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[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



Thank you for taking the time, Selcen! :)


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

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


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


Very useful. You guys are great.


Very simple and clear explanation. Thanks!


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!


Ooooooh! Thank you!


thank you! that was exactly what I needed.


Thanks! That was a recurring problem I had (:


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!


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 :)


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.


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".

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