Should, must, need to (-malı/meli)

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Prerequisites for this Turkish Grammar Lesson

Negative verbs

-mıyor musun?

Yes or no questions

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

Using ‑malı/meli to say that someone should do something

There are a few ways of saying that something needs to be done. In this lesson, we will discuss one of the common ways of doing this: using the ‑malı/meli verb ending.

The ‑malı/meli ending is similar to how lazım and gerek/gerekli/gerekiyor forms are used to specify that someone needs to do something. In many cases, these forms can be used interchangeably.

One slight distinction between ‑malı/meli and these other forms is that ‑malı/meli more often gets used in sentences where in English we use words like “should” whereas “lazım” and “gerek” are more often translated as “need,” “needed” or “necessary.”

In the majority of cases, the ‑malı/meli ending means “should” in the sense of someone needing to do something. However, in some cases the ‑malı/meli ending can be a prediction that something “should be” or “must be” a certain way.

Grammar forms

  • (Verb stem) + malı/meli + (y) + (personal ending)

To show that someone needs to do an action, first find the stem of a verb. For example, the stem of “yapmak” is “yap.” Once you have the stem, add either ‑malı or ‑meli depending on E-type vowel harmony.

Finally, add one of the personal endings:

  • For first person: ‑yım/yim
  • For second person: ‑sın/sin
  • For third person: no ending
  • For first person plural: ‑yız/yiz
  • For second person plural: ‑sınız/siniz
  • For third person plural: ‑lar/ler or no ending

The ‑malı ending on “yapmak” (to do)

Turkish English
Yapmalıyım I need to do [it]
Yapmalısın You need to do [it]
Yapmalı He/she needs to do [it]
Yapmalıyız We need to do [it]
Yapmalısınız You (plural or formal) need to do [it]
Yapmalı / Yapmalılar They need to do [it]

The ‑meli ending on “gelmek” (to come)

Turkish English
Gelmeliyim I need to come
Gelmelisin You need to come
Gelmeli He/she needs to come
Gelmeliyiz We need to come
Gelmelisiniz You (plural or formal) need to come
Gelmeli / Gelmeliler They need to come

Example sentences with ‑malı/meli*

“Nasılsın?” “İyiyim, seni sormalı.”
“How are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” (Literally, “one should ask about you.”)

Başka çözümler bulmalıyız.
We need to find other solutions.

Sabırlı olmalıyız.
We should be patient.

İnsanlar güvenmeli.
People should trust [one another].

Biraz daha çalışmalıyız.
We need to work a bit more.

Güzel görüntüler olmalı.
There should be good [quality] images.

Gençlerimiz, dikkat etmeli.
Our young people need to be careful.

Veliler ilgili olmalı.
Parents should be involved [with their kids].

Uyanık olmalıyız.
We need to be alert.

Bu bir masal olmalı.
This must be a fairy tale.

Acele etmeliyim.
I should hurry.

Questions with ‑malı/meli

Acaba ne yapmalıyım?
What do I need to do?

Nasıl egzersiz yapmalısınız?
How should you exercise?

Nasıl okumalıyız?
How should we read?

Nasıl olmalı bilmiyorum.
How is it supposed to be? I don’t know.

Kimler kullanmalı?
Who should use it?

Neden kask takmalıyız?
Why should we wear a helmet?

Neden kefir tüketmeliyiz?
Why should we consume kefir?

Endişe duymalıyız?
Should we be worried?

Should I cry?

Should we be surprised?

The negative form: ‑mamalı/memeli

Like with many other verb endings in Turkish, you use the negative ‑ma/me ending to negate the ‑malı/meli ending.

Grammar forms

  • (Verb stem) + ma/me + malı/meli + (personal ending)

Example sentences with ‑mamalı/memeli

Panik olmamalı.
One should not panic.

Kökler kurumamalı.
Roots should not dry up.

Yemekler özenti olmamalı.
Meals should not be copies [from other cultures].

Yorgunluk mazeret olmamalı.
Fatigue should not be an excuse.

Bu düş bitmemeli.
This dream should not end.

Bağlıyız ve bu bağdan kurtulmak kolay değil. Ama teslim olmamalıyız.
We are bound, and it’s not easy to break free. But we should not surrender.

Exceptions: ‑malı/meli ending turning a verb into an adjective

There are a few cases in Turkish where the ‑malı/meli ending is not used with a meaning expressing “should,” “must” or “need.” Instead, the ‑malı/meli ending simply turns a verb into an adjective.

Verb Adjective form with ‑malı/meli
Seçmek (to choose, elect) Seçmeli ders (Elective course)
Çevirmek (to turn) Çevirmeli bağlantı (Dial-up connection)
Tartışmak (to debate) Tartışmalı konu (controversial topic)
Korumak (to protect) Kur korumalı mevduat (currency protected deposit)

More ‑malı/meli forms for further study

Here are some additional forms you can consider learning once you have learned how to use ‑malı/meli in simple sentences.

Turkish English
Yapılmalı It should be done
Yapmalıydı He/she should have done it
Yapmalıymış He/she apparently should have done it
Yapmalıdır He/she should do it (in formal writing)
Yapmış olmalı He/she must have already done it

* Unless otherwise specified, all Turkish example sentences included in this lesson were retrieved from TS Corpus v2, a large corpus of Turkish texts compiled from various sources.

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