How to Pronounce “e” in Turkish

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One thing I noticed while learning Turkish that is poorly documented is that the pronunciation of “e” is inconsistent with how it’s explained.

In Turkish, there are eight vowels — four open, and four closed. They follow the rules of Turkish vowel harmony. That much is well known.

But despite this, the letter “e” is pronounced in two ways. Sometimes, it sounds like “e” in “bed”, and sometimes, it sounds like “a” in “bad” (phonetic letter æ).

Pronounce e in Turkish cover image

Pronunciation Convention vs Rule

Firstly, this is not a standard Turkish pronunciation rule. That said, it’s so widespread that it may as well be a rule.

In other words, every Turkish speaker in Istanbul with whom I’ve spoken (or have heard speak) uses this pronunciation style.

When looking up this rule, I found a lot of false information about this being incorrect, that nobody pronounces it like this, and so on. In reality, it’s very widespread, to the point where I’d feel awkward pronouncing “sen” as anything other than “sæn”.

The Rule — How to Pronounce “e” in Turkish

So, what is the rule for how to pronounce “e” in Turkish? Here it is, in a nutshell:

Rule for pronouncing “e” in Turkish: When an “e” 1. occurs before the letters “l”, “n”, “r”, or “z” (only in the “mez” suffix), and 2. that consonant is at the end of the word, or before another syllable that begins with a consonant, then you pronounce it like an æ, or open “a” (like in “ban”). Otherwise, it’s a regular “e”.

That’s a bit complicated, so here’s a graphic explaining it.

Graphic of how to pronounce e in turkish
Graphic of how to pronounce e in turkish

Examples

I only came across this rule by listening to a lot of Turkish. So listen to the following words, all of which are very common, and hear for yourself.

The below words also include counter examples. For example, in “Teşekkürler”, only the last “e” is modified.

TurkishMeaning (english)Pronunciation guide / Notes
Ben, Sen
I, YouBæn, Sæn
Benim, Senin
Mine, YoursAs written — for a counter-example
The “i” after the consonant negates the rule.
Bende, Sende
Me too, You tooBænde, Sænde
The next syllable starts with a consonant.
Seksen
EightySeksæn
Note only the second “e” is modified.
Herkes
EverybodyHærkes
Note only the first “e” is modified
Gerçekten
Really / VeryGærçektæn
Only pronounce as æ before the r and n, not the k.
Teşekkürler

(or any -ler suffix)
Thank youTeşekkürlær
Only modify the e before the ending r.
Güvercin
PigeonGüværcin
Seems like a random example. But this word is all over Cappadocia 🙂
Ver lütfen
Give, pleaseVær lütfæn
C.f. Verebilir miyiz, with no changes
Examples of pronunciation of e in Turkish

Wrap-up

Hopefully the above was useful. Comment below if you have any notes. (Or contact us if you want a reply.)

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Abdoulaye Souleymane
Abdoulaye Souleymane
4 months ago

Thank you very much for learning me these differents..
You are fantastic in explaining..