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Turkish vowel harmony

You’ve probably heard of vowel harmony. It will seem complicated to you at the beginning stage. But we Turks want to make less effort when speaking. We want the words to flow without forcing our tongue and without getting tired. That’s why what we call vowel harmony exists.

Why do we learn about vowel harmony?

When are we going to use them?

Is it necessary for you to learn this?

Turkish is an agglutinative language. When you want to make a sentence, we add suffixes to the end of some words and use them. Our problem is that; The suffix you will use, will have multiple forms.

For example, in Turkish, the plural suffix has  2 different forms: -ler, -lar.

If you want to say “children” in Turkish, we use the -lar form of plural suffix: Çocuk-lar. You shouldn’t use -ler for this word.

If you want to say “clothes” in Turkish, use the -ler form of plural suffix: Giysi-ler. You shouldn’t use -lar for this word.

Another example in this language we have past tense suffixes in 4 different forms: -Dı, -Di, -Du, -Dü.

How do we use it with words?

Let’s see it with this verb: Gel (come). We have to use one of these suffixes (-Dı, -Di, -Du, -Dü) to make it past tense.

If we are going to use the past tense to say “came”,

we can not say gel-Dü,

we can not say gel-Dı 

Or something else. We have to say gel-Di.

Because we can’t decide which one to use. Turkish vowel harmony decides this. That’s why this is one of the most basic subjects of Turkish.

I want you to pay attention to vowels in these words. Çocuklar, giysiler, kaldırımlar, terlikler…

If you’ve noticed, vowels sound like a melody, they look alike. There seems to be a grouping. Before starting. I would like you to check out here detail about classifying vowels. Because in order for you to understand the subject that I will explain in the first title, remind back and front vowels in Turkish.

back front

The table of back and front vowels




The first rule is a general rule. It’s simple. There will be only 2 ways. Either you go right or you go left.

There are 2 ways ahead of us.

If the last vowel of the word is a back vowel, then the vowel in the suffix that comes after the word must also be a back vowel. This is the first way, the right way.

And the second way, the left way is if the last vowel of the word is a front vowel, the vowels that follow must also be a front vowel. We have to put the end of the word the suffix with a front vowel.

We are going to use the first way or the second way. As you can see, there are 2 ways in front of us and it is very simple.

vowel harmony rules

The rule 2-way harmony


If we give an example. Let’s look at the suffix -lAş.

It gives the word the meaning of transforming from one state to another situation.

It has 2 different forms: -laş, -leş.

If the last vowel of the word that will come to the end is in the back vowel, it will have the suffix -laş cause it has a back vowel.

But if the last vowel of the word is a front vowel, the suffix will be leş in the form of a front vowel will be used.

1.İyi (good, fine);

The last vowel of the word is -i

Which is the front vowel. So we are going to use the -leş suffix, the form with e: iyileş.

It gives new meaning to getting better from a worse situation.

***COVID-19 virüsüne yakalandım ama iyileştim. (I caught the COVID-19 virus, but I recovered.)

2. Siyah (black);

The last vowel is a back vowel.

Therefore, we will use the back vowel in the suffix too.

We will bring to the end of the word -laş: siyahlaş.

It took on a new meaning of returning to the colour black from different colour or a light tone. Become black.

***Boya sayesinde saçlarım siyahlaştı. (My hair has turned black because of the dye.)

3. Sert (hard);

The last and only vowel of the word is e, the front vowel.

Therefore, the suffix will be -leş: Sertleş. It took on a new meaning of becoming harder from a softer state.

***Yüzümdeki maske sertleşti. (The mask on my face hardened.)



It’s a little more complicated, but you can actually make it practical in everyday use by making a minor example. In Turkish, some suffixes can have 4 different forms. This time you have 4 ways.

What will you do then?

For example, there are suffixes created with 2 front and 2 back vowels.

The past tense suffix -DI, -Dİ, -DU, -DÜ.

We use it with different words in 4 different ways.

Let’s look at the verb: gel (come). If you want to say come in the shape of past tense(came), put one suffix of past tense at the end of the word.

Gel ends with a front vowel, well. So we will use the suffix with the front vowel. That was the previous rule.

There is -Di also -Dü with a front vowel. So we have 2 choices.

What should we do now?

The rule we just learned is insufficient in this case.

We have a table of back and front vowels. We’re going to divide it into four. Notice the letters next to each other. I after A, İ after E, u after O, ü after Ö.

kucuk unlu uyumu tablosu

The rule of 4-way harmony 1.

Let’s try to understand by looking at the table and example words. Look at the  4 different past tense suffixes: -DI, -Dİ, -DU, -DÜ.

We have 4 suffixes, so we have 4 ways. But we don’t know which suffix, which way is true for any word.


1. Kal (stay);

The last vowel of the word is a, the vowel of the suffix must be ı.

So the suffix will be –Dı: kaldı (stayed)

2. Gel (come);

The syllable after e must have i in it. -Di: geldi (came)

3. Doktor (doctor);

The last vowel o. If we look at the table, u should come after o.

We are going to put the past tense suffix is in the form of -Du: doktordu (was/were doctor)

4. Çöz (solve);

You see ö. If we want to use the verb in the past tense, in which form should we use the suffix? If ö exists, it continues with ü. Which suffix? -Dü: çözdü (solved)

Another point

Assuming that the last vowel of the word ends with ı, the suffix will still be in the form produced by ı.

If it ends with u, the suffix is made with u again.

supposing that the last vowel of the word is i, the suffix will have i again.

Whenever it ends with ü, the suffix with ü. It won’t change.

kuu 2

The rule of 4 way harmony 2.

1. Büyü (grow up, get bigger);

The last letter is ü. The letter of the past tense suffix must also contain the same letter. This time it will not change. Cause the word is to end with ü.

The suffix is -Dü: büyüdü (grew up, got bigger)

2. Sil (delete);

It is i. The letter will come after it is still the same, it won’t change. We put the past tense suffix -Di: sildi (deleted)

With another example, you will understand better. Now let’s do it using the suffix; -sız, -siz, -suz, -süz. It is using in 4 different forms. This suffix is using, which means without in English.

  How do we use this suffix?

  1. Boya (paint), Boyasız (without paint).
  2. Renk colour, Renksiz (without colour).
  3. Yol way, Yolsuz (without way).
  4. Göl (lake), Gölsüz (without lake).
  5. Ölüm (death), Ölümsüz (without death, most common usage deathless).

This is how it continues…

In particular, you should do a lot of practice on the 2nd rule.

For example:

a, ı kal-dı, o, u oldu

e, i, dedi ö, ü döndü.

Like this, make more practice.

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