Common Turkish Phrases and Sentences

If you’re travelling to Turkey for business or pleasure, here are the basic phrases that will get you by.

Translation Memory can speed up your high quality translations considerably if you use ‘collections’ of phrases applicable to the specific work you’re doing. For example, if you’re translating a lot of recorded conversation, casual everyday phrases will serve you well. If working in academia, more formal phrases repeat quite often. It’s all about context. For you, the gentle reader considering a trip to Istanbul, here are some useful phrases you shouldn’t leave home without!

Basic Turkish: Greetings

The best thing to start with is making a good impression, and one universal around the globe is that people will always appreciate a friendly greeting in their native language! It sets the tone nicely.

So, to say a simple hello in Turkish, say Merhaba! To be more specific, good morning is günaydın and good evening is iyi akşamlar. It’s always polite, everywhere, to ask after people’s fortunes and health, so to say how are you you say nasılsın(ız) and you can respond with I’m fine, thank you by saying İyiyim, teşekkür ederim.

Politeness requires you know how to say thank you (çok teşekkür ederim) and you're welcome (rica ederim). Goodbye is also useful: hoşça kal(ın). And it can’t hurt to warn people that my Turkish is bad (Türkçem kötüdür)!

Basic Turkish: Help

Foreign countries can be confusing, and there isn’t a place in the world you can’t get into trouble. So take a moment and memorise some of these useful phrases, starting with I’m lost (kayboldum) and moving on to one of the most useful phrases for the English-speaking tourist: Do you speak English? (İngilizce konuşuyor musunuz?). Don’t leave home without that one!

If the answer to that is no, then make sure you’ve memorised I Don't Understand! (Anlamadım) and it can also be useful to ask someone can you speak slowly? (daha yavaş konuşabilir misin(iz)?). As youre just getting started with the language youre sure to make some mistakes (even just with pronunciation alone!), so you’d better know how to apologise: To say I’m sorry in the sense of needing something repeated, say efendim, but to say I’m sorry in the sense of apologising, say Özür dilerim!

Basic Turkish: Miscellany

Let’s not forget two more incredibly useful words: Yes is evet and No is hayır. And, as I always end these essays, the most important and practical phrase that any world traveller can learn – so important you should take some time and learn it in as many languages as possible: Where is the bathroom? In Turkish, that would be tuvalet nerede?

Now you have everything you need to survive in Turkey!