Turkish 158 - Relative Clauses 1: -(y)En

Sentences consist of substructures called clauses. Clauses are the smallest possible units of language that express a proposition. In linguistics, a proposition is a statement expressing something true or false, or expressing an opinion or a question.

Until now, you have mostly seen sentences consisting of a single clause. In this lesson you will be introduced to sentences with two clauses. These sentences consist of a matrix clause and an embedded clause, also known as a relative clause.

The sentence I see the man who is running contains the following clauses:

Matrix ClauseEmbedded Clause
I see the man who is runningwho is running

A matrix clause contains an embedded clause. In sentences with multiple embedded clauses, an embedded clause can at the same time be a matrix clause if it contains an embedded clause itself.

The Turkish language has three suffixes for creating embedded clauses: -(y)En, -(y)EcEk and -Dİk. In this lesson, you will learn about the suffix -(y)En.

Whereas in English, the verb in the embedded clause is inflected according to tense and mood, in Turkish it is not.

Complex SentencesMatrix ClauseEmbedded Clause
Present ContinuousKoşan adamı görüyorum.
I see the man who is running.
who is running
FutureKoşan adamı göreceğim.
I will see the man who will run.
who will run
Simple Past TenseKoşan adamı gördüm.
I saw the man who ran.
who ran

In English, the tense of the embedded clause can be different from the tense of the matrix clause. For example you can say I will see the man who ran or I saw the man who will run.

In Turkish, we cannot change the conjugation of the verb in the relative clause. Instead, if the tense of the relative clause is not clear from the context, in order to convey the tense we use lexical means, i.e. we insert words that convey the tense.

For example, we can say Dün koşan adamı görüyorum. In this sentence, the word dün makes clear that the running happened in the past, even though we are seeing the man now.