Beginner conditionals: how to say, “if…” (ise, ‑(y)sa, ‑arsa/ırsa)


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Prerequisites

Simple Present Tense or Aorist

-ar/ır/r
12 uses of the aorist

Existence

Var/yok
Var mı? Yok mu?
Using "yok" to mean "no"



How to say “if” in Turkish

In Turkish, the closest equivalent to the English word “if” is the word “ise.” You can use “ise” by putting it after nouns or adjectives.

Usually, “ise” gets shortened and used as a word ending instead of a separate word. The full “ise” form is not common in everyday speech and normally only occurs in formal speech and writing. In this way, it’s similar to “ile” (with/by/and).

The optional “eğer” word

Sometimes, Turkish speakers add the word “eğer” to conditional sentences, usually at the beginning of the sentence. But since “eğer” has the same basic meaning as “ise” (if), it is optional. That is, you can say “ise” without “eğer” but you can’t say “eğer” without “ise.” Since “eğer” is basically redundant, adding it does not change the meaning of the sentence significantly. Sometimes, “eğer” can emphasize the seriousness of a situation. Also, for longer or more complicated sentences, “eğer” can be helpful as a signal that the sentence is going to have a conditional meaning.[1]


Fun fact: “ise” comes from the Old Turkic “to be” verb 𐰼 (er-) conjugated with the conditional ending: 𐰼𐰾𐰼‎ (erser). In Ottoman times, Turkish speakers reduced “erser” to “ise.” Then in modern times, Turkish speakers reduced the form even more to make “ise” into the short ‑(y)sa/se form. The “eğer” word, however, is not originally Turkic but comes from the Persian اگر (agar)

Grammar form:

  • (Eğer) noun/adjective     ise
  • (Eğer) noun/adjective ending with a consonant + sa/se
  • (Eğer) noun/adjective ending with a vowel + y + sa/se

To make the full (more formal) form of ise, simply add the word “ise” after a noun or adjective. In its full form, the vowels in “ise” do not change according to vowel harmony.

To make the short form, first check to see if the base word ends in a vowel (a, ı, o, u, e, i, ö, or ü) or not. If it does, add a “y” sound before you add the rest of the ending.

Next, add either ‑sa or ‑se according to e-type vowel harmony.

Let’s get started with some simple examples.

Examples of “ise” conditional forms

Full “ise” formShort formEnglish translation
(Eğer) güzel ise(Eğer) güzelseIf [it is] good/beautiful
(Eğer) Mehmet ise(Eğer) Mehmet’seIf [it is] Mehmet
(Eğer) öğrenci ise(Eğer) öğrenciyseIf [he/she is a] student
(Eğer) öğrenciler ise(Eğer) öğrencilerseIf [they are] students
(Eğer) lise öğrencisi ise(Eğer) lise öğrencisiyseIf [he/she is a] high school student
(Eğer) çocuk ise(Eğer) çocuksaIf [he/she is a] child
(Eğer) çocuklar ise(Eğer) çocuklarsaIf [they are] children
(Eğer) kız çocuğu ise(Eğer) kız çocuğuysaIf [she is a] girl

Note that in these examples there are a few word endings that can go before the ‑(y)sa/se ending. For example, you can add the plural (‑lar/ler) ending or the compound noun ‑(s)ı/i/u/ü ending.

Example sentences

When you use “ise” forms, you normally end up with a sentence made up of two parts: a condition (“if…”) part and a result (“then…”) part. We’ve looked at how to form the “if” part using “ise” forms. The second part says something that is true if the condition is true. This second part can end with a “to be” form, a command, a verb in the aorist ‑ar/ır tense, or any of a variety of other grammar forms.

    Hava güzelse bisiklet zamanı.
    If the weather is good, it’s time for biking.
    (Title of a webpage for a school activity)

    Hakemler kötüyse bizim suçumuz.
    If the referees are bad, it’s our fault.
    (Excerpt from a sports news story)

    Yeşilse faydası var!
    If it’s green, it is beneficial!
    (Part of the title of a news story about vegetables)

Using “ise” with personal endings

The “ise” forms can also be used with personal endings to say “If I am…”, “If you are…”, etc. The personal endings are added directly onto the “ise” word or the ‑(y)sa/se ending. Note that the set of personal endings is the same as for the past tense ‑dı ending.

Grammar form:

  • (Eğer) (pronoun) noun/adjective     ise + (personal ending)
  • (Eğer) (pronoun) noun/adjective + (y) + sa/se + (personal ending)

Examples of “ise” forms with personal endings

TurkishEnglish
(Eğer) (ben) akıllıysamIf I am smart
(Eğer) (sen) akıllıysanIf you are smart
(Eğer) (o) akıllıysaIf he/she is smart
(Eğer) (biz) akıllıysakIf we are smart
(Eğer) (siz) akıllıysanızIf you (pl or formal) smart
(Eğer) (onlar) akıllıysa / akıllıysalar / akıllılarsaIf they are smart

Notice that for the third person plural, the ‑lar/ler ending can either go before the ‑(y)sa/se ending, or after it, or you can leave it off entirely. Most of the time, you will use the “onlar” pronoun and leave the ‑lar/ler ending off.

    Examples

    Onlar iyiyse biz de mutlu ve huzurluyuz!
    If they are doing well, then we also feel happy and fulfilled!
    (From a tweet by PTT, the Turkish postal service)

    Sadece fakirsen anlarsın
    You’ll only understand if you are poor.
    (From a TikTok post)

    Biz zenginsek bizim suçumuz ne?
    If we are rich, what is our crime?
    (Excerpt from a forum post)

Using “ise” with “değil” to say “if not”

To make a conditional sentence with a negative, you can use “ise” along with “değil” (“not”) to say “if not.” To do this, just add “ise” or ‑se to the end of “değil.”

Grammar form:

  • (Eğer) noun/adjective     değil    ise
  • (Eğer) noun/adjective     değil + se

Here are some examples of sentences with “değilse” or “değil ise.”

    Examples

    Şimdi değil ise ne zaman?
    If not now, when?
    (Title of an opinion piece about the Eskişehirspor team)

    Eğer D5 hücresi boş değilse “dolu” yaz.
    If cell D5 is not empty, write, “full.”
    (Excerpt from instructions on writing formulas in Excel spreadsheets)

Using “ise” with “var” and “yok”

To make a conditional sentence about the existence or absence of something, use “var” (“there is”) or “yok” (“there isn’t”) followed by “ise” or ‑sa.

Grammar form:

  • (Eğer) noun/adjective     var/yok    ise
  • (Eğer) noun/adjective     var/yok + sa

Here are some examples of sentences with “varsa” and “yoksa.”

    Examples

    Soda varsa içeriz.
    If there is mineral water, we’ll drink it.
    (Excerpt from a video of Hollywood actors dubbed in Turkish)

    Risk yoksa; sorun yok, kaybetmek yok, endişe yok… Ama ödül de yok!
    If there is no risk, there are no problems, no losing, no worrying… but there is also no reward!
    (From a motivational poster)

How to use “if” with verbs

You can also use “ise” forms to talk about hypothetical situations with actions. The most common way to do this is to use a verb in the aorist tense followed by the ‑sa/se ending. The verb can either be positive: yaparsam (“if I do it”), or negative: yapmazsa (“if I don’t do it”).

Grammar form:

  • (Eğer)    (pronoun)    verb stem + r/ar/er/ır/ir/ur/ür    ise + (personal ending)
  • (Eğer)    (pronoun)    verb stem + r/ar/er/ır/ir/ur/ür + sa/se + (personal ending)
  • (Eğer)    (pronoun)    verb stem + maz/mez    ise + (personal ending)
  • (Eğer)    (pronoun)    verb stem + maz/mez + sa/se + (personal ending)

The personal endings are the same ones you use when adding “ise” to nouns or adjectives or when using the past tense. And as usual, it is optional to add the “eğer” word or the pronoun (usually at the beginning of the sentence). It is very common to omit both.

Also, as before, there are three options for the third person plural: the ‑lar/ler can go before ‑sa/se, after ‑sa/se, or be left off entirely.

Here are some examples of sentences with conditions on verbs.

    Examples

    Biraz yürürsem geçer.
    If I walk a little, [the pain] will go away.
    (Exerpt from a Tweet)

    İstersen git.
    Leave if you want to.
    (Title of a folk song)

    Çalışırsak kolay olur.
    If we work hard, it will be easy.
    (Title of a sports news story)

    Takip ederseniz sevinirim.
    If you follow [me], I would appreciate it.
    (From a video posted on YouTube)

    Gelirlerse gelirler bakarlarsa görürler dinlerlerse anlarlar
    If they come, they’ll come. If they look, they’ll see. If they listen, they’ll understand.
    (Lyrics from a Turkish rap song)

    Daha dikkatli olursalar çok iyi olur.
    It would be really great if they could be more careful.
    (From a restaurant review on TripAdvisor)

    Yapmazsam olmaz
    If I don’t do it, it won’t happen.
    (From the name of a YouTube Channel)

    Olmazsa olmaz!
    It’s a must-have! (Lit. if it isn’t, it can’t be)
    (A common Turkish phrase)

    Takip etmezsen ağlarım.
    If you don’t follow [me], I’ll cry.
    (From a TikTok user’s status)

    Gelmezlerse toz oluruz.
    If they don’t come, we will become dust.
    (From an interview about the effects of COVID-19 on tourism)

For further study

There are a lot of ways to use “ise,” there is not enough space to cover all of them in this lesson. Here are a few more “ise” forms for you to consider learning next:

TurkishEnglish
YapıyorsaIf he/she is currently doing it
YapacaksaIf he/she is going to do it
YapabilirseIf he/she can do it
YapsaydıIf he/she had done it
YaptıysaIf he/she has done it
YapsaIf he/she were to do it (unlikely scenario)
Keşke yapsaIf only he/she would do it
Ya yaparsa?What if he/she does it?
Neyse, kimse, nasılsaWhatever, whoever, however
Lazımsa / gerekirseIf it is necessary
BenseAs for me…

Sources

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