Understanding the Turkish Accusative

Published on 14 January 2021

The purpose of this post is to answer: “when do I use or not use the Turkish accusative?” Most resources on the accusative describe it as a case ending applied to a definite direct object. Some say it’s the equivalent of when you use “the” in English. I found these definitions to be vague and often actively misleading.

Much of this knowledge is thanks to the Türkçe Öğrenelim Discord. Feel free to join the community and support them on Patreon.


This post is not intended for complete beginners of Turkish grammar. It will not explain any constructions or cover the basics of the accusative; there are ample other resources.

Why this post?

Finding a comprehensive resource for the accusative tops the list of my frustrations in learning Turkish (thankfully the Discord exists). I haven’t found a single public resource on the internet that goes in-depth into accusative usage. All of them try to summarize it in a single sentence by providing some type of rule or guideline – this guideline is usually ambiguous or incomplete. That is to say, if your goal is to use the accusative in all scenarios without making mistakes, no existing online resource achieves this.

My hope is that this article will get you close to there, though I can’t promise that I know Turkish well enough to cover all cases. The most thorough resource that I know would be the discussions in Turkish: A Comprehensive Grammar. I’d say, however, that one gets too detailed at some point. It’s worth a read if you care about this though.

Examples of incomplete accusative definitions

Below are some examples from different sources in defining the accusative. I’ve included these to contrast how trusting these definitions can lead learners astray. Thinking of the accusative as the case for definite direct objects is not incorrect, but it certainly isn’t comprehensive. The purpose of this article is to cover cases where the “direct object” definition does not suffice.

  • “Nouns that are affected by the action of a verb use the accusative case.” (Turkishaholic)
  • “In Turkish, the direct object gets a suffix when it is definite. The direct object is definite when it refers to a specific object or a specific collection of objects that is known to the addressee.” (elon.io).
  • “This is used for direct objects - the object that is receiving an action (the apple begin eaten, the wine being drunk, etc.). Note that cases only apply for things that have “the” in front of them in English (as the nominative covers ones that don’t).” (Duolingo Wiki – ew)

With plurals

The definitions above all seem to apply that the accusative provides specificity, but with plurals, its role is reversed. For most cases, adding the accusative makes a plural general; the lack of accusative makes it specific.

To put it another way, to express a general group, there are two options: plural with the accusative or singular nominative.

Plural accusative vs singular nominative

Insanları tanımayı seviyorum.
Insan tanımayı seviyorum.
I like to get to know people (people, as a general group).

Gömlekleri sever misin?
Gömlek sever misin?
Would you / do you like shirts (generally speaking of shirts)?

A plural without the accusative is specific:

Plural without accusative, specific

Dün ona yeni gömlekler aldık.
Yesterday, we bought some new (specific) shirts for him.

However, there are some cases where plural accusative is specific rather than general. I’m actually not sure what the rule is that distinguishes the example above or below. If you know, then please let me know, and I’ll update this section.

Plural accusative, specific

Gömlekleri sevdin mi?
Did you like the (specific) shirts?

Overall, this counters the oversimplified definition that the accusative is used to mark a definite object. The definition of the accusative as parallel to English “the” is especially egregious to me.

To close it off, as expected by the simple definitions of accusative, using it with the singular makes the object specific, not general (note that there are again exceptions that are so detailed it’s not worth mentioning here, see Turkish: A Comprehensive Grammar 22.4.3):

Singular accusative vs singular nominative

Gömleği sever misin?
Would you / do you like the (specific) shirt?

Gömlek sever misin?
Would you / do you like shirts (generally speaking of shirts)?

This discussion on the Turkish Discord is useful (and this section is borrowed from there).

With numbers

Most beginners of Turkish learn the rule, “no accusatives with bir or numbers.” However, this turns out, again, to be an oversimplification.

Indefinite numbered items

Bir çocuk gördüm.
I saw a child.

Iki kitap aldım.
I bought two books.

Referring to specific objects in context

The accusative can be used with numbers when referencing a specific object that is previously referred to in context.

For example, when you delete a message on Facebook, it says: “Bir mesajı sildin.” You had previously clicked this message; you know exactly which message is being deleted.

As explained on the Turkish Discord:

Accusative with bir

Bir mesaj sildin
You deleted a message (just any message)

Bir mesajı sildin
You deleted a message (that specific one)

Another example adapted from Turkish: A Comprehensive Grammar,, uses the accusative when the books were referenced and known to the listener as part of the first sentence, which can be thought of as a form of definiteness.

Referencing items in context

Kitaplarımı bana verdi, ama iki kitabı unuttu.
He gave me my books, but he forgot two of them.

With the possessive (but not compound nouns)

When using the possessive with a number, it will still take the accusative.

Possessive, number, and accusative

Bir kıtabımı ona verdi.
I gave him a book of mine.

Note that without the possessive, there is no accusative:

Non-possessive with number

Bir kitap ona verdi.
I gave him a book.

With question words

The accusative form of question words such as ne (“what”) and kim (“who”) will occasionally be seen. This can be used more specifically in place of a word that would normally take that spot in the sentence with the accusative. It often makes sense in response to somebody.


Ne yaptın?
What did you do?

Neyi yaptın?
You did what?

Kimi aradın?
Who did you call?

A: Zaten biliyorum.
I already know.
B: Neyi biliyorsun?
What (exactly) do you know?
A: Bu bilgiyi biliyorum.
I already know this information.

In the last example, I don’t think that saying “ne biliyorsun” would necessarily be incorrect, but neyi offers a certain amount of precision, in response to the verb (biliyorum) that speaker A used.

With verbal nouns

For example, when using any verbal nouns, such as yüzme or yaptığın, these will take the accusative if the verb requires it. As far as I know, these will not appear without the accusative (again, under the “direct object definition”, this was confusing to me. What does it mean for a verbal noun to be definite?)


Yüzmeyi biliyorum.
I know how to swim / I know swimming.

Almost all Turkish learners will learn how to express wanting to do a verb. This could be considered to an exception to the verbal noun accusatives above (since the infinite is considered a noun). However, there’s an exception to the exception!

When another word appears between the infinite and istemek, then it takes on the accusative -mA form rather than the infinite.

istemek can take the accusative

Seni dövmek istiyorum.
I want to beat you up.

Seni dövmeyi çok istiyorum.
I really want to beat you up.

Accusative and distance from the verb

This is actually a more general rule for the above. A word cannot be in the nominative and far from the verb. For example, observe the insertion of the word çok below and in the previous example.


Kedi çok seven bir köpek
A dog that loves cats


Kedi seven bir köpek
A dog that loves cats

Kediyi çok seven bir köpek
A dog that really loves cats

“You just have to know”

There are some cases where you just have to know that the accusative is required or not. For example, as a foreigner, one of your most common phrases:

A common phrase

Türkçe biliyor musun?
Do you know Turkish?

Türkçe biliyorum.
I know Turkish.

It does not use the accusative. Why? I’m not sure if there’s a sensible explanation. To me, it makes more sense that Turkish is definite here; it refers to a specific language, Turkish. But this is simply the way it is: there is no accusative.

In another example put forth in the Turkish Discord, the opposite is true with the verb sevmek. The accusative would be used here this time to refer to the Turkish language specifically. It would be incorrect to drop the accusative here.

Accusative with sevmek

Türkçeyi seviyorum. I love the Turkish language.

But it can also be used without the accusative:

An explanation in the Discord

“Türkçe seviyorum” could be used in a context where you like doing something IN Turkish. Like “in which language do you like watching series?” You could say “Türkçe seviyorum.”


This is by no means meant to completely cover the cases of using or not using the accusative, but hopefully it clarifies specific situations where the “definite direct object” definition is insufficient.

Finally, even if you don’t get these correct in speech or writing, don’t sweat it: what you want to express will probably be understood. Language is approximate. People definitely aren’t writing in perfect grammar on the internet – go check out some Turkish YouTube comments.