The Turkish Verb - The Infinitive....

THE INFINITIVE - a grammatical description

In grammar, the infinitive is the form of a verb that has no inflection to indicate person, number, mood or tense.
It is called the infinitive because the verb is usually not made finite, or limited by inflection.
The infinitive is often used as the citation form, as for many languages this is the basic form of a verb which is usually presented in dictionaries.
In language classes, children are sometimes taught to think of it as the name of the verb.

The Infinitive is the name of a verb, therefore per se it is a noun. This is characterized in English by the word - to - ie to walk, to swim.

The Turkish Infinitive has four forms of the infinitive, all of which can be used as nouns and can therefore take case endings and personal pronouns when required. The Standard Infinitive ending in -mek or -mak

If we say in English - she is starting to write - then the Infinitive yazmak - to write - is the object of the verb - she is starting ... - and consequently must be suffixed to show its relationship to the verb.

As the verb başlamak - to start, begin - signifies movement of some sort it governs the Dative Case in Turkish -a or -e.

To effect the addition of the dative suffix to yazmak the final -k of -mek or -mak is dropped and the resulting verbal noun - yazma - is treated as a normal object in the Dative by the addition of the suffix -ya standard dative buffer letter -y- :
yazmak - to write - becomes yazmaya başladı - she started to (to) write

It should be noted that we also use The Present Continuous Participle in -ing - (another noun) while translating in English so the above is often rendered in the following manner: yazmak - to write - becomes yazmaya başladı - she started writing.

Special Case - istemek - to want

The verb istemek - to want - is a special case as it causes no modification of the verb it governs:

yazmak istiyorum - I want to write
içmek isterler - they want to drink
kalmak istemedin - you didn't want to stay
çalışmak istemeyecekler - they will not want to work 

Note that this also applies in English - we also cannot say - I want writing - or - they want drinking.

Adding Suffixes to the Standard Infinitive in -mek

As the infinitive is a noun - then it can be suffixed with any of the case suffixes. We are taking for our model the Positive Infinitive - gelmek - to come - and the Negative Infinitive gelmemek - not to come.

Formation of the Short Infinitive Verbal Noun

To effect the addition of the suffixes to the infinitive - as an example içmek, the final -k of -mek or -mak is dropped and the resulting verbal noun then ends in -ma or -me becoming içme in this case. It is treated as a normal object in the Accusative by the addition of the suffix -yi etc. - thus becoming - içmeyi - (içme-y-i uses buffer letter -y-).

Similarly the Dative Object is formed in the same manner: The Infinitive - yazmak - to write - forms Verbal Noun - yazma - the writing - thence forms the Dative Object - yazmaya - to the writing.

Example of Verbal Nouns in English

Unfortunately we do not realize when we are using Verbal Nouns - but if you want to understand Turkish both written and spoken then we must learn to recognize them.

Some examples of English Verbal Nouns

The writing is on the wall.
The drinking of this water is prohibited.
Smoking is allowed.
Leave your suitcase in the the waiting room.
He is working in the drying shed.


The Positive Verb içmek - to drink or to smoke a cigarette - drops it final -k and is used to form içme - drinking, smoking as a noun.

With the addition of the accusative case it becomes içmeyi - the drinking, the smoking - as the object of a verb.

With the addition of the dative case case it becomes içmeye - to the drinking, the smoking - as the dative object of a verb.

The Negative Verb forms its Verbal Noun by dropping its terminal -k in a similar fashion - içmemek - not to drink - forms - içmeme - not drinking, not smoking - as a noun. The Negative Accusative then becomes - içmemeyi - the not drinking, the not smoking - as a direct object and the Dative Object becomes - içmemeye - to the not drinking, to the not smoking - as a Dative Object.

A note about Conversational Stress

This could be mixed up with the negation suffix -me but the difference is hidden in the stress.

When it is a Positive Verbal Noun then the stress is on itself as in - içMEyi.

However when it is a Negative Verbal Noun, then the stress is on the preceding syllable - İÇmemeyi.

We are already aware the negative suffix -me/-ma - itself is never stressed in conversation but always throws the stress on to the previous syllable.

Examples of Suffixed Infinitives

Note that Vowel Harmony and Consonant Mutation rules are followed when adding the standard suffixes - also the buffer letter -y- is used to keep vowel suffixes apart.

gelmeye çalıştı - he tried (to) to come - (Dative Suffix as an Object as the verb çalışmak takes a Dative Object = to try to..)
yüzmeyi severim - I like (the) swimming - I like to swim
onu yapmaktayım - I am just doing it - in/at doing it
sigara içmeyi bıraktım - I have given up (the) smoking - (Accusative Suffix as a Direct Object)

The Extended Infinitive Forms


gelmek - to come
gelmeye - to come
gelmeyi - to come (obj.)
gelmekte - in coming

gelmekten - from coming
gelmekle - by/with coming


gelmemek - not to come
gelmemeye - to not to come
gelmemeyi - not to come (obj.)
gelmemekte - in not coming
gelmemekten - from not comimg
gelmemekle - by/with not coming

The use of the various infinitive forms is best shown by example:

Kesmeyi bıraktı - He stopped (the) cutting
Sürmeyi öğreniyorum - I am learning (the driving) to drive
Gülmemeye çalışıyorlar - They are trying not to (to) laugh

The Infinitive with Personal Pronoun Endings
When the standard infinitive takes the personal pronoun endings it drops its final -k of -mek or -mak in all persons:


gitmek - to go
gitmem - my going
gitmen - your going
gitmemiz - our going
gitmeniz - your going
gitmeleri - their going


gitmemek - not to go
gitmemem - my not going
gitmemen - your not going
gitmememiz - our not going
gitmemeniz - your not going
gitmemeleri - their not going

Some Examples of Differing Verb Forms using the Infinitive

The Personal endings can of course be used with the Infinitive of the Potential Mood:

gidebilmek - to be able to go
gidememek - to not be able to go
gidebilmem - my being able to go
gidemememiz - our not being able to go
gidebilmesi - his being able to go
gidememeleri - their not being able to go

These personal forms can further be extended by the addition of case suffixes:

gitmem lâzımdır - It is necessary for me to go. Lit: My going is necessary
gitmesini bekledim - I expected him to go - gitme-si-ni - Objective Case
kalmanızı isterim - I want you to stay
kalmamanızı isteriz - we want you not to stay
kalmasını istemiyorlar - they don't want him to stay
kalmamaları istemiyorum - I don't want them not to stay

The Little Used Heavy Infinitive

This is formed by affixing -lık or -lik to the standard Infinitive for the positive verb. The final -k of -mek is often dropped when adding the -lik suffix.

The negative is slightly different in that the -mek or -mak changes to -mez or -maz.

gelmek becomes gelme(k)lik

bakmamak becomes bakmazlık

The meaning of the heavy infinitive is the same as the standard infinitive and is only used when there may be ambiguity in the context. The heavy infinitive is little used. The heavy infinitive can also have personal pronouns and or case endings added to it.

It does not however drop its final -k of -lik as does the common infinitive when suffixes are added although this final -k will mutate to a final -ğ when necessary before an added vowel.


gelme(k)lik - to come
gelme(k)liğim - my coming
gelme(k)likleri - their coming


gelmezlik - not to come
gelmezliğimiz - our not coming
gelmezliği - his not coming

A Special Case

How to say - To pretend not to...

The use of the Negative of the Heavy Infinitive in the ablative case followed by the verb - gelmek - means - to pretend not to...

This pretend not to.. form is a reduplicated negative ie: bakmazlık - becomes bakMAmazlık meaning - to not NOT to see...

It is mentioned here because in this form it is daily use.

Bana bakmamazlıktan geldi - He pretended not to look at me
Onu görmemezlikten geliyorsunuz - You are pretending not to see it
Ayşe hanımı görmemezlikten gelir misiniz? - Are you pretending not to like Miss Ayşe?
This construction is a special locution and only used with  - gelmek - as an auxiliary verb. But it is used widely to mean - To pretend not to...



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