Finnish is a proud member of the Finno-Ugric language family and, therefore, not related to the English language. It has no articles, no future tense, nor many other features found in so many European languages. It is a pretty regular language. Its spelling rules are so simple that Finnish children never have to worry about participating in spelling bee competitions. There, quite simply, is no need for them.
The Finnish vowels always sound the same regardless of their place in the word. The instructions refer to General American English unless stated otherwise.
|A||[ɑ]||as in "palm tree"; never as in "hat"||absurdi, palmu, utopia|
|E||[e]||like the first e in the Australian English (GA) and British English (RP) "legend"||emu, genre, legenda|
|I||[i]||pronounced like the letter y in "gallery"||idoli, galleria|
|O, Å||[o]||almost like the letter o in "corny" but more closed, never as in "not gold"; the letter Å, the "Swedish O", is used only in names of Swedish origin||korni, operetti, studio, Måns|
|U||[u]||as in ”moose taboo" but short||urbaani, pulu, tabu|
|Y||[y]||the "French U" and the "German Ü"; close to the expression of disgust ”eww”, but short and pronounced in the front part of the mouth; start with the vowel sound in the word "sea" and then pout like a proud pufferfish||yksi, tyly, hyeena|
|Ä||[æ]||like the letter a in "band"||ässä, bändi|
|Ö||[ø]||the closest thing found in English can be heard in some words before r, as in ”early bird”; the Finnish sound is pronounced closer to the teeth||söpö, ötökkä|
The dots above Ä and Ö are NOT accents nor stress marks used to modify A and O. The two letters stand for distinct sounds made in the front part of the mouth, whereas the sounds represented by the dotless letters are produced at the back. Forgetting your dots results either in incomprehensible gobbledygook or in some wholly unrelated word. It is better to tell someone that they are hellä (tender, gentle) than to call them hella (kitchen stove).
Long vowels are written with double letters. They are the same sounds as the single letter ones but longer. If you get the length wrong, there is a risk of either being misunderstood or not being understood at all. If your biology paper is tuulessa, the wind has caught it. If it is tulessa, it is on fire. If your language doesn’t have a long sound found in Finnish, a good way to practice is to take the corresponding short sound and stretch it like an excited sports announcer after a goal or a touchdown.
|AA||[ɑː]||as in ”Aargh!” and the British English (RP) ”bar"||baari, aaria, hurraa|
|EE||[eː]||never as in ”sweet dreams”, but a British (RP) soccer announcer shouting the name ”Best” - ”Beest!”||eeppinen, toffee, magneetti|
|II||[iː]||as in ”team”||iilimato, tiimi, kirii|
|OO||[oː]||Australian (GA) rugby announcer yelling the name ”George” - ”Geoorge!”||ooppera, virtuoosi, neuloo|
|UU||[uː]||as in ”boom” and ”vacuum”||vakuumi, buumi|
|YY||[yː]||as in the German "kühl"; similar to "eww" but closer to the teeth||volyymi, titityy|
|ÄÄ||[æː]||baseball announcer hollering ”Mantle” - ”Maantle!”||väärä, ääni, bää|
|ÖÖ||[øː]||basketball announcer shouting ”Erving” - ”Eerving!”; the Finnish sound is closer to the teeth||insinööri, miljöö|
Foreign names and loanwords sometimes defy these rules. For example, Chile has a long i in the middle and duo has a long u.
The word for "I" is minä and for "you" sinä. Finnish verbs are conjugated according to person and number. Here are two forms of the verb olla, "to be":
Finns rarely use the expression "my name is". Instead we simply say "I am". The quintessential Finnish word for "hello" is terve, literally "healthy".
Terve! Minä olen Väinö.
Hello! I am Väinö.
Sinä olet Aino.
You are Aino.
The question word kuka, "who", is followed by words in the same order as if they were in a statement.
Terve! Kuka sinä olet?
Hello! Who are you?
Finnish does not have separate, short expressions for "sorry" and "excuse me". Both are translated with anteeksi. The word for "thank you " is kiitos.
Anteeksi, kuka sinä olet?
Excuse me, who are you?
|anteeksi||sorry, excuse me|
Let's aspire to not aspirate. Aspiration is a feature in Germanic languages, which can be found in most varieties of English. It means releasing a concise but violent puff of air while producing the sounds [k], [p], and [t] beginning stressed syllables, as in kind, pampered, tomcat. However, when one of these three sounds appears after the sound [s], or ends a syllable, the sounds are unaspirated, as in skydiving, wasp, stung, or Mick, lip, fat. In Finnish, [k], [p], and [t] are always unaspirated regardless of their place in the word. Native English speakers from India, Pakistan, and some parts of Africa often pronounce the sounds like Finns do - no huffing and puffing.
The instructions refer to General American English unless stated otherwise.
|B||[b]||as in "banana"||zombi, banaani|
|C||[k], [s]||appears only in rare loanwords; usually an unaspirated [k] as in the French "café"||cancan, café|
|D||[d]||as in "domino"||domino, video|
|F||[f]||as in "festival"||ufo, festivaali|
|G||[g], [ŋ]||usually as in "gorilla", never as in "gentleman"||gorilla, agentti|
|H||[h], [ɦ], [ç], [x]||[h] in the beginning of the word, as in "hiccup"||hikka, haiku|
|J||[j]||always like the word initial Y in English, as in "yeti", never like the English J, as in "jolly"||jeti, jojo|
|K||[k]||unaspirated; always as in "risk", never as in "kiss"||kilogramma, riski|
|L||[l]||as in "lotus"||lootus, Englanti|
|M||[m], [ɱ]||most often pronounced as [m], as in "mascot"||samba, maskotti|
|N||[n], [ŋ], [ɱ]||almost always pronounced as [n], as in "noodle"||nuudeli, fani|
|P||[p]||unaspirated; always as in "sponsor", never as in "pirate"||panda, sponsori|
|Q||[k], [kʋ], [kw]||extremely rare and appears only in loanwords; most often an unaspirated [k] as in the Spanish word "tequila"||tequila, quiche|
|R||[r]||the "Scottish R" also found in Italian, Spanish, Greek, and Russian; produced by making the tip of the tongue vibrate against the ridge behind the upper front teeth; "rock music" with bagpipes||rock-musiikki, dinosaurus|
|S||[s], [ʃ]||usually as in "silk", never as in "easy", or "decision"||silkki, illuusio|
|T||[t]||unaspirated; always as in "pessimist", never as in "tango"||tango, pessimisti|
|V||[ʋ]||close to "vampire" but more relaxed||vampyyri, diiva|
|W||[ʋ], [w], [u]||extremely rare and appears only in loanwords; almost always pronounced as a [ʋ]||kiwi, watti|
|X||[ks]||extremely rare; always as in "Exterminate!", never as in "existence"||ex-partneri|
|Z||[ts]||rare and found only in loanwords; as in "paparazzi", never as in "zone"||zen, gorgonzola|
Long consonant sounds are marked by double letters or ng. The Finnish double letter sounds are very similar to those found in Italian. Splitting words with long consonants into syllables usually helps those with trouble pronouncing them: alt-to, mok-ka, karamel-li, bas-so.
|KK||[kː]||as in the Italian "mocca"; or "black_cat", but unaspirated||gekko|
|LL||[lː]||as in "soul_love"||balladi|
|MM||[mː]||as in "beam_me up"||gramma|
|NN||[nː]||as in "heaven_not hell"||savanni|
|PP||[pː]||as in the Italian "cappuccino"; or "stop_panicking", but unaspirated||ooppera|
|RR||[rː]||as in the Italian "guerra"||terrieri|
|SS||[sː]||as in "this_state"||passi|
|TT||[tː]||as in the Italian "frutti"; or "to be, or not_to be", but unaspirated||botti|
|NG||[ŋː]||as in the Spanish "tango"||tango|
In spoken language and some loanwords BB, DD, FF, GG, HH, JJ, and VV are also possible.
The Finnish expressions onnea and paljon onnea can be used both to wish someone good luck and to congratulate them.
Tervetuloa ja onnea!
Welcome and good luck/congratulations!
Paljon onnea Matti!
Congratulations/Best wishes Matti!
The word no is a filler word used to make moving from one topic to another less awkward, or to make something less formal and in your face. It is usually translated as "well".
No, terve! Minä olen Otso. Kukas sinä olet?
Well, hello! I am Otso. Who are you?
Minä olen Anna. No, tervetuloa!
I am Anna. Well, welcome!
|onnea||good luck, congratulations|
|paljon||a lot (of)|
The Finnish language has no gender specific pronouns like "he" and "she" in English. Whatever the gender of the person you are talking about, they are referred to as hän in the singular.
Hän on Matti.
He is Matti.
Hän on Liisa.
She is Liisa.
There are no articles in Finnish. That does not mean that you can put any old article in the English translation of a Finnish sentence. Sentences with the verb olla, "to be", put nouns in a certain order. The more important and complete something is, the earlier it appears. If a noun ends the sentence, it is somehow incomplete, often because the word does not include everything it by definition could. This is why final nouns in sentences with the verb "to be" are translated with an indefinite article.
Liisa on nainen.
Liisa is a woman.
Matti on mies.
Matti is a man.
Hän on velho.
S/he is a wizard.
Unlike in many other European languages, the last letter of a first name says nothing about the gender preferences associated with that name. There are also some names that have no preferred gender. Here are the first names introduced in this course:
Finnish diphthongs and vowel unions are blissfully happy. The letters in them represent the same sounds they stand for on their own. For example,
a + u = au
[ɑ] + [u] = [ɑu].
In words that have three or fewer syllables, the stress is always on the first syllable. Unlike in English, the place of the stress does not affect the quality of the sounds.
This applies to Standard Finnish and many of the southern dialects. Most other forms of Finnish are considerably "bouncier".
|on||(he, she, it) is|
Sisu is the secret, internal emergency generator that keeps you going when you have used up all your energy but there are still things left that just need to be done. The word is often considered untranslatable, but the American expression "true grit" gets pretty close. The corresponding adjective is sisukas.
Hilla on sisukas nainen.
Hilla is a woman with sisu/true grit.
Sauna is the most widely spread Finnish word. Although what constitutes as a sauna in most places, is considered in Finland a room that is slightly warmer than usual. Moreover, if you are not allowed to throw water on the sauna stove, it is not a proper sauna.
Kantele is a Finnish string instrument with a distinctive jingling sound. The first one was built by the great wizard Väinämöinen out of the jawbone of a gargantuan pike. Fact.
The singular present tense forms of olla, "to be":
In Standard Finnish, the words minä, "I", and sinä, the singular "you", are optional when they are in the subject position. Hän, however, needs to be included.
Minä olen ujo./Olen ujo.
I am shy.
Sinä olet rehellinen./Olet rehellinen.
You are honest.
Hän on hiljainen.
S/he is quiet.
Although common in writing, leaving out personal pronouns is rarer in spoken Finnish.
In sentences with the verb olla, "to be", the more complete a noun is, the earlier it appears. The later a noun appears, the less complete it is, and the more likely it is to be translated with an indefinite article.
Hän on ujo poika.
He is a shy boy.
However, the English language has so many ways of using articles in generalisations that sometimes an indefinite article starts such a sentence.
Hyvä sauna on aina suomalainen.
A good sauna is always Finnish.
In Finnish, that sauna is considered complete, since we are talking about all the good saunas in the world here.
Finnish last names can usually be found in nature. The most common last names can be divided into four groups:
|Pöllö||"Owl" - noun|
|Pöllönen||"Of Owl", or "Little Owl" - noun with the ending nen|
|Pöllölä||"Owl Place" - noun with the ending la/lä|
|Pöllövaara||"Owl Fell/Hill/Danger" - compound word that has probably replaced a name in some other language|
The shortest way to introduce someone is to use the phrase Tämä on..., "This is..":
Joni, tämä on Anna.
Joni, this is Anna.
Finns are very informal, but just in case you get invited to the Presidential Independence Day Ball, or to some other very formal event, the Finnish equivalents of "Mr." and "Ms." are herra and rouva.
Herra Presidentti, tämä on rouva Pöllönen.
Mr. President, this is Ms. Pöllönen.
The word hyvä, "good", can be used in the meaning "bravo" to encourage other people. You can use it to support your country or friend at a sporting event, or to thank someone for work well done.
Go (Team) Finland!
Well done Aino!/Bravo Aino!/Go Aino!
|ihminen||person, human being|
|suomalainen||Finnish (adjective), Finn (person)|
|sisukas||with sisu (adjective)|
The word for "it" is se and the word for "this" is tämä. As in English, the latter can be used both independently and before a noun.
Se on pupu.
It is a bunny.
Tämä on söpö.
This (one) is cute.
Tämä pupu on söpö.
This bunny is cute.
Finnish does not have a verb for "to have". Instead the verb olla, "to be", is combined with a subject in the adessive. You can recognise the adessive from the ending lla/llä.
Sentences with olla follow the most-complete-noun-first rule, which is why an object ending this type of sentence is almost always translated with an indefinite article. Whenever the object follows the verb, the verb always takes the same form: the 3rd person singular, on.
Minulla on koira.
I have a dog.
Sinulla on pupu.
You have a bunny.
Hänellä on kissa.
S/he has a cat.
In questions that begin with millainen, "what kind of"/"what...like", the verb is placed after the nouns and pronouns.
Millainen poni se on?
What kind of pony is it/What is the pony like?
Millainen koira sinulla on?
What kind of dog do you have/What is your dog like?
The word väärin, meaning "wrong" or "incorrect", is an adverb, which is why it always appears independently and never attaches itself to a noun.
Väärin, se on undulaatti.
Wrong, it is a parakeet.
Grownup people are always (fingers crossed) hyvä, "good". However, Finns use the word kiltti, more literally "kind" or "well-behaved", instead of hyvä when talking about children and animals. While some people may use both when talking to their pets, children are almost always kiltti.
Joni on hyvä mies.
Joni is a good man.
Kuka on kiltti koira?
Who is a good dog?
In this skill, you will be introduced to the first colour words in this course: blue, white, and some of the rest (which are not found in the most beautiful flag in the world).
You can find these common Finnish names for pets and domestic animals in this course:
Whenever the letter h appears in some other place than the beginning of the word, it should be pronounced more violently, or the listener may interpret it as a long vowel, or not notice it at all. They may think that you are lamenting how quickly the past few weeks, viikot, have gone, when you actually need new notebooks, vihkot. Or that you are going to visit your friend Pia instead of going to your yard, piha. To find the right sounds, imitate the wind howling on a snowy plain and observe how the movement of air changes the sound.
|H||[h]||starts a word; as in "haiku"||hikka, haiku|
|H||[ɦ]||appears in the middle of a word, followed by a vowel; as in "Bohemian"||boheemi, mohikaani|
|H||[ç]||hissing wind pronounced behind the front teeth; preceded by i or y either before a consonant or at the end of the word; can be found in "human" and in the German "Richter"||vihreä, lyhty|
|H||[x]||formed between the soft spot at the back the mouth's ceiling and the back of the tongue; preceded by a, o, or u, and followed by a consonant; can be found in the Scottish "loch" and the German "Bach"||kahvi, sohva, juhla|
|kiltti||well-behaved, nice, sweet, good|
|minulla||I, (on) me|
|sinulla||(singular) you, (on) you|
|hänellä||s/he, (on) him/her|
|millainen||what kind of|
|väärin||(in an) incorrect (way), (in a) wrong (way)|
The word saamelainen (Sápme in Northern Sámi) refers to the Sámi people who live in the northern parts of Finland, Norway, and Sweden, as well as in the most northwestern Russia. Three Sámi languages (Northern Sámi, Inari Sámi, Skolt Sámi) are spoken in Finland and they have a semi-official status. This means that a Sámi language is an official language in any municipality that has a certain number of native speakers. Four Finnish municipalities offer services in at least one Sámi language.
The more complete a noun is, the earlier it appears in a sentence with the verb olla, "to be". As a result, a noun or a noun phrase that starts a sentence is usually translated with a definite article. If the sentence has another noun with another function, that noun is less complete. It can be translated with both types of articles found in English, depending on the context. The indefinite article is the more likely option in most cases.
Tuhma kissa on viikinki.
The naughty cat is a/the Viking.
If the previous conversation has revolved around the identity of a mysterious Viking, whose scandalous secret is now being revealed, the definite article is used. In other cases, use an indefinite article. Note that this is because the English language works the way it works. Finnish could not care less. As long as there are cats and Vikings involved, in that order, everything is hunky-dory.
Most Finnish question words are followed by words in the same order as they would be in a statement: the subject first, then the verb. This also applies to the question word missä, "(in) where":
Norja on maa.
Norway is a country.
Missä Norja on?
Where is Norway?
Unlike English, Finnish does not use auxiliary verbs like "to do" to start questions but opts for a question particle instead. In yes/no questions, the particle -ko is added to the word that is in charge of the interrogation. Most often this word is a verb. The verb is followed by the subject.
Onko Ruotsi kylmä maa?
Is Sweden a cold country?
Onko sinulla suomalainen nimi?
Do you have a Finnish name?
Whenever the verb olla, "to be", is the chief interrogator in a sentence with several nouns as different parts of the sentence, the more complete noun or noun phrase is placed first. The first noun is usually translated with a definite and the second with an indefinite article.
Onko kissa viikinki?
Is the cat a Viking?
Onko viikinki kissa?
Is the Viking a cat?
Most nationality words are formed by adding the ending -lainen to the name of a nation. Unlike in English, nationality words in Finnish are written with the first letter in the lower case. For example, the word for "Icelandic" is formed like this:
Islanti + lainen = islantilainen
The most common exceptions are the words suomalainen (Finnish, Finn), ruotsalainen (Swedish, Swede), and venäläinen (Russian). Nationality words that end in -lainen are used as adjectives, and in most cases also as nouns.
Minulla on söpö venäläinen koira.
I have a cute, Russian dog.
Hän on tanskalainen.
S/he is a Dane.
Islantilainen on ujo.
The Icelandic person is shy.
[ʃ] has the most irregular spelling in Finnish and is a rare sound pronounced like the first sound in "Sherlock". It is usually spelled with sh (shampoo) but s and š are also possible (sampoo, šampoo).
Saamelainen mies on shamaani/samaani/šamaani.
The Sámi man is a shaman.
In words that have three syllables or fewer, the stress falls on the first syllable.
Words that have more syllables need a secondary stress. Its default place is on the third syllable.
In words that have five syllables or more, if the third syllable is light - that is, it has only one or two letters in it - but there is a longer, heavy syllable next to it, the stress moves to the right, on the fourth syllable.
These rules apply to Standard Finnish and most southern varieties. Other forms of Finnish are often bouncier.
|bändi||band (pop, rock)|
|islantilainen||Icelandic, Icelandic person|
|virolainen||Estonian, Estonian person|
|norjalainen||Norwegian, Norwegian person|
|venäläinen||Russian, Russian person|
|onko||is, has (questions)|
The nominative forms of the personal pronouns:
Verbs are conjugated according to person and number. Here is the verb olla, "to be", in its six different present tense forms:
|on||(s/he, it) is|
|olette||(you all) are|
Finnish makes a distinction between the singular and the plural you, that is, whether the discussion is about one or several people.
Sinä olet naimisissa.
You are married.
(you are a person who is married)
Aino ja Otso, te olette naimisissa.
Aino and Otso, you are married.
(you are people who are married)
In Standard Finnish, subject pronouns in the nominative are optional in the 1st and 2nd person. They need to be included in the 3rd person (hän, he).
(Me) olemme naimisissa.
We are married.
(Te) olette naimisissa.
You (all) are married.
He ovat naimisissa.
They are married.
Verbs can be conjugated in several different ways, depending on the verb type, but the endings are always the same.
|hän||-VV (long vowel)|
|he||-vVt (v + vowel + t)|
If the 1st infinitive of a verb ends in two vowels, the stem is formed by cutting out the final vowel.
to sing: laulaa -> laula-
to dance: tanssia -> tanssi-
to sit: istua -> istu-
Then you add the endings. In the 3rd person singular (with hän), you double the final letter in the stem. In the 3rd person plural (with he), you add the ending -vat, if the stem has a, o, or u in it.
|minä||laula-n||I am singing, I sing|
|sinä||laula-t||you are singing, you sing|
|hän||laula-a||s/he is singing, s/he sings|
|me||laula-mme||we are singing, we sing|
|te||laula-tte||you (all) are singing, you (all) sing|
|he||laula-vat||they are singing, they sing|
The question particle -ko is added AFTER the personal endings.
tanssi + i + ko = tanssiiko
laula + t + ko = laulatko
It is rare for a question to consist of only a verb, so using a personal pronoun with all forms is recommended, if there are no other words in the sentence.
Is s/he dancing?
Do you sing?
The continuous form of the English verb, the "-ing form", is usually the most natural translation, but the form without -ing, expressing repetitive action, can sometimes be the better option. Often, both are possible, depending on the context.
We are sitting together.
The continuous form sounds better above. However, "We sit together" would be correct as an answer to a question about repetitive actions, like "What do we do on Sundays?"
Istumme usein yhdessä.
We often sit together.
The form expressing repetitive action is the most likely translation with sentences like the one above, because the sentence includes an adverb expressing frequency, "often".
They are dancing (right now)./They dance (as a hobby, etc).
Finnish often focuses on whether things are complete or incomplete. The sentences "They are dancing" and "They dance" both refer to incomplete, unfinished action. This is why you can translate them with the same sentence.
To put it shortly, the way ENGLISH grammar works in the given context determines whether the -ing form is used or not. Finnish is not particularly interested in ings.
Finnish has two adjectives that are best translated with the word "happy". A dog that jumps excitedly up and down when you return home after a long day at work is iloinen. A dog that lies relaxed next to you after his dinner while you scratch his neck is onnellinen. The first word is used to describe joyous and cheerful happiness that is easy to notice. The second word is used to describe happiness that is so deep that you can feel it in your bones. Of course it is possible to be both at the same time, but just because you are onnellinen does not necessarily mean that you are iloinen, or vice versa. A person can also pretend to be iloinen, but you cannot fake being onnellinen. Dogs, naturally, are incapable of such deception.
Musti on hiljainen ja onnellinen.
Musti is quiet and happy.
Tämä iloinen vauva nauraa.
This happy baby is laughing.
|olette||you (all) are|
Finnish makes a distinction between tämä, "this", and tuo, "that". Tämä refers to things, which are relatively close. If you are talking about concrete things, they are so close that you can touch them. Tuo is used for things that are more distant. If those things are concrete, they are still close enough for you to point at them. In English, you can say "This is Finland" or "That's Finland" to make a general statement about a certain northern country. In Finnish, Tämä on Suomi and Tuo on Suomi are possible only if you have a globe or a map in front of you to show others what you are talking about. Despite wild rumours, Finland is very much a concrete thing, not an imaginary fantasy land. Finland is also surprisingly large, so pointing it out accurately is rather challenging, unless you have really long arms.
Tämä on radio.
This is a radio.
Tuo on televisio.
That is a television.
Both tämä and tuo can also be used to define a noun that follows them. You are allowed a bit more imagination with these. You can often use tämä also when you are located within the concrete thing discussed.
Tämä talo on vanha.
This house is old.
Tuo piha on kaunis.
That yard is beautiful.
If you need to make a distinction between two things that are equally close, tämä precedes tuo.
Tämä sänky on uusi ja tuo on vanha.
This bed is new and that one is old.
Finnish does not have a general verb for "to have". Instead, the verb olla, "to be", is used with the adessive forms of the word that's in the subject position in the English sentence. Here are all the adessive forms of the personal pronouns:
|1st singular||minulla||I, on me|
|2nd singular||sinulla||you, on you|
|3rd singular||hänellä||s/he, on him/her|
|1st plural||meillä||we, on us|
|2nd plural||teillä||you (all), on you (all)|
|3rd plural||heillä||they, on them|
Whenever a pronoun precedes the verb and a noun follows it, the verb takes the form, on. The noun is almost always translated with an indefinite article.
Meillä on suuri asunto.
We have a large apartment.
Mukava is used to describe being welcoming and being easy to be around with. The translation changes depending on what the word is describing. When it is used about people and animals the word describes behaviour and "nice" is the best translation. If you are talking about a sofa, a bed, a room, or a house, "comfortable" and "comfy" are good translations.
Musti on mukava koira.
Musti is a nice dog.
Tuo sohva on todella mukava.
That sofa is really comfortable.
Unlike in English, oma, "own", often appears without the company of words like "my", "our", or "their", if the subject of the sentence reveals whose stuff we are talking about. This is why any sentence that begins with a pronoun in the adessive does not refer to the owner for the second time.
Minulla on oma huone.
I have a room of my own.
Meillä on oma asunto.
We have an apartment of our own./We own an apartment.
Note that while the sentences above can sometimes also be translated with "I have my own room", or "We have our own apartment", the main purpose of the word oma is to simply express ownership and possession, so no need to be sassy.
Nasal sounds suffer from a really bad cold.
|N, NG||[ŋ]||appears mainly before k in words with an NK combination; sometimes a ng combination in more recent loanwords; pronounced as in "link" and "penguin"||pingviini, linkki, sänky|
|N, M||[ɱ]||very rare; nasal m-sound that appears before f in nf and mf combinations||influenssa, pamfletti|
|huone||room (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, etc.)|
|mukava||comfortable, comfy (furniture, room, etc.)|
|meillä||we, (on) us|
|teillä||(on) you (all)|
|heillä||they, (on) them|
We have a problem and we are not ashamed to admit it. No other nation in the world drinks as much kahvi, "coffee", as the Finns do. We start in the morning and stop in the evening.
Pulla, or nisu, is a coffeebread made out of wheat flour. It has a firm texture, and while it is sweet, it does not have as much sugar as most pastries. The dough often contains cardamom. Pulla comes in many shapes and sizes, varying from small buns and rolls to large, braided loaves.
The greeting hei is used for both "hi" and "bye". You can also double it when you use it in the latter meaning.
Hi Väinö!/Bye Väinö!
Hei hei Musti!
While Finns use the titles rouva (Ms.) and herra (Mr.) only in extremely formal situations and in the military, referring to people using their last name only is very common, especially among men. This can be both a very informal situation, like greeting someone, or a more formal one, like calling the name of the next patient in a waiting room.
The Finnish language does not have a word for "please", but do not make the mistake of thinking that the lack of this one word means that Finns are rude. We simply express politeness by using other means. We do not plead, we give thanks. The Finnish word for "thank you" is kiitos. You also use it the same way English speakers use the word "please" when you are asking for something at a shop, a café, or a restaurant.
Yksi kahvi, kiitos.
One coffee, please.
Kahvi ja pulla, kiitos.
A coffee and a pulla, please.
Since the word means "thank you" and is therefore stronger than "please", you do not have to repeat it quite as often. Kiitos is also used after ei ("no") and kyllä ("yes" ).
No, thank you.
Kyllä is mainly used with kiitos, as an affirmative answer to questions that begin with haluaisitko, "would you like to have" and in the military. In other situations, you have two options. First, you can say joo or juu (both mean "yes", or "yeah"). The second and the more used option is repeating the verb in the question.
- Oletko sinä Pöllölä? - Olen.
- Are you Pöllölä? - (Yes,) I am.
- Onko tämä oikein? - On.
- Is this correct? - (Yes,) It is.
Ole hyvä, literally "be good", is used when passing objects to another person. You are expected to answer with kiitos.
– Kahvi, ole hyvä. – Kiitos.
– Here you are, a coffee. – Thank you.
Notice that ole hyvä find its place at the end of a sentence. If you use the phrase in the beginning of a sentence, it will sound like you are addressing the coffee. The place after the expression is reserved for names. As coffee obsessed as we are, not even Finns talk to their coffee cups.
Ole hyvä, Anna!
Anna! Here you are!
Much like väärin, the word for "incorrect" and "wrong", oikein, the word for "correct" and "right", cannot precede a noun but always stands alone.
Tämä on oikein ja tuo on väärin.
This one is correct and that one is incorrect.
To express how people and animals experience different temperatures, you need to use the adessive + on structure. In other words, Finns are not hot nor cold, we "have" hot or cold.
Minulla on kuuma.
I am hot.
Meillä on kylmä.
We are cold.
|ole hyvä||here you are|
|pulla||pulla (traditional, Finnish sweet bread)|
|oletko||are you (singular)|
The Finnish question word for "why" is miksi. As with most other question words, the rest of the sentence looks like a statement.
Suomi on tärkeä kieli.
Finnish is an important language.
Miksi suomi on tärkeä kieli?
Why is Finnish an important language?
Unlike in English, languages are not considered proper nouns in Finnish. Therefore, they start with a letter in the lower case. Most language names look identical to the name of the nation of their speakers, except for the first letter.
Pöllö, Suomi on maa, suomi on kieli ja hän on suomalainen.
Pöllö, Finland is a country, Finnish is a language, and s/he is a Finn.
The word niin, "so", is a quantifier that appears before an adjective or an adverb.
Tämä lause on niin helppo.
This sentence is so easy.
However, since English insists on leaving articles lying around for speakers of Finnish to trip on, "such" is often the more idiomatic translation whenever the adjective is followed by a noun.
Englanti on niin vaikea kieli.
English is so difficult a language./English is such a difficult language.
The conjunction vai, "or", appears only in questions and is always exclusive, never inclusive. This means that you are expected to choose one thing as an answer to the question.
Onko se kieli, murre vai aksentti?
Is it a language, a dialect, or an accent?
As in English, the adverb todella, "really", likes to march before the verb. It should not be confused with the determiner todella, "really", which precedes an adjective and has a different function.
Ranska todella on kaunis kieli.
French really is a beautiful language.
(Mon dieu, French is beautiful. Not pretty, nor cute, nor nice. Beautiful.)
Ranska on todella kaunis kieli.
French is a really beautiful language.
(Oui, French is beautiful, and not just beautiful but so beautiful that saying that it is merely beautiful would be an understatement. Oh la la...)
Finnish children do not address teachers formally. No sirs here, no ma'am! The youngest children refer to their teachers by first name. As they grow older, nicknames and last names (without a title) become more common. Usually though, a teacher is quite simply a teacher, opettaja, or its abbreviation, ope.
Opettaja, miksi viro on tärkeä kieli?
Teacher, why is Estonian an important language?
An old proverb says that "the Finnish summer is short and short on snow". This is a rather sarcastic observation on the nature of spring and summer weather in Finland. The snow drifts disappear sometime in March, April, May, or June, depending on your latitude and that particular year. Then the snows return. Once, twice, thrice, umpteen times, until it is summer(ish). Whether you are a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, or a cannibal, the barbecue season begins when the snows have almost melted for the first time that spring. If it starts snowing when you are in the middle of grilling the sausages, tough. Now stop yapping about the weather and pass the mustard. As for when the barbecue season ends, well, since the start of the season pretty much coincides with bears waking up from hibernation, it is only natural that the end of the season takes place when the bears are starting their winter hibernation.
The Finnish system for telling whether something is here or there is more detailed than the English one. When something you can see is tässä, "right here", it is either exactly where you are, or at so short a distance that you can touch it without changing your pose or position. If something you can see is tuossa, "right there", it is just beyond your reach.
Lautanen on tässä.
The plate is right here.
Sitruuna on tuossa.
The lemon is right there.
English personal pronouns separate people and other entities only in the singular. You cannot call a person "it" nor can you refer to a dishwashing machine with "he" or "she". Finnish makes this distinction also in the plural.
|Singular||hän (s/he)||se (it)|
|Plural||he (they)||ne (they)|
Missä Matti ja Liisa ovat? He ovat tuossa.
Where are Matti and Liisa? They are right there.
Missä ketsuppi ja sinappi ovat? Ne ovat tässä.
Where are the ketchup and the mustard? They are right here.
Finns usually use the expressions "to have hunger" and "to have thirst" should we feel peckish or parched. The adessive form of the subject is needed to get our basic needs heard.
Minulla on nälkä.
I am hungry.
Meillä on jano.
We are thirsty.
The question word for "what" is mikä. The word order after the word is similar to that after millainen, "what kind of". The predicative follows the question word, but the verb wanders to the final position to be able to loyally follow the subject.
Millainen museo se on?
What kind of museum is it?
Mikä museo tuo on?
What/Which museum is that?
The Finnish language is not satisfied with having just words for "here" and "there" like English is. We prefer to know the location of things more specifically. If both you and the person you are talking to are both in the area in which whatever or whomever you are talking about is located, the word täällä, "over here", is used. If neither one of you is in the same area as the person or the thing discussed but they are still close enough for you to point at them, the word tuolla, "over there", is used instead.
Teatteri on täällä.
The theater is over here.
Museo on tuolla.
The museum is over there.
In English, most situations can be handled with either the interjection "oh" or by adding something after it. While Finnish has many short expressions that can be used in various situations, we do not have a versatile exclamation that works exactly in the same way as "oh". If something upsetting happens to you, voi ei is a good way to express your general disillusionment with the way the world usually enjoys surprising us.
Voi ei! Museo on kiinni!
Oh no! The museum is closed!
If what you are feeling is surprise caused by the actions of yourself or other people, or just general weirdness of the world, oho is a good exclamation to use. The surprise can be positive, negative, or neutral, and be translated with "oh wow", "oh", or "wow" depending on the context. It can also be used as the equivalent of the surprised "oops" English speakers utter when they arrive at their holiday destination and realize that they bought tickets to a wrong flight and ended up in Paris, Texas, instead of Paris, France, or vice versa.
Oho. Outo rakennus.
Oh wow. A weird building.
Oho. Väärä teatteri.
Oops. The wrong theater.
The Finnish equivalents for "right/correct" and "wrong/incorrect" look different depending on whether they are adjectives or adverbs. You can recognise the adverbs from the ending -in. The adjectives can appear before nouns, but the adverbs cannot.
Väärin! Tämä on väärä rakennus.
Wrong! This is the wrong building.
Oikein! Tuo on oikea museo.
Correct! That is the correct museum.
The Finnish words for “close/near” and “far (away)” are lähellä and kaukana. You can use these two words only when you use a verb that does not imply movement from one place to another.
Voi ei! Kirkko on kaukana.
Oh no! The church is far away.
Jee! Puisto on lähellä.
Yay! The park is near/nearby.
|voi ei||oh no|
|oho||oh wow, oops|
The Finnish dessert known as mämmi is sweet rye pudding eaten especially during the Easter weeks in the spring. It is very dark and thick, so some weirdos find the way it looks unappealing. It is usually consumed with a bit of milk or cream (not whipped), sometimes with vanilla ice cream.
Finns eat jäätelö, “ice cream”, more than most other nations. While it is most popular during that one hot day in the summer, we eat it all year round. Sub-zero temperatures in February are considered a pitiful excuse for not having your little piece of edible heaven like a normal person.
Every other type of food is covered in ketsuppi, “ketchup”, which like coffee and ice cream is unusually popular in Finland. Any self-respecting grocer keeps several shelves of one kilogram ketchup bottles in their shop. Whatever bits of your food on your plate are visible from under all the ketchup are there so that you can put mustard on them.
If you run out of ice cream, it is the end of your world. The Finnish word loppu, “the end”, is used to signify that there is nothing left of something.
Jäätelö on loppu.
The ice cream is all gone. OR I am/You are/He is/She is/It is/We are/They are out of ice cream.
Ketsuppi on loppu.
The ketchup is all gone. OR I am/You are/He is/She is/It is/We are/They are out of ketchup.
The dictionary forms of nominals (nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and numerals) are in the nominative case. However, Finnish nominals can be inflected in 14 other cases besides the nominative. Such as (drumroll) THE PARTITIVE (ta-da). The partitive has many uses, but its main purpose is to signify something that is incomplete, unfinished, or hard to specify - things that are a PART of something. The partitive case is used most often (although not always) with objects and predicatives.
There are several ways of forming the partitive singular, but the simplest way to do it is also the most common one and applies to most words: you add an A at the end.
ketsuppi + a -> ketsuppia
kala + a -> kalaa
Uncountable nouns fall into the hard-to-specify category, because you cannot specify how many of something there is. Any uncountable noun that is a predictive is in the partitive singular.
Se on mehua.
It is juice.
Onko tuo maitoa?
Is that milk?
Any uncountable noun that is a direct object is in the partitive singular. You can often add the word “some” (statements) or “any” (questions) in front of a noun like this in the English translation.
Minulla on ketsuppia.
I have (some) ketchup.
Onko sinulla juustoa?
Do you have (any) cheese?
Any adjective referring to an uncountable noun is also in the partitive singular in predicative and object positions.
Tämä on outoaa mehua.
This is strange juice.
Meillä on mustaa limonadia.
We have (some) black soda pop.
In fact, if an adjective appears alone as a predicative, it is in the partitive singular whenever the subject it refers to is an uncountable noun.
Onko mämmi oranssia?
Is (the) mämmi orange?
Ei, mämmi on mustaa.
No, (the) mämmi is black.
A word referring to a single unit of some amount is in the nominative in short phrases and following “to be” and “to have”. Yet, any uncountable noun that follows a word referring to an amount is in the partitive. You can count the units, but you still cannot count something that is uncountable. A unit like this can be an exact scientific unit like kilo, or a more everyday measurement like pullo, “bottle”.
Kilo lihaa, kiitos.
A kilo of (some) meat, please.
Pullo mehua, kiitos.
A bottle of (some) juice, please.
An amount like this can also be exact in a more subjective manner, as with words like tarpeeksi, “enough”, and liikaa, “too much”. You know when you have had enough (or at least you should).
Onko meillä tarpeeksi kalaa?
Do we have enough fish?
The determiner liian, “too”, is a general intensifier that can be used with almost anything: colors, taste, the quality of your local grocer's ketchup, etc. The determiner liikaa, “too much”, refers specifically to an excessive amount of something.
Tämä mehu on liian makeaa.
This juice is too sweet.
Meillä on liikaa juustoa.
We have too much cheese.
|mämmi||mämmi, sweet rye pudding|
|loppu||the end, out of|
|litra||liter (of), 33.8 oz.|
|kilo||kilo(gram of), 2.2 lb|
Finnish has 15 grammatical cases that are used with the nominals (nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and numerals) and sometimes even with other word classes. The dictionary forms of nominals are in the nominative case. Another proud member of the Finnish Case Club for Terms Ending in -IVE is THE PARTITIVE. It has many uses, but its main purpose is to tell you that something is somehow incomplete, unfinished, or hard to specify. The partitive case is used most often (although not always) with objects and predicatives.
While there are several ways of forming the partitive singular, the simplest way to do it applies to most Finnish words: you add an extra A at the end of the word.
sana + a -> sanaa
aksentti + a -> aksenttia
Finnish has several grammatical cases which can appear in the object position, depending on what you are trying to say. Some verbs prefer partitive objects in certain contexts. puhua, “to speak”, is one such verb. Whenever you tell someone what languages you can or cannot speak, you need the names of the languages in the partitive. After all, no one is able to speak a whole language. There will always be words that you do not know even in your native language. And even if you happen to be an ancient wizard who knows everything, you cannot utter the entirety of a language all at once.
Opettaja puhuu koreaa.
The teacher speaks/is speaking Korean.
Puhuuko turisti ranskaa?
Does the tourist speak/Is the tourist speaking French?
While most language names are relatively new loanwords, suomi, the word for the Finnish language, is as old as pro-level wizards. Old nouns and adjectives that end in I go through a stem change: I turns into E. Words that end in I but are still very young, only the age of upstart wizards whose age is counted in hundreds and not in thousands, keep I at the end of their stems.
englanti: englanti +a -> englantia
suomi: suome + a -> suomea
Anteeksi, puhutko sinä suomea?
Excuse me, do you speak/are you speaking Finnish?
The Finnish language has two words for “or”: tai, the inclusive “or”, and vai, the exclusive “or”. vai can only be used in questions, so you have to go with tai in statements.
A statement with tai can mean that all options offered are possible, or that only one of them is possible. If the latter, English sometimes emphasizes these limited possibilities by adding “either” before the list of options.
Tuo on suomea tai viroa.
That is (either) Finnish or Estonian.
In questions, both tai and vai are possible, depending on what you want to say. VAI is used when you know there is only one possible answer. TAI is used when you want to keep your options open: any one of the options could be correct, or both of them, or neither. You can sometimes see this reflected in the verb form of the English translation.
Anteeksi, puhutteko te englantia tai espanjaa?
Excuse me, do you speak English or Spanish?
Anteeksi, puhutteko te suomea vai viroa?
Excuse me, are you speaking Finnish or Estonian?
If you use the inclusive tai, you must be talking about knowledge of languages. Maybe the people speak both English and Spanish, just one of them, or neither. Or maybe one of them knows Spanish and another one English. You have no way of knowing. If you use the exclusive vai, you must be commenting on what you are hearing. The language spoken sounds very familiar to you, but you have not yet progressed far enough in your Finnish studies to know whether it is Finnish or Estonian, although you know it has to be one or the other.
The pronoun moni, “many”, is inflected in both number and case. This means it has a singular form, which is followed by a verb in the singular, although in the corresponding English translation both are in the plural. If moni, the nominative singular form of the word, begins a sentence, you are dealing with a generalisation. Therefore, the continuous form (ing form) of the verb is not possible in the English translation. If you have trouble sticking to the singular, the now old-fashioned structure many a + noun may be of some assistance. As in “many a wordy jest”, an expression found in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
Moni suomalainen puhuu sujuvaa englantia.
Many Finns speak fluent English/Many a Finn speaks fluent English.
|ahkera||hardworking, diligent, conscientious|
|puhua||to speak, to talk|
|myös||also, too, as well|
|vähän||a bit of, a little bit of, a little|
Finnish verbs can be conjugated in several different ways depending on the verb type, but the endings are always the same.
|hän||-VV (long vowel)|
|he||-vVt (v + vowel + t)|
If the 1st infinitive of the verb ends in -ata, -ota, or -uta, the stem is formed by removing the T in the middle.
to paint: maalata -> maalaa-
to clean: siivota -> siivoa-
to realize: tajuta -> tajua-
Then you add the personal endings.
|minä||siivoa-n||I am cleaning, I clean|
|sinä||siivoa-t||you are cleaning, you clean|
|hän||siivoa-a||s/he is cleaning, s/he cleans|
|me||siivoa-mme||we are cleaning, we clean|
|te||siivoa-tte||you (all) are cleaning, you (all) clean|
|he||siivoa-vat||they are cleaning, they clean|
The question particle is added after the personal ending.
Maalaako Aino usein?
Does Aino paint often?
If something is the focus of your actions, it’s called an object. If you’re still in the process of doing something to that object, you’ll need the partitive case. Objects of ongoing actions are in the partitive case. The object form rarely has any influence on whether you should use the definite or indefinite article in the English translation. In English, ongoing action is expressed by using the verb, not the noun as in Finnish. This is why Finnish sentences with a partitive object are usually translated with the continuous form of the verb, the -ing form.
Me siivoamme taloa.
We’re cleaning a/the house.
Mummo korjaa autoa.
Grandma is repairing/fixing a/the car.
If the noun is preceded by an adjective, it must be in the partitive as well.
Mummo korjaa mustaa autoa.
Grandma is repairing/fixing a/the black car.
In the English language the conjunction “that” never follows a comma. It’s Finnish equivalent että, however, would die were it seen without an admiring comma on its side. It also likes YOUR attention more than the humble English “that”. “that” rarely complains if it’s cut out of the sentence completely. että, the vain drama queen, on the other hand, has its revenge on you by turning your sentence nonsensical should you choose to ignore it. What a diva!
Tajuan nyt, että teillä on jo koira.
I realize now (that) you already have a dog.
The conjunction koska always appears with a comma too, even though its English cousin “because” chooses not to favor its punctuation companion's company as often.
Siivoan verantaa, koska se on sotkuinen.
I’m cleaning the veranda, because it is messy.
The verb siivota is “to clean” only in the meaning “to tidy things up”. It’s used when you're talking about everyday chores in general whether that’s hoovering or picking toys off the floor. If you need to clean something very specific and relatively small, like the bathtub, a windscreen, or a spatula, you should opt for some other verb. You shouldn’t use siivota with parts of the human body either.
He siivoavat vanhaa asuntoa.
They are cleaning/tidying up the old apartment.
The noun taulu refers to a picture you can hang on your wall. It can be a painting, a drawing, a framed photograph, or some fabric stapled on a piece of styrofoam. As long as it’s a flat thing that cannot be bent easily, it required some creative output to get made, and it hangs on a wall, it’s taulu.
Sweating, like being cold or hungry, is something you have, not something you are or do. Finns usually “have a sweat” rather than just “sweat”.
Minulla on hiki.
I am sweating.
Minulla on kylmä/kuuma/lämmin/nälkä/jano.
I am cold/hot/warm/hungry/thirsty.
|lattia||floor (the type you stand on)|
|taulu||picture, painting (decorative element)|
|korjata||to fix, to repair|
|siivota||to clean (up), to tidy up|
|tiskata||to do the dishes|
|grillata||to grill, to barbecue|
The verb OSATA means “to know how to” or “to have knowledge of”. English uses various constructions to express the same thing depending on the context. When the verb osata is followed by a language, the verb “to know” is the best translation.
Osaatko sinä suomea?
Do you know Finnish?
If the focus is on speaking rather than knowledge of the language in general, osata is followed by the 1st infinitive puhua, “to speak”. Here English favors the modal verb “can”, although “to know how to” works often too.
Osaan puhua ranskaa.
I can/know how to speak French.
You can place the 1st infinitive form of many verbs after osata.
Joni osaa lukea/laulaa.
Joni can/knows how to read/sing.
OSATA is all about knowledge, talent, and acquired skills, which is why you should NOT assume that every “can” in the English language is translated with osata. The English verb is also used to ask for favors (“Can you come over here?”) and to check if someone is able or capable of doing something (“Can you hear me?”). Finnish uses other structures to express such things. When you ask a parent whether their child can walk yet, osata is the verb to go with. It takes a lot of work, quite a bit of natural talent, and lots of knowledge acquired by failing repeatedly to learn how to walk. If you’re helping someone who has been hit by a car, using osata when posing the same question would sound like asking whether this person ever learned to walk to begin with, when you probably meant to ask if they are capable of walking.
Osaako lapsi puhua?
Can the child/Does the child know how to speak?
Just in case you’re wondering why you can’t see the word ja, “and”, anywhere in this section: what in English is “both-and”, is “also-that” in Finnish. Both the English structure and the Finnish sekä-että are used to point out the importance of there not being only this one thing here but two things, as in this very sentence. Much as in English, if you put the emphasis on että (“and”) in speech, the latter thing sounds more important than the first one.
Puhun sekä suomea että ruotsia.
I speak both Finnish and Swedish.
Osaat sekä tanssia että laulaa.
You can both dance and sing.
Finnish question words begin with either M or K.
|missä||where, in which|
|miksi||why, into which|
|millainen||what kind of|
The question word kuinka, "how", can be combined with expressions of amount and frequency, such as the word moni, “many”. Although the English “how many” is in the plural, the Finnish expression kuinka moni is in the singular.
Kuinka moni kanadalainen osaa ranskaa?
How many Canadians know French?
Do you need a word for a profession? Or perhaps a word for a talent? If you need a “doer”, the most common way to turn a verb into a noun is to attach the ending -JA onto a verb stem. This is the Finnish equivalent of the English ending -(e)r.
laula + ja = laulaja singer
tanssi + ja = tanssija dancer
The hint is in the name: ad+verb = adverb. Adverbs refer to a verb.
|oikea||right, correct||oikein||in the right way, correctly|
|väärä||wrong, incorrect||väärin||in the wrong way, incorrectly|
Above are five common adverbs created by using the instructive forms of three adjectives and two pronouns/determiners. The instructive ending -in, meaning “with some things”, is particularly common in adverbs of frequency. The literal meaning of hyvin, “well”, is “with good things”. usein, “often”, could be translated as “on several occasions”.
Matti laulaa hyvin.
Matti sings well.
Unusually, you need the adjective “quiet” rather than the adverb “quietly” if you want someone to shut their cakehole. In English, that is. Finnish chooses the adverb, hiljaa, instead of the adjective hiljainen. The accompanying interjection is hys.
Hys! Hiljaa! Anna laulaa.
Hush/Shh! Quiet! Anna is singing.
The most likely translation of the word pitkä is “long”. However, it also means “tall” when you’re talking about people.
Pitkä mies laulaa pitkää laulua.
The tall man is singing a long song.
|pitkä||long, tall (people)|
|osata||to know how to, to have knowledge of|
|ratsastaa||to ride (an animal, usually a horse)|
|joka||who, which (relative)|
|tosi||really (determiner; spoken language)|
Glögi is a hot drink enjoyed in the winter, especially during the Christmas holidays. Originally, it was usually spicy mulled wine or spirits but nowadays it’s more common to drink a version made out of grape or apple juice with no or very little alcohol in it. The most common spices found in glögi are cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Glögi is typically sweeter than Glühwein and other similar drinks. It’s served with raisins and almonds. It's often drunk out of glasses designed specifically for the purpose. The traditional glass type resembles Russian tea glasses with metal holders.
Tumma leipä, “dark bread”, is a more formal way of referring to rye bread. Its plural form, tummat leivät, is something you can see on a sign at a Finnish grocer’s so that you can separate the good stuff from white bread. Finns tend to prefer rye bread over wheat bread. Oat bread is also very popular.
The Finnish language has three types of vowels: back vowels, front vowels, and neutral (front) vowels.
|Back vowels||A O U|
|Front vowels||Y Ä Ö|
|Neutral (front) vowels||E I|
Back and front vowels CANNOT appear in the same word, whereas neutral vowels can appear in words with both! This is known as VOWEL HARMONY. The most common exceptions to this rule are compound words, words with prefixes, and fairly recent loanwords.
Vowel harmony applies to most endings you can add to words, including all case endings. This means that a word like glögi with no back vowels cannot end in A in the partitive case, unlike a word like kahvi. This is why words like glögi end in Ä in the partitive.
1) If a word has one or more back vowels (A, O, U) in it, it gets the ending with a back vowel in the partitive singular: A.
2) If a word has one or more front vowels (Y, Ä, Ö) in it, it gets the ending with a front vowel in the partitive singular: Ä.
This is what it looks like in practice:
kuuma kahvi -> kuumaa kahvia hot coffee
kylmä jäätelö -> kylmää jäätelöä cold ice cream
When a question word stands in for a subject or a predicative, it’s in the nominative; when a question word stands in for an object, it’s often in the partitive. mikä is used when you’re looking for a non-human subject/predicative for your sentence; MITÄ is used when you need an unspecified non-human object.
– Mikä tuo on? – Se on kuppi.
– What’s that? – It’s a cup.
– Mitä haluat? – Haluan kahvia.
– What do you want? – I want coffee.
haluta, “to want”, is followed by the 1st infinitive form of a verb and an object form of a nominal.
Haluan syödä jäätelöä.
I want to eat ice cream.
jotain is the partitive form of the Finnish version of “something”. When you combine it with the partitive forms of juotava and syötävä, “drinkable” and ”edible”, you get a phrase that you're very likely to hear in a restaurant and when you’re visiting someone’s home: jotain juotavaa/syötävää, "something to drink/eat".
Haluatko jotain juotavaa/syötävää?
Do you want something to drink/eat?
You can also add the very -ble pair to other expressions of amount like lisää, "more".
Haluatteko lisää juotavaa?
Do you want something more to drink?
The Finnish word pala is a generic word for a piece of something. It can be translated as "piece", "morsel", or "slice" depending on the context.
Pala kakkua, kiitos.
A piece of cake, please.
|glögi||glögi, glogg (hot, spicy drink drunk in northern Europe)|
|pala||piece (of), slice (of), morsel (of)|
The most common way to form the nominative plural is to add T at the end of the word. Almost all words that end in a vowel like their T simple without milk, sugar, and extra letters. If a word ends in A, O, U, Y, Ä, or Ö after a consonant, all you have to do to form the plural is to pour some T. Most (but not all) words that end in I after a consonant also work the same way. Words that end in E are excluded for the most part from this group. They prefer stronger, grammatically more complex T.
kissa + t -> kissat cats
pöllö + t -> pöllöt owls
poni + t -> ponit ponies
Any adjective preceding the noun needs its fill of T as well.
Mustat kissat tanssivat.
The black cats are dancing.
Finnish verbs in the conjugation group 3 end in two consonants and a vowel. This group includes verbs which end in STA in the 1st infinitive. The two final letters are dropped to form the stem.
to smell: haista -> hais-
to growl: murista -> muris-
E is placed between the stem and the personal endings. In the 3rd person singular, the E is doubled.
|hän, se||hais-e-e||he/she/it smells|
|te||hais-e-tte||you (all) smell|
|he, ne||hais-e-vat||they smell|
Running takes more effort than most physical things; conjugating juosta, “to run”, takes more effort than most STA verbs. A mysterious K haunts your every step.
|minä||juoks-e-n||I run, I am running|
|sinä||juoks-e-t||you run, you are running|
|hän, se||juoks-e-e||he/she/it runs, he/she/it is running|
|me||juoks-e-mme||we run, we are running|
|te||juoks-e-tte||you (all) run, you are running|
|he, ne||juoks-e-vat||they run, they are running|
Vowel harmony applies not just to all case endings but also to verb endings. So far we’ve seen verbs that end in VAT in the 3rd person plural. But what about verbs that don’t have any back vowels?
1) If the stem has one or more back vowels (A, O, U) in it, it gets the ending with a back vowel: VAT.
2) If the stem has one or more front vowels (Y, Ä, Ö) in it, it gets the ending with a front vowel: VÄT.
And this is what looks like in practice:
to try: yrittää -> yrittä + vät
So what happens when there are only neutral vowels in the stem? Well, since E and I are pronounced closer to the teeth than the throat…
3) If the stem has only neutral vowels (E, I) in it, it gets the ending with a front vowel: VÄT.
Which looks like this:
to look for: etsiä -> etsi + vät
to wash: pestä -> pes + e + vät
etsiä is conjugated like tanssia but with some extra dots; pestä is a STÄrry verb similar to haista, a STArry verb.
Some Finnish verbs, like potkaista , “to kick”, and puraista, “to bite”, can only be used to express a single occurrence. This means that it’s rare to translate them with the ing form of the English verb.
Kissat puraisevat mummoa.
The cats bite grandma. (Just once. They're a bit naughty but not mean.)
Many sensory verbs are often translated the same way: no ing. haista is “to smell” only in the meaning “to emit a scent/to stink” but not in the meaning “to detect a scent/smell” if there is no object in the sentence.
The dogs smell/stink.
To get the plural forms of “this” and “that”, swap the T’s for N’s and you'll get "these" and "those".
nämä kissat ja nuo koirat
these cats and those dogs
If you have a question concerning one person, you use the question word kuka. If you want to know about more than one person, the word to use is KETKÄ. The Finnish verb is in the plural to match the question word, although English likes to treat people as a single body.
Who stinks? (one person)
Who stinks? (several people)
|eri||different, another, some other|
|etsiä||to look for, to search|
|nousta||to rise, to arise|
|nousta ylös||to get up|
|ketkä||who (nom. plural; question word)|
|kot kot||cluck cluck|
|titityy||tititee, tweet tweet|
The closest thing Finnish has to the English preposition “in” is the locative case known as the inessive. The most common way to use the inessive is to express stationary existence within something or in some place. You can usually recognize it from the ending SSA. Let’s not forget to keep our vowels harmonious though.
1) If the word has one or more back vowels (A, O, U) in it, it gets the ending with a back vowel: SSA.
Saksa + ssa -> Saksassa In Germany
Viro + ssa -> Virossa In Estonia
2) If the word has one or more front vowels (Y, Ä, Ö) in it, it gets the ending with a front vowel: SSÄ.
3) If the word has only neutral vowels (E, I) in it, it gets the ending with a front vowel: SSÄ.
Berliini + ssä -> Berliinissä In Berlin
Sveitsi + ssä -> Sveitsissä In Switzerland
Words in the inessive are often answers to questions beginning with the word missä, “(in) where/in which”.
– Missä Oslo on? – Norjassa.
– Where is Oslo? – In Norway.
Or maybe Finns just believe that Mississippi doesn’t have enough S’s.
Tuo kaupunki on Mississippissä.
That city is in Mississippi.
Suomi, “Finland”, is a very old word. Old words that end in I go through a stem change when you start adding case endings to them. suomi, the Finnish word for the Finnish language, becomes suomea in the partitive. Suomi, the name of the country, behaves similarly in the inessive. The final I turns into E before the case ending.
He ovat Suomessa.
They are in Finland.
If the noun in the inessive is preceded by a pronoun/determiner or an adjective, those are also in the inessive. The inessive form of tämä, “this”, is tässä.
Helsinki on tässä maassa.
Helsinki is in this country.
The verb asua, “to live", is used to indicate residence. If you’re talking about people, any place the size of a continent or smaller is possible with this verb. Once you move to planets and even larger things, you need to use some other verb. You cannot use this verb to talk about any other aspect of living.
– Missä sinä asut? – Minä asun Italiassa.
– Where do you live? – I live in Italy.
The verb käydä has many purposes. Its basic function is similar to that of the English verb “to visit”: you go some place, spend some time there, and then return back where you started from. English speakers visit places. Finns, however, visit IN places. This is why you need to use the inessive with the verb käydä.
Me haluamme käydä Suomessa.
We want to visit Finland.
The Finnish expression for “to have fun” belongs in the same group as the expressions for being cold, warm, or hot. The lla on structure is followed by the adjective hauska in the partitive.
Meillä on hauskaa Tallinnassa.
We are having fun in Tallinn.
The verb viettää means “to spend” but only in the contexts of time, holidays, and celebration. This particular verb likes company and rarely appears alone. The word for “time” is aika and its partitive form aikaa is needed to create the Finnish equivalent of “to spend time”.
Haluan viettää aikaa kotona.
I want to spend time at home.
The Finnish language has two words which can both be translated as “more”: lisää and enemmän. So how to tell them apart?
You use lisää, when you want more something you’ve run out of. You used to have some, now it’s all gone and you want more.
– Aika on loppu! – Ei! Haluan lisää aikaa!
– Time is up! – No! I want more time!
Oh dear. Someone didn’t finish their exam on time and is having a hard time accepting that.
enemmän is the comparative form of paljon, “a lot”. In many ways, it’s the opposite of enough. When you choose enemmän it usually means that you want more something you already have or know you will have, because you believe you don’t have or will not have enough of it.
Haluan viettää enemmän aikaa Suomessa.
I want to spend more time in Finland.
Since English does not make this distinction, it's often hard to decide which word to choose. Not coming across as greedy is important to Finns, so choose your words wisely to suit the situation, whatever the English sentence looks like.
Haluan enemmän kahvia.
I want more coffee. (My cup is neither full nor empty. I want more.)
Haluan lisää kahvia.
I want more coffee. (I’m out. I want another full cup.)
|asua||to live (in some place)|
|viettää||to spend (time, vacation)|
|enemmän||more (not enough)|
seitsemän is an unusual word in the usually so obedient Finnish language, since most people do not pronounce it the way it’s written. seitsämän and seitsömän are acceptable even in formal speech, although the word is still always spelled with E in the middle.
Any number larger than 1 is seen as an amount and is treated as such. The number already tells us how many there are of something, much like a scientific unit like litra or kilo, whereas what follows is an incomplete mass. This is why whatever there is a certain number of is always in the partitive singular. What follows the number 1 is considered complete, because the number and its nominal companions match and form one complete unit. Hence the nominative is used when you refer to a single something.
Hänellä on yksi pieni kala.
S/he has one small fish.
Meillä on kilo ruokaa.
We have a kilogram of food.
Minulla on kaksi mustaa kissaa, koska olen noita.
I have two black cats, because I’m a witch.
If the phrase with a number larger than 1 is in the subject position, the verb is in the 3rd person singular.
Kolme kilttiä koiraa istuu hiljaa.
(The) three well-behaved dogs are sitting quietly.
The partitive singular form of moni, “many”, is monta. It behaves like numbers larger than 1 and is followed by everything in the partitive singular. It and its nominal minions usually park themselves in the object position.
Omistan monta söpöä lehmää.
I own many cute cows.
The -lla on structure is usually followed by everything looking like it’s in the nominative singular. monta has road rage when it comes to having this particular parking space, since it rather than its traffic rule obeying nominative form is used with the adessive structure. The minions following are also in the partitive.
Minulla on monta mustaa autoa.
I have many black cars.
If you want to know how many objects there are, the question to ask is montako.
Montako hamsteria sinulla on?
How many hamsters do you have?
kuinka monta and miten monta are also possible.
Words that end in NEN go through a stem change whenever you start adding things to them. You drop NEN and replace it with S.
vihainen -> vihais-
sininen -> sinis-
pörröinen -> pörröis-
The partitive singular ending for words that end in most vowels is either -A or -Ä, depending on the vowel harmony. So what happens when you want to add an ending after a consonant like S? You have to stem a river of T, that’s what. The most common partitive ending to follow a consonant is -TA/TÄ.
vihais + ta -> vihaista
sinis + tä -> sinistä
pörröis + tä -> pörröistä
Don’t forget the vowel harmony!
Viisi vihaista lintua haluaa sinistä jäätelöä.
(The) five angry birds want blue ice cream.
Minulla on kuusi pörröistä koiraa.
I have six fluffy dogs.
The adessive form of se, “it”, is, sillä.
Onko sillä tarpeeksi ruokaa?
Does it have enough food?
If you want to know who has something, you need the question word kenellä, the adessive form kuka. Word order in the question affects the article in the English translation.
Kenellä on pupu?
Who has a bunny?
Kenellä pupu on?
Who has the bunny?
The adessive form of the relative conjunction joka, “who/which”, is jolla. Both can be used to refer to anything concrete and countable and feel very lonely and vulnerable without commas.
Mies, jolla on söpö koira, on onnellinen.
The man, who has a cute dog, is happy.
Minulla on kissa, jolla on kaksi pentua.
I have a cat which has two kittens.
|pentu||puppy, kitten, cub|
|omistaa||to own, to have property|
|kenellä||who (has) (question)|
|jolla||who/which (has) (relative)|
|montako||how many (partitive)|
Skandinavia is either a geographical area including Norway, Sweden, and the most northern parts of Finnish Lapland or a cultural area including Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The Norse were farmers, traders, and Vikings, whereas the Finns and the Sámi were mainly hunters, herders, and witches. While our northern cultures have influenced one another over the years, it’s bad manners to refer to the Finns and the Sámi as Scandinavians or to say that Finland is in Scandinavia. There are still many aspects in Finnish culture that most Scandinavians find exotic. We are rather proud of being a bit different, regardless of what mother tongue we happen to have.
Finnish verbs are conjugated in several different ways, depending on the verb type, but the endings stay the same.
|hän||-VV (long vowel)|
|he||-vVt (v + vowel + t)|
The Finnish negation verb is built around the word ei. In the 3rd person forms, you can see the letter couple together but in the other forms I disappears.
|minä||e-n||I don’t, I am not, I won’t, I haven’t,...|
|sinä||e-t||you don’t, you’re not, you won’t,...|
The translations of this structure fashion themselves on the auxiliary verb used in the English sentence. The most popular looks are forms of “to be” and “to have”. You can also translate the structure as a negation of an existential sentence verb, “to be”. The only verb type which doesn’t accessorize with the ei verb is the imperative. Commands prefer another style.
An auxiliary verb must be followed by the actual verb of the sentence. The main verb usually looks identical to the verb stem to which you would normally add a personal ending. The fabulous ei verb already includes all the endings you could possibly need for your look: less is more. The main verb ending in a vowel is a must though, so E is added at the end of group 3 verbs which have a stem ending in a consonant.
asua -> asu
haluta -> halua
pestä -> pese
juosta -> juokse
olla -> ole
Let’s see what the ensemble looks like!
Minä en asu Virossa.
I don’t live in Estonia.
Sinä et puhu suomea.
You don’t speak (any) Finnish.
Me emme juokse.
We don’t run.
He eivät ole kotona.
They’re not home.
If a third verb is needed, the second verb rather than the negative verb determines its form.
Osaamme puhua hindiä.
We can speak Hindu.
Emme osaa puhua hindiä.
We can’t speak (any) Hindu.
Since there aren’t any back vowels in the ei verbs, the question particle of is the one with some trendy umlaut dots.
Ettekö te asu Kanadassa?
Do you not live in Canada?
enää means “anymore” or “no longer” when it appears in a question or a negative sentence. Its place is either before or after the final verb in a verb phrase, the second option being more common. Having a visible subject makes the first option more likely though.
En halua puhua enää. / En halua enää puhua.
I don’t want to talk anymore.
Etkö sinä halua enää puhua? / Etkö sinä halua puhua enää? Don’t you want to talk anymore?
Note that the position of the word can change the emphasis in the sentence in a way that you can see in the translation. The earlier it appears, the more emphasized it is. Did you just come home after your daily jog, or have you decided to stop jogging completely?
En juokse enää.
I’m no longer running/I don’t run anymore.
En enää juokse.
I don’t run anymore.
koskaan means “ever” or “never” in a question or a negative sentence. Its place is usually after the whole verb phrase. Placing it in the middle makes you sound exasperated enough for you to add an exclamation mark at the end.
Hän ei puhu koskaan.
S/he never speaks.
Hän ei koskaan puhu!
S/he never speaks!
When two positive things or sentences are separated by the conjunction “but”, mutta keeps the balance.
pieni mutta kaunis kieli
a small but beautiful language
If the first half of a sentence is negative but the second is positive and both halves have the same subject, vaan is the hero who turns bad things into something good.
Emme ole kotona vaan Puolassa.
We are not home but in Poland.
mutta is also capable of heroics when it comes to whole sentences with two different subjects.
En halua itkeä, mutta minulla on koti-ikävä.
I don’t want to cry but I’m home sick.
|eksyä||to get lost|
|ei||no (auxiliary verb)|
|enää||no longer, anymore|
The reindeer, poro, is a half-domesticated deer that lives in Lapland, renowned for their single-minded attitude. If they decide to do reindeer things, which usually consists of standing in the middle of the road and being a reindeer and absolutely nothing else, there's no stopping them. You can shout at them and honk your car horn as many times as you want and they still won’t acknowledge your existence. After all, reindeering is very important business and should not be interrupted.
Four large predators live in the Finnish wild. The lynx, ilves, is a large cat; the wolf, susi, is a large canine animal; the wolverine, ahma, is a large mustelid (although apparently there’s a human wolverine too, living somewhere in Canada or Australia, I can’t remember which). The fourth predator is the bear, karhu, which was once so feared, respected, and loved that the Finnish language has more than 100 names for bear. More than half a dozen of these words are still in everyday use.
The Finnish language has two verbs meaning “to live”. asua means “to have a home or a place of residence”. ELÄÄ means “to be alive”. The latter is usually used with animals, although if a creature favors a hole in a tree or some other place as its sleeping place, asua is also possible when talking about that place.
Kengurut elävät Australiassa.
Kangaroos live in Australia.
Pieni orava asuu/elää tuossa puussa.
The/A small squirrel lives in that tree.
The steLLAR verbs are verbs that end in LLA or LLÄ in the 1st infinitive. They belong in group 3 like STArry verbs, meaning that they end in two consonants and one vowel. The final two letters are dropped to form the stem.
kuulla -> kuul-
kävellä -> kävel-
E is placed between the stem and the personal endings. The endings are the same as they always are regardless of the verb group. In the 3rd person singular, the E is doubled.
The sturdy ship that is olla, “to be”, is also for the most part steLLAr. Only the 3rd person forms on and ovat break the rules of intersteLLAr travel.
I am Otso.
Hymyilemme ja kävelemme metsässä.
We’re smiling and walking in the forest.
koko, “the whole”, is an adjective which, much like sama, “the same”, is almost always translated with a definite article before it. It only appears in noun phrases and never as a predicative.
Koko metsä on hiljaa.
The whole forest is quiet.
An old Finnish joke goes: “Two grandmas are picking berries, but there’s room for only one”. Makes nooo sense. OR DOES IT? The inessive case is used to express many things which in English would be expressed by using verbs.
|piilossa||in the hiding place||hiding|
|jäässä||in the ice||frozen|
|marjassa||in the berry||picking berries|
|kalassa||in the fish||fishing|
Kaksi mummoa on marjassa.
Two grandmas are picking berries.
Järvi on jäässä, mutta vaari on kalassa.
The lake is frozen but grandpa is fishing.
Pöllö on piilossa puussa.
The owl is hiding in a tree.
While the inessive is most often translated with the preposition “in”, it’s worth remembering that sometimes some other preposition works much better.
He istuvat maassa.
They are sitting on the ground.
keskellä, “in the middle of”, works like lähellä, “close to”. Anything you happen to be in the middle of is in the partitive.
Otso seisoo keskellä puroa.
Otso is standing in the middle of the/a creek.
|puro||creek, brook, stream|
|elää||to live, to be alive|
|haistella||to sniff, to smell at|
|keskellä||in the middle of|
Finns are very serious when it comes to love. If you tell someone you love them, you better really love them. rakastaa is not a verb to be used lightly as it signifies complete dedication. If you tell someone you love music, that means that you not only listen to music everyday but that music is the very reason you exist, the one thing that you could not live without. If you go about saying things like “I love coffee” and cannot name and recognise different types of coffee beans, or “I love that shirt” and you don’t wear it every day, people will think you’re superficial and, quite frankly, a bit of an idiot.
The verb rakastaa, “to love”, much like puhua, “to speak”, always takes a partitive object. Love is all encompassing but since you can never know someone completely, you can never love someone completely. Every time you learn something new about someone you love, you love them more and better. Healthy love focuses on the complexity of the person who’s loved, not on the obsessive and absolute emotions of the person who loves. True love is loving the truth.
I love Väinö.
The verb ihailla, “to admire” also takes a partitive object. We admire qualities, not the person or the thing with those qualities.
Ihailemme komeaa laulajaa.
We admire the handsome singer.
The verb halata, “to hug”, works exclusively with the partitive. You’re not a lump of dough that can cover a whole person to show affection; you’re a person with perfectly regular human arms.
Mummo halaa Mattia.
Grandma is hugging Matti.
The fourth newcomer to this parti(tive) is ajatella, “to think of/about”. You’re not a deity who can comprehend the full meaning of something or someone. You can only think of what you know and understand.
Hän ajattelee Liisaa.
S/he is thinking of Liisa.
Personal pronouns go through a stem change when you move away from the nominative singular to other cases. Apart from the genitive and the accusative, this is what the stems look like.
These stems are used in both the adessive and the partitive. In the partitive, the endings vary depending on whether the stem ends in a single vowel (the ending A/Ä) or two vowels (the ending TA/TÄ). The stem for hän ends in the consonant N in the partitive and is followed by TÄ. Vowel harmony is bossing umlaut dots around as usual.
Kulta, minä rakastan sinua.
Darling, I love you.
Ajattelemme häntä usein.
We think of him/her often.
The question word kuka has more looks than a British glam rocker. Here are the ones we’ve encountered so far.
|Adessive singular||kenellä||on/by/with whom|
ketä gets to strut their stuff on stage whenever your question is about finding an object.
Ketä sinä ajattelet?
Who(m) are you thinking of?
The relative conjunction jota is the partitive form of joka, “who/which”. It’s used with anything concrete, whether that’s people, pets, or kitchen furniture. Its purpose is to turn a subject momentarily into an object and it can always be translated with “whom”. Commas! Commas everywhere!
Mies, jota rakastan, asuu Suomessa.
The man who(m) I love lives in Finland.
Consonants want to parti(tive) too! If a nominal ends in a vowel followed by N, the partitive ending is TA/TÄ. A nominal ending in S gets the same treatment. If you parti(tive) hard, you need more treatment.
Etsin lämmintä sydäntä.
I’m looking for a warm heart.
Ihailemme tätä viisasta miestä.
We admire this wise man.
Remember that nominals ending in NEN are diagnosed with an S stem. They’re regular parti(tive) animals!
Mummo halaa onnellista naista.
Grandma is hugging the happy woman.
Finns usually have a pining, ikävä, for someone or something, rather than simply miss them. The pined after object, whether it’s your mother, your country or an actual pine, is in the partitive.
Minulla on ikävä sinua.
I miss you.
The word kaikki whenever it refers to people and means “everyone/everybody” is followed by a verb in the plural.
Kaikki rakastavat Raimoa.
Everybody loves Raimo.
|sisu||sisu, true grit|
|olla ikävä||to miss|
The general word for anything baked (that's not bread) is leivos, “pastry”. The word kakku can refer to anything of good size, most often to a layered cake, täytekakku. A Finnish täytekakku is usually filled with whipped cream and berries. It marks every celebration in your life worth noting, starting from your birth and ending with your funeral.
Also popular in cakes is kinuski, “kinusk” or “Russian candy”, which consists of heated cream and sugar, and is similar to confiture de lait. It’s also used in dessert sauces and to flavor ice cream.
A particularly popular form of pulla is korvapuusti, literally “a box on the ear”, which is a very large cinnamon roll shaped like, well, an ear. The Danish pastry is known as viineri in Finland, named after the city of Vienna. munkki is a jelly doughnut, although a ring-shaped, jellyless doughnut can be called that too if there is no frosting on it.
The word piirakka means “pie”, or sometimes “pasty”, and it can be used to refer to pastries of all sizes both sweet and savory as long as it has a dough crust and some filling. You can usually already see at least some of the filling before cutting into one. The best known Finnish baked treat, the small and humble karjalanpiirakka, “Karelian pasty”, would not be classified as a pie in the English speaking world despite having the word piirakka in its name. Its rye crust is usually filled with rice porridge or smashed potatoes.
Another savory Finnish delicacy is lörtsy. It’s a deep-fried meat pocket, although in some places a sweet jam-filled variant can be found too. Applesauce is a popular filling in the sweet version.
In the candy department, you can find all sorts of lakritsi, “licorice”. It’s a sweet confection flavored and colored black by roots of a plant of the same name. salmiakki, on the other hand, is sour and salty. It gets its taste from ammonium chloride. You can find it in ice cream, chocolate, chewing gum, liquor and pretty much anything you can eat or drink. If you can put salmiakki into something, someone in Finland is already selling it.
kiisseli, “kissel”, is a dessert popular in northern and eastern Europe. It’s made of fruit or berries and their juice thickened with potato starch. Prune kissel is a popular dessert during Christmas. I think you can guess why. rahka, “quark”, is a dessert made of curdled sour milk of the same name mixed with whipped cream and berries or fruit. It’s known as white fluff in some parts of the States. Go to any university cafeteria in Finland every day for a week, and the chances are the lunch dessert option is either a kissel or a quark every single day.
Finns drink sima, “mead”, in the spring, especially around the time of Saint Walburgis Night. It’s a very sweet drink with no or very little alcohol, made of either syrup or honey. It’s used to wash down munkki.
Of all the verb types the group 2 is the best group. You get to eat and drink and get all sorts of nice things. Group 2 verbs are the best! This is propaganDA. Group 2 verbs end in DA/DÄ. The stem of propaganDA verbs is formed by dropping the two final letters.
syödä -> syö-
juoda -> juo-
saada -> saa-
The endings are the same as always. Since the stem already ends in two vowels in the 3rd person singular, nothing is added to it.
|minä||syö-n||I’m eating, I eat|
|sinä||syö-t||you’re eating, you eat|
|hän||syö||s/he is eating,...|
|te||syö-tte||you (all) are eating|
Juon kahvia ja syön pullaa.
I’m drinking coffee and eating pulla.
I’m selling mead.
saada means “to get”. The most natural English translation often includes the verb “can”.
Saanko lisää kiisseliä?
Can I get (some) more kissel?
When you need to ask the price for something, you add the question particle KO to the word paljon, “a lot”/”much”.
Paljonko tämä rahka maksaa?
How much does this quark cost?
If you prefer your coffee black, the essive form of the word musta is needed. The essive singular ends in NA/NÄ.
Kuppi kahvia, mustana, kiitos.
A cup of coffee, black, please.
|maistaa||to taste, to try (a dish)|
|voi voi||uh-oh, oh dear|
Whether it’s morning or daytime, early or late, is always subjective. In Finland, figuring this out is even more difficult than in most other places, since sunlight is such a fickle thing over here. In midwinter the sun goes for a holiday to some warmer place; in midsummer it works overtime, shining through both day and night. This is why knowing what time it is is very important when you are in Finland. It’s the quickest way of knowing for certain what time of the day it is, unless you like calculating things based on sun and star positions of course.
There is another reason for knowing the time in Finland: Finns are very punctual. If your train is scheduled to leave at 19:17, it’s long departed if you reach the platform a minute later. If you show up to a meeting 10 minutes late, you will find 10 minutes worth of things to catch up with and no one will stop to tell you what has been talked about so far. At universities lectures begin at 15 minutes after the hour. Exchange students when they first arrive at a Finnish university often use this as an example of Finns not being as punctual as we claim to be. After a day of studying, they realize that the lectures begin exactly a quarter after.
The UK is a monarchy; Finland is a republic. The UK has subjects; Finland has citizens. English has formal subjects; Finnish has no formal subjects. If a short active sentence has no subject, you start it with the verb.
It is evening.
On myöhä yö.
It is late at night.
Add a subject to a sentence like this and the whole meaning changes. Note the articles in the English translations.
Se on aamu.
It’s a morning.
The first sentence is a general observation about the time of the day. There’s nothing formal about the latter Finnish sentence; se refers directly to aamu. The sentence could be a parent’s answer to a child’s question about what the early hours after a night are called.
There’s only one sentence type in Finnish which could be considered to have a stand-in subject and even that is a stretch. So who is the one monarchist wanna-be in Finnish grammar? The answer is kello, “clock”/”watch”. This word is used to ask the time. The actual question word is paljonko.
Paljonko kello on?
What time is it?
In the answer kello is either repeated or replaced by se. If no one asked for the time but you feel the need to tell it anyway, the word kello needs to be included.
– Paljonko kello on? – Kello/Se on kolme.
– What time is it? - It’s three o’clock.
Olen väsynyt, koska kello on jo kaksitoista.
I’m tired because it’s already twelve o’clock.
English is always late when halves of an hour come into the picture; the ever punctual Finnish is always early. You wouldn’t want to run late, now would you? That’s a sin more deadly than wearing a bathing suit to the sauna! Instead of the English “half past”, Finnish logic works more in the lines of “half to”. The word for “half” is puoli.
Kello on puoli viisi.
It is half past four.
The expression for being busy or in a hurry, falls into the same group as being hungry or thirsty. You need the lla on structure to be able to make it to your train on time.
Onko sinulla kiire?
Are you busy/in a hurry?
If you need a moment before getting to something else, hetki, “moment”, is a good way to explain your inability to focus on what someone is saying or a short silence on the phone. If you want to emphasize something taking only a very short while, you can attach pieni to your hetki.
Pieni hetki! Minulla on kiire.
Just a moment! I’m busy.
|kello||clock, watch, time (when telling the time)|
|seisoa||to have stopped (clock, watch)|
|tasan||even, exactly (time)|
The heaviest words tend to go first in Finnish sentences. If a noun begins a sentence, the translation is most likely graced with a definite article.
Puu on tuolla.
The tree is over there.
If you put the place first, the tree becomes not as well known as its place. It’s then translated with an indefinite article attached to it. You also need a formal subject for the English sentence. Usually, this stand-in subject is “there”. The actual place goes at the end, since Finnish doesn’t use formal subjects.
Tuolla on puu.
There is a tree over there.
Sentences like this are most common with the verb olla but as long as there is a place tied to the subject, most verbs can be used in this sentence type. Here it’s “to grow” that’s hugging a tree.
Täällä kasvaa puu.
There is a tree growing over here.
Let’s let a verb hug a dog. Everyone likes hugging dogs.
Lähellä istuu koira.
There is a dog sitting nearby.
In questions, the word order is also changed and the article in the English translation changes. Let’s verb hug a moose. That’s pretty much the only way you can hug one.
Elääkö hirvi lähellä?
Does the moose live nearby?
Elääkö lähellä hirvi?
Is there a moose living nearby?
Sometimes “there” is not the ideal translation but “it” or even “here” works better depending on the meaning. This happens particularly often when tässä is the first word to appear in the sentence.
Tässä on yksi marja.
There is one berry right here.
(pointing out the location of one berry)
Tässä on yksi marja.
It/This/This one has one berry.
(a bush or a dish or something else not a human nor an animal has one berry)
Tässä on yksi marja.
Here is one berry.
(someone is giving you one berry)
Being able to have something is a quality reserved for people and animals in Finnish. You have to be able to know you have something to be able to have it. If a plant has a leaf, tässä is used. The plant doesn’t have the leaf. The leaf exists in the plant. If a bunny or a child has a leaf, sillä is used. They can have a leaf because they know they can.
Puussa on iso punainen lehti.
There is a big red leaf in the tree.
(trees are neither humans nor animals)
Sillä on pieni lehti.
It has a small leaf.
(an animal has a leaf)
Hänellä on vihreä lehti.
S/he has a green leaf.
(a person has a leaf)
The words “as” or “like” used in English to make sometimes poetic and usually not so poetic similes resemble the Finnish kuin in the way they work.
Kuu on kuin pyöreä juusto.
The moon is like a round cheese.
Kuu on punainen kuin veri.
The moon is (as) red as blood.
The word for “a few” is muutama. It’s considered to be so little that whatever there is a few of and the agreeing verb are in the singular.
Tuolla seisoo muutama lehmä.
There are a few cows standing over there.
The Finnish word for “nor” is formed by adding the ending KÄ in the negative verbs.
The negative verb is used twice: first like in any negative sentence and then abNORmally with KÄ.
Tämä ei ole kissa eikä ilves.
This is neither a cat nor a lynx.
Emme ole saunassa emmekä metsässä.
We are neither in the sauna nor in the forest.
|sinivalkoinen||blue and white|
|korkea||tall (not humans)|
|rauhassa||some peace and quiet, in peace|
All longer greetings are partitive objects. Finns wish someone a good morning or an evening, but we’re lazy about it and use only the object. We are a bit quaint when it comes to morning greetings. Instead of aamu, the most common word for “morning”, we opt for the old-fashioned huomen, “forenoon”.
Hyvää huomenta is used before noon and Hyvää iltaa after 6pm. While using the word iltapäivä, “afternoon”, in a greeting is possible, usually people wish each other a good day rather than an afternoon between noon and 6pm.
“Good night” is mainly about retiring to bed at the end of the day.
In service situations, Finns wish for “a good continuation of the day” once they have bought their strawberries or sold their phones.
Have a nice day!
As if our greetings weren't short enough already, Finns are koalas rather than kangaroos when it comes to adjectives in them. We don’t bounce around wasting energy but prefer to stick to one tree for as long as we can. So G’day!
If you do choose the kanga style and include the hyvää in your greeting, the answer will probably exclude it in koala style.
– Hyvää iltaa. – Iltaa.
–Good evening. – Evening.
yötä and päivänjatkoa are more likely to be bouncy roos and keep the adjective.
Asking the question “How are you?” is easy; answering it is less simple. First, an actual answer explaining how you are is expected. Second, Finns are an honest but shy lot. We like to keep our personal space and try to respect that of others if we don’t know the person well. When someone asks us how we are, the answer needs to be honest, modest, and nonintrusive. Answering “Fine, thank you” would be bragging.
The most common way to ask “How are you?” is Mitä kuuluu?, which literally means “What is heard?”. The most common answer is “nothing”, or in more idiomatic English “nothing special”.
– Mitä kuuluu? – No ei (tässä) mitään.
– What’s up? – Well nothing special.
What if things really are so well that answering “nothing” would be a downright lie but you don’t want to sound like you’re boasting? The word ihan, “pretty”, is appropriately modest for such purposes. Unlike the optimistic melko, which would be translated with the same word, ihan is pessimistic. If melko is adjective +1, then ihan is adjective -1.
–Mitä kuuluu? – Ihan hyvää, kiitos.
– How are you? – Pretty well, thanks.
If you leave ihan out, you better be absolutely ecstatic.
kai means “maybe” but in practice it’s translated as “I guess” in phrases like these. tässä is a filler word that makes the answer sound more jovial.
– No, mitä kuuluu? – Ei kai tässä mitään.
– Well, what’s up? – Not much, I guess.
Things can be right or wrong. Things are done in the right or wrong way. People with opinions are either IN the right or IN the wrong. That “in” means that the inessive with its SSA ending is the one to judge your opinion.
Tuo on väärä talo.
That’s the wrong house..
Tämä sana on väärin.
This word is wrong.
The time of the day can be myöhä, “late”, but if the bus is running late, you think you’re not going to make it to your lecture on time, or you’re apologizing because you showed up on that lecture late, you are IN the late, myöhässä.
Anteeksi, että olen myöhässä.
I’m sorry I’m late.
If your friend wants to slide down the most difficult piste on the slopes despite being an average skier, you can tell them to be careful by using the command form of the verb olla and the adjective varovainen, “careful”.
If you’re extremely worried about whatever reckless thing your friend is about to do, you can use the expression ole kiltti to emphasize your concern.
Ole kiltti ja ole varovainen.
Please be careful.
If your friend is crossing a road and you see a car not slowing down, you can warn your friend about the immediate danger by shouting Varo!.
Watch out! Car!
If the car you warned your friend about hits you, or you drop into 20 feet deep well (that would be 6.1 meters in human measurements), or you face some other horrid ordeal like running out of coffee, you shout apua, “help”.
Apua! Kahvi on loppu!
Help! We’re out of coffee!
|päivänjatko||continuation of a day|
|varoa||to watch out|
|kuulua||to be heard|
|kai||maybe, I guess|
Think about how the following sentences are different in terms of what their function in a conversation is? What are you trying to say with these sentences?
I have a phone.
I have a Finnish phone.
Why do you have a phone?
Do you have a phone?
Do you have a Finnish phone?
I don’t have a phone.
Why don’t you have a phone?
Why don’t you have a Finnish phone?
The goal these sentences have is important, because that goal determines whether "phone" in the partitive or looks like the nominative in the Finnish translations of these sentences.
In the first two sentences “phone” resembles the nominative. It’s a countable noun that is minulla, “on me”. You could add the word yksi, “one”, in the sentence without changing the grammar. It would change the meaning of the sentence though, from there being a phone which happens to be Finnish to emphasizing there being one Finnish phone among many phones.
Minulla on (suomalainen) puhelin.
I have a (Finnish) phone.
The question beginning “why” also has “phone” that looks like the nominative for the same reason: it’s a countable noun and there’s clearly only one of them.
Miksi sinulla on puhelin?
Why do you have a phone?
When you ask whether someone has a phone, it’s important to make a distinction between whether you’re asking if someone has a phone available to use right now, or whether you want to know if someone owns a phone at all. In the first case, you’re clearly talking about ONE specific phone so the word looks like the nominative; in the latter case, you’re talking about ANY phone someone might have so the partitive is used.
Onko sinulla puhelin?
Do you have a phone (with you)?
Onko sinulla puhelinta?
Do you have a phone (at all)?
In negative sentences, “phone” is in the partitive. In Finnish, you always ask whether someone doesn’t have any, never whether someone doesn’t have one.
Minulla ei ole puhelinta.
I don’t have a phone.
Miksi sinulla ei ole (suomalaista) puhelinta?
Why don’t you have a (Finnish) phone?
This also applies to objects in all sentences. In a negative sentence, the object is always in the partitive.
En halua tuota kameraa.
I don’t want that camera.
Emme osaa käyttää tätä sovellusta.
We don’t know how to use this app.
pätkiä, literally “to cut a long thing into small pieces”, is a verb used with failing connections, whether you’re talking about a video, a film, your net connection, or a phone call. Haloo? is used as “hello” when you have trouble hearing someone calling you, although some people also use it to answer their phone. ääni means “voice”.
Haloo? Ääni pätkii taas.
Hello? You’re breaking up again.
The video is buffering.
The/My net is cutting in and out again.
“plugged in” is seinässä, literally, “in the wall”, in Finnish.
Onko se edes seinässä?
Is it even plugged in?
voida means “may” or “can”. It’s often used to ask for permission to do something. It should be kept separate from osata, “can”, which is about knowing how to do something.
Voinko käyttää puhelinta?
May/Can I use the phone?
Osaatko käyttää puhelinta?
Can you/Do you know how to use the phone?
|pätkiä||to cut in and out|
|lainata||to borrow, to loan|
|pelata||to play (a game)|
|pitää||needs to be|
|voida||may, can, to be able to|
Finns eat their two larger meals of the day relatively early in comparison to most other Europeans. lounas, “lunch”, is usually eaten at noon or earlier. päivällinen, “dinner”, happens around 5pm, or even at 4pm if there are small children in the family. We have been conditioned by our free school lunches, practical workplace cafeterias, and steady working hours into eating our meals at those hours. When the clock hands reach the right number, involuntary drooling and tummy grumbling begins.
terassi is the Finnish word for an outdoors eating or drinking area, whether it’s for the customers of a café, a restaurant, or an ice cream kiosk. It’s also the name for an outdoors biergarten. After the winter, when the first terassi appears on a sidewalk or a marketplace, it’s officially the first day of the summer, or at least terassikausi, “terrace season”. Even if it’s completely covered in snow the following day.
The Finnish word for “daddy” is ISI; -ISI- is the marker for the conditional. Well-behaved, polite children rely on their daddy when they go to a restaurant or some place where being polite is valued. The father of six has a lot to do.
The stem for group 2 verbs, the ones that end in -DA, is formed by dropping the three final letters of the 1st infinitive.
saada -> sa-
voida -> vo-
Daddy helps his kids to connect with their personal stuff, which comes at the end. The third kid feels that personality is for sissies and has no personal ending.
In English, these verbs are usually translated with the "would" + infinitive structure. But since Finnish does not have a separate word for “could”, some verbs, verbs like saada and voida are often translated with "could" instead. In fact in service situations those are the most common translations.
Saisimmeko lisää leipää, kiitos?
Could we get some more bread, please?
Voisitteko suositella viiniä?
Could you recommend a wine?
In some fixed phrases “can” is the best translation for the conditional form of saada.
Päivää. Mitä saisi olla?
Good day. What can I get you?
Another phrase found in English language is the verb structure “would like to”. In Finnish, similar situations are handled with the conditional forms of haluta to want. This family belongs in the 4th verb group and its conditional stem is formed by dropping out T. Finns prefer coffee anyway.
haluta -> halua-
Once again, daddy keeps his family together. The third kid is a bit of a rebel and has no personal ending.
Haluaisitteko vielä jotain?
Would you like to have something else?
The communal plural is used to refer to companies, congregations, knitting associations, and other communities, including restaurants. It also exists in English, but it’s worth noting that while it’s hard to spot in the second person plural in English, in Finnish you can recognise it by the verb form.
Me olemme kiinni.
We are closed.
Onko teillä sushia?
Do you have sushi?
Heillä on uusi kokki.
They have a new cook.
The polite phrase ole hyvä is used to address only one person. If you’re talking to a group of people, you should use olkaa hyvä.
Ruokalistat, olkaa hyvä.
Here you are, your menus.
ajatella is about involuntary thinking, the type that happens automatically. If you need to consider something on purpose, the verb is miettiä.
Haluaisimme vielä miettiä vähän aikaa.
We would like to think for a while longer.
|miettiä||to think (over), to consider|
|yhtään||any (at all)|
Consonant gradation is a phenomenon related to plosives, the sounds represented in the Finnish alphabet by the letters K, P, and T. Whenever they appear near the end of the word, the word goes through stem changes before getting attached to case endings. Of the most common cases, only the partitive and the essive don’t have consonant gradation. Most other cases have it in both the singular and the plural. It also affects the nominative plural.
In NK-NG type gradation, a noun or an adjective that ends in NK followed by a single vowel, K turns into G. The NG is pronounced as a long [ŋː], as in the Spanish word “tango”. What can I say? VikiNGs like dancing.
The VikiNG gradation happens in the nominative plural.
viikinki -> viikingit the Vikings
sänky -> sängyt the beds
It also happens in the inessive singular.
Helsinki -> Helsingissä in Helsinki
kaupunki -> kaupungissa in the/a city
It doesn’t, however, happen in the partitive singular.
viikinki -> viikinkiä
kaupunki -> kaupunkia
And this is what the fearsome VikiNGs look like in action.
Miksi nuo viikingit laulavat Helsingissä?
Why are those Vikings singing in Helsinki?
Miksi viikingit tanssivat keskellä kaupunkia?
Why are the Vikings dancing in the middle of the city?
The verb opiskella, “to study”, can only refer to studying related to an educational institution, especially to a university, a polytechnic, or a vocational school. So if you want to tell a new acquaintance that you are in fact a Viking studying history in Oslo, or that you can’t go loot England because you have to study, opiskella is your verb. If you want to talk about your Finnish studies on Duolingo, you have to use some other verb. The object is always in the partitive.
He opiskelevat historiaa Oslossa.
They study history in Oslo.
Minä opiskelen englantia yliopistossa.
I study English at the/a university.
The relative conjunction joka, “who/which/that”, declines in case and number. Its nominative plural form is jotka and it’s used instead of a subject. Comma warning!
Minulla on kaksi ystävää, jotka asuvat Berliinissä.
I have two friends who live in Berlin.
Koirat, jotka kävelevät puistossa, murisevat hiljaa.
The dogs (which are) walking in the park are growling quietly.
The nominative form of “someone” is joku.
Joku tanssii keskellä katua.
Someone is dancing in the middle of the/a street.
The word for “somewhere” is jossain.
Voi ei! Viikingit on jossain lähellä!
Oh no! The vikings are somewhere near!
The word pari, “a couple (of)”, behaves like a number: it’s followed by whatever there is a couple of in the partitive singular.
Tässä kaupungissa on pari miljoonaa asukasta.
There are a couple of million inhabitants in this city.
It shouldn’t be confused with the noun pari, which refers to a couple in the chocolate and roses sense.
Pari istuu puistossa ja syö jäätelöä.
The/A couple is sitting in the park eating ice cream.
The word ruuhka is used to describe problems that arise during the rush hour. If you want to complain about Vikings taking over your metro station, “crowded” is a good translation.
Metrossa on ruuhkaa.
The metro is crowded.
If you’re moaning about cars, “traffic jam” is the best expression.
We’re in a traffic jam.
Much like in English, the question word mikä, “what”, can also be used to start exclamations.
Huh! Mikä ruuhka!
Whoa! What a traffic jam!
|opiskella||to study (in an educational institution)|
|jotka||who, that, which (relative)|
In Finnish, violetti is the default word for something that mixes red and blue, whereas in English “purple” has similar connotations. oranssi refers only to the color orange and never to the fruit.
To ask the color of something, you need the question word minkävärinen, “of-what-colored”. It’s followed by a noun or a pronoun representing the thing the color of which is the topic of the discussion. If that thing is the object of the sentence, the question word is often in the partitive: minkäväristä.
Minkävärinen paita se on?
What color shirt is it?
Minkäväristä paitaa etsit?
What color shirt are you looking for?
The word for “size” is koko. It should not be confused with the adjective koko, “the whole”. The size related question word is minkäkokoinen, “of-what-sized”. In the object position it often wears the partitive cloak: minkäkokoista.
Minkäkokoinen talo se on?
What size house is it?
Minkäkokoista takkia etsit?
What size coat/jacket are you looking for?
If you are dealing with a system of sizes, like the ones used for clothes and shoes for example, you can use mitä kokoa instead of the nominative form question word.
Mitä kokoa tämä mekko on?
What size is this dress?
The stem of all evil is marked by S for NEN words. All cases apart from the angelic nominative singular have to deal with this horror.
italialainen -> italialais-
sveitsiläinen -> sveitsiläis-
A nefarious E is added before the foul T can be poured into the cups of the nominative plural.
italialais + e + t = italialaiset
The question word millainen gets the same horrifying treatment, resulting in the grotesque and deformed millaiset.
– Millaiset housut sinulla on? – Ne ovat mustat ja italialaiset.
– What kind of pants do you have on? – They are black and Italian.
The essive endings could be a catchy tune from a pop song: NA/NÄ. The closest thing in English is the preposition “as” but sometimes other prepositions work better as a translation. When you need to know whether something can be found in a certain color, you need the essive form of that color.
Onko teillä tätä vyötä ruskeana?
Do you have this belt in brown?
The word for “a hundred” is sata. You can get larger numbers by adding another much smaller number before it and adding A at the end.
kaksi + sata + a = kaksisataa 200
viisi + sata + a = viisisataa 500
|koru||piece of jewelry|
|sovittaa||to try on|
|olla ostoksilla||to be shopping|
Words have power. Old Finnish magic focused on words: if you can define something perfectly, you can control it. Moreover, if you use a word you can’t control, you invite ruin to yourself and your kin. While most modern Finns are unaware of such ideas when we speak our language, you can still hear it and see it in Finnish words and grammatical structures. The ring finger is known as nimetön, “nameless”, in Finnish for it was the finger for performing magic and its name was avoided. The most powerful god of the Finns of old is known as Ukko, “Old Man”, and his true name has been forgotten for no one dared to utter it. Oksi, The Bear, has a hundred names, so that there’s no chance of offending the King of Forest. Even today, we prefer to use karhu, one of the many euphemisms for the great furry one.
Words that end in I can be divided into two groups. There are younger words the age of which can be counted in hundreds and older words the age of which can reach thousands.
The young words ending in I are like the magic of a young upstart wizard who can bring only one spell into the partitive battle: you add A or Ä at the end depending on the magical rules of vowel harmony.
kahvi + a = kahvia coffee
siili + ä = siiliä hedgehog
The old words that end in I are incantations of seasoned fighters when it comes to partitive battles. The most often used spell merely changes the I at the end of the stem into a more elegant E while the ending is still A/Ä.
Juoksen ylös mäkeä.
I’m running up the hill.
Minä rakastan tuota järveä.
I love that lake.
Then to more demanding spells! Words that end in LI, NI, or RI need to get rid of the I for the incantation to work. A knowledgeable witch finishes the spell with TA/TÄ.
Keittiössä juoksee kaksi pientä hiirtä.
There are two small mice running in the kitchen.
If the word ends in SI, the two letters are dropped completely. A skillful sorcerer ends these spells with TTA/TTÄ.
Haluan lisää vettä.
I want (some) more water.
If your magic word ends in MI or HI, you have more options. Some spells prefer adding A/Ä to an E stem while others drop I at the end to make room for TA/TÄ. Some spells work no matter which you choose! In those cases the wizard’s personal aesthetic preferences come into play. If you drop the I at the end and add TA/TÄ, a preceding M turns into an N.
Tuolla on paljon lunta.
There is a lot of snow over there.
The spellcasting master class for the Order of Väinämöinen: some incantations ending in SI don’t care about magical rules but make their own rules.
Etsimme yhtä tai kahta hyvää kuusta.
We're looking for one or two good spruces.
And finally, two things so violent that even wizards are afraid of them; two things that are almost impossible to control. These words are so powerful that they defy the vowel harmony and take whatever ending they want!
Talo on lähellä merta.
The house is near the sea.
luulla is one of the many Finnish verbs that can be translated as “to think''. ajatella is about involuntary thinking that we can’t control; miettiä is about really putting your mind to something and trying to figure things out on purpose; luulla is used to express uncertainty. It’s about speculation and can also be translated with “to reckon” and sometimes with “to suppose”.
Luulen, että tuo marja on myrkyllinen.
I reckon/think that berry is poisonous.
|toivoa||to hope, to wish|
|luulla||to reckon, to suppose, to think|
|joten||so, hence, therefore|
When you use the LLA ON structure, the order of the words affects the article in the English translation. The earlier something appears the more important or better known it is. If the noun appears on the right side of the verb, it’s most likely translated with the indefinite article “a(n)”.
Minulla on kirja.
I have A book.
If the noun is on the left side, it’s always translated with the definite article “the”.
Kirja on minulla.
I have THE book.
It’s also possible to have “the things” on the left. The verb agrees with those things and is in the 3rd person plural.
Kirjat ovat minulla.
I have THE books.
Passit ovat minulla.
I have THE passports.
If you have “things” rather than “THE things”, you would need a far more complicated form of the noun on the right side. We do not yet teach such a form.
In Group 4, most verbs in the end in vowel + T + vowel, like maalata, siivota, or haluta, have a stem formed by removing the T from the 1st infinitive.
I’m painting the house.
Me haluamme lisää kahvia.
We want more coffee.
Verbs that end in ITA/ITÄ in the 1st infinitive attract flies though, tsetse flies to be exact. These verbs form Verb Conjugation Group 5. You form the stem by first cutting off the TA/TÄ at the end.
tarvita -> tarvi- to need
sijaita -> sijai- to be located
häiritä -> häiri- to bother, to disturb
Then you add the buzzing TSE and finally the personal ending. In the 3rd person singular you double the E at the end to get the double vowel needed in all verb groups.
|te||tarvi-tse-tte||you (all) need|
Hotelli sijaitsee Helsingissä.
The hotel is located in Helsinki.
Minä tarvitsen tuota karttaa.
I (will be) need(ing) that map.
The negative forms of Group 5 verbs include the TSE.
Emme tarvitse karttaa.
We don’t need a map.
|pipo||beanie, knit cap, winter hat|
|lääkkeet||meds, medicine, medications|
|sijaita||to be located|
|häiritä||to bother, to disturb|
|paistaa||to shine (the sun)|
|onneksi||good thing, luckily, thankfully|
Finns are an unusually musical people with eclectic tastes. A Finn is more likely to know how to play an instrument than a person from any other nation in Europe; more than half of Finns can play at least one instrument. We also have more choirs and heavy metal bands per capita than any other nation in Europe, although the current trend is towards pop music. Most pubs and bars have karaoke equipment although whether the word “musical” can be used in connection to the most likely end result is under debate. Classical music is also popular and our education system regularly produces world class singers, composers, and conductors.
Our taste in sports may seem exotic to most other nations although our number one sports hobby is still soccer, just like everywhere else. The most followed sport is ice hockey though. Basketball, volleyball, track and field, and cross-country skiing are also popular. It should be noted than when people from English speaking countries speak of “skiing”, they usually mean Alpine skiing, laskettelu, whereas Finns will probably be thinking about cross-country, hiihto. Our national sport is pesäpallo, “nestball”, which is distantly related to baseball and cricket. Motorsports and swimming have their fans too. Most Finns know how to swim.
Finns travel more than any other nation in Europe. Many of us are also into knitting, crocheting, and carpentry, the basics of which we learn in comprehensive school. Many Finns are also avid birdwatchers. Cooking, baking, gardening, drawing, and painting have had a dip in popularity but are becoming more common again. Many Finns have a library card, but while we enjoy reading, we are sadly not particularly interested in languages.
English has many words which work as both a noun and as a verb. It’s possible to copy something and to have a copy of something; you can suspect someone and be a suspect; you are able to use some paint to paint something. The Finnish verb harrastaa is almost impossible to translate into English. The best way to grasp its meaning is to take the noun “hobby” and use it like an imaginary verb: “to hobby”. The actual translation varies depending on the context, although sometimes the clumsy “to have as a hobby” is sadly the best translation available.
Nämä pingviinit harrastavat jääkiekkoa.
These penguins have ice hockey as a hobby.
Harrastatko sinä balettia?
Is ballet your hobby?
Moreover, Finns are not “good at” things but “good in” things. The inessive is used to imply talent at something – or the lack of it.
Sinä olet hyvä pokerissa.
You are good at poker.
Minä olen tosi huono jalkapallossa.
I’m really bad at soccer/football.
It’s common to combine the conjunction mutta with the following verb whenever that verb is a negative one. The A at the end of mutta is dropped and the negative verb is attached to what remains.
|he||mutt-eivät / mutt-eivat|
Notice that the merge doesn’t necessarily affect the negative verbs in any way. This means that both mutteivat and mutteivät are possible for the 3rd person plural, the form being one of the few Finnish words to defy the vowel harmony.
Olen hyvä urheilussa, mutten osaa pelata koripalloa.
I am good at sports, but I don’t know how to play basketball.
He osaavat pelata jääkiekkoa, mutteivat/mutteivät pokeria.
They know how to play ice hockey but not poker.
The stem for words that end NEN in the nominative singular ends in S.
suomalainen -> suomalais-
amerikkalainen -> amerikkalais-
This S stem is used with all other forms, including the nominative plural form. The plural T is tied to the stem by an energetic E.
Nuo amerikkalaiset hait pelaavat jääkiekkoa.
Those American sharks play ice hockey.
Note that in Finnish amerikkalainen usually refers to someone or something from the USA rather than from any place in the Americas.
|biisi||(pop, rock) song|
|ajaa||to drive (vehicle)|
|harrastaa||to have (as) a hobby|
|svengata||to groove, to swing|
Finnish has several words which could be translated as “again”. While these words are often interchangeable, there are situations when some of them do not work. Here are two of these words: taas and uudelleen.
uudelleen is used when there’s a distinct pattern in the repetitive action but things are not done exactly the same way. Repeating an exercise in a Finnish course is a good example. You may have made mistakes in the previous run or just generally want to do things better the second time around. Hoping to meet someone again is another example. You don’t want to repeat everything exactly the same way but you want to stick to certain rules about how human interaction works.
Nähdään pian uudelleen!
See you again soon!
taas is more about tendencies in long term. It often has the “here we go again” mindset implied with it.
Hän on taas myöhässä.
S/he is late again.
Sometimes both are possible but while Finnish makes a distinction between the two sentences, the context is everything in the English ones. You can test which is which by trying to add the word “once” in the English sentence. While you can’t use that in the actual translation, adding it into a sentence that’s a translation for a sentence with the word uudelleen without making the sentence sound odd is incredibly unlikely.
Hän laulaa laulua taas.
S/he is singing the song (once) again.
(s/he has a habit of singing the song and is at it again)
Hän laulaa laulua uudelleen.
S/he is singing the song again.
(s/he just sung the song and is repeating the action)
It’s incredibly rare to say “nice to meet you” in the beginning of a conversation in Finland. It’s far more common to use that expression at the end of a conversation. We don’t think meeting someone is nice either; we think it’s fun!
Oli hauska tutustua.
It was nice meeting you.
Notice the continuous verb form above, “meeting”. It’s been chosen because tutustua means “to meet” in the sense “to get to know someone” and you only use the verb after you’ve met someone for the first time.
|tutustua||to get to know, to meet|
|tehdä||to do, to make|