[Grammar] "...have a..." vs "...have the..."

In English, when you say “I have a bag”, you are talking about possession, you are giving the information that you are the owner of any bag. We translate these sentences into Turkish as “Benim (bir) çantam var”, literally “There is my bag” (note: please don’t suggest such sentences as alternatives :D). There is also a verb, sahip olmak, so the alternative is “Ben (bir) çantaya sahibim.” but it is less common.

When you say “I have the bag”, you are certainly not giving any information about possession, this sentence only tells us about the location, that it is you who currently have the bag, maybe it is mine, but I left in your car, with you. Therefore, Turkish uses locative for this. So, “I have the bag” will be translated as “Çanta bende”. Similarly, "I have your bag" is "Çantan bende"

What about possession of a specific object? There are different ways to tell it in English:

  • I own the bag. (Çantaya ben sahibim –“ben” is not really optional here/Çanta bana ait)
  • I possess the bag. (Çantaya ben sahibim –“ben” is not really optional here/Çanta bana ait)
  • The bag is mine. (Çanta benim/Çanta benimki)
  • The bag belongs to me. (Çanta bana ait)

I hope it is clear for you all. Happy learning!

April 12, 2015


Great guide! There were a lot of questions about this topic. :-]

Will you add this to the Grammar Portal? :-]

April 12, 2015

I have been planning to write this for a looong time :) Yes we will :)

April 12, 2015

Thank you for taking the time, Selcen! :)

April 13, 2015

Very useful. You guys are great.

April 13, 2015

Very simple and clear explanation. Thanks!

May 22, 2015

This is great! I have always been confused about small details like these and I always try to fix them to make myself sound more fluent! Thanks!

July 11, 2015

Ooooooh! Thank you!

April 23, 2015

thank you! that was exactly what I needed.

June 19, 2015


September 23, 2015

Thanks! That was a recurring problem I had (:

October 7, 2015

Wow, it's like reading the explanation for the Hungarian possession rules. The two languages are so similar! Easier for me to learn Turkish at least :)

November 27, 2015

nice guide ty

October 17, 2017

Danke Selcen. OK perhaps I shouldn't use German in this thread! BTW I will learn Turkish but I am trying to focus on German and French as well as all my other languages, as you can see I'm quite busy!

April 13, 2015

Thank you, but it's too absolute. -- In English, you might say, "I have neighbors" or, a librarian might say, "I have books." These are not equivalent to your "a/the" cases. They don't imply ownership.

October 25, 2018

Yes, those ones would fall in the category of "have a" sentences since the objects are still indefinite. So they should be translated as "Komşularım var" and "Kitaplarım var".

March 7, 2019
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