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Not the Turkish Verb "to be"

Living without "to be" in Turkish

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Tüm içecek fırsatları için tıklayın !

Making Something from Nothing

That's right. There is a no full-fledged verb 'to be' in Turkish.

Apparently there used to be one -- 'ermek', but it seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the road to Modern Turkish.

So what do you do in Turkish, when you want to communicate those ideas that are best communicated with the verb 'to be'?

Well, there are two sure ways to communicate 'to be' -- and one other way that works, sometimes...

Three-way Word-play

The First way...
Use the Personal Endings (-im, -sin, etc.)

You can get the effect of the verb 'to be' by attaching the Personal Endings to nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. For example,
serseri (a ne'er-do-well) + sin (you are) gives serserisin
which means, "You're a deadbeat!"

uh, could you expand on 'Personal Endings' a little, please?

and, mebbe show me some complete 'to be' conjugation examples, if poss?

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The Second... Use 'olmak'.

The Turkish verb olmak serves fairly well as a substitute for a full-fledged Verb 'to be' in Turkish. Its primary meanings are:

  1. to become, come to exist, come into being.

    Followed by its secondary meanings...

  2. to happen, to occur, to take place.

    And, finally, it has the tertiary meaning...

  3. to be (to have/occupy a place/position; to show a certain characteristic).

    George Washington george
    Now here are some example sentences
    from the days of the American Revolution
    that show olmak playing the role of 'to be'
    quite adequately...

    1. 1776'nın Filadelfiya Kongresi hayli çekişmeli oldu, fakat sonunda delegeler bir anlaşmaya vardılar;
      The Philadelphia Congress of 1776 was difficult, but in the end the delegates reached an agreement.
    2. Başkomutan George Washington, çok çalışkan olduğu icin her tuttuğu işte muvaffak oluyordu;
      Commander-in-Chief George Washington was successful at every job he held, because he was very industrious.
    3. Cumhurbaşkanı Washington bazen, hava iyi olduğunda, tarlaları geziyor, halkla ve işcilerle konuşuyordu;
      When the weather was nice, President Washington sometimes passed through his lands [and] talked with the people and the workers.

But the use of olmak to communicate the verb 'to be', isn't always appropriate. As listed above, olmak has several important meanings that take precedence over the meaning 'to be'. And, besides that, olmak can also have meanings we haven't even mentioned yet (like "to have", "for time to pass", "for something to be acceptable", etc.)

So when you see or hear it,
be ready for it to mean 'to be', but keep an open mind.
It could be carrying one of its other meanings,
depending on the sentence where you find it.

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The Third... Use 'bulunmak'
(This is the least reliable way to express 'to be', but it does work sometimes.)

Our Best Redhouse Turkish-English-Turkish Dictionaries indicate that the usual meaning of 'bulunmak' is, to be found.

For example, if you need some ice to freshen your drinks in Turkey,
look for this sign in the Market Place...

Burada Buz Bulunur
[Ice Found Here]

But among the secondary meanings, we also see that 'bulunmak' can mean to be present, and, even, to be!

orhan Orhan Bey, Son of Osman Bey
See the following examples
from stories about the early Ottoman Empire
where 'bulunmak' is, in fact,
used very effectively
to convey the meaning of the verb 'to be'...

  1. Osman Bey öldüğü zaman, Orhan Bey 40-45 yaşlarında bulunuyordu;
    At the time of Osman Bey's death, Orhan Bey (son of Osman Bey, the first Ottoman) was about 40-45 years of age.
    [...was being found to be about 40-45 years of age.]
  2. Ulak, "Orhan, şimdi Bursa'da bulunuyor," dedi.
    "Orhan is at [the city of] Bursa now," said the messenger.
    [...is being found at [the city of] Bursa now.]
  3. Nihayet Orhanın ordusu tarafından yarı ablukada bulunan Bursa teslim oldu.
    Bursa, which was half-way blockaded by Orhan's army, finally surrendered.
    [...being half-way blockaded by Orhan's army...]
  4. Bursa'nın kapılarının açılışında Nilüfer de bulundu.
    Nilüfer (Orhan's first wife) was also at the opening of Bursa's gates.
    [... was being found also at the opening of Bursa's gates.]
  5. Nilüfer, "Burada bulunmaktan çok memnunum," dedi;
    Nilüfer said, "I'm very glad to be here".
    [...I'm very glad because of being present here.]
As we've mentioned, however, using 'bulunmak' to convey the meaning 'to be' doesn't always work. And, while you should be prepared to see and hear it used by Turks for that purpose, you need to be careful using it yourself -- because it can have other less obvious meanings too.

For example, it can also mean "to make" as in,
Bursa Bey Orhan Beye teslim şartında bulundu...;
Bursa Bey made this condition of surrender to Orhan Bey...




Just a leetle more...
regarding the past tense of the so-called verb 'to be'...

While we're on the subject...The past tense of the (dubious) verb 'to be' may be expressed by using idim, idin, idi, idik, idiniz, idiler. These words ['idim', etc.] can be used standing-alone to indicate I was, you were, he was, we were, you were, they were. Example: Izmir'de idim. I was in Izmir.

Additionally, these words may be 'attached' as suffixes to preceding words (such as nouns, noun phrases, etc.) -- without affecting the meaning of the sentences in which they occur. In fact, it's quite normal to make such 'attachments' in everyday communications -- as long as you also make certain necessary spelling and pronunciation adjustments, e.g., Soğuk idi and Soğuktu It was cold -- are exactly equivalent in meaning.

In the 'suffixed' example above, when such a preceding word ends in a consonant (in this case, the adjective soğuk; cold), you must drop the first i-letter [of idi] and also apply certain rules about word-joining and vowel harmony. That is, when you 'attach' idi to such a preceding word, not only must you drop the i-letter, but you must also change the d-letter to a t-letter [whenever the preceding word ends in ç, f, h, k, p, s, ş, or t] -- and you must also adjust the suffix-spelling to adhere to the vowel harmony rule!
Example: Kıskanç idi and Kıskançtı She was jealous -- are equivalent.
[Note in the 'suffixed' example that the first i-letter of idi was dropped, that the d-letter was changed to a t-letter (to accomodate word-joining needs), and that the final vowel was changed from a dotted i-letter to an undotted i-letter, according to vowel harmony requirements...]

When the preceding word ends in a vowel, you replace the first i-letter [of idim, etc.] with a y-letter -- but, apart from that, you need only be concerned with vowel harmony requirements.
Example: Sorumlu idiniz and Sorumluydunuz You were responsible -- are exactly equivalent.
(Note in the 'suffixed' example that the first i-letter of idiniz was replaced by the y-letter and that the final vowels changed from dotted i-letters to undotted u-letters...)


Another 'suffixed' example:
Dadaruh, babamın seyisiydi, yaşlı bir adamdı.
(from Kaşağı [The Grooming Comb] by Ömer Seyfettin)

Dadaruh was my father's stableman, he was an old man.
Equivalent 'unsuffixed' example:
Dadaruh, babamın seyisi idi, yaşlı bir adam idi.
Dadaruh was my father's stableman, he was an old man.

Turkish suffixes is kinda confusin', Mabel...Don'tcha think?
Beyond the pale, Marvin. Way beyond the pale.
Why don't you write a letter of complaint to Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan?
Won't do any good, Marv...
he only listens to women in turbans.

oh yeah, that's right...I forgot.

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