Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | August 1, 2008

Turkish numerals

From David Pierce, with my warmest thanks to him:

According to my experience and research, Turkish has several systems
of numerals, all based on the cardinals; as well as a few numerical

The cardinals begin:

bir, iki, üç, dört, beş, altı,…(one, two, three, &c.)

These answer the question

Kaç? (How many?)

They are often not used alone with count nouns:

iki kilo elma (two kilos of apples)

iki tane elma (two apples; “tane” originally means grain or seed)

iki tane (two [of whatever countable object is in question])

The ordinals take the suffix -inci, adjusted for vowel harmony:

birinci, ikinci, üçüncü, dördüncü, beşinci, altıncı,…(first,
second, third, &c.)

These answer the question


which has no English translation, although “how-manyeth” might be used.

The distributives take the suffix -(ş)er:

birer, ikişer, üçer,…

Used singly, these mean “one each, two each” and so on, as in “I want
two fruits from each of these baskets”; they answer the question


Probably “tane” will be attached to this. If the distributives are
doubled, they become adverbs:

ikişer ikişer (two by two)

kaçar kaçar (how many by how many)

There are regular names for siblings of multiple births:

ikiz, üçüz, dördüz (twin, triplet, quadruplet)

The ordinals are not used for fractional amounts. Instead of a third,
one refers to one in three (üçte bir). But there are separate words

“half” (yarım)

and for

“-and-a-half” (buçuk: two and a half = iki buçuk)

Finally, there is

çeyrek (quarter of an hour)

ikiye çeyrek var = it’s quarter to two

ikiyi çeyrek geçiyor = it’s quarter past two


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