Relative clauses using -an/en/yan/yen

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Prerequisites for this Turkish Grammar Lesson

Past tense verbs

-dı/di/du/dü or -tı/ti/tu/tü
Asking yes or no questions

Future tense

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

Simple Present Tense or Aorist

12 uses of the aorist

Making complex sentences in Turkish using ‑an/en

In every language, there is a way to describe a person or thing with more than just one descriptive word. For example, I could say something like, “Could you toss me the green ball?” using the descriptive word “green.” But imagine there are a lot of balls and I wanted to use more words to describe the ball I wanted. I could say, “Could you toss me the ball that is rolling away?” In this case, the whole phrase “that is rolling away” is called a relative clause. It is an entire sentence embedded in another sentence that you use to describe a specific person, place or thing.

In Turkish, the ‑an/en ending marks a relative clause. The ending goes on the end of a verb at the end of the embedded sentence. The relative clause either goes before a noun or takes the place of a noun in a sentence.

Forming the ‑an/en relative clause ending

To start forming the ‑an/en ending, first 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.”

Grammar form:

  • Verb stem + (y) + an/en

After you determine the stem of a verb, check to see if the last letter of the stem is a vowel (a, ı, o, u, e, i, ö, or ü). If the last letter is a vowel, you will need to add a letter “y” before continuing on with adding the verb ending. For example, if the verb we’re using is “istemek” (to want), the verb stem is “iste.” Since “iste” ends in the vowel “e,” we will add a “y” before adding the rest of the ‑an/en ending.

After we determine the verb stem, we add either ‑an or ‑en to the end of the word. This ending uses e-type vowel harmony. That means the vowel will either be “a” or “e” depending on the last vowel in the verb stem.

Unlike most verb endings, you will not need to worry about personal endings with the ‑an/en. This ending is only used for third person (people or things that do not include you or me). So there will never be a situation that requires you to put a personal ending on this form.

Relative clause ‑an/en forms with common verbs

Verb -an/en form English translation
Yapmak Yapan The one who does/makes
Almak Alan The one who takes
Vermek Veren The one who gives
Gelmek Gelen The one who goes
İstemek İsteyen The one who wants
Görmek Gören The one who sees
Bilmek Bilen The one who knows
Anlamak Anlayan The one who understands

Longer sentences with ‑an/en relative clauses

Since relative clauses are essentially complete sentences all by themselves, they can sometimes be fairly long. You can put descriptive words before the verb that has ‑an/en to make the relative clause more descriptive. The words that come before the verb in the relative clause can have accusative ‑ı/i/u/ü endings, locative ‑da/de/ta/te endings , dative ‑(y)a/e endings, or almost any other ending.

Example sentences with ‑an/en

Kaza yapan otomobil markete daldı.
A car that got in an accident plunged into a market.
(Title of a news story)

D vitamini kullanan var mı?
Is there [someone here] who uses vitamin D [supplements]?
(Title of a forum post)

Arnavutköy’de kuyumcuya giren kadın hırsızlar kamerada
The female thieves who went into a jewelry store in Arnavutköy [caught] on camera
(Title of a news story)

Yeni başlayan Türk dizileri
The newly starting Turkish TV shows
(Title of a news story)

Kaldırımda oturan yayalara kamyonet çarptı!
A truck ran into pedestrians who were sitting on the sidewalk!
(Title of a news story)

Words and expressions that use ‑an/en forms

There are a number of words and phrases that were originally verbs with the ‑an/en ending, but now have become separate words in the dictionary.

Word or expression Literal translation Meaning
Bakan One who looks Minister (in government)
Çalışan One who works Employee, worker
Yeni doğan One who was born recently Newborn
Gökdelen One that pierces sky Skyscraper
Ağaçkakan One that gouges tree[s] Woodpecker
Buz kıran One that breaks ice Icebreaker
Can kurtaran One who saves life Lifeguard, rescuer
Yürüyen merdiven Stairs that walk Escalator
Gezen tavuk yumurtası Eggs of chickens that wander Cage free eggs

Handling irregular verbs

“Gitmek” and “etmek”

For two verbs, “gitmek” (to go, to leave) and “etmek” (“to do”), the “t” changes to a “d” before adding the -en ending or any other ending that begins with a vowel.

“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) and “kaybetmek” (to lose).

Verb -an/en form English translation
Gitmek Giden The one who goes
Merak etmek Merak eden The one who worries
Kaybetmek Kaybeden The one who loses

“Yemek” and “demek”

There are two more verbs that require special handling for word endings that begin with a vowel, including the -en ending: “yemek” (to eat) and “demek” (to say). For these verbs, the “e” in the verb stem gets replaced with an “i” before adding the ending.

Verb -an/en form English translation
Yemek Yiyen The one who eats
Demek Diyen The one who says

Using the negative form of the ‑an/en ending

Grammar form:

  • Verb stem + ma/me + y + an/en

You can also add the -ma/me negative ending to the verb stem before adding the ‑an/en ending. To do this, add either ‑ma or ‑me according to e-type vowel harmony. Then add a “y” before adding the ‑an/en ending.

Negative examples with common verbs

Verb Negative ‑an/en form English translation
Yapmak Yapmayan The one who does not do/make
Almak Almayan The one who does not take
Vermek Vermeyen The one who does not give
Gelmek Gelmeyen The one who does not go
İstemek İstemeyen The one who does not want
Görmek Görmeyen The one who does not see
Bilmek Bilmeyen The one who does not know
Anlamak Anlamayan The one who does not understand

Examples of negative ‑an/en forms

Türkiye’den vize istemeyen ülkeler
The countries that don’t ask for visas from Turkey
(From the FAQ section of a travel agency)

Gaz yapmayan yiyecekler
Foods that don’t give [you] gas
(Title of a post on a dietician’s website)

Using the ‑an/en relative clauses in place of nouns

Besides using ‑an/en to describe a specific noun, you can also use a phrase ending in the ‑an/en ending to take the place of a noun in a sentence. You do this when the noun you are describing with the relative clause is obvious from the context.

Example sentences

Gören bir daha baktı!
[The people] who saw [it] looked again!
(From the title of a news story)

Almayan pişman olur.
Those who don’t buy it will regret it
(Title of an online real estate listing)

Yeni gelenleri keşfedin.
Discover the new arrivals (literally, the newly arrivings).
(From an online store)

Bütün izleyenlerimizi saygıyla selamlıyorum.
Greetings to all our viewers.
(Opening line of a video blog)

Using ‑an/en with the possessive ending ‑(s)ı

To talk about people who have certain things, you use the noun possession ending ‑(s)ı followed by the olmak (“to be”) verb with the ‑an ending.

Example sentences with possessive ending

Para olan ne yapar, para olmayan ne der?
What do people who have money do? What do people who don’t have money say?
(Title of a blog post about investing)

Türkiye’de banka hesabı olanlar dikkat
Warning to those who have a bank account in Turkey
(Title of a news story)

Kimliği ve ehliyeti olanlar dikkat: Yapmayan para cezası ödeyecek!
Warning to those who have ID cards and driver’s licenses: those who do not do [this] will pay a fine!
(Title of a news story about a new regulation)

For further study: relative clauses using ‑dık

In this lesson, we covered one of the word endings in Turkish that marks relative clauses. However, you can only use the ‑an/en ending for certain relative clauses, not for all of them. You can only use ‑an/en if the noun that’s being described by the relative clause is the subject of the relative clause. That is, the noun that you’re describing with the relative clause has to be the person or thing that is doing the verb that gets the ‑an/en ending.

To illustrate this, let’s consider this example sentence:
“Mehmet gave a gift to Ahmet.”

In this sentence, Mehmet is the subject. If you wanted to describe Mehmet in Turkish by saying that he is the person who gave the gift, you could use the ‑an/en ending: “Ahmet’e hediye veren kişi” (the person who gave a gift to Ahmet).

However, if you are wanting to talk about the gift that Mehmet gave to Ahmet, you can’t say this using ‑an/en. You also can’t use ‑an/en to say that Ahmet is the person to whom Mehmet gave a gift. For these cases, and in other cases where the noun you are describing is not the subject of the relative clause, you use the -dık word ending:

Turkish English
Mehmet’in verdiği hediye The gift that Mehmet gave
Mehmet’in hediye verdiği kişi The person to whom Mehmet gave a gift
Mehmet’in oturduğu daire The apartment where Mehmet lives

Since the ‑an/en ending is difficult enough to understand, we don’t recommend trying to learn the ‑dık ending at the same time. But for now, it is helpful for you to know the kinds of sentences where you can’t use the ‑an/en ending to form relative clauses.

This lesson is a prerequisite for:

Whether this or that


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