Paj-Puj: Definite and Indefinite Direct Objects

Definite and Indefinite Direct Objects

ئېنىق ۋە ئېنىقسىز بىۋاسىتە تولدۇرغۇچى

A fairly challenging aspect of Uyghur, and one where learners will often trip up, is when to use the نى and when not to use it. The natural instinct of a native English speaker may be to never use (since it doesn't exist in English), but upon learning of its existence, the speaker is likely to use it everywhere in an effort to be grammatical, and thus overuse it. Generally speaking, نى should only be used when the direct object is definite, or (in looser terms) when it is specific or clearly defined. In English, one usually expresses definite objects with the help of the article "the". On the contrary, when the direct object is indefinite (vague), one should not use نى. In English, indefinite objects are usually expressed with the articles "a" and "an".

The distinction can have important semantic implications. For example, consider the following two sentences:

Did you eat?
تاماق يېدىڭىزمۇ؟

Did you eat the food?
تاماقنى يېدىڭىزمۇ؟

In the first sentence, the direct object is indefinite, with تاماق denoting just about any food and the combination تاماق يېمەك essentially functioning as a compound verb meaning "to eat (food)". By contrast, the direct object is made definite in the second sentence with the addition of نى, and the resulting تاماقنى carries a very specific character analogous to the English "the food". It could refer to the food laid out before the speaker, or perhaps to last night's meal that is currently the subject of the conversation. In short, it is some food in particular and thus requires the نى for this to be clear.

As such, the basic rule is simple: use the accusative case suffix نى when the direct object is definite and don't use it when it's indefinite. However, even this simple guiding principle can benefit greatly from specific guidelines on what consists "definite" and "indefinite" in Uyghur, and these are given in the modules below.


  1. Personal research/experience
  2. Gulnisa Nazarova, Kurban Niyaz, "Uyghur: An Elementary Textbook". Georgetown University Press: 2013. (p. 111, 477)
  3. Renee D. Gaines, "Beginning Uyghur for English Speakers". Xinjiang University Press: Urumqi, 2010. (p. 59-60)
  4. Tarjei Engesæth, Mahire Yakup, Arienne M. Dwyer, "Greetings from the Teklimakan: a handbook of Modern Uyghur". University of Kansas: Kansas, 2009. (p. 63, 68-70)
  5. Nabijan Tursun, "Uyghur Reader". Dunwoody Press: Hyattsville, 2009. (p. xvi)
  6. Hamit A. Zakir, "Introduction to Modern Uighur". Xinjiang University Press: Urumqi, 2007. (p. 41)
  7. Frederick De Jong, "A Grammar of Modern Uyghur". Houtsma Stichting: Utrecht, 2007. (p. 45-46)
  8. Hämit Tömür, "Modern Uyghur Grammar" (translation by Anne Lee). Yıldız: Istanbul, 2003. (p. 63-64)
  9. Reinhard F. Hahn, Ablahat Ibrahim, "Spoken Uyghur". University of Washington Press: Seattle, 1991. (p. 107, 152, 213, 334, 589-590)
  10. E. N. Nadzhip, "Modern Uigur". Nauka Publishing House: Moscow, 1971. (p. 146-147)
  11. 易坤琇, "维吾尔语语法"。中央民族大学出版社: 北京, 1998。 (p. 35)
  12. 马德元 塔西普拉提 乌买尔, "大众维语(上)"。新疆大学出版社: 乌鲁木齐, 1997。 (p. 113)
  13. А. К. Боровков, "Учебник Уйгурского Языка". Ленинградский Восточный Институт: Ленинград, 1935. (p. 44)
  14. G. Raquette, "Eastern Turki Grammar: Practical and Theoretical with Vocabulary". Reichsdruckerei: Berlin, 1912. (p. 124)