Lesson 13: In, at, on, etc.

Like many things in Kurmanji, prepositions are not standardized. You will encounter lots of variation in books, and especially among Kurmanji speakers. In order to keep our lessons as simple as possible, we will not repeatedly mention every possible variation, but we will try to mention some of the more common variations. For the sake of consistency, we will tend to use one option in our examples and exercises.

There is often no one-to-one correspondence between prepositions in different languages. This is true for English and Kurmanji as well. For example, the Kurmanji preposition li can be translated into English as both in and at, depending on the usage. But when combined with other prepositions, li can mean on, in front of, beside, etc.

Some of these differences can be understood by learning the logic behind certain uses, by noticing or learning general patterns. Some uses simply need to be memorized, and others are just “felt” as one you progress in fluency.

In this lesson, we will only introduce the basic prepositions. More complex prepositions will be covered in later lessons.

In Kurmanji there are basic prepositions and what we will call “compound prepositions” (when two prepositions are combined to give a different or more specific meaning). In this lesson we will introduce the basic prepositions. 

Note that nouns are almost always in the second form, or oblique case, after pronouns. In other words, feminine nouns will have the ending ê. As we discussed in the izafe lessons, masculine nouns will only take the ending î if they are used together with another modifier, as in “this man” or “this house.”

However, this rule is not always strictly followed, particularly with the prepositions bi and .


When used by itself as a basic preposition, li means either at or in.

li = at 

at home li malê
at school li dibistanê
at soccer (football) li futbolê
at the Library li pirtûkxaneyê
at the hospital li nexweşxaneyê
at the university li zanîngehê
at work (workplace) li kargehê

li = in

in Istanbul li Stenbolê
in Turkey li Tirkîyeyê
in Europe li Ewropayê
in the city li bajêr
in the village li gund

Notice also that li is used for asking or stating the location of something or someone.

Where is Azad? Azad li ku ye? (li ku means where)

The word der can also be added to this question. Both forms are used by Kurmanji speakers.

Where is Azad? Azad li ku derê ye?

In reply, li vir (here) and li wir (there) are used.

Azad is here. Azad li vir e.
Bager is there. Bager li wir e.


When used by itself as a basic preposition, ji means from.

from home ji malê
from school ji dibistanê
from you ji te
from the lesson ji waneyê
from Istanbul ji Stenbolê
from his bag ji çenteya wî
from that man ji wî zilamî

This is also used to asked where someone is from.

Where are you from? Tu ji ku derê yî?
Where is he from? Ew ji ku derê ye?
Where is this from? Ev ji ku ye? (The idea here is asking where something came from.)

NOTE: derê is frequently omitted. So “Tu ji ku yî?” is acceptable as well.


When used by itself (not together with other prepositions), di…de means in.

in the school di dibistanê de
in the university di zanîngehê de
in the library di pirtûkxaneyê de
in the class(room) di polê de

The aim in the sentence above is to stress that something or someone is in or inside the place (school, university, etc.), not simply at the place.

Of course, when used with an enclosed space, di…de logically means in without any particular emphasis or contrast. For example:

in the refrigerator di sarincê de
in the box di qutiyê de (box = qutî (f))
in the room di odeyê de
in the car di erebeyê de


When used by itself (not together with other prepositions), bi means by or with. This preposition has a number of uses in Kurmanji.

For stating modes of transportation:

by car bi erebeyê
by bus bi otobozê
by airplane bi balafirê
by taxi bi taksiyê
by foot bi peyatî

Performing a task by means of an object, tool, etc.:

with a knife bi kêrê
with a pen/pencil bi pênûsê
with a dictionary bi ferhengê
with Azad’s help bi alîkariya Azad (alîkarî = help)

For referring to things being written or spoken in a language:

in Kurdish bi kurdî
in the Kurdish language bi zimanê kurdî

For referring to the view or preference of a person:

in my opinion/my way of thinking bi min
in her opinion bi wê
in his opinion bi wî

means without.

tea without milk çaya bê şîr
without me bê min
without a doubt bê guman
without fear bê tirs


Remember that these Quizlet sets allow for lots of study and test options. For an explanation of these options, see this page.

Remember that these Quizlet sets allow for lots of study and test options. For an explanation of these options, see this page.

Exercise 1

Exercise 2

In this lesson we will begin to introduce readings. Initially, these will be short and simple, but they will get progressively longer and more complex. The goal of the readings is to allow you to see grammar and vocabulary used in context. We will aim to use as little new vocabulary as possible in the readings.


Navê min Azad e. Ez ji Mêrdînê me. Ez bîst û yek salî me. Ez niha li Stenbolê xwendekar im lê ez ne xwendekarekî pir baş im. Malbata min hê li Mêrdînê ye. Bav, dê, du xwişk û birayekî min hene. Li Stenbolê êdî pir hevalên min hene. Di nav me de têkiliyeke pir nêzîk heye.


My name is Azad. I am from Mardin. I am twenty-one years old. Now I am (a) student in Istanbul, but I am not a really good student. My family is still in Mardin. I have (a) father, mother, two sisters, and a brother. In Istanbul I have many friends now. We have a close relationship. (Literal translation to English: Between us there is a close relationship.)