Planning a trip to Turkey or want to talk to Turkish family and friends? – you’ll need to learn some Turkish phrases to get started speaking.
Turkey is a great country to visit. Flights to Istanbul and other parts of the country are cheap and can make for an excellent adventure.
What’s more is that millions of Turks live in Europe. Even though you can probably speak to them in German, English, or another language, the joy of seeing their face light up when you speak to them in their native tongue is something you will remember forever.
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Still, taking that initial plunge can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of practice on some key Turkish phrases, you can get your first Turkish conversation rolling—whether you are in Fethiye or Frankfurt.
Turkish is a fascinating and melodic language that is thought to be the happiest language in the world. So, why not learn a few basic Turkish phrases and expressions to enhance your general knowledge and become happier in the process?
- Basic and most common Turkish words;
• Selam!: Hi!
• İyi akşamlar!: Good evening!
• İyi geceler!: Good night!
• Adınız nedir?: What’s your name?
• Hoşgeldiniz!: Welcome!
• Oraya nasıl giderim?: How do I get there?
• Gelecek sefer görüşürüz.: See you next time.
• Yakında görüşürüz: See you soon!
• Hadi biraz eğlenelim: Let’s have some fun.
• Güle güle!: Bye bye!
• Teşekkürler.: Thank you.
• Rica ederim.: You’re welcome.
• Afedersiniz!: Excuse me!
• Kaç yaşındasınız?: How old are you?
• Ben … yaşındayım.: I’m… years old.
• Üzülme!: Don’t worry!
To help you stay organized, these phrases are broken down into the following categories:
- Greetings and Salutations
- Small Talk
- Question Words
- Being Polite
- When You Need Help
To give you even more of an edge, you can find tips on pronunciation next to each phrase.
Turkish Greetings and most salutations;
Turkish can be somewhat formal compared to other languages and there is a particular order greeting go. In fact, you will say the following greetings in just about every conversation you have.
Kolay Gelsin: (kol-eye gel-sin)With this phrase you can walk up and start talking to anyone. It literally means “may your work come easily.” But it is an unofficial way to start a conversation.
Merhaba: Hello(mare-aba) This is the basic way to say hello.
Günaydın: Good morning,(goon-eye-din) Obviously this a way to greet a Turkish speaking person in the morning.
İyi günler: Good day (ee-goon-lair) This phrase could be said at the beginning of a conversation but it is more commonly said as you begin to depart.
İyi Akşamlar: Good evening (ee-ak-shahm-lar) The “a” in Turkish is always the short sound meaning you say “ahhh” like you are opening your mouth at the doctor’s office.
İyi Geceler: Good night (ee-gejay-lair) Only say this phrase when it is late at night and you are parting. You might also want to reserve it for people you are closer with.
Hoşça Kal: Stay well (hosh-cha-call)This is one of the things you can say at the end of a conversation right before you leave.
Güle güle: Go smilingly (goo-lay goo-lay) This phrase literally means may you go with a smile on your face. It is only said when the other party is leaving and you are staying. If you are leaving and the other party is staying, use the previous phrase.
Görüşürüz: See you later(goo-roosh-oo-rooz)
Hoş geldin: Welcome (hosh gel-din) You can say this when someone arrives.
Hoş bulduk: Glad to be here (hosh bool-dook) This is the response to the previous phrase meaning welcome. These two phrases go together every time.
Basic Talks in Turkish
Turkish is built on small talk. There is always a predetermined phrase you can say in a conversation. Learning these will really help you speak like a Turk.
Nasılsın?: How are you? (na-sil-sin) This is a question so be sure to use the right inflection.
İyiyim sen nasılsın?: I am well, how are you? (ee-ee-yim, sen na-sil-sin) The question of how you are doing is often answered with this phrase. Remember when learning phrases it is often a good idea to know what the other person will say after you speak. That can help you prepare for what to say next.
Nasıl gidiyor?: How is it going? (na-sil gid-dee-your) This is a variation of nasilsin and is another good way of continuing a conversation.
Ne haber?: What’s up? (n’a-bear) This is the most informal way of asking after how someone is doing.
Memleketiniz nerede?: Where are you from? (mem-le-ket-in-iz nair-e-day) This literally means where is your hometown. Depending on their answer you can use the question words below to ask about their town or village. You should know that if you are in Istanbul, and the person you are talking to was born and grew up in Istanbul, they will still most likely say another province is their memletket.
Ailen nasıl?: How is your family? (eye-len nasil)
İyiler: They are well (ee-lair) This is the answer to the previous question.
Nerelisin?: Where are you from? (nair-el-ee-sin) Another way to ask where someone is from. It often but not always assumes the person is from another country.
Avrupalıyım: I am from Europe (av-rup-a-lee-yum) This is a general answer. A better way would be to say what country you are from. While it isn’t true for every country, the basic formula is the name of the country + the suffix li, lı, lu, or lü depending on the last vowel in the country + yim, yım, yum, or yüm.
Benim adım…: My name is (ben-im ad-im)
Senin adın ne?: What is your name?(sen-in ad-in nay)
Turkish Most Frequent Questions;
The following words are questions. Because Turkish makes great use of suffixes the words can sometimes change and look different but the root meaning is the same.
Kim?: Who (kim) Super easy as it is pronounced just as it sounds.
Ne?: What (nay)
Ne zaman? When (nay zah-mahn) Remember that the “a” is always short.
Kaçta? At what time (katch-tah) When you are asking about a specific time use this phase.
Tren kaçta kalkıyor?: What time does the train depart? (tren katch-ta calk-i-your)
Nerede?: Where (nair-e-day)
Lavabo nerede? Where is the water closet? (lava-bo nair-e-day) When asking where something is just put the word in front of nerede.
Neden?: Why? (nay-den)
Niye?: Why? (knee-ay)
Niçin? Why? (knee-chin)I have never been able to figure out why Turkish has three different ways to ask why.
Ne kadar?: How much? (nay ka-dar)
halı ne kadar?: How much does that rug cost? (o hal-i nay ka-dar) When asking the price for anything just put the word in front of “ne kadar.”
Being Polite In Turkish
Turkish has dozens of set phrases that you are expected to say in certain situations. This is only a small sampling of some of the most important ones.
Teşekkür ederim: Thank you(tesh-ek-yoor ed-air-im) This is one of the hardest words to say correctly in Turkish. But practice it often as you need to say it in just about every interaction.
Sağ ol: Thank you (sa ol) A much easier way to say thank you, though less common.
Afiyet olsun: Bon appetite (af-ee-yet ol-soon) You say this when you serve someone food.
Elinize sağlık: Health to your hands (el-in-eez-ay sa-lick) You say this to the person who prepares the food.
Kendine iyi bak: Take care of yourself (ken-dee-nay ee Bach)
Tebrik ederim: Congratulations (teb-reek ed-air-im)
Başınız sağ olsun: I am sorry for your loss (ba-sh-in-iz sa ol-soon)You say this when someone has lost a family member or close relative. Even if they mention a death that wasn’t recent you can say it.
Geçmiş olsun: May it be in the past (getch-mish ol-soon) You say this to a person who is sick or is suffering some ailment. It literally means “may it be in the past.”
Yolun açık olsun: May your road be open (yoll-oon atch-ick ol-soon)You can say this to someone before they depart on a journey or trip of some kind.
Gözünüz aydın: May your eyes be full of light (gooz-oo-nooz eye-din) You say this when someone has just had a baby.
Turkish Phrases Frequently used when you need help;
Turks are friendly and more than willing to help foreigners find their way. In fact, if you speak Turkish with them, they will most likely treat you like an honored guest and go to great lengths to make sure you get what you need.
Bakar mısın?: Can you look here? (ba-car mi-sin) You say this to get the attention of the person you are trying to get help from
Affedersin: Excuse me. (af-ay-dair-sin) You can also say this to get someones attention
Bana yardım eder misin?: Can you help me? (ba-na yar-dim ed-air mi-sin)
Imdat! Help or Emergency (eem-dot) Say this or shout it only in emergencies.
Polis nerede?: Where are the polis? (police nair-e-day)
Konsoluk nerede?: Where is the Consulate? (kon-so-luke nair-e-day)Not every Turk will know the answer, but before long someone should be able to point you in the right direction.
Metro nerede?: Where is the metro (met-row nair-ed-ay)
How to keep learning Turkish Phrases
With a little bit of practice you can nail these phrases and start the journey of speaking like a Turk. Not only will practicing and saying these phrases help you learn the language, they will help you make new friends in Turkey and beyond.
Notice that Turkish has informal and formal ways of saying things. This is because there is more than one meaning to “you” in Turkish (as well as in many other languages). The informal you is used when talking to close friends, relatives, animals or children. The formal you is used when talking to someone who is older than you or someone for whom you would like to show respect (a professor, for example).
As in many Romance languages, personal pronouns can be omitted, and they are only added for emphasis.
Turkish has Vowel Harmony. That’s why we have given a choice of suffixes in the example “I live in…”. This will be dealt with in later sections.
In the examples used, we have used a vowel lengthener sign (as in ā, ī and ū) to differentiate between short and long vowels. Note that it does not show the stress; rather it shows that the vowel is pronounced longer.
The “^” sign is used to soften the consonant that precedes it.
The length and the softening of vowels is conveyed through this one sign “^” in standard writing. Even then it is only used in certain words or phrases nowadays. For that reason we have used two different signs and have put it at every point where needed, to help the new learner.