Learning Turkish can be intimidating, and Glossika is here to make it simple and approachable! In this blog article, you will learn the basics of Turkish, be able to understand its important concepts and structures. Let's start from the Turkish alphabet.

"Learn the Basics of Turkish" video version

The Turkish Alphabet

The Turkish alphabet is very similar to English, most of the letters are almost the same except for these few:

  • Ş  = sh as in shade
  • Ç = ch as in chair
  • Ğ = as in through
  • Ö = IPA ø as in nurse (in British English)
  • Ü = IPA y as in cue (as in French)
  • İ / i = i as in believe
  • I / ı = i as in sit

What makes Turkish easy to learn is that it's very systematic and very consistent. And the writing system is also very phonetic. You can look at a written word and know how to pronounce it easily.

Turkish is an Agglutinative Language

"Agglutinative" means "glue" in Latin, and when it's used in linguistics, it means gluing words together. Turkish is an agglutinative language so you add prefixes and suffixes instead of using isolated words. Take the below sentence as an example, three separates words are used in English while in Turkish, they are glued together:

kitaplarımda = in my books 

How to Make Turkish Words Plural (-ler, -lar)

To make a Turkish word plural, you add either -ler or -lar to a word. Which one to use depends on the last vowel of the word.

There are 8 vowels in Turkish: a, e, ı, i, o, ö, u, ü

When the last vowel of a word is...
You use...
a, ı, o, u - lar
e, i, ö, ü - ler

Examples:

Singular
Plural
ev (house) evler (houses)
araba (car) arabalar (cars)
masa (table) masalar (tables)
okul (school) okullar (schools)

How to Make Comparative and Superlative of Adjectives


By simply adding “daha” at the beginning of an adjective you can make it comparative, and by adding “en” you can make it superlative.

Adjective 

Comparative 

Superlative 

küçük (small) 

daha küçük (smaller)

en küçük (smallest) 

kötü (bad) 

daha kötü (worse) 

en kötü (worst) 

büyük (big) 

daha büyük (bigger) 

en büyük (biggest) 

hızlı (fast) 

daha hızlı (faster) 

en hızlı (fastest)

Turkish Pronouns

Subject pronouns


Ben 

Sen 

you 

he/she/it 

Biz

we 

Siz 

you (plural)

Onlar 

they 

In Turkish, when using subject pronouns, you should also add the personal endings for the pronoun. For example:

Ben doktorum  :  I am a doctor

As you can see, there is a "um" attached to the doctor. This is a personal ending. Every pronoun has a unique and different personal ending.

Ben doktorum 

Sen doktorsun 

doktor 

Biz doktoruz 

Siz doktorsunuz 

Onlar doktorlar

Because every personal ending is different, it's possible to omit the subject pronouns and only keep the personal endings.

Look at the two examples below:

  • Ben doktorum  : I am a doctor
  • Ben öğretmenim : I am a teacher

As you can see, although we use the same subject pronoun "Ben", but the personal ending is different, one is "um" and the other is "im". This is because of "vowel harmony".

Vowel harmony is simply a process where vowels of the ending match the same class of those in the root word, so that they're "in harmony".

We will show you more examples a bit later, but for now look at the subject pronouns with personal ending table:

As you can see in the table above, some pronouns have a maximum of four different endings, so how do we know which one to use?

Well, it's easier than you think.

If the last vowel of a word is:

  • "a/ı"  →  use the "ı" ending.
  • "e/i"  →  use the "i" ending.
  • "o/u" → use the "u" ending.
  • "ö/ü" → use the "ü" ending.

Take "şair (poet)" for example:

The sentence means "you are a poet."

We've learned how to say "I am a doctor." and "I am a teacher." in Turkish, now to say "I am not a doctor." and "I am not a teacher.", you simply use the word değil.

  • Ben doktorum (I am a doctor.)  
  • Ben doktor değilim (I am not a doctor.)

Turkish Pronouns of Possession

These are the pronouns of possession in Turkish:

Just like subject pronouns, pronouns of possession also have ending suffixes. The endings are very similar to the previous table, but you should pay close attention to the differences.

Examples:

  • ev: house
  • evim: my house
  • evin: your house
  • araba: car
  • arabam: my car
  • el: hand
  • elim: my hand
  • kız: daughter
  • kızın: your daughter

To have/not have

In order to say that you have something, we add the word "var" to the end of the possessive ending. And to say you don't have something, we add the word "yok" to the end of the possession ending.

Turkish Verbs

All Turkish verbs in infinitive state end with either -mak or -mek

  • gitmek : to go
  • almak : to take, to buy
  • vermek : to give
  • yapmak : to do
  • bulmak : to find

By removing the -mak / -mek ending we will get the verb root.

  • Bulmak : to find (infinitive)  / Bul : find (verb root)

Present Continuous Tense

Every tense has a special suffix, the suffix for present continuous tense is -yor

There is a vowel in front of the suffix, that vowel changes according to the last vowel of the verb.

  • vermek : to give
  • Ben veriyorum : I am giving

ver (verb root) + iyor (present continuous tense suffix) + um (personal ending)

Look at the table below to see the present continuous tense conjugation:

The only thing that's changing is the first vowel in front of the -yor

More examples:

gelmek : to come


geliyorum 

geliyorsun 

geliyor 

geliyoruz 

geliyorsunuz 

geliyorlar


koşmak : to run 


koşuyorum 

koşuyorsun 

koşuyor 

koşuyoruz

koşuyorsunuz

koşuyorlar

Negating present continuous tense is super easy, just add a -m letter after the verb root.

  • geliyorum : I am coming.
  • gelmiyorum : I am not coming.

Past Tense

The suffix for the past tense is (dı/di/du/dü). which one to use is again based on the vowel harmony rules.

Examples:

  • gelmek : to come
  • geldim : I came
  • vermek : to give
  • verdim : I gave
  • gitmek : to go
  • gittim : I went

Wait a second, I thought you said the suffix for past tense are these: dı/di/du/dü?

Well, there is one more thing you need to learn. If the last letter of the verb is one of these letters : "ç/f/h/k/s/ş/t/p" then instead of using dı/di/du/dü, we use tı/ti/tu/tü. The reason is because these letters are unvoiced, so d changes to unvoiced t. We do the same in English even if we don't write it that way: helped, here -ed is pronounced -t.

  • gitmek : git (verb root)
  • yapmak : yap (verb root)

Negating Past Tense:

we use  -ma / -me  to negate a verb in past tense:

If the last vowel of the verb is (a/ı/o/u) -- ma
If the last vowel of the verb is (e/i/ö/ü) -- me

Example:

  • verdim : I gave
  • vermedim : I didn't give
  • yaptim : I did
  • yapmadım : I didn't do

Note: in the negative, we use dı/di/du/dü for all the verbs, and the past suffix doesn't change from dı/di/du/dü to tı/ti/tu/tü .  

Consonant Mutation

Before we talk about the future tense, we need to talk about consonant mutation.

When a vowel suffix is added to a word, the last letter of the word will change into its equivalent voiced letter. the changes are as follows:

Examples:

  • Kitap : book
  • kitap + ım = kitabım (my book)
  • köpek : dog
  • köpek + im = köpeğim (my dog)

Future Tense

The suffixes for the future tense are -acak -ecek

Example:

  • vermek : to give
  • verecek + im  = vereceğim (I will give)

Example:

  • yağmur yağmak: to rain
  • yağmur yağacak: it will rain
  • satmak: to sell
  • satacağım: I will sell
  • izlemek: to watch
  • izleyeceğiz: we will watch

(Note: if the last letter of the verb root is a vowel as in: izlemek / izle (root), when we add the future suffix ecek we need to add a buffer letter "y" between the two vowels. Because in Turkish, two vowels should not come after another.

  • izlemek : to watch
  • izle + ecek + im  = izleyeceğim

More Suffixes

By now you should be familiar with the process of adding suffixes. There are many more suffixes in Turkish, but all of them work the same way. Remember the rules we mentioned before, and you should be able to easily use all the new suffixes. Some more important suffixes:

-malı- / -meli- = must

  • almalıyım : I must buy.
  • gitmeliyim : I must go.
  • gelmelisin : you must come.

-abil- / -ebil- = to be able, can

  • görebiliyorum: I can see.

-da -de / -ta -te = in, on, at

  • evde : at home
  • okulda : at school
  • mutfakta : in the kitchen
  • arabada : in the car
  • ben evdeyim : I am at home.

-dan -den -tan -ten = from

  • ormandan : from the forest
  • İnternetten aldım : I bought it from the internet

e/‑ye, ‑a/‑ya = to, toward

  • eve gidiyorum : I am going back to home
  • okula gidiyorum : I am going to school
  • hastaneye gidiyorum : I am going to the hospital

-le, -yle -la, -yla = with, by

  • babamla gidiyorum : I go with my dad
  • seninle gidiyorum : I go with you
  • Ben arabayla gidiyorum : I go by car
  • Taksiyle gidiyorum : I go by taxi.

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