Talking about alternatives (‑maktansa, ‑mak varken, mak yerine)

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Prerequisites for this Turkish Grammar Lesson

Simple Present Tense or Aorist

12 uses of the aorist

Beginner “kendi” forms

Using kendi with nouns
Using kendi with verbs

Past tense verbs

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

Instead of doing that…

Grammar form:

  • Verb1 + mak/mek    yerine    verb2 + (any tense)

This is the standard way in Turkish to talk about the differences between two options for things that could be done. Instead of doing X, Y could be done. Like in English, this can be in multiple different forms in the past, present or future. In each case, the first verb ends with the basic mak/mek ending followed by the word “yerine” which means “in the place of.” This is followed by a phrase for the other verb which is the proposed alternative. The second verb is the one that will receive the endings to indicate past, present, future, desire or command tense.

    Antibiyotik kullanmak yerine doğru beslenin.
    Instead of using antibiotics, nourish yourselves properly.
    (Title of news story message from health professional)

    Yüzük almak yerine cam şişeden kendisi yap.
    Instead of buying a ring, he made one himself from a glass bottle.
    (Title of photo gallery from news story)

    Yardıma koşmak yerine fotoğraf çektiler.
    Instead of running to my aid they took pictures.
    (Title of news story about a car that caught on fire)

    Makam aracına binmek yerine yürüyor!
    He walks instead of using the official vehicle [issued to him]!
    (Title of news story)

I’d rather die!

Grammar form:

  • Verb1 + maktansa/mektense    …    verb2 + (simple present or other tense)
  • Verb1 + maktansa/mektense    …    verb2 + mak/mek    daha iyi(dir)

This grammar form is used to express that a particular action is extremely undesirable. The undesired verb takes the ‑maktansa ending and is followed by another verb that would be more preferable, as if to say I’d rather do X than Y. It is often used with exaggeration for dramatic or comic effect. While the second verb is most commonly in the simple present tense, it can also be used in other forms. For example, if the second verb is in the “mak” form followed by “daha iyi,” then the sentence is describing a general truth, as if to say it is better to do X than Y.

    Seninle evlenmektense ayakkabımla bile evlenirim.
    Rather than marrying you, I’d even marry my shoe.
    (Quote from TV show)

    Seninle beraber gitmektense ölürüm daha iyi diye düşündüm ve yürümeye devam ettim.
    I thought, “I’d rather die than go with you,” and I continued walking.
    (Excerpt from short story)

    Ben sensiz cennette yaşamaktansa seninle cehennemde yanmak isterim.
    Rather than living in heaven without you I’d prefer to burn in hell with you.
    (Line from Turkish song)

    Sivillere ateş etmektense intiharı seçti.
    Rather than firing at civilians, he chose suicide.
    (Headline of news story)

    En iyi ilaç gülümsemektir… fazla ilaç sarf etmektense gülümseyin.
    Smiling is the best medicine… rather than consuming a lot of medicine, smile.
    (Statement made by pharmacists)

    Bir işi korkuyla yapmaktansa hiç yapmamak daha iyidir.
    It is better to not do something at all than to do it with fear.
    (Turkish saying)

    Acele edip hatalar yapmaktansa acele etmemen daha iyidir.
    It would be better for you to not hurry than to hurry and make mistakes.
    (Turkish saying)

When you could be doing something else

Grammar form:

  • Verb1 + mak/mek    varken    …    neden    verb2 + (any tense)?

This grammar form is often used when criticizing a decision made by someone else, as if to say when you could be doing X, why are you doing Y?  In this grammar form, the desired verb is followed by ‑mak varken, and the undesired verb comes at the end of the sentence, usually paired with a question word such as “neden.” This second verb can be in any tense, but it is commonly in the continuous present tense (why are you doing Y? ) or the desire tense (why should he be doing Y? ).

    Güzel güzel oynamak varken, niye kavga ediyorsunuz?
    When you could be playing nicely, why are you fighting with each other?

    Filmini izlemek varken niye okuyayım?
    Why should I read [the book] when I could watch the movie?
    (Title of blog post)

    Senin olmak varken
    Neden gideyim ben
    Öyle gülmek varken
    Neden susayım ben

    When I could be yours
    Why should I leave?
    When I could be laughing
    Why should I be quiet?

    (Excerpt from song)

    mak varken yürümek niye?
    When you can fly, why walk?
    (Title of book)

    Barış içinde yaşamak varken düşmanlık niye?
    When we could be living in peace, why [is there] enmity?
    (Title of opinion piece)

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