On the other extreme end lies Turkish. There are a few past tense structures in Turkish, however, we are going to highlight two crucial past tense structures which mind-boggles many learners of Turkish. These past tense structures are as follow:

-di’li geçmiş zaman “Regular Past Tense” -di
-miş’li geçmiş zaman “Story Past Tense” -miş

Under the regular past tense structure, the affix –di can latch onto verbs, nouns (or pronouns) and adjectives. In the following utterance, the affix is attached to the verb. For example, when referring to an action that occurred in the past:

1)      Gel-di


“He came.”

The examples below feature the combination of a pronoun and an adjective with –di respectively:

2)      Şöhret        değil-di-n-iz

celebrity    NEG-PAST-n-2SG.FORM

“You were not a celebrity.”

3)      İyi-y-di-m


“I was good.”

Kindly take note that there are buffer letters (n, y) in Turkish. It is essential to have buffer letters in Turkish to prevent phonological clash. The usage of buffer letters depends on the phonological environment of the word. For example, to avoid a sound clash when there are two adjacent vowels, a butter letter is inserted. Of course, there are also many other situations which make buffer letters a must.

Let us proceed on to the next past tense structure, which is otherwise known as story past tense. The story past tense structure is used when the speaker has heard something from someone else, thus, he will not be held responsible for any wrong information. The speaker can also employ this tense structure when he is unsure of whether or not the action took place. In short, the speaker is the not the source of information since he does not possess any firsthand encounter. Similar to the regular past tense structure, -miş can also be attached to verbs, nouns and adjectives.

This utterance displays the verb+miş combination (The speaker heard from the boy’s mother that he went to school):

4)      Anne-si-y-le                             konuş-tu-m.       Okul-a                   git-miş.

mother-POSS.3SG-y-POST    talk-PAST-1SG    school-DATIVE    go-PAST

“I spoke with his mother. He went to school.”

The following shows the noun+miş combination (The speaker heard that the prime minster was in France):

5)      Başbakan              dün               Yunanistan-‘da-y-mış.

prime minister     yesterday    Greece-LOC-y-PAST

“The prime minister was in Greece yesterday.”

The final example features the adjective+miş combination (The speaker heard from Yurcel that his friend fell ill):

6)      Yurcel-‘le         onun             hakkında    konuş-tu-m.       Hasta-y-mış.

Yurcel-POST    POSS.3SG     about         talk-PAST-1SG    sick-y-PAST

“I spoke with Yurcel about her. She was sick.”

On a side note, you might have noticed the different spellings of the regular past tense and story past tense affixes (-di, –miş). This is due to vowel harmony in Turkish. Turkish has two sets of vowels, namely the front and back vowels. Vowel harmony disallows front and back vowels to occur in the same word. Hence, grammatical affixes, such as the ones presented here (-di/ –tu, –miş / –mış), come in both front vowel and back vowel forms. This segment on vowel harmony in Turkish shall be elucidated later on! Stay tuned!

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