Using “ki” to say “that”

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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

Beginner ‑mış/miş/müş/muş grammar forms


Simple Present Tense or Aorist

12 uses of the aorist

What’s the difference between ki and ‑ki?

In Turkish, there is both a word and a word ending that have the same sound, “ki.” This often causes confusion for language learners because both the word “ki” and the word ending ‑ki make complex sentences by putting together two clauses. However there are important differences between the two.

Although they sound the same, “ki” and ‑ki have different origins. The word ending ‑ki has been present since the time period of Old Turkic, which is as far back as historical record goes for Turkic languages.[1] The word “ki,” however, comes from the Persian language. The word was imported into Turkic languages at some point after extensive language contact.

Since the “ki” word was imported from Persian, sentences that use it often operate differently from other types of Turkish sentences and have a different word order.

In this lesson, you will learn the key ideas (pun intended) of using “ki.” For the sake of time, this lesson will only focus on the Persian “ki” – the one that is written as a separate word and not as a word ending.

Using the “ki” word

There are a lot of ways to use the “ki” word in Turkish. It can be used to introduce quotations, to express opinions, to make observations, to form exclamations or to make a parenthetical comment.

In most cases, “ki” can be translated as the word “that.” However, it doesn’t work exactly the same way as “that” in English. You can’t use “ki” with every verb, and there are very specific ways that it gets used.[2]

In order to learn to use it well, you’ll need to see a lot of examples.

Introducing quotations

The most common way way to use “ki” is to introduce a quotation of something that was said, thought, or assumed.

In standard Turkish, quotations are usually followed by the verb. Take for example this simple example sentence*:

Ben evet dedim.
“Yes,” I said.

However, you can use “ki” to switch the word order of this sentence:

Ben dedim ki evet.
I said yes.

Most of the time, when you put the verb before the quotation in a sentence, you will use the word “ki” immediately between the verb and the quotation.

Both of these ways of using quotations have essentially the same meaning and can be used interchangeably.

You will most often encounter quotations introduced with “ki” in casual spoken Turkish and in situations where the quotation is particularly long.

Example sentences

Dedi ki siz borçlusunuz.
He/she said that you are in debt.

Diyorlar ki: İstemedi.
They say that he/she didn’t want it.

Dedim ki yapar.
I said that he/she will do it.

Dediler ki: Hayır !
They said no!

Saying “I see that…” and similar expressions

Another common way to use “ki” is in pointing out an observation. “Ki” can be used like the “that” in “I see that…” or “I understand that…” or “I think that…”

Example sentences

Baktım ki benimle konuşmuyor.
I saw that he/she isn’t talking to me.

Gördüm ki çok yalnızlar.
I saw that they are very alone.

Anladım ki kış geldi.
I understood that winter had come.

Zannediyor ki hedefe varacak.
He/she thinks that he/she will reach the target.

Görüyorsunuz ki başardık.
You see that we have succeeded.

Saying, “It’s a good thing that…”

Another common way to use “ki” is to combine it with the word “iyi” (good) to say that something good happened or to express thankfulness for something.

Example sentences

İyi ki varsın.
I’m thankful for you (literally, “It is good that you exist.”)

İyi ki doğdun.
Happy Birthday (Literally, “It’s good that you were born.”)

İyi ki yayınlanmamış.
It’s a good thing that it wasn’t published.

İyi ki ben hastalanmadım.
It’s a good thing I didn’t get sick.

Common expressions that use “ki”

There are a few common expressions that use the word “ki” in them:

Turkish English
Tabii ki Of course
Belli ki It’s obvious that…
Demek ki I guess / it means that…
Neyse ki Anyway / luckily
Sanki It is as if…
Ne yazık ki Unfortunately / It’s a shame that…

Example sentences

Tabii ki istemem.
Of course I don’t want it.

Tabii ki inceleyeceğiz.
Of course we will examine it.

Tabii ki hepimiz insanız.
Of course we are all human.

Tabii ki görüşüyoruz.
Of course we are in contact.

Tabii ki farklılıklar var.
Of course there are differences.

Belli ki aç kalmışsın!
It is clear that you’re hungry!

Demek ki bir şey yanlış.
I guess something is wrong.

Demek ki; bitmemiş.
I guess it hasn’t finished.

Demek ki doğruymuş.
I guess it was true.

Neyse ki otobüs yeni.
Luckily the bus is new.

Neyse ki öyle olmadı.
Luckily it didn’t happen that way.

Biz ne yazık ki acele ediyoruz.
Unfortunately, we are in a hurry.

Ne yazık ki bu devam ediyor.
Unfortunately, this is continuing.

Ağaçlar sanki yanıyor!
It’s as if the trees are on fire!

Indignant exclamations with “ki”

Another way to use the word “ki” is to express indignation, frustration, anger or some other strong emotion regarding something undesired. To use “ki” in this way, you will put “ki” after a negative verb. This is especially common with the negative form of the aorist ending (‑maz/mez).

In these sentences, the “ki” functions like a verbal exclamation point. The syllable immediately before the “ki” is emphasized strongly in the speaker’s intonation, expressing the emotional force of the statement.

Using “ki” in this way is often a blunt way of expressing a negative emotion while also expressing surprise that someone doesn’t already know something, as if to say, “How could it be any other way?!”

Example sentences

Olmaz ki!
That’s not possible!

Anlamıyorum ki.
I don’t understand!

Yapamam ki.
I can’t do it!

Bilmem ki!
I don’t know!

Eşeği at edemezsin ki!
You can’t turn a donkey into a horse!

Using “ki” for parenthetical thoughts

Another way to use “ki” is to add a parenthetical thought or side comment about something that was just said. In these sentences, the “ki” is similar to starting a sentence with the word “which” or the phrase “by the way” in English.

Example sentences

Biz sadece yayımladık. Ki bu da görevimiz.
We just published it. Which, by the way, this is also our job.

Okulu çok ihmal ettim. Ki hâlâ ediyorum.
I neglected school a lot. Which I still do.

For further study: “ki” as “so that”

This lesson is an introduction to the basics of “ki,” but there are also other forms that combine “ki” with the “desire” verb endings ‑ayım, ‑asın, ‑sın, and ‑alım, as in, “yapayım” (let me do it), “yapasın” (may you do it), “yapsın” (let him/her do it), and “yapalım” (let’s do it).

Using the word “ki” and ending the sentence in one of these “desire” word endings gives the meaning of “so that.” That is, in these sentences, “ki” marks the purpose or reason for something happening.

Example sentences

Ara ki bulasın.
Search [for it] so that you may find [it].

Çıksın ki onlarla tanışabilelim.
Let him/her come out so that we can meet them.

Other “ki” forms

Here are some additional examples of ways you can use “ki.” Once you have mastered the basics of “ki,” you can move on to these more advanced forms.

Turkish English
Yeter ki As long as
Velev ki Even if
Kaldı ki Moreover
Halbuki Whereas, however
Ne var ki However
Madem ki Since
Ta ki As far as
Öyle ki Such that


* 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.

This lesson is a prerequisite for:

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Şimdi damda üç tane halam var. Onlar damda yatacaklar. Akşam, böyle… yaz akşamı. Dedim ki ben de geleceğim...

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