Continuous present tense (‑ıyor/iyor/uyor/üyor)

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Prerequisites for this Turkish Grammar Lesson

To be or not to be

Changing ç/p/t/k to c/b/d/ğ

Yes or no questions

mı/mıyım/mıyız/mısın(ız)/-lar mı
Emphasis in questions

The most common ending for present tense

The continuous present tense ending is the first verb ending that a Turkish language learner needs to learn. This is because it is the tense that Turkish speakers use the most.

The ending is called “continuous” because it is used for actions that are happening now or actions that are ongoing. In linguistic terms, it is not a true “tense” ending at all. Rather, it is something called the imperfective or continuous aspect. But don’t worry ‑ you don’t need to understand what that means to get started.

Forming verb endings

Since the Turkish language is agglutinative, most grammatical forms are word endings, especially verb endings. In order to add an ending to a verb, you usually need to find what is called the verb “stem.” To get the stem of a verb, all you have to do is find the dictionary form of a verb and remove the “mak” or “mek” from the end of the word. For example, “yapmak” means “to do,” so removing the ending “mak” leaves us with the verb stem, “yap.”

Forming the continuous present tense verb ending

Grammar form:

  • Verb stem + i/ı/u/ü + yor + (personal ending)

After determining the stem of a verb, there is an extra step that needs to happen for the continuous present tense that does not happen for other verb endings. In this step, we check to see if the last letter of the verb stem is a vowel. If the last letter is a vowel, that vowel will get removed before continuing on with adding the verb ending. For example, if the verb we’re using is “istemek” (to want), the verb stem is normally “iste,” but for the continuous present tense, we will remove the vowel at the end of the verb stem to make it “ist.”

After we determine the verb stem, we add an i-type vowel according to the last vowel remaining in the verb stem. Then, after the i-type vowel, we add the ending, “-yor,” which is one of the few endings in Turkish that does not change vowels according to vowel harmony. The “-yor” ending is then followed by the personal ending, which changes based on who is doing the action. See the table below for the different personal endings for the verb “gelmek” (“to come”).

(Ben) geliyorum I am coming
(Sen) geliyorsun You are coming
(O) geliyor He/she/it is coming
(Biz) geliyoruz We are coming
(Siz) geliyorsunuz You (plural or formal) are coming
(Onlar) geliyor(lar) They are coming

There are a few things to notice about the personal endings for the present continuous tense. First, you may notice that these personal endings are exactly the same as the personal endings in the basic “to be” sentence structure. Note also that since the “-yor” ending always remains the same, the personal endings for this tense will always have only the “u” vowel to match the “o” in “-yor.” Finally, the inclusion of the pronoun (“ben”, “sen”, “o”, “biz”, “siz”, or “onlar”) is optional. Likewise, the “-lar” ending is optional, especially when the pronoun “onlar” is included in the sentence.

    Ben çıkıyorum.
    I’m leaving.

    You’re staying.

    Acı geçiyor.
    The pain is passing.

    Mehmet yaşıyor!
    Mehmet is alive!
    (Note that “yaşamak” is an example of a verb that needs to have a vowel removed before adding the continuous present tense ending)

    We’re sitting.

    Siz anlıyorsunuz.
    You (plural or formal) understand.
    (“Anlamak” also gets a vowel removed)

    They are waiting.
    (“Beklemek” also gets a vowel removed)

    I miss [it].
    (Note in this example that when the “e” is removed from “özlemek,” the i-type vowel that gets chosen for the verb ending is “ü” in order to match the final remaining vowel, “ö.”)

Handling irregular verbs

“Gitmek” and “etmek”

There are two verbs in Turkish that require a consonant change before adding a verb ending that starts with a vowel. These two verbs are “gitmek” (to go, to leave) and “etmek” (“to do”). For both of these verbs, the “t” changes to a “d” before adding the “-iyor” ending or any other verb ending that begins with a vowel. For example, “ben gidiyorum” means, “I am going.”

“Etmek” is a helper verb that mainly gets used in combination with words of foreign origin in order to make them into Turkish verbs. Sometimes these foreign words remain as separate words as in, “devam etmek” (to continue). Sometimes, however, the “etmek” helper verb and the foreign word get combined into one word as in “hissetmek” (to feel). So, while there are actually only two verbs that change “t” to “d” before verb endings, it may seem like there are many verbs that have this exception because of the many variants of “etmek.”

    O gidiyor.
    He/she/it is leaving.

    Biz devam ediyoruz.
    We are continuing.

    Kötü hissediyorum.
    I feel bad.

“Yemek” and “demek”

There are two more verbs that require special handling for word endings that begin with a vowel, including the “-iyor” ending. These verbs are “yemek” (to eat) and “demek” (to say). Since the verb stems of these verbs both only have one vowel and the vowel is at the end of the verb stem, the vowel will still get removed, but the i-type vowel on the verb ending will still be “i,” matching the vowel that was removed.

    Ben yemek yiyorum.
    I am eating food.

    O, “harika!” diyor.
    He says, “wonderful!”

Yes or no questions

Grammar form:

  • Verb stem + i/ı/u/ü + yor    mu + (y) + (personal ending)?
  • Verb stem + i/ı/u/ü + yorlar    ?

Forming yes-no questions with the continuous present tense is similar to how simple yes or no questions are formed with the basic “to be” sentence structure. In both, a form of the yes-no question word, “mu” is used.

Examples with “gelmek” (to come)

(Ben) geliyor muyum? Am I coming?
(Sen) geliyor musun? Are you coming?
(O) geliyor mu? Is he/she/it coming?
(Biz) geliyor muyuz? Are we coming?
(Siz) geliyor musunuz? Are you (plural or formal) coming?
(Onlar) geliyor(lar) ? Are they coming?

How to form yes-no questions

To make a yes-no question with the continuous present tense, we will start by adding the same “-ıyor” ending just as before. However, before adding the personal ending, we will add a space followed by the yes-no question word “mu.” After the “mu” word, a “y” buffer is added before the first person singular and plural endings (“mu-y-um” and “mu-y-uz”). The exception to this is in the third person plural. In this case, the personal ending (“-lar”) is added directly to end of the “-ıyor” ending before adding the “mı” question word.

Note that the yes-no question word changes its vowel according to i-type vowel harmony. In this tense the vowel in the “-yor” ending is always the same, so the matching i-type vowel will always be “u” for all cases except in the third person plural. In the third person plural, the last vowel before the question word is the “a” in “-lar,” so the matching i-type vowel will be “ı.”

    Ben ölüyor muyum?
    Am I dying?
    (Title of news story)

    Doğru yapıyor muyum?
    Am I doing [it] right?
    (Question from student about homework)

    İngilizce biliyor musun?
    Do you know English?

    Kazanıyor muyuz?
    Are we winning?

    Siz gidiyor musunuz?
    Are you (plural or formal) leaving?

    Bekliyorlar ?
    Are they waiting?

The 50 most common Turkish verbs with -ıyor

When you’re starting out learning a new language, it can be helpful to focus on the most common words you’ll come across. Based on our research, the following are the 50 Turkish verbs that get used the most often in the continuous present tense form.

This list was created using statistics available from TS Corpus v2, a large collection of Turkish texts comprising nearly 500 million words. To make this list, we first generated frequency lists of all the words containing “ıyor,” “iyor,” “uyor” and “üyor.” After combining these four lists, we filtered out the results where the same verb had different personal endings (e.g. “ediyor” and “ediyorum”), leaving in the form that occurred the most often in the texts. We also filtered out some results containing additional verb endings such as the passive voice. Finally, we filtered out a few words that are very common in formal writing but not very common in spoken Turkish.

Turkish Verb English Translation Frequency
ediyor doing 171,581
oluyor is, being 120,521
diyor saying 118,395
gerekiyor is necessary 117,537
geliyor coming 113,815
istiyorum I want 86,684
alıyor taking 77,001
yapıyor making 69,602
veriyor giving 62,580
çıkıyor leaving 59,612
söylüyor telling 57,505
düşünüyorum I think 56,008
gösteriyor showing 48,512
çalışıyor working 43,739
gidiyor going 40,192
başlıyor starting 39,717
bekliyor waiting 33,045
anlatıyor explaining 31,282
seviyorum I love 30,631
çekiyor pulling 28,746
biliyor knowing 28,142
inanıyorum I believe 27,597
geçiyor passing 25,796
getiriyor bringing 25,235
yaşıyor living 24,069
görüyoruz we see 23,992
kalıyor staying 22,535
giriyor entering 18,335
duruyor stopping 18,098
düşüyor falling 16,676
oynuyor playing 14,630
değişiyor changing 14,220
buluyor finding 13,857
konuşuyor speaking 13,780
açıyor opening 13,172
koyuyor putting 12,706
kullanıyor using 12,507
arıyor searching 12,247
yazıyor writing 11,946
bakıyor looking 11,920
benziyor resembling 10,995
tutuyor holding 10,414
soruyor asking 10,302
atıyor throwing 9,688
dönüyor returning 9,593
kazanıyor winning 8,481
yatıyor lying down 7,853
duyuyorum I hear 7,528
büyüyor growing 6,722
koruyor protecting 6,467

This lesson is a prerequisite for:

With / By / And

Using ile with pronouns
Using "neyle" and "kiminle"

Simple Present Tense or Aorist

12 uses of the aorist

Negative verbs

-mıyor musun?

Future tense

Handling irregular verbs
Asking yes or no questions
Pronouncing -acak/ecek

Dative case: to, toward

Using -(y)a with pronouns
nereye, buraya, şuraya, oraya

Accusative case: the direct object ending

When to use it
burayı, şurayı, orayı, nereyi
bunu, şunu, onu

Ablative case: “from” in Turkish

bundan, şundan, ondan

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