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Common Mistakes in Learning Turkish


Making mistakes while learning a language is inevitable. Every language has its own unique linguistic features such as phonology, grammar, and vocabulary to take into account. In addition, the habit of comparing the new language to one’s mother tongue can impact one’s use of the new language and lead to mistakes.

I Shouldn’t Have Made This Mistake!

In this article, we’ll talk about the most common Turkish mistakes that learners make when speaking, writing, and listening! We’ll cover a range of common Turkish grammar mistakes and mistakes in pronunciation and spelling, so that you can better avoid them.

Let’s get started.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Turkish Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation Mistakes
  2. Word Order Mistakes
  3. Grammar Mistakes
  4. Other Common Mistakes
  5. How to Avoid Making Mistakes in Turkish
  6. Avoid Mistakes in Turkish with the Help of TurkishClass101

1. Pronunciation Mistakes

In Turkish, words are read the way they’re written and written the way they’re read. However, there are a lot of words that come from other languages, and in most cases, their pronunciation is different from the Turkish words’ pronunciation.

We can categorize the most common pronunciation mistakes for Turkish learners as follows:

1. Mispronunciation of the letters that don’t exist in English

2. Mispronunciation of words with a circumflex

3. Tones and intonation

Man Trying to Pronounce Words

A- Mispronunciation of the letters that don’t exist in English

As you’ll recall, the Turkish alphabet consists of 29 letters, six of which don’t exist in English: 

The letter ç, which is the “ch” sound in the English words “chin” or “chimney,” and the letter ş, which is the “sh” sound in the English words “shock” or “shout,” are usually pronounced correctly. However, the other four are troublesome, for sure.

Turkish learners usually have a tendency to:

  • Pronounce ğ like a “g”

However, it’s supposed to be pronounced like the “ou” syllable in the words “ouch” or “out.” Actually, it just elongates the preceding vowel. 

It should be noted that no words in Turkish start with a ğ. Take, for example: ağ (“network”), yağmur (“rain”).

  •  Pronounce ı like an “i”

It should be pronounced like the second “o” in the word “color,” or like the “e” in the word “cooker.” Remember that when you pronounce this letter like an “i,” it will impact the meaning of the word. For example:

Ilım (“Moderation”)

İlim (“Science”)

  • Pronounce ö like an “o”

It should be pronounced like the “i” in the word “bird,” or like the “u” in the word “curtain.” When you pronounce this letter like an “o,” it will impact the meaning of the word. For example:

Ön (“Front”)

On (“Ten”)

  • Pronounce ü like a “u”

It should be pronounced like the “u” in the words “pure” and “mute.” When you pronounce this letter like a “u,” it will change the meaning of the word. For example:

Üç (“Three”)


B- Mispronunciation of words with a circumflex

The circumflex is a diacritic sign written above a letter that affects the pronunciation of a word. It’s used in loanwords.

A letter with a circumflex above it is pronounced differently than the same letter without a circumflex. It implies a longer pronunciation of the letter or the palletization of the consonant that comes before it.

Mispronouncing words with a circumflex is one of the most common pronunciation mistakes for Turkish learners.

Here are some words that contain a circumflex and what they mean if they’re pronounced incorrectly:

  • “Hâlâ” is an Arabic word that means “still” or “yet.” The circumflex here makes the “a” longer and performs the palletization of the letter “l.” Pronouncing the word without the circumflex would make it sound like the word hala, which is a Turkish word meaning “sister of father.” Although they’re spelled the same way except for the circumflex, they’re pronounced differently.
  • “Kâr” is a Persian word that means “profit.” The circumflex performs the same actions as in the previous word. Pronouncing this word without the circumflex would make it sound like the word kar, which means “snow.” Even though they’re spelled the same way except for the circumflex, they’re pronounced differently.
  • “Âmâ” is an Arabic word that means “blind.” The circumflex here makes both the first and last “a” longer. Pronouncing this word without the circumflex would make it sound like the word ama, which means “but.” As seen in the example, although they’re spelled the same way except for the circumflex, these two words are pronounced differently.

C- Tones and intonation

Tones are used to express certain feelings, such as excitement, fear, anger, and hope. Depending on the emotion we want to express, we pronounce the letters or words in a hard, soft, short, or long way, or with a low or high pitch.

Intonation puts an emphasis on the syllables or words that we want to highlight. 

How a person uses tones and intonation is likely to be influenced by that speaker’s mother tongue. 

Foreigners usually…

  • …put an emphasis on the last letter of one-syllable words. However, there’s no intonation on one-syllable words in Turkish.
  • …don’t use intonation on the last syllable if the word consists of multiple syllables. However, the intonation is usually on the last syllable if the word is made up of multiple syllables, except for two-syllable names of places and intensive adjectives, such as: İzmir [name of a city in Turkey] and Kapkara [“Coal-black”] where the intonation is on the first syllable.
  • …get confused when a word gets a suffix. In Turkish, a suffix gets the intonation of the last syllable.

When it comes to sentences, you need to keep in mind that:

  • In simple sentences, verbs are stressed. (Ex: Ben geliyorum. – “I’m coming.”)
  • In more complex sentences, the word that’s before the verb is usually stressed. (Ex: İşten şimdi geldim. – “I just came from work.”)

Here are some other tips for you:

  • In Turkish, in order to emphasize a word, you can change the place of an object with a subject (or vice-versa).
  • As you’ll recall, the suffixes that verbs take imply the personal pronoun already, so you don’t have to use them in sentences unless you want to emphasize the pronoun.
  • You can also elongate a certain word in a sentence to stress it.

2. Word Order Mistakes

When learning Turkish, foreigners whose mother tongue uses the SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) word order usually put the verb after the subject in Turkish. However, the typical Turkish word order is SOV (Subject-Object-Verb), which means that the subject precedes the object, and the object precedes the verb. Furthermore, suffixes will always be at the end, agglutinated to the words.

To avoid this kind of error in Turkish, you also need to keep the following in mind:

  • Turkish personal pronouns are usually omitted since the suffix of a verb implies the pronoun already.
  • Some of the time-related words become adverbs of time when grouped together with other words. These adverbs are located at the beginning of a sentence unless a subject is used in that sentence. (Ex: Sabaha kadar dans ettik. – “We danced until the morning.”)

Turkish word order is more flexible than that of English! For example, you can put an object or a verb at the beginning of a sentence in Turkish. It won’t change the meaning, but the word you’re stressing will definitely change. You can use this flexibility once you’re more comfortable with Turkish, but not in the early stages of your learning.

3. Grammar Mistakes

Common Turkish grammar mistakes tend to fall under these categories:

  • Suffixes
  • Tenses
  • Conjugation

A- Suffixes

Suffixes are one of the most problematic topics for Turkish learners, since they don’t exist in most other languages. Knowing which suffix to use is not sufficient if you want to use it correctly. You also have to know the vowel harmony rules to choose the right vowels in the suffixes.

The most common mistakes in learning Turkish suffixes are made…

  • …when adding a suffix to a verb based on the person/subject it alludes to.
  • …when determining the suffix required for a singular vs. plural subject.
  • …when using the definite article “the” (because there isn’t a separate word for it in the Turkish language). When definite nouns or pronouns are used as an object, they take the “-ı, -i, -u, -ü” suffixes based on the vowel harmony rules.
  • …when using possessive pronouns (because there aren’t separate words for them in Turkish). However, the “-m, -ım, -im, -um,-üm” suffixes (in conjugated forms) come after the pronoun to make it possessive.

Turkish learners find it even more complicated to make a negative or interrogative sentence. Here are some common Turkish mistakes in these areas:

Incorrect usageCorrect usageWhat it means in English
İyiyim değil.İyi değilim.“I’m not well.”
Yok değil.Var.“There is/are.”
Geliyor değilim.Gelmiyorum.“I’m not coming.”
Gidiyorsun mu?Gidiyor musun?“Are you going?”

B- Tenses

Foreigners learning Turkish also find tenses very confusing. This is because verbs get:

  • suffixes according to the tense
  • suffixes based on the plural subject
  • suffixes according to the personal pronoun
  • sometimes buffers

When negativity or interrogation is added, it gets even more complicated. Forming a negative sentence requires that another suffix is added to the verb. To make a question, interrogative particles get personal suffixes and are written separately.

There’s one more thing concerning tenses that really trips learners up: the “reported past tense,” which doesn’t exist in most other languages.

Reported past tense is used for past events that we haven’t witnessed ourselves, but heard about from someone else. It’s also used when we’re not completely sure whether a specific event has taken place or not. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Babam iki kez ABD’ye gitmiş. (“My father has gone to the USA twice.”)
  • Ödevlerini yapmamışlar. (“They haven’t done their homework.”)

Unfortunately, most foreigners refuse to use this tense because it doesn’t make much sense to them. They insist on using the definite past tense instead of this tense, even if they haven’t witnessed what they’re talking about.

C- Conjugation

The factors that affect verb conjugation in Turkish are:

  • Person/subject
  • Number
  • Politeness level
  • Tense

We’ve covered all of these factors above, except for the politeness level. In Turkish, we use the plural “you” both as it’s used in English, and also as a formal way of addressing someone. The polite “you” follows the same rules as the plural “you” in Turkish.

Most foreigners tend not to use the polite “you.”

Woman Pointing Her Finger at Someone

Keep in mind that, in addition to verb conjugation, there are also passive voice, causative verbs (verbs formed by adding the causative suffix after the verb root), reflexive verbs, and verbs of mutual action.

Let’s see some examples of them:

Correct usageIncorrect usageWhat it means in EnglishNote
YerilmekYerelmek“To be criticized”This is an example of passive voice. Foreigners usually conjugate the word yermek (“to criticize”) incorrectly.
Çıkarmak (yukarı)Çıktırmak“To make someone go up”This is a causative case. Foreigners usually conjugate the word çıkmak (“to go up,” “to climb”) incorrectly.
YormakYordurmak“To make someone tired” 
GöstermekGördürmek“To show”This is an irregular causative case where the word görmek (“to see”) is conjugated.
Birbirine vermekVerişmek“To give each other”There aren’t any verbs of mutual action for the verb vermek (“to give”). However, foreigners have a tendency to conjugate it, which is not correct.

4. Other Common Mistakes

Here are a few more common Turkish mistakes that learners tend to make! 

A- More pronunciation mistakes

The “h” sound can lead to pronunciation problems, because “h” in the middle or at the end of a word is pronounced in Turkish (unlike in English). For example, Mehmet, which is a name, is pronounced as “Mehhh-met,” not “Me-met.”

Also remember that the Turkish “c” is pronounced as “j” or “g” in English. It’s not pronounced like the “c” in “cereal.” For example, Can, which is a name, is pronounced as “John.”

B- Words that need to be written separately

Interrogative particles, which are used to form “yes-or-no” questions, are written separately in Turkish even though they don’t mean anything when used alone. Even native speakers sometimes make this mistake in Turkish!

C- The words de and da, which mean “also,” need to be written separately as well. De and da are also used as the prepositions “at” and “in,” in which case, they’re supposed to be written together with the word. The suffixes -de and -da are often confused with the words de and da.

Here are some examples:

  • Bu gece annemde kalacağım. (“I am going to stay at my mom’s tonight.”)
  • Bu gece annem de kalacak. (“My mother will also stay tonight.”)
  • Kitabın benim çantamda. (“Your book is in my bag.”)
  • Telefonun da benim çantamda. (“Your phone is also in my bag.”)
Yes and No Questions

D- Words even Turkish people pronounce incorrectly

 Here are some words that even Turkish people can’t pronounce correctly! 

Correct pronunciationMeaning of the wordIncorrect pronunciation
Aferin“Good job,” “Well done”Aferim

5. How to Avoid Making Mistakes in Turkish

Wondering how you can avoid making an embarrassing mistake in Turkish? Here are a few pointers! 

1. Forget about your native language.

Your mother tongue will have an impact on your Turkish, from grammar habits to phonology. Therefore, you need to put your native language on the shelf for a while. Otherwise, your habits of using your own language will lead to mistakes in Turkish. After a while, you’ll be able to handle both languages separately, but until then, you should forget about your native language.

2. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

Every one of us makes mistakes in different areas of life. Those mistakes help us learn not to make more mistakes. There’s an anonymous quote that I saw on the internet. I liked it a lot and wanted to share with you: “A mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end.”      

Remember this quote and don’t be afraid of speaking Turkish. No one will judge you if you make mistakes. On the contrary, they’ll appreciate your courage. Even if you make mistakes in Turkish, those mistakes will help you avoid making more mistakes in the future.

Don’t Tape Your Mouth!

3. Use every opportunity to speak with native Turkish speakers.

There’s always a lot to learn from native speakers, so you should try practicing with Turkish people whenever possible. This way, you can also learn idioms and slang! Native speakers can also show you your mistakes and tell you how to correct them.

4. Be determined.

Don’t let the mistakes you make discourage you. Learning a new language isn’t easy. It requires time. The beginning stages can be tough. But if you don’t give up, you’ll see that it’s possible to learn the language and use it well! 

6. Avoid Mistakes in Turkish with the Help of TurkishClass101

After learning about all of these common Turkish mistakes, do you still feel that Turkish is difficult? I don’t think so. I’m sure that these tips will help you stay away from those mistakes, and that as you make fewer mistakes, you’ll get the prejudice that it’s difficult out of your mind.

Visit and check out our numerous audio recordings, themed vocabulary lists, and free resources (including a handy dictionary you can refer to), in order to get a better grasp of Turkish.

Don’t forget that there’s also MyTeacher, a Premium service of TurkishClass101 that you can use to practice with a private teacher.

What’s more? You can download the app for free and use it wherever you are!

Last but not least, please continue to provide us with feedback about all the resources provided at TurkishClass101.

Before you go, let us know in the comments which Turkish mistakes you struggle with the most!

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