The compound noun ending (‑sı/si/su/sü or ‑ı/i/u/ü)


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Prerequisites for this Turkish Grammar Lesson

Vowel harmony

-lar
I-type vowel harmony
E-type vowel harmony
Exceptions



Compound nouns

Grammar form:

In Turkish, compound nouns, also known as nominal compounds are formed when two or more nouns are used together to form a single phrase that acts like a noun. In these phrases, the last word in the phrase is modified or described by the other words in the phrase. While English does not mark these kinds of phrases with any special word ending, most compound nouns in Turkish are marked with the compound noun ending. To make this ending, add a single i type vowel (i, ı, u or ü) to the end of the last word in the phrase. If the last word ends in a vowel, however, you must add an “s” to the end of the word before adding the i-type vowel.

warning-sign
DİKKAT! ÖLÜM TEHLİKE
WARNING! DANGER OF DEATH (literally “death danger”)

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Bebek sandalyesi (High chair)
High chair (literally “baby chair”)

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Atatürk Caddesi (Ataturk Street)
Atatürk Street

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Ankara İli (Ankara province)
The Province of Ankara

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Kol saati (Wristwatch)
Wristwatch
(Note that the word saat is an exception to normal vowel harmony)

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Hayal dünya (Imagination)
Dream world

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Yurt dışı (Abroad)
Abroad (outside the country)

Mantar panosu
Bulletin board (literally “mushroom board”)

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Cep telefonu (Cell phone)
Cell phone

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Pazar günü (Sunday)
Sunday (literally bazaar day)

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Boğaziçi Köprü (Bosphorus Bridge)
The Bosphorus Bridge

Words ending with Ç, K, P, T

When the last word in a compound noun ends in ç, k, p or t, there is an extra step of changing the consonant before adding the compound noun ending. This step is also needed when adding other word endings that begin with a vowel in Turkish (for example, the ‑a/e ending that means to/toward). If the compound noun ends with ç, k, p or t, the last letter is replaced with another letter, as follows:

  • ç gets replaced with c
  • k gets replaced with ğ
  • p gets replaced with b
  • t gets replaced with d

Examples

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Araç (vehicle)
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İtfaiye ara (fire engine)
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Kabuk (shell)
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Deniz kabuğu (sea shell)
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Yemek (meal)
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Akşam yemeği (supper, literally evening meal)
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Sahip (owner)
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Ev sahibi (home owner)
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Kebap (Kabob)
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Tavuk şiş keba (Chicken Shish Kabob)
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Kâğıt (paper)
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Duvar kâğı (wall paper)

Exceptions with Ç, K, P, T

But as with most language rules, there are exceptions. And for the compound noun ending, there are lots of exceptions. Firstly, for some words, the last word ends with ç, k, p or t, but the consonant does not get changed to c, ğ, b or d. This happens most often with words that end with the letter t.

Examples

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Yurt içi (Domestic)
Domestic (lit. country interior)

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Çankaya Köşkü (Cankaya mansion)
Çankaya Mansion

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Futbol topu (Soccer ball)
Soccer ball

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Türkiye Cumhuriyeti (The Republic of Turkey)
The Republic of Turkey

Doğu Hindistan Şirketi
East India [Trading] Company

Compound nouns as one word

Sometimes, a compound noun gets used so often that it becomes its own word. When this happens, the compound noun still follows the same rules as a normal compound noun. But it becomes one word instead of two.

Examples
Gök (sky) + kuşak (sash) = gökkuşağı (rainbow)

Uğur (luck) +

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böcek (bug) = uğurböceği (ladybug)

Buz (ice) +

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dolap (cupboard) = buzdola (refrigerator)

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Dil (language) +
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bilgi (knowledge)
= dilbilgisi (linguistics)

Soy (anscestor) +

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ad (name) = soyadı (last name)

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Ayak (foot) + kap (container) =
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Ayakka (shoe)

Çocuk ayakkabı (kids shoe) ‑ Since ayakkabı here is treated as a single word, an additional compound noun ending can be added, unlike with normal compound nouns which only take one compound noun ending on the last word, regardless of the number of words in the compound noun.

Dropping vowels

In addition to the exceptions above, there is a small number of Turkish words that drop the last vowel in the word when adding the compound noun ending (or any other ending starting with a vowel). However, when you are figuring out the vowel harmony for the word ending, you still have to treat it as though the “dropped” vowel is still there. So, the compound noun ending matches the vowel that was dropped and not necessarily the other vowels in the word. Since most of these exception words follow vowel harmony, it does not matter for most of these cases. But it does matter for words like “vakit” and “akit” (see below).

Examples

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İzin (permission)
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Oturma izni (residence permit)
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Vakit (time)
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Namaz vakti (Islamic prayer time)
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Karın (stomach)
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Koyun karnı (sheep stomach)
ul (son) İnsanoğlu (person, literally “son of human”)
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Vakıf (foundation)
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Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı (The Religious Foundation of Turkey)
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Akit (agreement)
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Hizmet Akti (service agreement)
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Şehir (city)
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Yeraltı Şehri (underground city)
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Keşif (discovery)
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Petrol keşfi (petroleum discovery)

Compound nouns with no ending

Also, some Turkish compound nouns do not have any ending on them at all. So they are handled more like how English handles compound nouns: by not marking them in any way. This is especially common for compound nouns where the first noun explains what the second noun is made of.

Examples
Pamuk şeker
Cotton candy

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Taş köprü (Stone bridge)
Stone bridge

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Altın kolye (Gold necklace)
Gold necklace

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Tavuk şiş kebap (Chicken shish kebab)
Chicken shish kabob
(Note that the names of various types of kabobs can also be given the compound noun ending: “tavuk şiş kebabı.”)

Parmak patates
French fries (literally “finger fries”)

Barbekü sos
Barbecue sauce

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Erkek çocuk (Boy child)
Boy (literally “man child”)

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Soyisim (Surname)
Last name (literally “anscestor name”)

Compound nouns with repeated consonants

For a handful of words in Turkish, adding a compound noun ending requires repeating the last consonant in the word. When this is the case, the double consonant makes a longer sound than a single consonant would make. So there is a difference both in writing and in pronunciation.

Examples

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Metro hat (Metro line)
Metro line

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Telif hak (Copyright)
Copyright

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Çocukluk Sır (Childhood secret)
Childhood Secret (book title)

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Ücret zam (Wage hike)
Wage increase

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İncirlik Üs (Incirlik base)
İncirlik (Military) Base

Compound nouns with repeated vowels

There are a few words in Turkish that end in an i-type vowel but that normally do not take an “s” before the compound noun ending. The most common of these words are “cami” and “bayi.” So if you add the compound noun ending to these words, it turns them into “camii” and “bayii.” However, while this double vowel at the end of the word is seen in writing, it is usually not noticeable in spoken language. Since this exception is very rare, many native Turkish speakers treat them like normal Turkish words and say “camisi” and “bayisi.” This is especially common in every day speech. But it is considered to be incorrect according to the standard grammar rules.

Examples
Sultan Ahmet Camii
Sultan Ahmet Mosque

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Tekel bayii (Monopoly dealer)
liquor store (literally “single-hand dealer” or “monopoly dealer”)

Evlilik mevzuu
The topic of marriage

Sermaye temetüü
Capital dividend

Words ending in ‑nk

Also, there are a few words in Turkish that end in the letters, “nk” that are treated differently in compound nouns. When these words form a compound noun, the “k” at the end of the word turns into a hard “g” instead of a soft “ğ.” The most common of these exception words is “renk” (color). Since the others are rarely used in compound nouns, “renk” is the main one you need to remember.

Examples

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Kahve (coffee) + renk (color) =
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kahverengi (Brown)

brown (literally “coffee color”)

Kafa (head) + denk (equivalent) =

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kafa dengi (Like-minded)
like-minded (literally “head equal”)

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Yılbaşı (New Year’s or Christmas) + fiyonk (bow) = yılbaşı fiyongu
Christmas bow

Cenaze (funeral) + çelenk (wreath) =

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cenaze çelengi (Funeral wreath)
Funeral wreath

Compound nouns with the word “su”

Also, if a compound noun ends with the word “su,” the buffer consonant that is used is a “y” instead of the normal “s.”

Examples

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Elma suyu (Apple juice)
Apple juice (literally “apple water”)

Practice what you know

Now that you’ve gotten introduced to compound nouns in Turkish, you’re ready to practice what you know.

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