Verb conjugation II: “to be”

The thing about the verb “to be” in Turkish is that there really isn’t one. Technically speaking there is an archaic verb, ermek that means “to be,” but over time its stem “er-” got shortened to “i-” and was turned into a suffix (combined with the personal ending and with a “y” inserted before it if the word to which it is being attached ends in a vowel). The third person ending, -DUr, is actually optional.

To model vowel and consonant harmony, I’ll demonstrate these conjugations using iyi, “fine” or “good” and Türk, “Turk/Turkish”:

  • “I am fine” = iyiyim
  • “I am Turkish” = Türküm
  • “you (sing.) are fine” = iyisin
  • “you (sing.) are Turkish” = Türksün
  • “he/she/it is fine” = iyi or iyidir
  • “he/she is Turkish” = Türk or Türktür
  • “we are fine” = iyiyiz
  • “we are Turkish” = Türküz
  • “you (pl.) are fine” = iyisiniz
  • “you (pl.) are Turkish” = Türksünüz
  • “they are fine” = iyiler or iyidirler
  • “they are Turkish” = Türkler or Türktürler

The past tense uses the suffix -DI plus the personal ending, like so:

  • “I was fine” = iyiydim
  • “I was Turkish” = Türktüm
  • “you (sing.) were fine” = iyiydin
  • “you (sing.) were Turkish” = Türktün
  • “he/she/it was fine” = iyiydi
  • “he/she was Turkish” = Türktü
  • “we were fine” = iyiydik
  • “we were Turkish” = Türktük
  • “you (pl.) were fine” = iyiydiniz
  • “you (pl.) were Turkish” = Türktünüz
  • “they were fine” = iyidiler
  • “they were Turkish” = Türktüler

To negate these you add another word, değil, after the noun or adjective, and the personal ending is affixed to it instead of to the noun/adjective. Past tense here is also created by adding -DI plus the personal ending. Without re-conjugating everything, “I am not fine” would be iyi değilim, “you (pl.) are not Turkish” would be Türk değilsiniz, “she was not fine” would be iyi değildi, and “they were not Turkish” would be Türk değildiler.

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