The plural

Plural of nouns: -LER

The plural ending in Turkish is -ler or -lar. If the last vowel in the base (the main part of the word) is a front vowel – e, i, ö or ü – then the plural suffix is -ler:

ev house evler houses
kedi cat kediler cats
göz eye gözler eyes
gül rose güller roses

If the last vowel in the base is a back vowel – a, ı, o or u, then the plural suffix is -lar:

kova bucket
koyalar buckets
balık fish
balıklar fish (plural)
sabun soap
sabunlar soaps

Almost all concrete nouns in Turkish have plurals. Examples:

para money
paralar money(s)
toz dust
tozlar dust(s)

However, when numbers are used, the noun is always in the singular:

iki oda two rooms
on gün ten days
dört büyük otel four large hotels

When an adjective takes the plural suffix, it means that the adjective is being used as a noun:

Kısalar güzel değil. The short ones are not nice.

Plural marking with-Lar

The only suffix marking number in Turkish nominals is the plural suffix -lAr. The basic meaning of this suffix is to denote more than one item from the class indicated:

boş oda-lar ‘vacant rooms’
kim-ler ‘who’ (referring to more than one person)

Noun phrases that have to be plural-marked.
A noun phrase containing one of the quantifying determiners bazi/kimi/bir kısım ‘some’, ‘certain’, birtakım ‘some’, ‘a number of’, normally has to be plural marked:
Bazı insan-/lar çocuklarına tuhaf adlar koyarlar, some person-PL
‘Some people give their children strange names.’

However, there are some fixed expressions in which singular nouns do occur with these determiners, e.g. kimi/bazı zaman ‘sometimes’, bazı kimse ‘some people’. In the case of the quantifiers bütün tüm ‘all’, ‘the whole’, the meaning of the noun phrase is crucially affected by whether the head is plural marked or not:

Bütün sınıf ayağa kalktı. ‘The whole class rose to its feet.’
Bu yıl bütün sınıflar daha kalabalık olacak. ‘This year all the classes are going to be larger.’

Restrictions on the use of plural marking

-Lar is not used where plurality is already indicated by the presence of a numeral as a modifier in the noun phrase:

three children üç çocuk
twenty-five minutes yirmi beş dakika

The only exceptions to this rule are the proper names of well-known groups:

the Three Musketeers Üç Silahşörler
the Seven Dwarfs Yedi Cüceler

Where certain quantifying determiners i.e. çok ‘a lot of’, ‘many’, fazla ‘too much’, ‘too many’, az ‘not much’, ‘not many’, biraz ‘a little’, birkaç ‘a few’, ‘several’, bir miktar ‘some’, bu kadar/şu kadar/o kadar ‘this much/that much’, ‘so much’, kaç ‘how many’, and her ‘every’, are used in a noun phrase, the head noun is always left in the singular form:

her Türk vatandaşı every Turkish citizen
kaç kişi how many people
birkaç boş oda a few empty rooms
çok kitap a lot of books

The determiner birçok ‘many’ sometimes occurs with a plural-marked head noun, although the non-marked form is generally preferred, and is obliga­tory in the case of kişi ‘person’:

birçok kadın(lar) many women
birçok kişi many people

The combination of bir and -lAr:
The head of a noun phrase which includes the indefinite determiner bir ‘a(n)’ normally has to be in the singular form. However, in the case of the pluralized forms of the pronouns bir şey ‘something’ (18.6.1) and bir yer ‘somewhere’, the sequence bir … lAr regularly occurs in informal contexts:

Harun o gün bana bir şeyler söyledi. Harun told me some things that day.
Bu yaz bir yer(ler)e gidiyor musunuz? Are you going anywhere this summer?

The combination bir… lAr is occasionally encountered (again in informal usage) with other nouns. It conveys that the referent is conceived as being plural, but that its identity is unknown or unknowable.

Bir sesler duydum galiba. I think I heard something” (lit. ‘some sounds’).

Further uses of the plural suffix -lar

There are several other uses of -lar which are observed particularly (although not exclusively) in nouns whose primary denotation is an uncountable substance.
A plurality of conventional measures or portions of the thing concerned:

Çay-lar-ı koyayım mı? Shall I pour out the tea?

This particular use of -lAr can occur even with nouns whose primary denotation is a countable entity:

Balıklar yendikten sonra tavuklar geldi. After the fish had been eaten chicken arrived.

A plurality of separate quantities of the thing concerned:

Kir(ler) bir türlü çıkmıyordu. The dirt just wouldn’t come out.
Bu işte büyük para(lar) var. There’s big money involved in this business.

In the case of substances with a granular composition, the addition of the plural suffix shifts attention from the substance en masse to its constituent elements:

Kum-lar-ı parmaklarının arasından geçiriyordu. She was sifting the (grains of) sand through her fingers.

The plural suffix can be used to designate a plurality of types of a substance:

Bizim Migros’ta güzel şaraplar var. There are nice wines at our Migros.

Certain expressions can be intensified by the addition of -lAr to the noun, for example:

Kan(lar)a bulanmıştı. He was covered (all overj in blood

Addition of -lAr can also highlight the spatial extent of the substance referred to, whether in area or volume terms:

Kum(lar)a uzandım. I lay down on the sand

In the case of nouns expressing abstract states, the addition of the plural suffix usually expresses a plurality of occurrences of this state:

Böyle tembelliklerim çok oluyor. I’m often lazy like this.

(Such acts of laziness on my part occur often.)

-lar can be added to certain expressions of time and place, giving a sense of approximation, or giving the expression a wider meaning. The list below gives some common examples. Although the locative case-marked form is shown for several items, other case markings also occur according to context.

buralarda around here
bir yerler anywhere, somewhere
oralar (güzel) (It’s nice) round there.
Erzurum taraflarında buralarda around Erzurum,

in the Erzurum area

uzaklarda in the distance
1995 ortalarında about the middle of 1995
mayıs başlarında at about the beginning of May
bu haftanın sonlarına doğru towards the end of this week
o sıralarda at about that time
o tarihlerde around that date, at that period
şimdilerde these days
sonraları later on
bir zamanlar once (= at some time in the past)

Approximations about people’s age fit into the same pattern:

kırkbeş yaşlarında bir adam a man of about forty-five
o yaşlarda at about that age

For the use of –lar to express recurrent time (sabahları “in the morning(s)”, cumartesileri “on Saturdays”, etc.)
When attached to the name of famous person –lar means and “people like that”:

Dünya’dan Atatürk’ler, Nehru’lar geçmeseydi şimdiye kadar ne hale gelirdik? If people like Atatürk and Nehru had not passed through the world, what state would we be in by now?

Another function of -lAr attached to the name of a person is to produce an expression referring to the group normally associated with that person. This group could consist just of the named person and his/her spouse/partner, or it could be their family, group of friends, etc. The precise meaning varies with the context, and this usage is confined to informal situations.

Ahmet’ler gelmedi. Ahmet and his wife/girlfriend/family/gang didn’t come.

The same usage can occur with expressions of relationship. Note that in such expressions the possessive suffix precedes the plural suffix.

Abla-m-Iar nerede? Where are my elder sister and her boyfriend/husband?

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