Lesson 15: Verbs – Present Tense

Now that we’ve learned a number of building blocks, we can finally begin putting together more meaningful sentences! Before learning the forms, you need to know two things about the present tense in Kurmanji.

  1. There is no difference in form between present simple (He goes…) and present continuous in Kurmanji (He is going…). The difference becomes clear from the context. There is, however, a different form for the present perfect (I have gone…), but we will learn that later. In this lesson we will learn the present simple / present continuous form.
  1. In order to form the present simple or present continuous in Kurmanji, you first have to know how to find the present tense stem from the infinitive form. (The infinitive form is the form you find listed in the dictionary. In English, the infinitive always starts with “to.” For example, “to read” is an infinitive form.) Finding the present tense stem can be a little challenging, especially at the beginning. There are a couple of ways to do this:

a. You can check a dictionary or resource that lists the present tense stem. For example, if you look at the Wikiferheng entry for xwendin (to read), the fifth bold, black subheading is “Tewîn.” Under that heading you will see -xwîn-. This is the present tense stem of xwendin. Some print dictionaries will list the present tense stem as well.

Some grammar books will also list the main forms of verbs in a reference section in the back of the book.

b. There are some general patterns that you can learn to fairly consistently predict the present stem of many verbs. Those patterns are listed on the next slide.

There are three main groups of verbs that have some degree of predictability in finding the present tense root.

Group 1

If the infinitive form ends in an, ûn, în, istin, irin, the ending drops and what remains is the present stem.

For example:

English Infinitive Kurdish Infinitive Present Stem
to dig kolan -kol-
to be/become bûn -b-
to ask pirsîn -pirs-
to drop (let fall) xistin -x-
to do (something) kirin -k-

Group 2

If the verb infinitive ends in –andin or –endin, there are two ways to think about how to find the root (use the way that is easiest for you to remember):

a. One way is to drop the andin/endin and then add în to what remains.

b. Another way is to drop the -din and change the a or e to an î.

For example:

English Infinitive Kurdish Infinitive Present Stem
to read xwendin -xwîn-
to write nivîsandin -nivîsîn-
to pull (something) kişandin -kişîn-
to decorate xemilandin -xemilîn-

 

Group 3

This group is not a consistent pattern, but there are some similarities among them. It may be helpful to study these, or you may prefer to simply consult a dictionary.

If the verb infinitive ends in -astin, -aştin, -artin, -tin, the a changes to ê. The consonant following the ê will vary depending on the infinitive stem. See the examples below.

English Infinitive Kurdish Infinitive Present Stem
to protect/defend parastin -parêz-
to roast, toast, grill biraştin -birêj-
to throw avêtin -avêj-
to count jimartin -jimêr-

(Note: Some dictionaries also list hejimartin for count, along with 10 other words.)

Beyond these patterns, you will simply need to consult a dictionary to learn the present stem. There are a number of exceptions and verbs that don’t fit a pattern.

We suggest memorizing the past and present stem any time you learn a new verb. Yes, unfortunately, the past tense stem is different from the present tense stem. But it all settles in your mind after a while.

Now that we’ve figured out how to find the present tense stem of verbs, let’s look at the forms of present simple / present continuous.

Present Tense Positive

In Kurmanji the present tense form for a positive sentence is as follows:

di + present tense root + personal ending

With few exceptions, every present tense positive verb will have di at the beginning. These exceptions are discussed on the Exceptions tab.

The personal endings are just like the “to be” verb we learned in Lesson 3.

I im
You î
He/she/it e
We in
You in
They in

 

Now let’s look at the forms for a very common verb, kirin (to do).

I do/am doing Ez dikim
You (singular) do/are doing Tu dikî
He/she/it does/is doing Ew dike
We do/are doing Em dikin
You (plural) do/are doing Hûn dikin
They do/are doing Ew dikin
 

Note: In Kurmanji this verb is frequently combined with other words to form compound verbs. Here are a few examples:

alîkar kirin to help
guhdar kirin to listen (to)
temaşe kirin to watch
Remember! Like we saw with the “to be” verb in Lesson 3, word order does not change in Kurmanji for a question. In speech a question is indicated by voice inflection. In writing a question is indicated by punctuation at the end of the sentence.
Here are a few more examples of present tense positive verbs:

çûn, çûndin = to go (present root: -ç-) xebitîn = to work (present root: -xebit-)
I go / am going Ez diçim I work / am working Ez dixebitim
You go / are going Tu diçî You work / are working Tu dixebitî
She goes / is going Ew diçe She works / is working Ew dixebite
We go / are going Em diçin We work / are working Em dixebitin
You go / are going Hûn diçin You work / are working Hûn dixebitin
They go / are going Ew diçin They work / are working Ew dixebitin
dîtin = to see, to find (-bîn-) xwestin = to want (present root: -xwaz-)
I see / am seeing Ez dibînim I want Ez dixwazim
You see / are seeing Tu dibînî You want Tu dixwazî
He sees / is seeing Ew dibîne She wants Ew dixwaze
We see / are seeing Em dibînin We want Em dixwazin
You see / are seeing Hûn dibînin You want Hûn dixwazin
They see / are seeing Ew dibînin They want Ew dixwazin

Present Tense Negative

A present tense negative sentence is formed as follows:

na + present tense root + personal ending

With few exceptions, every present tense positive verb will have na at the beginning. These exceptions are discussed on the Exceptions tab.

The personal endings are the same as for the “to be” verb and for the present tense positive verbs.

Here are the negative forms for kirin:

I don’t / am not doing Ez nakim
You (singular) don’t / are not doing Tu nakî
He, She, It doesn’t / is not doing Ew nake
We don’t / are not doing Em nakin
You (plural) don’t / are not doing Hûn nakin
They don’t / are not doing Ew nakin
See the next slide for a few more examples of negative present tense verbs. 

Here are a few more examples of present tense negative verbs: 

çûn, çûndin = to go (present root: -ç-) xebitîn = to work (present root: -xebit-)
I don’t go/am not going Ez naçim I don’t work/am not working Ez naxebitim
You don’t go/aren’t going Tu naçî You don’t work/are not working Tu naxebitî
She doesn’t go/isn’t going Ew naçe He doesn’t work/isn’t working Ew naxebite
We don’t go/aren’t going Em naçin We don’t work/aren’t working Em naxebitin
You don’t go/aren’t going Hûn naçin You don’t work/aren’t working Hûn naxebitin
They don’t go/aren’t going Ew naçin They don’t work/aren’t working Ew naxebitin
dîtin = to see, to find (-bîn-) xwestin = to want (-xwaz-)
I don’t see / am not seeing Ez nabînim I don’t want Ez naxwazim
You don’t see / aren’t seeing Tu nabînî You don’t want Tu naxwazî
He doesn’t see / isn’t seeing Ew nabîne She doesn’t want Ew naxwaze
We don’t see / aren’t seeing Em nabînin We don’t want Em naxwazin
You don’t see / aren’t seeing Hûn nabînin You don’t want Hûn naxwazin
They don’t see / aren’t seeing Ew nabînin They don’t want Ew naxwazin

We mentioned earlier that there are a few exceptions to the rule that di- or na- comes at the beginning of the present tense verbs in Kurmanji. There are 2 main cases in which this occurs:

1. Verbs that already have a prefix on them in the infinitive form.*

2. A couple of irregular verbs.

* As we’ve mentioned before, Kurmanji is not standard from region to region. There are some regions that do NOT place the di after the prefix. However, it seems more common to place the di after the prefix, so that is the default we will use here.

Prefixed Verbs

There are a few common prefixes that occur with verbs in Kurmanji. Here are some prefixes you’ll encounter in Kurmanji verbs:çê-

  • çê-
  • ve-
  • hil-
  • wer-
  • ra-
  • da-

And here are a few examples of prefixed verbs in the present tense:

çêkirin (to make) I am making Ez çêdikim
I am not making Ez çênakim
vekirin (to open something) He is opening Ew vedike
He is not opening Ew venake
hilbijartin (to choose, elect) You are choosing Hûn hildibijêrin
You are not choosing Hûn hilnabijêrin
wergerandin (to translate) They are translating Ew werdigerînin
They are not translating Ew wernagerînin
rakirin (to lift, remove, etc.) We are lifting Em radikin
We are not lifting Em ranakin
daketin (to descend, land, etc.) The plane is descending Balafir dadikeve
The plane is not landing Balafir danakeve

Irregular Verbs

At this point, we need to mention that two verbs do not take na- in the negative form, but ni-. These are simply irregular verbs that you need to memorize.

zanîn (to know) I don’t know. Ez nizanim.
You don’t know. Tu nizanî.
She doesn’t know. Ew nizane.
We don’t know. Em nizanin.
You don’t know. Hûn nizanin.
They don’t know. Ew nizanin.
karîn (to be able to) I can’t. Ez nikarim.
You can’t. Tu nikarî.
He can’t. Ew nikare.
We can’t. Em nikarin.
You can’t. Hûn nikarin.
They can’t. Ew nikarin.

When learning any verb in a foreign language, it is always helpful to learn at least one or two examples of how it is used. Sometimes things don’t translate word for word into a new language. A verb that is usually used with the preposition “to” in English, might not take the preposition “to” in another language. Or it may take no preposition at all, as we’ll see in some of the examples below.

This is where a good dictionary, or simple texts in Kurdish can be immensely helpful. We’ll try to give one or two examples in Kurdish when we introduce new verbs, but if not, you’ll need to check your dictionary or ask a Kurdish friend.

Let’s look at a few examples of verbs in use.

1. çûn, çûndin (to go) (You can also see this as çûyîn sometimes.)

In English, if we mention the place to which we are going, we use the preposition “to.” As we learned in Lesson 14, the preposition “to” in Kurdish is often ji…re. So, you might expect to say something like this:

I am going home. Ez diçim ji malê re. This is INCORRECT.

In Kurmanji, the preposition “to” is NOT used with çûn. The place to which one is going comes AFTER the verb çûn in the sentence.

Example: 

I am going home. Ez diçim malê.
She is going to school. Ew diçe dibistanê.
They are going to the match. Ew diçin maçê.
2. dan (to give) 

This verb functions like çûn in both languages. In English, we often say that we give something to someone. So, you might expect this in Kurdish:

I am giving the book to you. Ez pirtûkê ji te re didim. But this is not the most common use.

In Kurmanji, the person to whom we are giving something normally comes after the verb dan. (You can find exceptions to this in use, particularly in long, complex sentences, but in a simple sentence the person to whom something is giving is stated after dan.)

I am giving the book to you. Ez pirtûkê didim te.
3. nêrîn (to look, look at) 

In English, we talk about looking at something or someone. Kurmanji functions similarly. As we learned in Lesson 13, in Kurmanji we often use li for at (although li can be translated in other ways as well).

Li is used with the verb nêrîn when stating the object at which one is looking.

They are looking at us. Ew li me dinêrin.
We are looking at the book. Em li pirtûkê dinêrin.
At what are you looking? Hûn li çi dinêrin?

Again, a good dictionary will often give an example or two of how verbs are used in real life.

4. telefon kirin (to telephone someone) 

Some compound verbs in Kurmanji that are made with kirin do something interesting. Telefon kirin is an example of this.

An î is added to telefon, and the person who is being phone is mentioned before kirin.

I am telephoning her. Ez telefonî wê dikim.
They are telephoning those students. Ew telefonî wan xwendekaran dikin.
Why are you telephoning me? Tu çima telefonî min dikî?

NOTE: Not all verbs made with kirin function this way. This is why it is particularly important to learn an example sentence or two when you learn a new verb.

5. bûn (to be/become) 

This verb is a special case in Kurmanji. In English, we have two different words to distinguish between being and becoming. In Kurmanji, this is not the case. The distinction is made in other ways.

a. When bûn is used with a noun (something like “teacher”):

To say “I am a teacher.” (state of being, NOT the process of becoming), you would say:

Ez mamoste me. (We saw this in Lesson 3.)

However, to say “I am becoming a teacher.” (in the processing of becoming):

Ez dibim mamoste.

b. When bûn is used with an adjective (something like “happy” or “sad”):

To say “I am happy.” (state of being, NOT the process of becoming), you would say:

Ez şa me. (There are a number of words used for happy: şa, dilşad, bextiyar, etc.)

To say “I am becoming (getting) happy.” (in the process of becoming):

Ez şa dibim.

The difference here, of course, is that for state of being (I am, etc.), the noun or adjective is simply followed by the personal endings of the “to be” verb (which we covered in Lesson 3).

However, for the process of becoming, bûn conjugates like other present tense verbs:

di + present stem (b) + personal endings.

REMEMBER: When used with nouns to express becoming, the noun must follow the to be verb in the sentence. However, when used with adjectives to express becoming, the adjective is in front of the to be verb, as in the examples above.

In Kurmaji, the word xwe serves a couple of different purposes.

1. In the meaning of “oneself” in sentences like “He is doing it himself.” (Ew bi xwe dike.) The idea is usually that one is doing something without help or in person.

He is reading the book himself. Ez bi xwe pirtûkê dixwîne.
The children are opening the door themselves. Zarok bi xwe derî vedikin.

2. When speaking of something that belongs to oneself.

I am going to my house. Ez diçim mala xwe.
I am reading my book. Ez pirtûka xwe dixwînim.
He is talking with his (own) friend. Ew bi hevalê xwe re dipeyive.
The girl loves her (own) mother. Keç ji diya xwe hez dike.
We see our friends. Em hevalên xwe dibînin.
I am giving her my book. Ez pirtûka xwe didim wê.
She is giving me her (own) book. Ew pirtûka xwe dide min.

NOTE: Xwe can be combined with other words to express the idea of doing something alone, or to emphasize the idea that one did something herself/himself.

xwe bi xwe – This usually emphasizes the idea of doing something without any help at all.

bi tena serê xwe (bi serê xwe) – This usually emphasizes the idea that one is doing something alone. Bi tenê is also used for this.

As with almost anything in Kurmanji, one may encounter lots of variations.

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

Scroll down to see the English translation.

Kurdish

Navê min Azad e. Ez li Stenbolê dijîm. Du bira û xwişkeke min hene. Ez naxebitim ji ber ku ez xwendekar im, lê ez ji dibistanê pir hez nakim. Ez ji futbolê hez dikim û mala min li ba stadyumeke pir mezin. Ez carinan diçim maçan. Li wir ez hem maçan temaşe dikim hem jî bi hevalên xwe re dipeyivim. Carinan hevalekî min ji min re peyamek dişîne û ji min li ser maçê dipirse. Ez telefonî hevalê xwe dikim û bi telefona xwe maçê nîşanî wî didim. Li maçan ez li ser dersên xwe nafikirim. Piştî maçê ez têm malê.

 

 

English

My name is Azad. I live in Istanbul. I have two brothers and one sister. I do not work because I am a student, but I do not like school very much. I love football and my house is beside a big stadium. Sometimes I go to the matches. There I both watch the matches and talk with my friends. Sometimes a friend of mine sends me a message and asks me about the match. I phone my friend and show him the match with my phone. At the matches, I do not think about my lessons. After the match I come home.