On saying can't, might not, won't be able to, might not be able to etc. in Turkish

Thursday, December 04, 2008

There's a very interesting part in Chapter 8 of Teach Yourself Turkish (that I highly recommend) that goes over a concept that took a while to sink in, the difference between can't, might not, won't, and so on. It gives the following examples of what you say when you can't / might not etc. go to the cinema:

Sinemaya gidemem. - I can't go to the cinema.
Sinemaya gitmeyebilirim. - I might not be able to go to the cinema.
Sinemaya gidemeyeceğim. - I won't be able to go to the cinema.
Sinemaya gidemeyebilirim. - I might not be able to go to the cinema.
The book has a lot of information fit into a pretty small package so they weren't able to devote that much space to this concept, but I would add that it's much easier to remember if you think of the infinitive of these verbs first. For example, the infinitive for go is gitmek. Put a -me in the middle there and we have the infinitive to not go, gitmemek. Or you could put an -ebil in the middle there to get gidebilmek (t changes to a d here) to get the infinitive of to be able to go, and so on.

So taking a look at the sentences above one more time, first we have gidemem. That's the easiest one, putting an -e after the infinitive minus mek, then the ending mem that you see all the time.

The next one, gitmeyebilirim, can be formed starting with gitmemek (to not be able to go), then take off the -mek and put on -ebil (then put -mek back on the end) giving gitmeyebilmek (to might not be able to go), and then after that you just conjugate it like any other verb with -irim at the end for 1st person.

The third one, gidemeyeceğim, starts out with the infinitive gidememek, to not be able to go (somewhat similar to gitmemek, to not go, but the -e in the middle changes won't to can't), after which you just turn it into future tense like with any other verb.

The last one, gidemeyebilirim, can be formed first with gitmek, to go, then changing it into gidememek, to not be able to go, and then taking off the -mek and slipping -ebil in there (then putting -mek back on) to give the infinitive gidemeyebilmek (to maybe not be able to go), after which you conjugate it like any other verb with -irim on the end.

I don't expect that to be much help for those just starting to learn about verbs, but for those that have them pretty much down but are sometimes confused it may be some help. The main point for this post is: if you're confused by a verb, try to think about what the infinitive would look like. To view a conjugation table (but without -ebil forms in the middle) for the verb gitmek, see this page.


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