THE SIX TURKISH CASES
Nominative can be covered quickly and easily because it’s just the basic form.
araba = car
oda = room
pencere = window
As a reminder: there is no definite article in Turkish, just the single indefinite article bir = a / an.
4.2.1 Whom or what? (object)
As in English, accusative in Turkish answers the question “whom?” or “what?” as it applies to the object of a sentence.
To form the accusative, the suffix -i is used. It follows complex vowel harmony and can therefore take on the following forms: -ı, -i, -u, -ü
Peyniri verir misin? = Can you give me the cheese? (Whom or what are you giving me?)
Çayı içiyoruz. = We are drinking the tea. (Whom or what are we drinking?)
4.2.2 Endings with hard consonants
Some words end with the so-called “hard consonants” ç, k, p, and t. Do you remember the reference to this in Lesson 3.2? There, the t became a d. These hard consonants are softened to c, ğ, b, and d before the accusative suffix.
Mektubu aldın mı? = Did you receive the letter?
Mektup (= letter) actually ends with p, which is now softened to b.
Müziği duymuyorum. = I don’t hear the music.
Müzik (= music) actually ends with k, which is now softened to ğ.
Exception: Sütü getirdim. = I brought the milk. (Whom or what did I bring?) Süt ends with the hard consonant “t” but isn’t softened for the purpose of harmony because “südü” doesn’t sound that harmonious. The same applies to bisiklet, to provide another example.
4.2.3 Vowel endings
If a word ends in a vowel, a y is inserted. This sounds familiar to you, doesn’t it?
Odayı gördün mü? = Did you see the room?
Lütfen kapıyı kapat. = Please close the door.
BUT: if the vowel ending comes from a possessive suffix or a possessive pronoun, it’s NOT a y that’s inserted, but an n.
Peyniri verir misin? = Can you give me THE cheese?
Onun peynir|i|ni verir misin? = Can you give me HIS / HER cheese?
The possessive pronoun with its accompanying possessive suffix (|i|) is thus used first, then the accusative suffix with an n connector (|ni|) – and not y.
Onun peyniriyi verir misin? would therefore be wrong!
By the way, we recommend that you always use the possessive pronoun (onun / onların) in the third person singular / plural to completely rule out a possible mix-up between the accusative suffix and the possessive suffix. They are identical when the word doesn’t end with a vowel:
Bisikleti by itself could mean “the bike” in accusative or “his / her bike” in possessive, right? Generally, however, it’s clear based on the context.
4.2.4 Proper nouns
An apostrophe is used with proper nouns.
Mehmet’i gördüm. = I saw Mehmet.
Türkçe’yi öğreniyorum. = I’m learning Turkish.
4.2.5 Accusative pronouns
The personal pronouns in accusative are as follows:
beni = me
seni = you (a very well-known example: Seni seviyorum. = I love you.)
onu = him / her / it
bizi = us
sizi = you [plural] / you [formal]
onları = them
4.3.1 “Whom?” or “where to”?
Generally, the dative answers the question “whom?” In Turkish, dative also answers the question “where to?” Dative is therefore often used in connection with verbs that express motion. It is formed with the suffix -e / -a, which follows simple vowel harmony:
Eve gidiyorum. = I’m going home. (Where to?)
Havuza gidiyor. = He / she / it is going to the swimming pool. (Where to?)
Ona anlatacağım. = I will tell him / her. (Whom?)
4.3.2 Endings with hard consonants
As with the accusative, endings with one of the “hard consonants” ç, k, p, and t are softened to c, ğ, b, and d before the suffix:
Çocuğa bir masalı okudum. = I read the child a fairy tale.
4.3.3 Vowel endings
With vowel endings, a y is inserted:
Masaya koydum. = I placed it on the table.
Lokantaya gidiyor. = He / she is going to the restaurant.
BUT: if the vowel comes from a possessive, an n is inserted instead of a y:
Onun masasına koydum. = I placed it on his / her table.
4.3.4 Proper nouns
In the case of proper nouns, the suffix is separated with an apostrophe:
Deniz‘e güveniyorum. = I trust Deniz.
4.3.5 Dative pronouns
And here are the personal pronouns in dative:
bana = me (example: Bana verir misin? = Can you give me …?)
sana = you
ona = him / her / it
bize = us
size = you [plural] / you [formal]
onlara = them
The genitive answers the question “whose?” You’re already familiar with one genitive construction from the sample sentence in Lesson 3.6:
Mehmet‘in arabası = Mehmet’s car (whose car?)
The genitive is formed with the suffix -in. And because it follows complex vowel harmony, this can become:
-ın, -in, -un, -ün.
A few sample sentences (the first noun carries the genitive, the second carries the accompanying possessive that you’re already familiar with from Lesson 3.6):
bakkalın penceresi = the store’s window (whose window?)
onun saçları = his / her hair (whose hair?)
4.4.2 Endings with hard consonants
If the word ends with one of the “hard consonants” ç, k, p, and t, these are softened to c, ğ, b, and d before the genitive suffix:
Bisikletin tekerleği. = the bicycle’s wheel or simply the bicycle wheel – tekerlek actually ends with k, though this is softened here to ğ due to the hard consonant.
4.4.3 Vowel endings
With vowel endings, an n is inserted, not a y this time.
odanın kapısı = the room’s door or the room door
4.4.4 Proper nouns
And as always, a proper noun is separated from the suffix with an apostrophe:
Türkiye‘nin plajları = Turkey’s beaches
4.4.5 Exceptions in genitive
In the genitive, a y is nevertheless inserted after a vowel instead of the usual n in a few cases, specifically
su = water and
ne = what.
Suyun rengi mavidir. = The color of the water is blue.
The -dir in mavidir is a construction of “to be” that you aren’t familiar with yet. We’ll come back to that later. And the k in renk (color) was softened to g instead of ğ. Here’s another exception.
Neyin faydası? = What’s the benefit?
Why these exceptions? It’s pretty simple: so that it’s not too easy for foreigners to learn Turkish. It has to be a little bit exclusive, after all.
4.5.1 “From where?,” “from whom?,” or “from what?”
The ablative is exactly the oppositive of the dative. The ablative answers the questions “from where?,” “from whom?,” and “from what?” The ablative is formed with the suffix ‑den / -dan and follows simple vowel harmony.
Evden çıkıyorum. = I’m leaving the house.
Lokantadan geliyor. = He / she / it is coming out of the restaurant.
4.5.2 Endings with hard consonants
If a word ends in one of the hard consonants, there is NO softening. In this case, there is a hardening of the suffix. -den / -dan becomes -ten / -tan. This applies to all hard consonants – ç, f, h, k, p, s, ş, and t:
Kitaptan öğrendim. = I learned from the book.
4.5.3 Proper nouns
In the case of proper nouns, the suffix is separated with an apostrophe.
Mehmet’ten çakmağı aldım. = I took (received) the lighter from Mehmet.
İstanbul’dan geliyorum. = I’m coming from Istanbul.
And last but not least, we of course want to be able to answer the question “where?” as well, which brings us to the locative. This is formed with the suffix -de / -da and likewise follows simple vowel harmony.
Lokantada. = In the restaurant.
Evde. = In the house / at home.
4.6.2 Endings with hard consonants
Here, too, there is a suffix hardening after hard consonants. -de / -da becomes -te / ‑ta:
Sokakta. = On / in the street.
4.6.3 Proper nouns
As always, an apostrophe is used with proper nouns:
Almanya’da. = In Germany.
Mehmet’te. = At Mehmet’s.
4.6.4 Remarks about the locative
a) Don’t confuse the locative suffix -de / -da with the short word de / da, which means “also” but stands alone and follows simple vowel harmony as locative does.
Mehmet de evde. = Mehmet is also at home.
O da lokantada. = He / she is also at the restaurant.
Ben de gidiyorum. = I’m going also.
b) The locative can also be combined nicely with var / yok and the question particle mi:
Antalya’da plaj var mı? = Is there a beach in Antalya?
c) Locative also includes the prepositions indicating place:
nerede = where? is one you already know. In addition, there’s also:
burada = here
şurada = there (visible)
orada = there (not visible)
Colloquially, these prepositions are shortened to nerde, burda, şurda and orda.
Burda plaj yok. = There is no beach here.
Ama orda havuz var. = But there’s a swimming pool over there.
4.7 A NOTE ON THE DIFFERENT CASES IN REFERENCE TO PROPER NOUNS
When forming the different suffixes, it’s not the spelling of the proper noun that matters, but the pronunciation. This is important when it comes to non-Turkish proper nouns. The following examples should clarify what this means:
Aachen’da. = In Aachen.
The last vowel in Aachen is an e, but a Turk would use -da here and not -de. Why? The e in Aachen sounds more like the ı sound, and according to simple vowel harmony, -da follows ı.
Aachen’dan (instead of ‘den). = From Aachen.
Aachen’a (instead of ‘e). = To Aachen.
Vocabulary for Lesson 4:
anlatmak = to tell; bakkal = (grocery) store; bisiklet = bike; çakmak = lighter; çay = tea; de / da = also; duymak = to hear; fayda = benefit, advantage; görmek = to see; güvenmek = to trust; havuz = swimming pool; içmek = to drink; kahvehane = café; kapatmak = to close; kapı = door; koymak = to put / place; lokanta = restaurant; lütfen = please; masa = table; masal = fairy tale; mavi = blue; mektup = letter; müzik = music; öğrenmek = to learn; öğretmek = to teach; okumak = to read (aloud), also to study; peynir = cheese; plaj = beach; renk = color; saç = hair; sokak = street; su = water; süt = milk; tekerlek = wheel