//Using Present Tense

Using Present Tense

In the video titled “Vacation Preparations”, we tried to emphasize the use of present tense as well as conjunctions frequently used with this mode.

Present Tense – Present Continuous Tense

In our previous article, we talked about the challenges in learning and teaching indefinite past tense which has no equivalent in many languages.

In this article, we will talk about another challenging topic even though it exists in many languages, present tense and indicative mood (-DIr) plus how, and in which context, they are used.

In Turkish as a Foreign Language programs, teaching the tenses usually begins with “present continuous tense” while some may follow a pattern similar to English teaching programs, and start with present tense. One of the things I find odd about the subject is the tendency to follow the same topic and grammar teaching sequence for all languages.

Since each language has a different system and logic, in my personal opinion, it is necessary to prepare a teaching program and topic arrangement that fits a particular language’s structure. I believe it could be more appropriate and more beneficial for the student to begin learning Turkish with present continuous tense instead of present tense.

Why present continuous tense has priority?

Present continuous tense, as the name suggests, indicates the present time; however a student who has learned present continuous tense can also use this tense to express future and present tenses as seen in below examples

* Ben şimdi Ankara’ya gidiyorum.
(I am now going to Ankara. present continuous tense)
* Ben gelecek hafta sonu Ankara’ya gidiyorum.
(I will go to Ankara next weekend. Future tense)
* Ben her ay Ankara’ya gidiyorum.
(I go to Ankara every month. present tense, implicit past tense)

Present Tense Contexts   

This is why students of Turkish are usually first taught present continuous tense, then past and future tenses. These three basic tenses (present, past and future) are adequate for the student to express himself on a basic level, and talk about an event or situation he saw, experienced, planned or usually does.

In Turkish, geniş zaman (present tense) covers a wide period of time. In most basic terms, present tense is used for actions done in the past, still in progress and mostly will be done in the future.

Someone who says “Ben sabahları yürüyüş yaparım.” (I walk every morning), we understand that s/he does this action regularly and has been doing it for a while. Therefore this sentence suggests past, present and future tenses all at once.

In Turkish, tense suffixes are not only used to indicate time, but also have other meanings.

Among these, present tense is particularly interesting in terms of the variety of contexts it can be used. In some of these contexts it is possible to use tenses than other present tense, but in some, it is impossible to use something other than present tense.

We can summarize present tense contexts as:

* Habits and repetitive actions.

As mentioned above, behaviors that became habits are usually expressed in present tense. However, it is also possible to use present continuous tense as well.

“Yalan söylemeyi sevmem / sevmiyorum.     (I dont like lying)
Babam her akşam haberleri izler/ izliyor.  (My father watches/is watching news every night)

* Unvarying facts

For scientific, proven or generally accepted facts, present tense is the most appropriate one. Using present continuous tense in such context is not inaccurate, but not very common either.

   “ Ay, Dünya’nın etrafında döner.” (Moon rotates around the world)
   “ Köpekler uçmaz.” (Dogs don’t fly)

* Request, warning, offer

For question sentences indicating a request, warning or offer, present tense is the most commonly used mood.  For 2nd person singular, present tense and competence modalities can be used together.

“ Kapıyı kapatır mısın lütfen?
      (Can you close the door please? – request)
    “Bana kalemini verebilir misin?”
    (Can you give me your pen? – request – with competence)
    “Televiyonun sesini kısar mısınız?”
    (Can you please turn down the volume of the TV? – warning)
    “Çay içer misin?, “Benimle dans eder misin?”
    (Will you have some tea?, Will you dance with me? – offer) 

* Prediction and probability

In prediction sentences both competency structures and present tense use are very common.

    “Hava çok bulutlu, birazdan yağmur yağar.”
     (It’s very cloudy, it will rain soon.)
    “Onların işi var, geç gelirler.”
    (They have something to do, they will be late.)

* Plan and draft

Present tense is frequently used for plans that are drafted, but not yet finalized.

“Hafta sonu dışarı çıkarız, bir yerlerde bir şeyler yeriz.”
 (We can go out this weekend, have something to eat.) 
 “Yarın onunla konuşur, sonra karar veriririm.”
 (I’ll talk to her tomorrow, then decide.)

* Narratives for stories, jokes, myths, etc.

As mentioned in the previous article, except from fairy tales told with indefinite past tense, most narratives are expressed in present tense.

“ Adamın biri tatile çıkar,……”           (One man goes to vacation…)
“ Kral bir gün askerlerini çağırır,….” (One day, the king summons his soldiers…)

* Imperatives and suggestions

   In some cases, the sentences constructed with present tense and directed to second singular person contain implicit suggestions or imperatives.

“ Orası çok güzeldir, gölün etrafında yürürsünüz,  yemek yersiniz.”
(It’s beautiful up there,  you can walk around the lake and have lunch. suggestion)
“ Beni sorarsa yok dersin.” </em
(Tell him I’m not here if he asks – imperative)  

As can be seen from these examples, it is not very easy for a foreigner to learn to use a tense with such variety in the correct context. Furthermore, the fact that present tense suffix “{-( )r} ” can be conjugated irregularly makes the process more difficult.

This is why the most common mistakes about present tense are usually contextual or grammatical.

What is this “-DIr”?

Another challenging topic in present tense is the use of indicative suffix, “-DIr”. In teaching Turkish, copulative verb is taught on a basic level, while the suffix

“-DIr” used for third person is usually ignored since it is not commonly used in colloquial language.

(ben öğrenciyim, sen öğrencisin, o öğrenci)

(I am a student, you are a student, she is a student. “dir” is dropped)

However, when learning about present tense, the subject of “-DIr” comes up again, and the student tries to learn the function of this suffix.

The function of “-DIr”

* As we mentioned above, “-DIr” is actually the present tense conjugated for 3rd person singular of the verb “imek” in present tense copulative structures; however it is more commonly used in written language and for definitive sentences.

In colloquial language, the sentence “Benim adım Ali,” (My name is Ali.) is almost never used as “Benim adım Ali’dir.”

However, as can be seen in below examples, you can see the use of “-DIr” in sentences that indicate something definitive, a reality.

“Türkiye’nin başkenti Ankara’dır.” (Turkey’s capital is Ankara.)
“ Aslanlar etçil hayvanlardır.” (Lions are carnivorous animals.)
“ Kampanya bir hafta daha devam edecektir.” (The promotion will continue another week)
* “-DIr” suffix, contrary to above examples, can add a “probability, uncertainty” to a sentence depending on the context it is used.
“Şimdi orada hava soğuktur.” (It must be cold there now.)
“ Uçak daha inmemiştir.” (The plane probably didn’t land yet.)

As you can see from these examples, the use of “-DIr” for both definitive and uncertain situations can be quite confusing for a foreigner.

In my graduate thesis where I analyzed the written expression mistakes made by 65 foreign college students, I discovered that they made both contextual and grammatical errors similar to ones below.

“Bence hayat burada güzel olurdur.” (correct use is “olur”)
“Ne yazık ki, son yıllarda çok kötü durum olurdu. (correct use is “oldu”)

Apart from grammatical errors, for those who experience trouble in differentiation the contexts of present tense and indicative mood, I think the best solution is to use “conjunctions”. For definitive sentences using conjunctions like “kesinlikle, mutlaka” (definitely, absolutely), and for prediction sentences, conjunctions like “sanırım, büyük ihtimalle, belki, herhalde” (I think, most probably, maybe, possibly) will facilitate differentiating these.

In this video you watched, we too used conjunctions together with present tense structures. We hoped it helped you understand the subject.

Ayşin Önder

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2018-05-06T13:19:40+00:00 4 Mayıs 2018|

One Comment

  1. Juan 20 Temmuz 2020 at 02:33 - Reply

    This article and this whole site is so good. Thank you! Some of the best and most professional content I’ve seen for Turkish learning

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