teşekkür ederim!

Learn Turkish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.