Every time I show up to a country, I make sure I arrive with a well-versed set of survival phrases. Partly for my own edification, and partly so I know what people are saying to me!
I’ve been in Türkiye (formerly Turkey) for a month now, and verified that these are the Turkish phrases that I use most often in daily life — eating out, shopping for food, going to the gym, getting a haircut and doing other everyday things.
Below is a summary list (with audio). There are some notes along with them, plus some other commentary below.
Turkey or Türkiye? Since 2022, the country has requested formally (see article in BBC) that it be referred to as “Türkiye” in the UN and formal international proceedings. So most broadcasters / news outlets have followed suit.
Despite the above, some still say “Turkey”. I still do. It’s just a habit, as the new name isn’t drastically different enough (e.g. Iran vs Persia), I think.
Some interesting facts: Thecountry called “Türkiye” in Turkish, obviously. But it’s actually already similarly named in manymajor languages, including Spanish, Arabic, and Italian.
You pronounce Türkiye like this: Türkiye
You can type an “ü” by holding down on a “u” key on a Mac, iPhone, or Android phone, or you can google the word “Turkiye” (without the umlaut) and copy-paste the correction.
Turkish Phrases for Everyday Survival — Summary List
Here’s a summary list of Turkish phrases for survival in everyday life.
|You will hear this al the time. Respond with a gentle nod and smile, “Teşekkürler!”, or more formally, |
|Can be used with anyone|
|Similar to Persian, or other Arabic words|
|Excuse me (to get past), Sorry (bumping into someone)|
|Same as French, but you pronounce the “n”.|
(There are other ways to say it, but this is the easiest)
|Excuse me (to get service staff’s attention)|
Affedersiniz, bakar misiniz?
|Literally “Excuse me, can you look?” Can ask anyone to look at things with this.|
|I don’t understand.|
|Have a nice day|
|Used to say goodbye during the day. Also be a polite greeting.|
|Have a nice evening.|
|Said as “goodbye” only in the evening.|
|Enjoy your meal / Bon appetit|
|Respond with just “Teşekkürler”|
|Do you speak English?|
İngilizce biliyor musunuz?
|See you later / Goodbye|
|Used as a general goodbye|
|Thanks for the hard work!|
|You can use this expression to thank staff at a shop as a goodbye.|
|How much is it in total?|
Toplam ne kadar?
|Is credit card OK?|
Kredi kartı var mı?
|Literally “Is there credit card?” (i.e. a machine.)|
|Is it possible?|
|Can use this to indicate generally to something.|
|Do you need a bag?|
Poşet ister misiniz?
|You will hear this. You can say “Evet lütfen” (Yes, please), or “Hayır teşekkürler.” (No, thank you).|
|No, thank you.|
|I’d like one of these, please.|
Bunlardan bir tane istiyorum lütfen.
|May I have …, please?|
… alabilir miyim lütfen?
|A bottle of water|
Bir şişe su
|A tub of Ayran (yoghurt drink)|
|The check / bill|
|It’s a tea-drinking world!|
|One (item), Two (items)|
Bir tane, İki tane
|“Tane” is the general counting word. I doubt you want more than two…|
|Is here OK?|
Burası mümkün mü?
|Say this if you want to sit in a place at a restaurant / café.|
If you’re curious to learn more about how the above phrases work, you might want to see our article on basic Turkish grammar.
A Few Notes on the Above Phrases
There are a few notes I think are worth adding regarding the above phrases.
The most common phrase I hear is “Hoşgeldiniz!”. Literally, it means “You arrived well”. It’s actually a nice literal equivalent of Spanish “Bienvenidos”, Italian “Benvenuti”, or French “Bienvenus”, or their other equivalent in singular / other gender forms. But “Hoşgeldiniz” doesn’t change for gender.
This welcoming Turkish phrase also equivalent to “خوش آمدید!” (“khosh amadid” in Persian), with the first word in common.
To respond to this, you can say “Hoş bulduk!” which means “We found it well!” But in practise, people say “Hoşgeldiniz” to me so often that to respond that way gets tiresome and repetitive. I mean, it’s even written on signs. It’s just a greeting.
For “hello”, there are a few alternatives. But “Merhaba” is all you need. You can use this with people of all ages — it’s of universal formality.
One of the most common words I have to learn when visiting a new country is what to say when I bump into someone or what to get past. In Türkiye, the universal word for this is “
I haven’t included a “How are you?” or “I’m fine, thanks,” because at the beginner level, nobody is going to get into a conversation!
Quick FAQ on Turkish Grammar
Here are some important things to bear in mind about Turkish grammar — things you might want to know as a tourist.
- There is a formal and informal tone, and it works much like French or Persian. You can express most things related to “you” in a formal tone in Turkish, and it’s the same as the “you plural” form. Generally, if you see an “iz” on the end, it’s the formal tone, e.g. “Hoşgeldiniz!” for “Welcome”, or “İster misiniz” for “Would you like…?”
- There is no gender in Turkish language — not for individuals, not for nouns. There’s not even a “he” or “she” distinction.
- There is “vowel harmony” in Turkish grammar. This is a new concept for many language learners, and it means that particles like the “question mark” / “negating” particle have two or four forms.
You can read more about Turkish vowel harmony here.
Other Turkish Phrases / Words to Learn for Everyday Survival
I found that aside from the above phrases, I’ve had to learn these other classes of words in Turkish just for everyday survival:
- Everyday foods, like milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and so on: In supermarkets, almost nothing is labelled in English. It can get confusing, and you may not know whether you’re buying milk or a yoghurt drink, unless you know the words written on them.
- Numbers. The numerical system in Turkish is easy to learn (it’s decimal and well organised — about as hard as the German system, for reference), but all the words are foreign. Even as a speaker of three other middle eastern languages, it was entirely foreign other than the number “zero”. (and “million”, but I never get up there!)
- Restaurant food items. Things like kebab, the various snacks you get in pastry shops, sweets, and so on. Every food item was unfamiliar and I have had to learn them to order food.
Do You Need to know Turkish in Türkiye?
One of my teachers actually told me I won’t need to know the above Turkish phrases, as everyone in Turkey will speak English to me. Turned out to be wrong!
Whether you need to use Turkish depends on whether you step outside the most heavily-trafficked touristy areas.
If you stay in the European side and just visit the big mosques and museums, no, you don’t need to know Turkish. But despite this, people may still say “Hoşgeldiniz!” to welcome you to a restaurant, and it’d be nice to know what to say in return.
If you go to the Asian side, then in my experience, far fewer people know Turkish. I have done several everyday things, like buy pastries / bread, got a haircut, or gone to supermarkets, and been surprised with just how unwilling people are to speak a single English word. Even numbers are a struggle — usually, people use calculators to show the number.
The upshot is that if you want to learn Turkish (like, if you have a personal interest, or a family connection), it’s extremely easy to find speaking opportunities. People are chatty, friendly, and willing to engage with you!