This article is about expressing necessity in Turkish. While English uses auxillary verbs like should, must, have to or need to, Turkish has a separate declension of the verb for this, -malı/meli. There are other clauses showing necessity using the Infinitive, so learning that first may be useful to the reader.

Formation of -malı/meli edit

The suffix -malı/meli obeys 2-way vowel harmony, and uses the regular personal endings.

çalışmalıyım çalışmalıyız
çalışmalısın çalışmalısınız
çalışmalı çalışmalılar

The negative suffix comes before -malı/meli like usual.

çalışmamalıyım çalışmamalıyız
çalışmamalısın çalışmamalısınız
çalışmamalı çalışmamalılar

The interrogative suffix comes between -malı/meli and the personal endings.

çalışmalı yım çalışmalı yız
çalışmalı sın çalışmalı sınız
çalışmalı çalışmalı lar

Creating necessative sentences edit

There are 3 kinds of necessative sentences in Turkish:

Infinitive + zorunda + copular suffixes edit

The word zorunda is used to express very strong and unavoidable obligations in Turkish. It corresponds to English must. The person is expressed by adding the copular suffixes into zorunda, rather than adding possessive suffixes to the Infinitive. A few examples with this constructions can be seen below, but a more detailed explanation of its construction is covered in Turkish/Infinitive.

  • Bu konuyu öğrenmek için çok çalışmak zorundasın. You must work very hard to learn this topic.
  • Borcunuzu üç gün içerisinde ödemek zorundasınız. You must pay your debt back in three days.

Infinitive + zorunda + kal- edit

The verb kalmak, when used in conjunction with zorunda, is used to express that a necessity got actualized, and the speaker did the action he was obliged to.

  • Para cezasını ödemek zorunda kaldım. I was forced to pay the fine.
  • Hükûmet yakında istifa etmek zorunda kalacak. The government will soon be forced to resign.

Infinitive + possessive ending + gerekli/lazım/gerek-. edit

gerekli, lazım and the verb gerek- are synonymous. They all are used to show weaker obligations, roughly corresponding to English should/need to. The person is shown using possessive endings rather than copular endings, see Turkish/Infinitive for more info. lazım is often spelled lâzım in older publications.

  • Ödevimi yapmam lazım. I need to do my homework.
  • Sigarayı bırakmanız gerekli. You (all) need to quit smoking.

This construction may also be used to talk about general necessities, when used without a possessive suffix.

  • Hayatta azıcık dinlenmek de gerekiyor. One should also rest from time to time in their life.

-malı/meli edit

-malı/meli on the other hand, is used to show the speaker's opinion, while the constructions explained above express more neutral and objective necessities.

  • Bence azıcık beklemeliyiz. I think we should wait a little bit.
  • Zeynep çabuk o erkekle çıkmayı bırakmalı. Zeynep should give up dating that guy quickly.


  • Saat üçten önce işine başlamalısın. You should start doing your task before 3 o'clock.
  • Saat üçten önce işine başlaman gerekli. You need to start doing your task before 3 o'clock.

The first sentence is more of an expression of the speaker's own opinion; the speaker believes that starting the task before 3 o'clock is a good idea for the listener. Meanwhile, the second example expresses an objective judgement, it isn't just the speaker's opinion that the listener should start.

Negating necessative clauses edit

All constructions shown above using the Infinitive can be negated in 2 ways. Negating the Infinitive produces a meaning similar to that of mustn't, while negating gerekli/zorunda or any other construction shown above results in a meaning similar to that of don't have to.

Posteri yapmamak zorundasın

You must not do the poster.

Posteri yapmak zorunda değilsin

You don't have to do the poster.

Ona zaman ayırmaman lazım.

You shouldn't spare that much time for him.

Ona zaman ayırman lazım değil.

You don't need to spare that much time for him.

Kitabı almamak zorunda kaldım.

I was forced to not buy the book.

Kitabı almak zorunda kalmadım.

I wasn't forced to buy the book.

-meli/malı on the other hand, always produces a meaning similar to that of mustn't when negated.

  • Tüm paranı barlarda harcamamalısın. You shouldn't spend all of your money in bars.
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