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[Grammar] Aorist usage


I've prepared this short guide after seeing many questions on "aorist vs. continuous".

Turkish simple present is linguistically called the Aorist tense. (Aorist is past tense in Greek, so I don't know whose idea it was really. It's definitely not the past tense in Turkish). Anyway, sometimes verbs end in -er/-ar or -ır/ir/ur/ür. That's when you know it's in aorist, like: koşar (he runs), alır (he takes), görür (he sees). On the other hand, verbs in the continuous tense appear in -iyor forms, like: koşuyor (he is running), alıyor (he is taking), görüyor (he sees).

See what I did there? I wrote "he sees", and not "he is seeing". That's an English thing. Some English verbs are rarely used in "-ing" forms. You could "be seeing" something right now and still say "I see". But that's a problem of English. Turkish doesn't have such restrictions. So when you type "I'm seeing", "I'm liking", "I'm loving" etc. and your answers are rejected on duolingo, don't report them. Roll your eyes, blame English and carry on!

I. Aorist is not exactly the English simple present tense. Actually, I dare say it's closer to the English future tense. Yep! We've been lying to you all this time! Both the aorist and the English "will" are used in "if-clauses": "Param olursa, ev alırım." (If I ever have money, I'll buy a house) or the past form: "Param olsaydı ev alırdım" (If I had (had) money, I would have bought a house). Here you see "would" which is actually related to "will".

Apart from that, when you make sudden decisions, English uses "will" and Turkish uses "aorist". Your girlfriend or wife comes to you and says: "Do the dishes." You can say: "Bir ara yaparım." (I'll do it some time). You don't know when, but you've decided on the spot that you will do it some time in the future. Because you have a soccer match to watch right now.

II. Aorist is also usable in sentences where you talk about habitual actions, just like the English simple present: "Her cumartesi koşarım" (I jog every Saturday). But this is not obligatory. The continuous tense is completely fine and even more common in Turkish: "Her cumartesi koşuyorum," (but you can't say: I am jogging every Saturday, in English). So that's something to keep in mind.

III. Aorist is also used in requests. "Pencereyi açar mısın?" → "Can you open the window?" (Compare: 'pencereyi açıyor musun?' [are you opening the window?]). You can also use "-ebilir" to get the same meaning: "Pencereyi açabilir misin?" (Can you open the window?) Note that "-ebilir" is also in aorist.

IV. In spoken language, aorist is used kind of like the 2nd use of -dir. For example: "I've heard Ektoraskan is going to buy a villa." and your friend says: "Alır tabii!" - something like: "Of course he would… I don't know if he will really buy a villa, but why doesn't that surprise me…? He's got all the money he needs ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤!"

V. Aorist is also used in certain fixed phrases that you just have to memorize. For example, using a verb twice, one in positive aorist and one in negative aorist, gives you the meaning of "as soon as". The formula is: V-er V-mez. Ex: "Süt içer içmez yattı." (He went to bed as soon as he drank milk); "Ben evden çıkar çıkmaz yağmur başladı." (It started to rain as soon as I left the house).

Another phrase is aorist +ken. It gives the meaning of "while". "Uyurken konuşuyor." (He speaks while sleeping). Note that "ken" is not harmonized.

Another such phrase is "aorist + cesine/casına", which gives the meaning of "sort of …-ing". For example: "Koşarcasına yanına gitti." (He went to her, sort of running. He didn't actually run, but it looked as if he were about to.)

Hopefully, it's clear(er) now! :-]

May 16, 2015



I still have to digest all the information, but it's really very well put and helpful. Thanks for your effort!


Thanks I needed that.


Wow, this is a very important notes. I don't think I can find it in any other course except here on Duolingo. Thank you very much for this great details in Turkish language.


Well, it might be also helpful to list the Turkish verbs which most often are used in present continuous tense e.g. istemek, duymak, görmek, kokmak, sevmek, nefret etmek inanmak, anlamak, bilmek, hatırlamak, oturmak, tanımak, unutmak. I find it confusing that in the first modules they are constantly used in present continuous tense but then suddenly many of them are used with aorist in aorist related excercise module... which is not very common at all...


By the way, it's call the aorist because it (sort of) has a null ending. The term "aorist" actually has nothing to do with tense, but rather with how the tense is formed.


"Roll your eyes, blame English and carry on!" is my answer to pretty much everything I ever get wrong with a language. It's not me, it's ENGLISH. =)


This is a complicated topic, but a really helpful explanation. I'm sure I'll be referring back to it. Thank you!


Thank you for taking the time to write that, Ektoraskan. After reading it, I became even more aware that there is a whole lot more Turkish to be learned, but every little bit helps, so please don't stop trying to clear things up for us.


Thanks this is helpful, but I would still suggest that more options be given in the possible solutions to the sentences in the Turkish course. I don't think we can blame English for everything, it should be that in order to understand a language there needs to be a comparable understanding to the usage in another language too. Therefore, more solutions for a variety of possibilities despite the exact grammar. Or perhaps add linguistic explanations within the app to clarify usage as you've done so in your post.


I would just like to bring attention to a mistake in the grammar explanation in the tree, at the Aorist. Of course after thanking Ektoraskan for this really helpful guide :)

So the mistake - where you list irregularities, you say there are 13 verbs, but there are only 12 verbs listed.


yes and 2 years ago I asked for. the remaining verb is "varmak"


That was really helpful. Thanks a lot


Ughhh is there any option to learn turkish without grammar ..... I hate grammar


I've scouted the entire internet and this, by a country mile, is the best information I could dig out about the aorist. Thank you :)


Can any one who knows Turkish very well , add me up on Facebook or add me in Whatsapp so that I can test my turkish skills. Communicating with a Turkish speaker will help improve my Turkish. Please , help. Thanking you all in anticipation. :)


why don't you load the app "HelloTalk". There are many Turkish people, who wants to learn, English, German etc. It is a great app and it is gratis.


allah'a şükür ben arapça biliyorum :-)


Urdu helps me in the same exact way. So many loan words :-)


do those loanwords originate from Arabic


Oh my goodness, thank you so much for writing this post! I have been searching everywhere for an explanation and just stumbled upon yours! Harika!

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