Ok, we’re not going to slam you with information and thousands of facts about where, why and how Turkish language occured. For sure this kind of information is better available from online encyclopedias and search engines. No, at this point we just get started with learning. First we are going to pass you some basic information about Turkish which is necessary to understand and enables you to get comfortable with the “system” of Turkish language.
Turkish uses the latin alphabet, just like English. Additionally there are some more letters which stand for a special sound. The letters W, X and Q don’t exist in Turkish alphabet, as they are formed differently: for example Van (V like W), Taksi (instead of Taxi) and K is the same sound as Q.
Therefore Turkish alphabet looks as follows (you can play each letter to hear the pronounciation):
A – a
B – b
C – c (like J in JUNGLE)
Ç – ç (like CH in CHANCE)
D – d
E – e
F – f
G – g (like G in GARDEN, never like G in GENERAL)
Ğ – ğ (yumuşak g, it’s a special sound which is acutally not spoken, it just lengthens the vowel; ğ just occures after vowels and never at the beginning of a word, for example yağmur = the rain sounds more like yaa-mur)
H – h (always spoken, like H in HOTEL)
I – ı (this again is a special sound, it looks like an i, but notice that it’s not dotted. It sounds like an E in TIGER)
İ – i (sounds like EE in BEE, this time dotted, which is important as it is also dotted in capital letter)
J – j (similar to C but softer, usually used for words originated from French language, like jandarma = gendarmerie)
K – k
L – l
M – m
N – n
O – o (like O in SOFT, never like O in BOW)
Ö – ö (like U in BURGER)
P – p
R – r (strongly rolled, even more than the usual English R)
S – s (sharp S like in BUS)
Ş – ş (like SH in SHOP)
T – t
U – u (OO like in BOOK, never spoken like YOU)
Ü – ü (EW like in FEW)
V – v (like W in WATER)
Y – y
Z – z (ZZ like in BUZZ)
1.2 PERSONAL PRONOUNS AND ARTICLES
In Turkish there is no gender like “he, she, it” and no definite article like “the”. Actually Turkish is a perfectly emancipated language which makes things much easier, doesn’t it? But there is an indefinite article: bir – which is also the digit 1. Here we are, you just learned another turkish word. Tebrikler (Congratulations!)… you see, just learned another one. Let’s keep this speed:
The personal prounouns are as follows:
ben = I
sen = you
o = he, she, it
biz = we
siz = you (plural) (siz is also the polite form)
onlar = they
1.3 VOWEL HARMONY
In Turkish there is the so called vowel harmony, which is differed in Little and GREAT VOWEL HARMONY. This is a MUST KNOW as it is the base for following grammar knowledge. Make yourself now familiar with the vowel harmony, though you still don’t know exactly how to use it. But it will be clear to you soon.
The turkish vowels are: a, e, ı, i, o, ö, u, ü
Little Vowel Harmony:
a – ı – o – u is followed by a
e – i – ö – ü is followed by e
Great Vowel Harmony:
a – ı is followed by ı
e – i is followed by i
o – u is followed by u
ö – ü is followed by ü
Examples which make these rules clear will follow later.
Turkish is an agglutinated language which means that most words are formed with suffixes. Even complete sentences can therefore made with one word. Examples will also follow later as at this point we don’t want to irritate you too much.
Normally you know the 4 cases:
nominative (basic form)
accusative (who or what?)
They also exist in Turkish but apart from that you have to learn about
ablative (from woher or from what?) and
Therefore Turkish has 6 cases but as you will notice later it’s not that complicated.
1.6 PHRASE CONSTRUCTION
Actually the phrase construction is summarized easily: Put the verb at the end of the sentence. Every other word prior to the verb can be placed almost in any order. Maybe here and there some wild combinations might sound strange but nevertheless you will be understood – as long as you keep the verb at the sentence’s end
If you learned and understood these five basic informations you already made a big step in learning Turkish. Actually Turkish is not a very complicated language. The only problem – if it might be one – is the pronounciation. But even that can be learned. And anyway just don’t be shy using what you learned. It can open hearts and an old turkish saying says:
Her dil insandır! = Every language is a human!
abece = the alphabet; İngilizce = English (the language!); bir = one, digit 1; dil = the language, the tongue; güneş = the sun; her = every; jandarma = the gendarmerie; insan = the human; otobüs = the bus; okul = the school; taksi = the taxi; Türkçe = Turkish (the language!); Van = a town in Turkey; yağmur = the rain
Turkish verbs always end on -mak or -mek. ALWAYS! There is no exception, isn’t that great? And now we arrived at the vowel harmony. What luck you hammered this vowel harmony into your head before. The endings -mak and -mek depend on the little vowel harmony. In detail:
If the last vowel of the verb stem is an a, ı, o or u then the verb always ends with -mak. Logically in all other cases (e, i, ö or ü) the verb ends with -mek. Normally you learn the verbs simply in their basic form but it could be helpful to understand why one verb ends with -mak but the other with -mek.
yapmak = to do
çıkmak = to go out
bozmak = to break
uyumak = to sleep
sevmek = to love
getirmek = to bring
ölmek = to die
düşünmek = to think
Maybe it is getting more clear why there is a vowel harmony anyway. As the name says it’s about the harmony, in fact at speaking. It sounds more harmonical to say yapmak instead of “yapmek”. bilmek is also easier to speak out then “bilmak”. Even if it’s not that clear for you, don’t mind. Later it will be much more clear for you.
Well, now that you know the difference between the basic verb (infinitve) and the verb stem you know also how to form the…
The verb stem is automatically the infinitive for 2nd person singular:
yap! = do! (2nd person singular)
çık! = get out! (2nd person singular)
boz! = break!(2nd person singular – bozmak can also be used for changing money, making bills to coins)
uyu! = sleep! (2nd person singular)
sev! = love! (2nd person singular)
getir! = bring! (2nd person singular)
öl! = die! (2nd person singular – not very kind but primary this is about the grammar)
düşün! = think! (2nd person singular)
For forming the infinitve in 2nd person plural you just add the suffix -in.
ATTENTION! This suffix is related to the GREAT VOWEL HARMONY, which means if the verb stem’s last vowel is an
a or ı, suffix -in changes to -ın
e or i, suffix -in stays unchanged
o or u, suffix -in changes to -un
ö or ü, suffix -in changes to -ün
yapın! = do!
çıkın! = go out!
bozun! = break!
uyuyun! = sleep!
sevin! = love!
getirin! = bring!
ölün! = die!
düşünün! = think!
Remember that in Turkish the 2nd person plural is also the polite form in which you speak to unknown or elder people or respected persons (like your boss). In daily language it’s not unpolite to speak to people in 2nd person singular (sen = you, 2nd person singular) when it’s obvious that they are of same age or younger. If you are not sure, just choose the polite form. The reaction of your conversation partner will let you know if you exaggerate… 😉
By the way: if a verb stem already ends with a vowel (like uyu-) we add a y prior to the suffix. You will notice that in such cases this happens often: If two vowels meet, the Turks prefers to separate these squabblers with a “y”.
2.3 NEGATION OF IMPERATIVE
Now you also learn how to negate an imperative as this can be realized easily. You only have to add -me oder -ma to the verb stem, depending on the Little Vowel Harmony. For our know verb examples this then looks as follows:
yapma! = don’t do! (2nd person singular)
çıkma! = don’t go out! (2nd person singular)
bozma! = don’t break! (2nd person singular)
uyuma! = don’t sleep! (2nd person singular)
sevme! = don’t love! (2nd person singular)
getirme! = don’t bring! (2nd person singular)
ölme! = don’t die! (2nd person singular)
düşünme! = don’t think! (2nd person singular)
Negating in 2nd person plural just requires putting -me/-ma in front of the suffix -in.
Notice, as two vowels cannot put next to each other, again an y has to be inserted between the two suffixes:
yapmayın! = don’t do! (2nd person plural)
çıkmayın! = don’t go out! (2nd person plural)
bozmayın! = don’t break! (2nd person plural)
uyumayın! = don’t sleep! (2nd person plural)
sevmeyin! = don’t love! (2nd person plural)
getirmeyin! = don’t bring! (2nd person plural)
ölmeyin! = don’t die! (2nd person plural)
düşünmeyin! = don’t think! (2nd person plural)
Maybe you noticed that the last suffixes now just are -in or -ın. It is still following the GREAT VOWEL HARMONY but as the negation form just is either -ma or -me it can only follow -ın or -in. For example negating uyuyun cannot be “uyumayun” or düşünün cannot be “düşünmeyün” – sounds strange, even for a Turk.
açmak = to open; ağlamak = to cry; almak = to take; binmek = to get in, to board; bırakmak = to leave, to let go; bozmak = to break, to change money; çıkmak = to get out; düşünmek = to think; getirmek = to bring; gülmek = to laugh; ölmek = to die; sevmek = to love; uymak = to adapt yourself; vermek = to give; vurmak = to beat someone; yapmak = to make
Let’s go on with the simple things…
3.1 THE NUMBERS
sıfır = 0
bir = 1
iki = 2
üç = 3
dört = 4
beş = 5
altı = 6
yedi = 7
sekiz = 8
dokuz = 9
on = 10
The next numbers then just are simple combinations:
on bir = 11
on iki = 12
on üç = 13
on dokuz = 19
Now the tenners, also just combinations:
yirmi = 20
yirmi bir = 21
yirmi iki = 22
yirmi üç = 23
yirmi dört = 24
otuz = 30
kırk = 40
elli = 50
altmış = 60
yetmiş = 70
seksen = 80
doksan = 90
yüz = 100
yüz bir = 101
yüz on bir = 111
yüz yirmi bir = 121
iki yüz = 200
üç yüz = 300
bin = 1,000
bin bir = 1,001
bin iki yüz doksan bir = 1,291
on bin = 10,000
yüz bin = 100,000
bir milyon = 1,000,000
iki milyon = 2,000,000
bir milyar = 1 billion
3.2 THE ORDINALS
Learning the numbers also includes the ordinals. For this we need a new suffix:
-(i)nci (the vowel in bracks is just used if the number ends on a consonante).
The suffix depens on the GREAT VOWEL HARMONY:
If last vowel is an a or ı the suffix must be -ıncı.
If last vowel is an e or i the suffix must be -inci.
If last vowel is an o or u the suffix must be -uncu.
If last vowel is an ö or ü the suffix must be -üncü.
birinci = 1st
ikinci = 2nd
üçüncü = 3rd
dördüncü = 4th (notice that t is modified to d)
beşinci = 5th
altıncı = 6th
yedinci = 7th
sekizinci = 8th
dokuzuncu = 9th
onuncu = 10th
on birinci = 11th
yirminci = 20th
otuzuncu = 30th
yüzüncü = 100th
milyonuncu = 1,000,000th
milyarıncı = billionth
Let’s have a closer look to dördüncü as you surely wondered why t changes to d. This is because of the “harmony”. There are the so called “Hard Consonantes” k, p and t. Always keeping them sometimes doesn’t sound “harmonic” for turkish ears. For example, it’s easier to speak out dördüncü instead of “dörtüncu”. Try it, which word is more fluently to speak? Exactly… But it’s also a question of feeling. With the time you get used to which sounds more harmonic as you develop a sense for the language.
Modification of “Hard Consonantes” is very usual so better get familiar with it.
But these three letters are not the only “Hard Consonantes”, there are also ç, f, h, s and ş. These consonantes are not getting modified but they harden the following suffix (depending on the suffix also after k, p and t). These will be more understandable in following lessons, but we mention it here, so you have a fair chance to get mentally prepared.
Forming the plural is almost as easy as in English. You just have to add a -lar or -ler, following the Little Vowel Harmony:
If last vowel is an a, ı, o or u then use -lar.
If last vowel is an e, i, ö or ü then use -ler.
araba = the car – arabalar = (the) cars
oda = the room – odalar = (the) rooms
çocuk = the child – çocuklar = (thee) children
pencere = the window – pencereler = (the) windows
kedi = the cat – kediler = (the) cats
(Remember that in Turkish there are no definite articles!)
BUT: If you indicate a quantity you don’t have to use the plural form anymore. What does that mean?
For example you say in English:
one car, two cars, three cars, a undefined quantity of cars… thus if the quantity of cars is more than one, in English you are forced to use the plural. Not so in Turkish:
bir araba = a car
arabalar = (we don’t know how many) cars
iki araba = two cars
üç araba = three cars
The Turk prefers the simple way and thinks: If anyway the number indicates that I speak about many cars, why forming additionally a plural?
Another hint: You can combine the plural also with names, which can be the description of a complete “clan” or group of people. This can be practical.
Mehmetler = the “Mehmets”, which can mean: brothers, sisters, father, mother of Mehmet or his (closest) friends, etc.
Mehmetler gelecek. = The Mehmets (Mehmet and his family) will come.
It’s even not unusual for English ears as it could be translated with: Mehmet and Co.
3.4 “THERE IS” AND “THERE IS NOT”
The expressions “there is” and “there is not” are used very often in Turkish.
var = there is
yok = there is not
That’s it, you don’t need more.
You in are shop and would like to buy vegetables. So you ask the vender:
Domates var mı? = Are there tomatoes?
(in this context it means something more like: Do you have tomatoes?)
3.5 POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS
In lesson 1 you have learned the personal pronouns ben, sen, o, biz, siz, onlar (I, you, he/she/it, we, you (plural), they). By adding another suffix you form the possessive pronouns:
benim = my
senin = your
onun = his/her/its
bizim = our
sizin = your (plural or polite form)
onların = their
Combinating with nouns these possessive pronouns never change.
benim araba = my car
senin akraba = your relative
But usually these possessive pronouns are not used but replaced by another suffix added to the noun. The pronouns itself are used to emphasize that something is YOURS, HIS, MY, etc… So without possessive pronouns it looks as follows:
arabam = my car
araban = your car
arabası = his/her/its car
arabamız = our car
arabanız = your (plural or polite form) car
arabası = their car
Explanation: The possessive suffixes are determined by the GREAT VOWEL HARMONY, so the complete list looks as follows:
1st person singular: -(i)m / -(ı)m / -(u)m / -(ü)m
2nd person singular: -(i)n / -(ı)n / -(u)n / -(ü)n
3rd person singular: -(s)i / -(s)ı) / -(s)u / -(s)ü
1st person plural: -(i)miz / -(ı)mız / -(u)muz / -(ü)müz
2nd person plural: -(i)niz / -(ı)nız / -(u)nuz / -(ü)nüz
3rd prson plural: -(s)i / -(s)ı) / -(s)u / -(s)ü as in 3rd person singular)
In case the noun ends on a consonate you don’t need the letter in bracks:
arabası (his/her car), kedin (your cat), evimiz (our house), gülünüz (your (plural or polite form) rose), kitapları (his/her books)
In case of a proper name (names, towns, countries) you separate the suffix with an apostrophe:
İngiltere’si… (England’s…), İstanbul’u… (Istanbul’s…), Lale’si… (Lale’s…)
Another example but already anticipated with a genitive construction:
Mehmet’in arabası. = Mehmet’s car. Literally: Of Mehmet his car…(Mehmet’in is a genitive construction)).
In next lesson we are going to deal with all cases. Then this example sentence will be more clear.
By the way: As in English in Turkish proper nouns are always written with a capital letter at the beginning. Apart from that in you write always with small letters – except on a sentence’s beginning of course!
3.6 FORMING QUESTIONS
3.6.1 Questions with “mi”
With mi you have the possibility of forming simple questions. These are just simple yes/no questions.
Gelecek mi? = Will he/she/it come? – This question can be answered with yes or no, “from where” or “to where” doesn’t matter.
Depending on in which person you are asking, mi gets modified:
miyim = referring to myself => Gelecek miyim? = Will I come?
misin = referring to you => Gelecek misin? = Will you come?
mi = referring to him/her/it => Gelecek mi? = Will he/she/it come?
miyiz = referring to us => Gelecek miyiz = Will we come?
misiniz = referring to you (plural) => Gelecek misiniz? = Will you (plural) come?
mi = referring to them ==> Gelecekler mi? = Will they come?
The verb is always in 3rd person and you adjust mi accordingly to the related person (except in 3rd person as mi is already the 3rd person question particle). In plural 3rd person the verb of course has to be modified to plural form, but mi itself remains unchanged.
Important to know that mi is determined by the GREAT VOWEL HARMONY:
– if last vowel of the anterior word is an a or ı, then mi changes to mı
(=>accordingly mıyım, mısın, mı, mıyız, mısınız, mı)
– if last vowel of the anterior word is an e or i, then mi remains unchanged
(=>accordingly miyim, misin, mi, miyiz, misiniz, mi)
– if last vowel of the anterior word is an o or u, then mi changes to mu
(=>accordingly muyum, musun, mu, muyuz, musunuz, mu)
– if last vowel of the anterior word is an ö or ü,then mi changes to mü
(=>accordingly müyüm, müsün, mü, müyüz, müsünüz, mü)
Sigaran var mı? =Do you have a cigarette? (literally: Is there your cigarette?)
Kaleminiz var mı? = Do you (plural) have a pen? (literally: Is there your pen?)
Kalıyor musun? = Do you stay?
(Note: These examples include already the possessiv pronuns and Continuous Present which will be explained in later. Here it’s just about the mi.)
3.6.2 Other interrogative words
Kim? = Who? – Example: O kim? or Kim o? = Who is this?
Ne? = What? – Example: Ne yapıyorsun? = What are you doing?
Nerede? = Where? – Example: Kitap nerede? = Where is the book?
Nereye? = Where to? – Example: Nereye gidiyorsun? = Where are you going?
Neden? or Niye? = Why? – Example: Neden/Niye gittin? = Why did you go?
Nasıl? = How? – Example: Nasıl dinleniyoruz? = How do we rest?
Hangi? = Which? – Example: Hangi araba? = Welches Auto?
Kaç? or Ne kadar? = How much/many? Example: Fiyatı ne kadar/kaç? = How much is it? (literally: Its price is how much?)
açmak = to open; akraba = the relative; araba = the car; çocuk = the child; dinlenmek = to rest, to relax; domates = the tomato; ev = the house; fiyat = the price; gül = the rose; hangi = which; İngiltere = England; kaç = how much; kalem = the pen; kedi = the cat; kim = who; kitap = the book; nasıl = how; ne = what; ne kadar = how much; neden = why; nerede = where; nereye = whereto; niye = why; oda = the room; pencere = the window; sigara = the cigarette; var = there is/existent; yok = there is not/not existent