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Basic Finnish Phrases for Beginners

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One of the most exciting moments on any language learner’s journey is using their newly acquired skills to chat with people in the real world. If you’re a beginner, you may feel like the day you can actually speak with Finns in their native language is still far off in the future—but think again! You don’t need to have extensive knowledge of Finnish grammar or tons of vocabulary under your belt to memorize and start using the most common Finnish words and phrases for beginners.

We’re enthusiastic advocates of the “speak from day one” approach; it can really boost your confidence and motivate you to work towards your language goals! In this guide, we’ll cover all the basic phrases you need to get started: greetings, common courtesy phrases, useful expressions for dining and shopping, and phrases to use in an emergency.

Two Women Sharing a Laugh

Learning a new language is about making connections.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Greetings and Self-introductions
  2. Courtesy Phrases & Social Expressions
  3. Dining & Shopping Phrases
  4. Asking for Help
  5. Lopuksi

1. Greetings and Self-introductions

Greeting people and introducing yourself in Finnish is a wonderful way to break the ice when you’re interacting with Finns. This is true even if you need to switch back to English afterward!

Let’s take a look at both informal and formal Finnish greetings.

  • Hei (“Hi”)
  • Moi (“Hi”)
  • Terve (“Hello”)
  • Hyvää huomenta (“Good morning”)
  • Hyvää päivää (“Good day”)
  • Hyvää iltaa (“Good evening”)

Note that you can drop the word hyvää (“good”) from any of the above phrases! For example, you could just say Päivää (“Good day”) instead! 

  • Haloo (“Hello”) – used when answering the phone

Next, you might want to ask someone how they’re doing. Here are a few ways to do that in Finnish:

  • Mitä kuuluu? (“How are you?”) – Literally: “What is heard?”
  • Kiitos, hyvää. (“Good, thank you.”)
  • Entä sinulle? (“And you?”) – informal
  • Entä teille? (“And you?”) – formal / plural
  • Miten menee? (“How’s it going?”)
  • Oikein hyvin, kiitos. (“Really well, thanks.”)

If you want to learn a bit more about each other, here are a few classic questions to ask someone you’ve just met and how to respond to them:

  • Mikä sinun nimesi on? (“What’s your name?”) – informal
  • Mikä teidän nimenne on? (“What’s your name?”) – formal
  • (Minun) nimeni on Antero. (“My name is Antero.”)
  • (Minä) olen Reetta. (“I am Reetta.”)
  • Hauska tutustua! (“Nice to meet you!”)
  • Mistä olet kotoisin? (“Where are you from?”)
  • Olen kotoisin Suomesta. (“I’m from Finland.”)

If you want to explore this subject more, be sure to check out our guides How to Say ‘Hello’ and Other Finnish Greetings and How to Introduce Yourself in Finnish on the FinnishPod101 blog.

A Man Extending His Hand for a Handshake

Hauska tutustua! (“Nice to meet you!”)

2. Courtesy Phrases & Social Expressions

Good manners will always be appreciated wherever you go, and Finland is no exception! Learning even just a few polite words and phrases to use in various social situations can make your interactions with Finnish people go more smoothly.

To catch someone’s attention or to apologize, you can use the same word:

  • Anteeksi (“Sorry” / “Excuse me”)
  • Anteeksi, mitä kello on? (“Excuse me, what’s the time?”)
  • Anteeksi, se oli vahinko. (“Sorry, it was an accident.”)

This is an alternative way to apologize:

  • Olen pahoillani. (“I’m sorry.”)

This is how you could politely respond to an apology:

  • Ei se mitään. (“Don’t worry about it.”) – Literally: “No it nothing”

It’s also not uncommon for Finns to say “sorry” among friends. If written, the word is usually spelled sori

The word kiitos can mean either “thank you” or “please,” depending on the context. There is no separate word for “please” in Finnish.

  • Kiitos (“Thank you” / “Please”)
  • Kiitos paljon. (“Thank you very much.”)
  • Paljon kiitoksia. (“Many thanks.”)
  • Kyllä kiitos. (“Yes, please.”)
  • Ei kiitos. (“No, thank you.”)
  • Ole hyvä. (“You’re welcome.”) – Literally: “Be good.”
  • Olkaa hyvä. (“You’re welcome.”) – formal / plural
  • Ei kestä. (“Don’t mention it.”)

Learn more about Finnish customs and values on infoFinland, or join us for a 3-minute lesson on manners and practice saying thank you in Finnish.

Other useful Finnish courtesy phrases include:

  • Onnea! (“Good luck!” / “Congrats!”)
  • Onnittelut! (“Congratulations!”)
  • Hyvää syntymäpäivää! (“Happy birthday!”)
  • Tervetuloa! (“Welcome!”)
  • Kippis! (“Cheers!”) – used when raising a toast
  • Hyvää ruokahalua! (“Bon appétit!”)
  • Hyvää matkaa! (“Bon voyage!”) – Literally: “Good journey!”
  • Terveydeksi! (“Bless you!”) – Literally: “For health!” – used when someone sneezes
  • Parane pian! (“Get well soon!”)

Parting ways? Here are different ways to say goodbye in Finnish:

  • Hei hei. (“Bye-bye.”)
  • Moi moi. (“Bye-bye.”)
  • Heippa. (“Bye.”)
  • Moikka. (“Bye.”)
  • Näkemiin. (“Goodbye.”) – used in person
  • Kuulemiin. (“Goodbye.”) – used on the phone
  • Hyvää yötä. (“Good night.”)
  • Öitä. (“Night night.”)
  • Nähdään. (“See you.”)
  • Nähdään pian. (“See you soon.”)
  • Nähdään huomenna. (“See you tomorrow.”)
  • Huomiseen. (“See you tomorrow.”) – Literally: “Until tomorrow.”
  • Hyvää päivänjatkoa. (“Have a nice day.”) – Literally: “Good continuation of the day.”
  • Hauskaa viikonloppua. (“Have a great weekend.”) – Literally: “Fun weekend.”

Explore this topic in greater depth with our guide to 10 Different Ways to Say Goodbye in Finnish.

A College Student Waving Goodbye to Her Friends

Hei hei, nähdään huomenna! (“Bye-bye, see you tomorrow!”)

3. Dining & Shopping Phrases

Visiting local cafes, restaurants, and shops is one of the great pleasures of spending time in another country. In this section, we’ll cover some beginner phrases in Finnish that will help you make the most of your dining and shopping experiences in Finland. 

First, let’s look at a few ways to respond to the question Mitä saisi olla? (“What can I get for you?”): 

  • Kahvi ja pulla, kiitos. (“A coffee and a bun, please.”)
  • Haluaisin kupin kahvia, kiitos. (“I’d like a cup of coffee, please.”)
  • Saisinko lasin vettä? (“Could I get a glass of water?”)
  • Otan kupin teetä ja palan kakkua. (“I’ll have a cup of tea and a slice of cake.”)
  • Onko teillä korvapuusteja? (“Do you have cinnamon rolls?”)

Ordering at a restaurant is not much harder!

  • Saisimmeko ruokalistan? (“Can we have the menu?”)
  • Haluaisin nähdä ruokalistan. (“I would like to see the menu.”)
  • Mikä on päivän erikoinen? (“What’s today’s special?”)
  • Otan tomaattikeiton. (“I’ll have the tomato soup.”)
  • Haluaisin hampurilaisen. (“I would like to have the hamburger.”)

Visit FinnishPod101.com for an audio lesson on placing an order at a restaurant or explore Finnish cuisine on our blog.

Here are a few handy phrases you could use when shopping:

  • Onko teillä sateenvarjoja? (“Do you have umbrellas?”)
  • Mistä löydän sovituskopin? (“Where can I find a fitting room?”)
  • Otan tämän. (“I’ll take this.”)

Find more Finnish shopping phrases on bab.la and visit our free vocabulary list of essential shopping words.

Finally, let’s talk about paying:

  • Paljonko tämä maksaa? (“How much is this?”)
  • Mitä olen velkaa? (“How much do I owe?”)
  • Haluaisin maksaa. (“I’d like to pay.”)
  • Lasku, kiitos. (“Check, please.”)
  • Saisimmeko laskun? (“Can we have the check, please?”)
  • Voinko maksaa luottokortilla? (“Can I pay with a credit card?”)

Tipping at a restaurant in Finland is not expected, but you may wish to round up your meal.

A Couple Ordering at a Restaurant

Mitä saisi olla? (“What would you like?”)

4. Asking for Help

What if you go out there and use all the Finnish phrases for beginners you’ve learned—but then don’t understand what the other person says to you in response? Or what if people talk a little too fast for you to follow? Take a deep breath and ask them to repeat what they said. Or ask them if they can slow down a bit! Here are simple Finnish phrases for those “lost in translation” moments:

  • Puhutteko englantia? (“Do you speak English?”) – formal / plural
  • Puhutko suomea? (“Do you speak Finnish?”) – informal
  • Kyllä, vähän. (“Yes, a little.”)
  • En puhu suomea kovin hyvin. (“I don’t speak Finnish very well.”)
  • Anteeksi, en ymmärrä. (“Sorry, I don’t understand.”)
  • Voitko toistaa mitä sanoit? (“Can you repeat what you said?”) – informal
  • Voisitteko puhua hitaammin, kiitos? (“Can you speak more slowly, please?”) – formal
  • Miten sanotaan … suomeksi? (“How do you say … in Finnish?”)

A Woman Struggling to Understand What a Man Is Saying

Anteeksi, en ymmärrä. (“Sorry, I don’t understand.”)

Another situation you may find yourself in is being literally lost—or looking for public bathrooms! So, let’s cover a couple of simple Finnish phrases for asking directions:

  • Missä rautatieasema on? (“Where is the railway station?”)
  • Anteeksi, onko täällä vessaa? (“Excuse me, is there a toilet here?”)
  • Miten pääsen täältä keskustaan? (“How do I get from here to the city center?”)

Learning essential vocabulary for directions in Finnish will help you make sense of the answers you receive!

Hopefully you’ll never need to use them, but it’s always a good idea to know the key phrases for emergencies:

  • Apua! (“Help!”)
  • Soittakaa poliisi. (“Call the police.”)
  • Tarvitsen lääkärin. (“I need a doctor.”)

Get even more prepared by going through our 8-lesson series titled Essential Finnish for Emergencies.

5. Lopuksi

In this guide, we have covered lots of Finnish beginner phrases for a variety of situations, from meeting and greeting to shopping and asking for help. This should help you navigate the most commonplace situations and give you a good foundation to build on! Are there any other basic Finnish phrases that you know and find useful? Help your fellow students learn them too by leaving a comment below.

If you’re an absolute beginner, you may worry about whether you’re pronouncing Finnish words correctly. You’ll be happy to hear that FinnishPod101 offers an extensive library of audio and video lessons as well as free vocabulary lists with audio recordings to help you with your pronunciation! And if you’re ready for more, our Absolute Beginner pathway is a great place to start your learning journey.

Happy learning on FinnishPod101.com!

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