Verb conjugation I: Simple past tense

We keep running up against the fact that it’s difficult to give examples of vocabulary without using grammar elements that I haven’t introduced, so I’m going to roll out verb conjugations over a series of posts. Doing this across three languages, four if you count the English I’m trying to explain it in, is complicated by the fact that grammarians give different names to the same concepts in different languages, and conversely the same term might mean different things in each language.

First we look at simple past tense (“did”), which is called the “di- past” tense in my Turkish grammar book because the tense is formed by adding “DI-” plus the person/number ending to the stem of the infinitive (take an infinitive, like etmek, lop of the “-mek” ending and you have the stem of the verb).  We will be using a typical “example” verb in Turkish learning, etmek (“to do,” rarely used on its own, almost always found in compound verbs), and since this is simple past they translate as “I did,” “you did,” “he/she did,” etc. This form, however, can also be translated as the English present perfect tense (“has done”), so context matters. Be aware that for a verb whose stem ended in a voiced consonant (say, “d”) or vowel, as opposed to the voiceless “t” in “et-“, the past ending would begin with “d” instead of “t”).

  • First person, singular: ettim
  • Second person, singular: ettin
  • Third person, singular: etti
  • First person, plural: ettik
  • Second person, plural: ettiniz
  • Third person, plural: ettiler

Negating past tense requires inserting “-me-” between the stem and the number/person marker:

  • First person, singular: etmedim
  • Second person, singular: etmedin
  • Third person, singular: etmedi
  • First person, plural: etmedik
  • Second person, plural: etmediniz
  • Third person, plural: etmediler

Passive form (“was done”) inserts an “-il” after the stem (which because of Turkish consonant rules changes the stem of etmek from “et-” to “ed-“):

  • First person passive, singular: edildim
  • Second person passive, singular: edildin
  • Third person passive, singular: edildi
  • First person passive, plural: edildik
  • Second person passive, plural: edildiniz
  • Third person passive, plural: edildiler

Negating the passive? Put the “-me-” negative particle in between the passive “-il-” and the past ending, so “it was not done” would be edilmedi.


To teach

Following on from yesterday’s entry, let’s look at the word “teach.”

By far the most common Turkish verb for “teach” is öğretmek, which you may recall from yesterday’s entry is a causative verb (signified by the “-t-“) formed from the same seemingly lost/arcane root that produced the reflexive/passive verb öğrenmek (“to learn”). However, there are other verbs that may be encountered, like eğitmek, which is more like “to train” but is close enough that you should be aware of it. Also interesting is ders vermek, combining the Arabic word ders with the Turkish verb vermek (“to give”) to mean “to give a lesson” (compare this with the Persian dars dadan, which is the same construction).


“She/he teaches us Turkish” = Türkçe bize öğretiyor

“Last week I taught them the alphabet” = Geçen hafta onlara alfabe ders verdim

Related vocabulary:

“Teacher” is öğretmen, but not for a professor, who would be profesör. You may also encounter hoca, which is a term used more out of respect for a wise elder.

“School” generally speaking is okul, but you may also see ekol or mektep (taken from Arabic and referring usually to primary school as it does in Arabic as well). “Primary school” is a literal translation, ilk okul, as is “middle school,” orta okul, but “high school” is lise, from the French lycée (which goes back to the Greek lyceum, but I digress).

To learn

Let’s talk about learning, since we’re supposed to be learning here, right?

We are going with “learn” here in the sense of acquiring new knowledge or skills by study, not “learn” in the sense of “found out,” like “I just learned that I’m blind in one eye!” They are different concepts and translate differently.

“Learn” is öğrenmek, which is a reflexive or passive form (marked by that -n- in the middle), so there must have been an active form of that verb at some point but it’s so archaic that I can’t find it in any dictionary I’ve looked at. Related is “teach,” öğretmek, which is the causative form of the verb (marked by the -t- in the middle), but, again, causative form of a verb I can’t find.


“I am learning Turkish” = Türkçe öğreniyorum

“Yesterday they learned the names of the planets” = Dün gezegenlerin isimlerini öğrenlerdi

Related words:

“Education” = öğrenim or öğretim

“Student” = öğrenci

Good Day

Pausing with the family vocab to take care of something I promised a while back, when we talked about how to say hello and goodbye, which is how to say things like “good morning” and “goodnight,” greetings that are related to time.

First, some basic vocabulary:

Morning: sabah (from Arabic), şafak (“dawn”)

Day: gün, gündüz

Afternoon: öğleden sonra (literally “after noon”)

Evening: akşam

Night: gece (“geh-jeh”: remember, Turkish g’s are always hard, and Turkish c = English j!)

Good: iyi

Beautiful: güzel

Now, some phrases:

Good morning: Günaydın (more common) or Sabah iyi

Good afternoon: İyi akşamlar (more common) or İyi bir öğleden sonra

Good evening: İyi geceler (late evening) or İyi akşamlar (early evening)

Goodnight: İyi geceler

Good day: İyi günler, or Güzel bir gün

“Have a nice day!”: İyi günler!

Family vocab VI: cousins

Family vocab I: mother and father

Family vocab II: child, son and daughter

Family vocab III: brothers and sisters

Family vocab IV: aunts and uncles

Family vocab V: grandparents

“Cousin” has a cognate in Turkish, either kuzen or kuzin, but you may also run into the form “child of ____.” Recall that “child” is çocuk, but here it adds a possessive ending (possessive endings can be i, ı, u, or ü depending on vowel harmony), indicating “child of” whatever precedes it, so it is çocuğu. Because Turkish distinguishes between maternal and paternal aunts and uncles, cousins are similarly distinguished:

  • Paternal uncle’s child = amca çocuğu
  • Paternal aunt’s child = hala çocuğu
  • Maternal uncle’s child = dayı çocuğu
  • Maternal aunt’s child = teyze çocuğu

Family vocab V: grandparents

Family vocab I: mother and father

Family vocab II: child, son and daughter

Family vocab III: brothers and sisters

Family vocab IV: aunts and uncles

Grandfather can either be büyükbaba (pl. büyükbabalar, literally “grand father”) or dede (pl. dedeler). Grandmother will be büyükanne (“grand mother,” pl. büyükanneler), anneanne and babaanne (mother’s mother and father’s mother, respectively), or nine (“nee-neh,” pl. nineler, related to “nana”).

Family vocab IV: aunts and uncles

Family vocab I: mother and father

Family vocab II: child, son and daughter

Family vocab III: brothers and sisters

A number of languages distinguish between maternal and paternal aunts and uncles; English is not one of them, but Turkish is. A paternal uncle is amca (pl. amcalar), and a paternal aunt is (from Arabic, but strangely from the Arabic for “maternal aunt”) hala (pl. halalar). Maternal uncle is dayı (pl. dayılar), and maternal aunt is teyze (pl. teyzeler).

One thing to bear in mind is that we’re talking about blood relatives only; in-laws are another entry.