How To Do First Person Verb Conjugation In Turkish

avatarMille Larsen
3 mins read

We've looked at a few properties of verbs already, and already figured out a lot about verbs without using any instruction at all. But we still haven't established even the basic first-person conjugations. After three months, I can't even say "I'm hungry" yet!

Well, it turns out, I can say it. Actually, I can say a lot once I think about it. I just didn't know it! I've had a hunch about these conjugations for a while, and by now I think I'm pretty confident that this is the way it works...

First, ben is the Turkish first-person pronoun, but like many languages with strong conjugation patterns, the subject seems to be omitted, only being used for clarification or emphasis. (Or in the case of "I am" constructs, as we'll see in a moment.)

And second, the ending -um conjugates things to the first person. I've also seen this written as -im. There may be other ways, too.

Note: I still need to figure out this vowel harmony. But even though I can't express it as a rule yet, I am starting to develop a feel for it, small as it may be.

By example

So how can I feel so sure about this conjugation? Well, by observation, of couse. Here's a small bit of text I saved while observing a chatroom:

A: nerden sen.
B: istanbul. siz?
A: ben de istanbul ama almanya da yasiyorum.

Person A asks, "Where are you?" Person B replies, "Istanbul. You?" And then we get a big, beautiful sample of the first-person in all it's glory: "I am from Istanbul, but I'm currently living in Germany."

Here, we see ben used in the zero-copula "I am" construct in the first phrase, but omitted from the second phrase because of verb conjugation. We can feel confident about this, since first sentence also lacks the copula but uses the pronoun.

And we know where the verb is because we can recognize it from its -iyor ending, which makes it ongoing, or imperfective. And we've learned that the ending for the conjugation follows the ending for the imperfective aspect: yaş(a)-iyor-um.

So we can now use what we recently learned about verb negation to say: İstanbulda yaşamıyorum, or "I'm not living in Istanbul." Cool, eh?

Why I like chatrooms

It should be noted that because this sample comes from a chatroom, the spelling is always suspect. The quoted text actually seems to say, "I'm in Germany making laws," as the verb yasamak means "to legislate," but that wouldn't make as much sense as "I'm living in Germany," which is what you would get with the verb yaşamak, if you weren't in a chat room struggling with Turkish characters on a German computer.

That may seem confusing, but that actually shows why I love using chatrooms to learn. I learned two verbs, not just one. And I also gained the ability to make a play on words, later, if I want.

Öğreniyorum! (I'm learning!)