Lesson 8: Gender and Izafe 1


One of the most important elements of Kurmanji is called the izafe construction. It will be tempting to sprint through the next few lessons. Don’t! The next few lessons will break down the izafe into bite-sized chunks. If you digest each bite fully before moving to the next, you’ll be well equipped build sentences soon! It is impossible to speak Kurmanji without knowing the izafe well.

The izafe serves many purposes in Kurmanji. A few are:

  1. showing possession – my name, our house, my father’s car
  2. describing things – a good book, a big car
  3. relative clauses – The man who came to our house.

These, and other structures, are made with the izafe.


However, before explaining the izafe, we need to be aware that in Kurmanji nouns possess grammatical gender. In other words, some nouns are considered masculine and others feminine. (Some languages also have neuter gender, but Kurmanji does not.)

There seems to be no general logic as to why nouns are given a certain gender, but good dictionaries will provide the gender of nouns. (See the Resources section for dictionaries.) From now on, when you learn a noun, you simply need to memorize its gender.

One exception to this rule is when a noun refers to a certain person who is either male or female. For example, when “teacher” is used for a male, it is grammatically masculine, and feminine when it refers to a female teacher.

NOTE: The gender of some words is debated and you will see them used as both feminine and masculine. This is just one of the pleasant realities of Kurmanji!



Scroll through the slides below to see all forms.


Basic izafe endings for singular nouns are:

masculine = ê feminine = a

So, if we simply want to say “my book,” the form is:

book + first izafe ending (ê or a) + pronoun second form
pirtûk + a (fem) + min

For a review of the second form of pronouns, see Lesson 7.

A few examples:

Masculine Singular

Masculine Example 1:

my name navê min
your (sg) name navê te
his name navê wî
her name navê wê
our name navê me
your (pl) name navê we
their name navê wan

Izafe Masculine Singular 1Listen to Masculine Singular Example 1

Masculine Example 2:

my hand destê min
our father bavê me
your (sg) bread nanê te
his house xaniyê wî
her eye çavê wê
their horse hespê wan
our photograph wêneyê me
my ear guhê min

Izafe Masculine Singular 2Listen to Masculine Singular Example 2

Feminine Singular

Feminine Example 1:

my mother diya* min
your (sg) mother diya te
his mother diya wî
her mother diya wê
our mother diya me
your (pl) mother diya we
their mother diya wan

NOTE: When used in an izafe construction, the ê in dê changes to i.

Izafe Feminine Singular 1Listen to Feminine Singular Example 1

Feminine Example 2:

my family malbata min
our room odeya me
your (sg) finger tiliya te
his water ava wî
her apple sêva wê
their coffee qehweya wan
our brush firçeya me
my book pirtûka min
Izafe Feminine Singular 2Listen to Feminine Singular Example 2


There is only one izafe ending for the plural: ên. So, the form for the basic izafe is always the same:

noun + ên + pronoun second form
my books = pirtûk + ên + min

Some examples:

my books pirtûkên min
your (sg) books pirtûkên te
his books pirtûkên wî
her books pirtûkên wê
our books pirtûkên me
your (pl) books pirtûkên we
their books pirtûkên wan

Izafe Plural 1Listen to Plural Example 1

my hands destên min
our apples sêvên me
your (sg) fingers tiliyên te
his houses xaniyên wî

her eyes çavên wê
their horses hespên wan
our photographs wêneyên me
my ears guhên min

Izafe Plural 2Listen to Plural Example 2

Question and Answer with Basic Izafe

As we noted above, the izafe shows up in lots of places in Kurmanji. One of these is in short question and answer exchanges related to ownership. For example:

1. Question Whose book is this? Ev pirtûka kê ye?
NOTE: kî changes to kê when it is the second part of the izafe construction.
Answer It is mine. A min e.
2. Question Whose book is red? Pirtûka kê sor e?
Answer Serdar’s A Serdar
3. Question Is Serdar’s house black? Xaniyê Serdar reş e?
Answer No, his is white. Na, yê wî spî ye.
4. Question Whose rooms are big? Odeyên kê mezin in?
Answer Theirs. Ên wan.
5. Question Whose guests are these? (These are whose guests?) Ev mêvanên kê ne?
Answer Serdar’s. Ên Serdar.

Q & A with IzafeListen to the Examples

Izafe Chain

As you will see more in the following lessons, izafe constructions can be linked together to form a chain. In order to avoid rushing ahead too quickly, in this lesson we will only introduce a basic izafe chain.

HINT: Think “of” rather than “my” or “’s”.

In English we can say “my father’s book,” but we can also say “the book of my father,” even though it might sound a little weird. Because of the word order of Kurmanji izafe chains, it is helpful if we first think “of” in English.

An example:

Normal English: my father’s book

Alternative English: book of father of me (mine)

pirtûk + a + bav + ê + min
book + of + father + of + me (mine)
Normal English Alternative English Kurmanji
my father’s name name of father of me navê bavê min
her friend’s (fem) family family of friend (fem) of her malbata hevala wê
our brothers’ (pl) books books of brothers of us pirtûkên birayên me
your (sg) mother’s photo photo of mother of you (sg) wêneyê diya te
their teachers’ (pl) ears ears of teachers of them guhên mamosteyên wan
his daughter’s hair hair of daughter of his porê keça wî
your (pl) family’s house house of family of you (pl) xaniyê malbata we
my sister’s coffee coffee of sister of me qehweya xwişka min
his son’s fingers fingers of son of his tiliyên kurê wî
her friends’ hands hands of friends of her destên hevalên wê

Izafe ChainsListen to the Examples

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

The vocabulary assignment for Lesson 8 is to learn the gender of all nouns covered up to this point.

Lesson 08 VocabularyVocabulary Lesson 08 Audio

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

Exercise 3