The “N buffer”: compound nouns with case markings (-sını, -sının, -sına, -sında, -sından)

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Prerequisites for this Turkish Grammar Lesson

Locative case: at, in, and on

burada, şurada, orada

Accusative case: the direct object ending

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

Dative case: to, toward

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

Ablative case: “from” in Turkish

bundan, şundan, ondan

Past tense verbs

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

What is the “N buffer”?

In Turkish, there are five word endings that are called case markings. These case marking endings show you what role a noun is playing in a sentence. The case marking endings are as follows:

  1. The accusative case ending (‑ı/i/u/ü, ‑yı/yi/yu/yü) marks a direct object.
  2. The genitive case ending (-ın/in/un/ün, -nın/nin/nun/nün) marks a noun that possesses something.
  3. The dative case ending (‑a/e/ya/ye) marks an indirect object.
  4. The locative case ending (‑da/de/ta/te) marks a location.
  5. The ablative case ending (‑dan/den/tan/ten) marks a noun that something else is moving away from.

There is one rule that affects how you use each of these word endings. Before you can add one of these endings to either a noun marked with the third person possessive ‑sı/si/su/sü or ‑ı/i/u/ü ending or marked as a compound noun (with the same ‑sı/si/su/sü or ‑ı/i/u/ü ending), you must first add an “n.”

In this lesson, we will call this the “N buffer.”

Fun fact: Linguists have long debated the origin of the N buffer, which is sometimes called the “pronominal n.” Some claim that the n was originally a part of the compound noun ending itself (-sın), but got removed in all contexts except before case endings. Others claim that the n formed a set of oblique stems in pronouns.

Grammar form with compound nouns:

  • (Compound noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + ı/i/u/ü (accusative)
  • (Compound noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + ın/in/un/ün (genitive)
  • (Compound noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + a/e (dative)
  • (Compound noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + da/de (locative)
  • (Compound noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + dan/den (ablative)

Grammar form with third person possessive:

  • Onun    (noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + ı/i/u/ü (accusative)
  • Onun    (noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + ın/in/un/ün (genitive)
  • Onun    (noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + a/e (dative)
  • Onun    (noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + da/de (locative)
  • Onun    (noun) + (s) + ı/i/u/ü + n + dan/den (ablative)

To use the N buffer, first you either need a compound noun or a noun that is possessed by a third person (his / hers / its). Either way, you will end up with a phrase that ends in the -(s)ı ending. After this ending, you just need to put a single letter n followed by the case marking ending.

Note: since the genitive case -nın ending already starts with the letter n for words ending with a vowel, the result is the same whether you remember to add the N buffer or not. So if you are already familiar with using the -nın ending, you won’t need to worry about the N buffer. We’ve included it in the list of case markings for the sake of completeness, but for the rest of this lesson, we will focus on the other four case markings.

Examples with a compound noun: “bal arısı”

Case Turkish English
(No case marking) Bal arı Honey bee
Accusative Bal arını Honey bee (as a direct object)
Dative Bal arına To the honey bee
Locative Bal arında On the honey bee
Ablative Bal arından From the honey bee

Examples with possession: “onun evi”

Case Turkish English
(No case marking) Onun evi His/her house
Accusative Onun evini His/her house (as a direct object)
Dative Onun evine To his/her house
Locative Onun evinde At his/her house
Ablative Onun evinden From his/her house

Example phrases and sentences

Sahibinden satılık
For sale by owner
(Common phrase used in real estate)

Ev sahiplerine uyarı: boş daireye perde takın.
A warning to home owners: put up curtains in empty apartments.
(Title of news story about anti-theft measures)

Sinan’ın arabanı uçurumdan attık.
We threw Sinan’s car off a cliff.
(From the title of a video)

Yük treni eşek arabana çarptı.
A freight train crashed into a donkey cart.
(Title of news story)

Gelin arabandan havaya ateş açtı.
He fired shots into the air from the bridal car.
(Title of news story)

Neon apartman dairesini tasarlıyoruz.
We are designing a neon apartment.
(Title of a video)

Vergi dairesinde kredi kartı geçiyor mu?
Are credit cards accepted at the tax office?

Bağdat Caddesini geziyoruz.
We are exploring Bağdat street.
(Title of a video)

Galata kulesinden İstiklal caddesine yürüyüş.
A walking tour from Galata tower to Istiklal street.
(Description of a video)

Mevlana Caddesinde satılık 3+1 daire
A 3-bedroom 1-bath apartment on Mevlana Street for sale
(Title of a real estate listing)

Ankastre fırın temizliği: kapağını ve camını nasıl çıkarıyorum?
Cleaning a built-in oven: how do I take off [the oven’s] door and glass?
(Title of instructional video)

Elazığlılar vişne dondurmanı çok seviyor.
People from Elazığ really love cherry ice cream.
(Title of news story)

Hasan Kökten havaalanını ziyaret etti.
Hasan Kökten visited the airport.
(Title of a local news story)

Aşçı Sırrını Verdi
The Cook Gave Up Her Secret
(Title of a cook book)

Eyüp Sultan Camiine yakın satılık daire
Apartment for sale close to Eyup Sultan Mosque
(Title of real estate listing)

Küçükçekmece’de 4 hırsız, yılbaşı öncesinde bir tekel bayiini hedef aldı.
In Küçükçekmece, in [the time] before the new year, 4 thieves targeted a liquor store .
(From a news story)

Using the N buffer with the word “hangisi” (which one)

In Turkish, sometimes the -si ending is added to the question word “hangi” (which). For example, instead of saying “hangi kalem” (which pen), you could say, “hangisi?” (which of them?). Since the -si ending that you add to “hangi” in this case is the same as the -si ending above, you will use the N buffer when adding case markings to “hangisi.”

Example phrases and sentences

Sen hangisini istiyorsun?
Which one do you want?
(Common question)

Ses hangisinden geliyor?
Which one is the sound coming from?
(Title of video)

Using the N buffer with the word “birbiri” (each other)

Likewise, since the term “birbiri” (each other) was originally a compound noun, you use the N buffer when adding case markings to it as well.

Example phrases and sentences

Birbirinden güzel şarkılar
Exceptionally beautiful songs (literally, songs that are more beautiful than each other)
(Common expression used on the radio)

LG monitörler birbirine benziyor.
LG monitors [all] look similar to each other.
(Title of a forum post)

Using the N buffer with the word “hepsi” (all)

Just like we saw with hangisi and birbiri, “hepsi” (all of them) is a word that was originally formed using the -si ending. So, you will use the N buffer when adding case markings to it as well.

Fun fact: Originally, the -si ending was added to the word “hep” (all) to make “hepi.” Then, someone along the way apparently made a grammatical mistake by adding the -si ending again to form “hepisi.” This grammatical mistake stuck and became the norm. Later on, most Turkish accents dropped the first i, making the new word “hepsi.”

Example phrases and sentences

Hepsini okudunuz mu?
Did you read them all?
(Title of a book)

Bir sürü video var, hepsinde düşüyorum.
There are a ton of videos, I fall down in all of them.
(Title of a video)

Using the N buffer with location words

In Turkish, there are many words for locations and directions that use the compound noun -(s)ı ending, so these words also use the N buffer.

Case endings with location words

Case Turkish English
(No case marking) Alt Underside
Accusative Altını [Its] underside (as a direct object)
Dative Altına Under [it] (toward the underside)
Locative Altında [Located] under [it]
Ablative Altından Out from under [it]
(No case marking) Üst Top
Accusative Üstünü [Its] top (as a direct object)
Dative Üstüne Onto the top [of it]
Locative Üstünde [Located] on top [of it]
Ablative Üstünden From the top [of it]
(No case marking) Arka Back
Accusative Arkanı [Its] backside (as a direct object)
Dative Arkana Behind [it] (toward the backside)
Locative Arkanda [Located] behind [it]
Ablative Arkandan From behind [it]
(No case marking) Ön Front
Accusative Önünü [Its] front side (as a direct object)
Dative Önüne In front [of it] (toward the front side)
Locative Önünde [Located] in front [of it]
Ablative Önünden From in front [of it]
(No case marking) İç Interior
Accusative İçini [Its] interior (as a direct object)
Dative İçine Into [it]
Locative İçinde [Located] inside [it]
Ablative İçinden From inside [of it]
(No case marking) Dış Exterior
Accusative Dışını [Its] exterior (as a direct object)
Dative Dışına Out of [it]
Locative Dışında [Located] outside [it]
Ablative Dışından From outside [of it]
(No case marking) Yan Side
Accusative Yanını [Its] side (as a direct object)
Dative Yanına To the side [of it]
Locative Yanında [Located] next to [it]
Ablative Yanından Away from [it] (lit. from its side)

Using the N buffer on pronouns

In the examples above, we saw how the N buffer gets added on between the -(s)ı/i/u/ü ending and case marking endings. However, this is not the only place where we use the N buffer. It also goes after pronouns that end in a vowel.

For example, take a look at the table below to see how case endings get added to the three “pointer” pronouns bu, şu and o.

Case endings with bu, şu, o

Case Turkish English
(No case marking) Bu This
Accusative Bunu This (as a direct object)
Dative Buna To this
Locative Bunda On this
Ablative Bundan From this
(No case marking) Şu This/that
Accusative Şunu This/that (as a direct object)
Dative Şuna To this/that
Locative Şunda On this/that
Ablative Şundan From this/that
(No case marking) O It/that/he/she
Accusative Onu It/that/him/her (as a direct object)
Dative Ona To it/that/him/her
Locative Onda On it/that/him/her
Ablative Ondan From it/that/him/her

Also, for some unknown reason, Turkish speakers started putting the N buffer on the pointer pronouns before the plural -lar ending as well:

N buffer in plurals of bu, şu, o

Plural pronoun English
Bunlar These
Şunlar These/those
Onlar Those

Ambiguous phrases with the N buffer

Now that you have learned how to use the N buffer, there is one thing you should know. In some cases, it is impossible to know whether a word has the -(s)ı ending followed by the N buffer or if it is the 2nd person possessive -ın ending instead.

This happens when there is a word that ends in a consonant and is possessed by someone using either the third-person possessive -(s)ı ending or the second person possessive -ın ending. The “s” gets dropped from the third person -(s)ı ending and the N buffer is added before case endings. And since in Turkish you don’t have to include the possessor (either “onun” or “senin”), you can end up with sentences that have two possible meanings.

For these sentences, you have to figure out who the possessor is from the context.

Examples of ambiguous sentences

Mehmet çayını içti.
Mehmet drank his tea.

Mehmet çayını içti.
Mehmet drank your tea.

Ayşe kitabını okudu.
Ayşe read her book.

Ayşe kitabını okudu.
Ayşe read your book.

For further study

There are a lot of ways to use the N buffer but we can’t cover all of them in this lesson. Here are a few more N buffer forms for you to consider learning next:

Turkish English
Kendi + n + i/e/de/den Oneself (with case markings)
Oradaki + n + i/e/de/den The one that is over there (with case markings)
Yaptığı + n + ı/a/da/dan What he/she did (with case markings)
Yapacağı + n + ı/a/da/dan What he/she is going to do (with case markings)

This lesson is a prerequisite for:

Using the suffix ‑ki

dünkü, bugünkü, yarınki
benimki, seninki, onunki
‑daki, ‑sındaki
‑kini, ‑kine, ‑kinde, ‑kinden, ‑kinin

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Direct quotations
Sounds and animal noises

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Kendi as a noun
Kendi kendi as a noun
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