Lesson 14: Compound Prepositions (in front of, beside, under, since, etc.)

Multiple words can be combined to form compound prepositions. For example, in Kurdish “ser” means “head” or “top” (of something). Therefore “li ser” gives the meaning of on (top of) or over, and is also used to mean “about” something or someone.

Before learning some of these compound prepositions, it would be best to first learn a few new words.

ser head, top
bin bottom, under
ba, cem, rex, kêlek side
ber front, before
pêş front of, before
paş behind
pişt back, behind

You will notice that some of these Kurdish words have the same, or almost the same, meaning in English. Such is the joy of Kurmanji! Also, as we mentioned in the previous lesson, there is a great deal of variety in Kurmanji, especially with prepositions.

Prepositions with li

Many words combine with li to create compound prepositions.

on, on top of, over, above li ser
under, below li bin*
beside, alongside li ba, li cem, li rex, li kêleka
li paş(iya) behind
li pêş(iya) before, in front of
before, in front of** li ber

* Under is usually di bin…de but occasionally li bin is also used in certain contexts.

** Some dictionaries and books define li ber as “beside” or “across from.” It seems to us that “in front of” or “before” is more accurate (as in the sense of “before the King”, or “in front of the King”). However, you will certainly find Kurmanji speakers who use it to mean “beside.” This can become quite confusing, of course!

If you’re paying attention, you again notice that some of these seem to have the same meaning. In some cases, that is entirely true. In other cases, it is simply a matter of preference on the part of the speaker. Yet in other cases, there may be small nuances between them. It is best not to get too concerned with these small nuances now. They will either be explained in time or they will become clear with usage.

Let’s look at some example sentences.

The book is on the table. Pirtûk li ser maseyê ye.
The toy is beside the book. Lîstok li ba pirtûkê ye.
My friend (female) is beside me. Hevala min li cem min e.
The shoe is in front of (before) the door. Sol li ber derî ye.
Azad is under the tree. Azad li bin darê ye.
The boy is in front of the table. Law li pêşiya maseyê ye.
The girl is behind the table. Keç li paşiya maseyê ye.
The bird is in the tree. Çivîk (çûk) li ser darê ye.***

***Notice here that the idea is that the bird is sitting “on” the tree.

Note how pêş and paş are used in sentences:

Azad is in front (up ahead). Azad li pêş e.
Azad is in front of us. Azad li pêşiya me ye.

Prepositions with di

under, underneath di bin … de
between di navbera … û … de
among, in the middle of di nav … de
via, by (as in to go by way of a place) di … re
through the midst (middle) of di nav … re
over (with motion) di ser … re
under (with motion) di bin … re

Examples:

The book is under the table. Pirtûk di bin maseyê de ye.
The book is between me and the pencil. Pirtûk di navbera min û qelemê de ye.
Our house is in the midst of the forest. Mala me di nav daristanê de ye.

We will learn the present tense in the next lesson, but in order to give examples of some prepositions that are only used to indicate motion, we will use the present tense of the verb “to go” in some examples.

“We are going” is “Em diçin.”

We are going to Istanbul via Ankara. Em di Enqereyê re diçin Stenbolê.
We are going through the forest. Em di nav daristanê re diçin.
We are going over the bridge. Em di ser pirê re diçin.
We are going under the bridge. Em di bin pirê re diçin.

Prepositions with ji

to ji … re *
from over ji ser
from under ji bin
from beside ji ba
since, from the time of ji … ve (also sometimes ji … pê ve)

* This preposition is not always used in the exact same way as “to” is used in English. For example, in Kurdish you don’t say “Em ji Stenbolê re diçin.” (I am going to Istanbul.) Instead, you simply state the destination after the verb with the destination taking the oblique ending “ê”. So, the proper Kurdish would be “Em diçin Stenbolê.”

However, other verbs and situations would require ji … re to indicate “to.” For example, “I am saying to you…” would be “Ez ji te re dibêjim.”

These are things that need to be learned in context and through examples. Pay close attention to the examples given in dictionaries and grammar books, as well as how Kurds use these prepositions.

Examples:

to them ji wan re
from over (above) the table ji ser maseyê
from under the table ji bin maseyê
from beside the door ji ba derî
since that time ji wê demê ve

Prepositions with bi

with, along with bi … re, tevî, li gel
together with bi … ve

It can be difficult to understand the small nuance between bi … re and bi … ve. In her Advanced Kurmanji Reader, Laura Shepherd describes the difference as follows:

When bi … re is used there is a degree of physical separation between two people or items even though they are performing the same action. When bi … ve is used, there is no space between the items that are linked. In some way the two items have contact with each other. Additionally, bi … ve can be used as a shortened form of ber bi … ve (towards). (See pp. 3-4 of Shepherd’s Advanced Kurmanji Reader.)

Examples:

I am talking with Azad. Ez bi Azad re diaxivim.
The picture is on the wall. Wêne bi dîwarê ve ye. (The picture is making contact with the wall, not on top of the wall.)

A Few Other Prepositions

about der barê … de, der heqê … de
towards ber bi … ve
until, up to heta, hetanî
about you der barê te de, der heqê te de
towards the table ber bi maseyê ve
forward bi pêş ve
backwards bi paş ve
up to the table heta maseyê
across from li hemberî

In Kurdish prepositions often contract or shorten. We will list a few of the most common examples here. In these contractions, the object of the preposition is often implied or understood. These often occur after the object or person has been mentioned in a previous sentence.

ji … re jê re (to you, him, her, it, them, etc.)
bi … re pê re (with you, him, her, it, them, etc.)
bi… pê (with it, that, etc.)
di … de tê de (in it, that, etc.)

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

Kurdish

Navê min Azad e. Ev odeya min û hevalê min e. Em niha xwendekar in. Di odeya me de du nivîn hene. Ew li hember hev in. Di bin nivîna li milê çepê berkêşk hene. Li ba dîwara li milê çepê dolabek heye û du deriyên wê hene. Li hember dolabê maseyek heye. Mase di bin televîzyonê de ye. Li ser masê tu tişt tune ye. Li pişt nivînan paceyek heye û li ber pacê maseyeke din heye. Odeya me biçûk e lê ew xweş e.

Azads room

English

My name is Azad. This is mine and my friend’s room. We are students now. There are two beds in our room. They are across from one another. Under the bed on the left are drawers. Beside the wall on the left is a wardrobe and it has two doors. Across from the wardrobe is a desk. The desk is under the television. There is nothing on the desk. Behind the beds is a window and in front of the window is another desk. Our room is small but it is nice.