How are you?

How are you? = Nasılsın? (singular-familiar) or Nasılsınız? (plural-polite/formal), literally meaning “How are you?” since there is no present “to be” verb to insert.

Like Arabic,Turkish tends not to want to use its “to be” verb, olmak, in the present tense (is/are) form. Instead, in the third person it may append an ending, -dIr, which in general emphasizes the truth of the preceding sentence, on the final word of the sentence:

O adam bir öğretmendir. “That man is (just) a teacher.” (the use of bir, “one” or “a,” serves to emphasize that the subject is that thing and that thing only)

O adam öğretmendir. “That man is a teacher” or “That man is the teacher.”

What’s up? = Neler oluyor?, literally meaning “What things are becoming?” (neler is like the plural of our “what,” which is a form we don’t have in English)

What’s new? = Haber ne?, literally “What’s the news?” (haber comes from the Arabic khabar for “news,” perhaps via Persian, which also appropriated it).


Who What Where When Why How

Today we look at the question words.

Who = kim; “Who is it?” = Kim oldu?

What = ne; “What is it?” = Ne oldu?

Where = nerede; “Where is it?” = Nerede? Be aware of the fact that this construction contains the suffix -dA (“-de” in this case), meaning “in,” so it literally means the place something or someone is in right now. If you want to ask someone where they are going, for example, you have to drop the “-de” suffix and add “-e” (the -A suffix meaning “to/toward”) and so the question becomes Nereye gidiyorsun? (gitmek is “to go” and becomes gidiyor in progressive present tense, plus “-sun” which is the second person singular marker).

When = ne zaman; “When are you leaving?” = Ne zaman ayrılıyorsun? Zaman is “time” or “when” in non-question contexts, so this literally translates as “what time.”

Why = neden; “Why are you leaving?” = Neden ayrılıyorsun? This combines ne meaning “what” and the ending -dAn (“-den”) meaning from and literally means “from what.”

How = nasıl; “How are you?” = Nasılsın?

Come down with a cold?

In Turkish, you might say Soğuk algınlığım var, which literally means “My sensation of cold exists,” or Nezlem var, literally “My cold exists.” Soğuk is the literal translation of “cold,” while nezle is the actual illness that we call “a cold.” Algı means “sensation,” to which is added a -lIk ending that gives it an abstract meaning, and the first person possessive -m ending. Like Arabic, Turkish does not have a verb that strictly means “to have,” so we get around that with this “my X exists” phrase, using var which is a marker of existence (and thus possession).

Someone who forgot to get his or her flu shot might be referred to by Grip oldu or O grip olmuş. Both use the verb “to be,” olmak, to mean “have,” but the former is in third person singular past tense while the latter adds an -Iş ending that creates a verbal noun construct.