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150+ Advanced Finnish Words to Add to Your Vocabulary

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So, you’ve reached the advanced level in your Finnish learning adventure? Congratulations! But even if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably not looking to rest on your laurels; while you may have mastered the essentials, there’s always more to learn. One of the most obvious next steps is to keep expanding your vocabulary by learning more advanced Finnish words.

Why should building your vocabulary be a top priority once you hit an advanced level? It’s simple: a wide vocabulary boosts your efforts in all other areas of language learning. Whether you want to hone your reading, writing, listening, or speaking skills in Finnish, knowing a larger range of words really helps! It makes it easier to read for pleasure and absorb information from factual texts, helps you communicate your thoughts and ideas with greater accuracy and depth, allows you to discuss more complex and specialized topics, and lets you pick up on subtle differences in meaning when you listen to others.

Learning new words can also be a fun and confidence-boosting process that helps keep boredom at bay when you hit that plateau in language learning and aren’t progressing in leaps and bounds anymore!

In this article, we’ll give you an advanced Finnish word list divided into academic, business, medical, and legal vocabularies. Finally, we will also provide some fancier alternatives to common Finnish words to help you add more variety to the way you express yourself.


A Smiling Woman Touches Her Head with Her Index Fingers

Take your Finnish skills to the next level by learning advanced vocabulary.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Advanced Academic Words
  2. Advanced Business Vocabulary
  3. Advanced Medical Vocabulary
  4. Advanced Legal Vocabulary
  5. Alternative Words
  6. Lopuksi

1. Advanced Academic Words

The exact definition of “academic vocabulary” depends on the context. However, the list we’ve put together here consists of advanced Finnish words that you could expect to appear in academic texts and dialogue but which wouldn’t turn up very frequently in normal day-to-day conversations. 

1 – Academic Verbs

  • analysoida (“to analyze”)
  • ylläpitää (“to sustain” / “to maintain”)
    • On tärkeää pysyä aktiivisena ja ylläpitää lihaskuntoa. (“It’s important to stay active and maintain muscle tone.”)
  • mahdollistaa (“to enable”)
  • altistaa (“to expose”)
    • Nanomateriaalit saattavat altistaa ympäristön uusille riskeille. (“Nanomaterials may expose the environment to new risks.”)
  • säädellä (“to regulate”)
  • arvioida (“to approximate” / “to estimate”)
  • täsmentää (“to clarify”)
  • havainnollistaa (“to demonstrate”)
  • tarkkailla (“to monitor”)
  • luokitella (“to classify” / “to categorize” / “to group”)
    • Eläimet voidaan luokitella selkärankaisiin ja selkärangattomiin. (“Animals can be grouped into vertebrates and invertebrates.”)
  • automatisoida (“to automate”)

2 – Academic Nouns

  • asiantuntija (“authority” / “expert” / “specialist”)
  • tiivistelmä (“abstract” / “summary”)
  • näkökulma (“perspective” / “point of view”)
    • Aihetta voi lähestyä monesta eri näkökulmasta. (“The subject can be approached from many different points of view.”)
  • ennakkoasenne (“bias” / “prejudice”)
  • käsite (“concept”)
  • asiayhteys (“context”)
    • Kirjallisuutta tulkittaessa on tärkeää ottaa huomioon asiayhteys. (“When interpreting literature, it’s important to take the context into account.”)
  • kriteeri (“criterion”)
  • olettamus (“hypothesis” / “presumption”)
  • maailmankatsomus (“worldview” / “ideology”)
  • teoria (“theory”)
  • hierarkia (“hierarchy”)

3 – Academic Adjectives

  • yksiselitteinen (“unequivocal”)
    • Vältä väärinymmärryksiä valitsemalla yksiselitteisiä termejä. (“Avoid misunderstandings by choosing unequivocal terms.”)
  • tulkinnanvarainen (“ambiguous” / “subject to interpretation”)
  • eettinen (“ethical”)
  • johdonmukainen (“logical” / “consistent” / “coherent”)
    • Pulmaan täytyy olla olemassa johdonmukainen ratkaisu. (“There must be a logical solution to the problem.”)
  • neutraali (“neutral”)

You can find more advanced Finnish words and phrases related to academia in our relevant Finnish vocabulary builder.

A Young Man in a Library

Tekstikirjoissa käytetään akateemista sanastoa. (“Academic vocabulary is used in textbooks.”)

2. Advanced Business Vocabulary

Learning advanced Finnish vocabulary related to business is highly recommended for anyone who wants to do business or work with Finns.

1 – Business Verbs

  • laskuttaa (“to invoice”)
  • hinnoitella (“to price”)
  • valtuuttaa (“to authorize”)
    • Sakari valtuutti Irmelin tekemään sopimuksen puolestaan. (“Sakari authorized Irmeli to make a contract on his behalf.”)
  • rahoittaa (“to finance”)
  • markkinoida (“to market”)
    • Tupakkateollisuus ei saa markkinoida nuuskaa terveellisenä vaihtoehtona savukkeille. (“The tobacco industry isn’t allowed to market snuff as a healthy alternative to cigarettes.”)
  • sijoittaa (“to invest”)

2 – Business Nouns

  • kilpailija (“competitor”)
  • kilpailuetu (“competitive advantage”)
  • yhtiökumppani (“partner” / “associate”)
  • markkinaosuus (“market share”)
  • tavaramerkki (“trademark”)
    • Tavaramerkki takaa tuotteen aitouden. (“A trademark guarantees a product’s authenticity.”)
  • kauppakirja (“contract of sale”)
  • alihankkija (“subcontractor”)
  • vastatarjous (“counter offer”)
  • suhdetoiminta (“public relations”)
  • asiakaspalvelu (“customer service” / “after-sales service”)
  • pääkonttori (“headquarters”)
  • sivukonttori or haarakonttori (“branch”)
  • kirjanpitäjä (“accountant”)
  • kirjanpito (“accounting”)
  • kuluttaja (“consumer”)
  • pääoma (“capital”)
  • osinko (“dividend”)
    • Osinko on voitto-osuus, jonka yritys jakaa omistajilleen. (“A dividend is a profit share that a company distributes to its shareholders.”)
  • yrittäjä (“entrepreneur”)
  • toimitusjohtaja (“executive”)
  • talouskasvu (“economic growth”)
  • konkurssi (“bankruptcy”)

Have you checked out our blog post on the top Finnish business phrases and vocabulary yet?

Two Men in Suits Shake Hands, while a Woman Takes Notes.

Tehdään sopimus. (“Let’s make a deal.”)

3. Advanced Medical Vocabulary

You no doubt already know the words lääkäri (“doctor”) and sairaala (“hospital”), but what about terms like “diagnosis” and “blood donation”?

1 – Medical Verbs

  • rokottaa (“to vaccinate”)
  • amputoida (“to amputate”)
  • desinfioida (“to disinfect”)
    • Muista desinfioida kätesi lähtiessäsi sairaalasta. (“Remember to disinfect your hands when leaving the hospital.”)
  • puuduttaa (“to anesthetize” / “to numb”)
  • nukuttaa (“to anesthetize” / “to put to sleep”)
  • luovuttaa verta (“to donate blood”)
    • Terve ihminen voi luovuttaa verta useamman kerran vuodessa. (“A healthy person can donate blood several times a year.”)
  • tutkia (“to examine”)
  • leikata (“to cut” / “to operate”)
  • pyörtyä (“to faint”)
  • kaatua (“to fall”)

2 – Medical Nouns 

  • veriryhmä (“blood type”)
  • allergia (“allergy”)
  • muistinmenetys (“amnesia”)
  • verenluovutus (“blood donation”)
  • luunmurtuma (“bone fracture”)
  • venähdys (“strain”)
  • aivotärähdys (“concussion”)
    • Aivotärähdys voi aiheuttaa päänsärkyä ja pahoinvointia. (“A concussion can cause headaches and nausea.”)
  • turvotus (“swelling”)
  • mustelma (“bruise”)
  • ruhje (“contusion”)
  • leikkaus (“surgery” / “operation”)
  • keisarinleikkaus (“Cesarean section”)
  • elvytys (“resuscitation”)
  • vastustuskyky (“immunity”)
  • nestehukka (“dehydration”)
  • diagnoosi (“diagnosis”)
  • päivystyspoliklinikka (“emergency room” / “ER”)
    • Päivystyspoliklinikat ovat auki ympäri vuorokauden. (“Emergency rooms are open round the clock.”)
  • teho-osasto (“intensive care unit” / “ICU”)
  • sydänkohtaus (“heart attack”)
  • halvaus (“stroke”) 
  • tartuntatauti (“contagious disease”)
  • resepti (“prescription”)
  • lääke (“medicine”)
  • rokote (“vaccine”)
  • lääkitys (“medication”)
  • sivuvaikutus (“side effect”)
  • parannuskeino (“cure”)
  • hoito (“treatment”)
  • näyte (“sample”)

3 – Medical Adjectives

  • hyvänlaatuinen (“benign”)
  • pahanlaatuinen (“malignant”)
  • akuutti (“acute”)
  • krooninen (“chronic”)
  • nyrjähtänyt (“sprained”)
    • Nyrjähtänyt nilkka on yleinen vamma. (“A sprained ankle is a common injury.”)
  • murtunut (“fractured”)
  • pitkälle edennyt (“advanced”)
    • Pitkälle edennyt syöpä aiheuttaa monenlaisia oireita. (“Advanced cancer causes many kinds of symptoms.”)
  • laajalle levinnyt (“widespread”)
  • turvonnut (“swollen”)

This is, of course, a very small sample of the medical words out there! If you’re ready to dive in deeper, be sure to check out the relevant Finnish word and phrase lists on FinnishPod101.com. We recommend these lists: Hospital Care, Medicine and Medical Treatments, and How to Describe Common Health Problems.

A Doctor Listens to a Patient’s Heart in a Hospital.

Teho-osastolla (“In the ICU”)

4. Advanced Legal Vocabulary

Legalese (lakikieli) has a reputation for being difficult to understand by anyone outside the legal sphere. Our list of Finnish legal terms won’t make you an expert at interpreting legal texts, but it will help you understand topics related to law when you come across them in newspapers, for example.

1 – Legal Verbs

  • haastaa oikeuteen (“to sue”)
    • Kunnianloukkauksesta voi haastaa oikeuteen. (“One can sue for defamation.”)
  • kuulustella (“to interrogate”)
  • todeta syylliseksi (“to convict”)
  • vapauttaa syytteestä (“to acquit”)
    • Valamiehistö vapautti hänet syytteestä. (“The jury acquitted him/her.”)
  • kavaltaa (“to embezzle”)
  • valittaa (“to appeal”)
  • todistaa (“to testify”)

2 – Legal Nouns

  • asianajaja (“lawyer”)
  • syyttäjä (“prosecutor”)
  • rike (“misdemeanor” / “minor offense”)
  • henkirikos (“capital crime”)
  • rikosrekisteri (“criminal record”)
    • Rikosrekisteri voi estää tietyillä aloilla työskentelyn. (“A criminal record can prevent one from working in certain fields.”)
  • ennakkotapaus (“precedent”)
  • kanne (“lawsuit”)
  • lahjonta (“bribery”)
  • korruptio (“corruption”)
  • ehdonalainen (“parole” / “probation”)
  • virkasyyte (“impeachment”)
  • lainsäädäntö (“legislation”)
  • perustuslaki (“constitution” / “constitutional law”)
    • Eduskunta voi tehdä muutoksia perustuslakiin. (“The Parliament can make changes to the constitution.”)
  • petos (“fraud”)
  • valamiehistö (“jury”)
  • sovittelu (“mediation”)
  • testamentti (“will” / “testament”)
  • vastuu (“liability”)
  • käräjäoikeus (“district court”)

You can learn more legal terminology by listening to our lesson The Legal System: Common Terminology. And if you happen to be really into courtroom drama and wonder what the judicial system of Finland is like, you can learn the basics on Wikipedia.

A Judge Gavel

tuomarin nuija (“judge’s gavel”)

5. Alternative Words

In this section, we’ll give you a list of words that you can try using instead of their more commonplace counterparts. If you’re studying for the Finnish language proficiency test, demonstrating that you have a varied vocabulary and can correctly use rarer words is a great way to get a higher score!

Note that while some of the words here are interchangeable, we’ve also included words that have a subtly different meaning. In the following lists, the suggested alternative term is listed first, followed by the basic word. 

1 – Alternative Verbs

  • todeta (“to state”) instead of sanoa (“to say”)
  • lahjoittaa (“to gift” / “to donate”) instead of antaa (“to give”)
  • omistaa (“to own” / “to possess”) instead of olla (“to have”)
  • menehtyä (“to perish”) instead of kuolla (“to die”)
  • ohjeistaa (“to instruct”) instead of neuvoa (“to advise” / “to direct”)
  • rohjeta (“to dare”) instead of uskaltaa (“to dare”)
  • vierailla (“to visit”) instead of käydä (“to visit”)
    • Vierailin eilen Marjukan luona. (“I visited Marjukka yesterday.”)
  • kohdata (“to meet” / “to encounter”) instead of tavata (“to meet” / “to encounter”)
  • aterioida (“to have a meal”) instead of syödä (“to eat”)
    • Sirpalla on tapana katsoa televisiota aterioidessaan. (“Sirpa is in the habit of watching television while having a meal.”)
  • uupua (“to tire”) instead of väsyä (“to tire”)
  • menetellä (“to act” in a certain way) instead of toimia (“to act”)
  • poistua (“to leave” / “to depart”) instead of lähteä (“to go” / “to leave”)
  • ennättää (“to make it” / “to have time”) instead of ehtiä (“to make it” / “to have time”)
  • kyynelehtiä (“to shed tears”) instead of itkeä (“to cry”)
  • kynäillä (“to pen”) instead of kirjoittaa (“to write”)

2 – Alternative Adjectives 

  • varakas (“wealthy”) instead of rikas (“rich”)
  • ylipainoinen (“overweight”) instead of lihava (“fat”)
  • iäkäs (“elderly”) instead of vanha (“old”)
    • Iäkkäillä ihmisillä on paljon elämänkokemusta. (“Elderly people have a lot of life experience.”)
  • erinomainen (“excellent”) instead of hyvä (“good”)
  • voimakas (“strong” / “powerful”) instead of vahva (“strong”)
  • merkillinen (“peculiar”) instead of outo (“odd”)
  • urhoollinen (“valiant”) instead of rohkea (“brave”)
  • viehättävä (“attractive”) instead of kaunis (“beautiful”)
  • huomaavainen (“considerate” / “thoughtful”) instead of kohtelias (“polite” / “courteous”)
  • tähdellinen (“significant” / “meaningful”) instead of tärkeä (“important”)
  • haastava (“challenging”) instead of vaikea (“hard” / “difficult”)
  • arkipäiväinen (“mundane” / “commonplace”) instead of tavallinen (“common” / “ordinary”)
    • Työuupumus on nykyään arkipäiväinen ilmiö. (“Burnout is a commonplace phenomenon these days.”)
  • hintava (“pricy”) instead of kallis (“expensive”)
  • edullinen (“inexpensive”) instead of halpa (“cheap”)
  • miellyttävä (“pleasing”) instead of mukava (“nice” / “comfortable”)
  • väärentämätön (“authentic” / “genuine”) instead of aito (“real”)
  • paikkansapitävä (“accurate” / “correct”) instead of tosi (“true”)
  • kauhistuttava (“frightening”) instead of pelottava (“scary”)

3 – Alternative Adverbs

  • vastaisuudessa (“in the future”) instead of tulevaisuudessa (“in the future”)
  • kaiketi (“probably”) instead of varmaan (“probably”)
  • kenties (“perhaps”) instead of ehkä (“maybe”)
  • uskomattoman (“unbelievably”) instead of todella (“really”)
    • Matias on ollut uskomattoman hyvällä tuulella viime aikoina. (“Matias has been in an unbelievably good mood lately.”)
  • kohtalaisen (“moderately”) instead of melko (“quite”)
    • Säätiedotus lupaa kohtalaisen lämmintä keliä pääsiäiseksi. (“The weather forecast predicts moderately warm weather for Easter.”)
  • etäällä (“far away”) instead of kaukana (“far away”)
  • oitis (“right away”) instead of heti (“right away”)
  • vaivihkaa (“surreptitiously”) instead of salaa (“secretly”)
  • vaivattomasti (“effortlessly”) instead of helposti (“easily”)
  • parhaillaan (“currently”) instead of nyt (“now”)
  • aiemmin (“earlier” / “previously”) instead of ennen (“before”)

4 – Alternative Prepositions and Postpositions  

  • rinnalla (“beside”) instead of vieressä (“by” / “next to”)
    • Kasper seisoo valokuvassa isänsä rinnalla. (“Kasper stands beside his father in the photograph.”)
  • tähden (“for the sake of”) instead of vuoksi (“because of”)
  • eduksi (“for the benefit of”) instead of hyväksi (“for the good of”)
    • Tämä tilanne ei ole kenellekään eduksi. (“This situation isn’t for the benefit of anyone.”)
  • vailla (“without”) instead of ilman (“without”)
  • mielestä (“in the opinion of”) instead of mukaan (“according to”)
  • ohella (“in addition to”) instead of lisäksi (“besides”)

A Pair of Glasses on Top of an Open Book

Do you look up words in a dictionary when reading a book?

6. Lopuksi

In this guide, we have listed over 150 advanced Finnish words, including both specialized and general terms. Of course, seeing a new word once doesn’t mean that you will remember it tomorrow! To help you commit this new vocabulary to long-term memory, we recommend that you add the words in this article to your own personalized spaced repetition flashcard deck. It’s also a good idea to put any new vocabulary into context; for example, write a sentence or two using the words you want to learn to speed up the learning process. 

Do you have any other tips for learning and memorizing new vocabulary? Help your fellow learners by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below!

Be sure to explore our extensive library of free vocabulary lists on FinnishPod101.com too, or hop over to our free Finnish Dictionary whenever you come across new words. Finally, if you are determined to move from an advanced level to fluency in Finnish, MyTeacher provides you with efficient tools to meet your most ambitious language learning goals.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish

Finnish Negation: How to Form the Finnish Negative

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It’s no wonder that toddlers learn the magic word “no” early on—being able to say what you don’t want is as vital as being able to communicate what you do want. Of course, learning about negation in the Finnish language has a lot more uses than just the ability to confirm your dislike of, say, mämmi. You can also use negation to warn others or to add nuance to your questions, for example.

Finnish negation works in a different manner than English negation, but once you’re comfortable using the Finnish negative verb, you’ve already won half the battle. In addition to the negative verb (and its partner in crime, the connegative), this guide will cover some other important negative vocabulary as well as how to use the most important negative affixes.

Let’s not delay any longer. It’s time to learn all about negation in the Finnish language!

Woman Shows Her Hand with the Word No Written on It.

Ei. (“No.”)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Forming a Negative Statement in Finnish
  2. Negative Imperative
  3. Giving a Negative Answer to a Question
  4. Asking Negative Questions
  5. Other Useful Negative Words
  6. Negative Prefixes and Suffixes
  7. Negative Conjunctions
  8. Lopuksi

1. Forming a Negative Statement in Finnish

Okay, let’s start with the basics: how to make a positive statement negative in Finnish. In the following sections, we’ll discuss the Finnish negative verb and how negatives are formed in different tenses.

1 – The Finnish Negative Verb

Say hello to the negative verb! You’ll come across it again and again, so it’s the first thing to learn about negation in the Finnish language.

The Finnish negative verb corresponds to the English words “no” and “not.” But unlike the English “no,” the Finnish “no” behaves like a verb. And like other verbs in Finnish, it needs to be conjugated. Thankfully, this isn’t too hard! Watch for the personal endings in the table below:

PersonSingularPlural
1.enemme
2.etette
3.eieivät

In negative statements, the negative verb is paired with the connegative form of the main verb. Let’s see how that’s done next!

2 – Negative Present Tense

So how do we form the present connegative? 

Take the first person singular form of the verb in the present tense, for example Minä puhun (“I speak”). Then remove the personal ending -n. The present connegative for the verb puhua (“to speak”) therefore is puhu.

Creating a simple negative statement looks like this:

  • Minä en puhu. (“I don’t speak.”)
  • Sinä et puhu. (“You don’t speak.”)
  • Hän ei puhu. (“He/she doesn’t speak.”)
  • Me emme puhu. (“We don’t speak.”)
  • Te ette puhu. (“You don’t speak.”) [Plural / polite singular]
  • He eivät puhu. (“They don’t speak.”)

3 – Negative Past Tense

In the past tense, the connegative is the active past participle. The formation of the connegative varies according to verb type.

The singular active past participle is formed by modifying the infinitive form of the verb:

Verb typeTake awayReplace with
1-a/-ä-nut/-nyt
2-da/dä-nut/-nyt
3-Ca/-Cä-Cut/-Cyt
4, 5, 6-ta/-tä-nnut/-nnyt

In the plural form, replace -ut/-yt in the table above with -eet.

Puhua (“to speak”) is a Type 1 verb. Therefore, the active past participle is puhunut (singular) or puhuneet (plural). 

  • Minä en puhunut. (“I didn’t speak.”)
  • Sinä et puhunut. (“You didn’t speak.”)
  • Hän ei puhunut. (“He/she didn’t speak.”)
  • Me emme puhuneet. (“We didn’t speak.”)
  • Te ette puhuneet. (“You didn’t speak.”)
  • He eivät puhuneet. (“They didn’t speak.”)

4 – Negative Perfect Tense

 In the perfect tense, a negative statement is formed using the negative verb + ole + the active past participle.

  • Minä en ole puhunut. (“I haven’t spoken.”)
  • Sinä et ole puhunut. (“You haven’t spoken.”)
  • Hän ei ole puhunut. (“He/she hasn’t spoken.”)
  • Me emme ole puhuneet. (“We haven’t spoken.”)
  • Te ette ole puhuneet. (“You haven’t spoken.”)
  • He eivät ole puhuneet. (“They haven’t spoken.”)

5 – Negative Past Perfect Tense

In the past perfect tense, a negative statement is formed using the negative verb + ollut + the active past participle.

  • Minä en ollut puhunut. (“I hadn’t spoken.”)
  • Sinä et ollut puhunut. (“You hadn’t spoken.”)
  • Hän ei ollut puhunut. (“He/she hadn’t spoken.”)
  • Me emme olleet puhuneet. (“We hadn’t spoken.”)
  • Te ette olleet puhuneet. (“You hadn’t spoken.”)
  • He eivät olleet puhuneet. (“They hadn’t spoken.”)

6 – Negative Passive

Sometimes it simply doesn’t matter who performs an action—or doesn’t perform an action—and in those cases, we use the passive voice. A negative passive statement is formed by using ei + the connegative.

The present passive connegative is derived from the affirmative passive form of the main verb: simply remove the -an/-än from the end. (For all verb types except for Type 1, this looks the same as the verb’s infinitive form.)

  • Affirmative passive: puhutaan (“is spoken”)
  • Present negative passive: ei puhuta (“isn’t spoken”)

In the past, perfect, and past perfect tenses, the connegative is the passive past participle, which has a -tu/-ty or a -ttu/-tty ending. 

  • ei puhuttu (“wasn’t spoken”)
  • ei ole puhuttu (“hasn’t been spoken”)
  • ei oltu puhuttu (“hadn’t been spoken”)

Finally, it’s good to know that the object in negative statements is in the partitive case. The partitive form of suomi (“Finnish”) in the example below is suomea.

  •  En ole puhunut suomea tänään. (“I haven’t spoken Finnish today.”)

Are you looking for more practice forming negative Finnish sentences? Dive into the following FinnishPod101 lessons:


A Man with Tape Over His Mouth.

En sanonut sanaakaan. (“I didn’t say a word.”)

2. Negative Imperative

One day, you might find yourself in a situation that calls for an effective warning! Let’s be prepared and learn how to form the negative imperative in Finnish.

When addressing one person, simply put älä in front of the main verb in the imperative mood. For example, the negation of Puhu! (“Speak!”) is Älä puhu! (“Don’t speak!”). 

  • Älä tule yhtään lähemmäksi! (“Don’t come any closer!”)
  • Älä poimi sieniä, joita et tunne! (“Don’t pick mushrooms that you don’t know!”)

When addressing more than one person, put älkää in front of the main verb in the imperative mood, but replace the main verb ending -kaa/-kää with -ko/-kö. The negation of Puhukaa! (“Speak!”) for more than one person is therefore Älkää puhuko! (“Don’t speak!”). 

  • Älkää uskoko kaikkea mitä kuulette! (“Don’t believe everything you hear!”)
  • Älkää matkustako ilman matkavakuutusta! (“Don’t travel without travel insurance!”)

Just in case you find yourself in a really frustrating situation, you might want to learn some Angry Phrases in Finnish as well!

A Mother Scolding a Toddler.

Älä! (“Don’t!”)

3. Giving a Negative Answer to a Question

When someone asks you a yes-or-no question, there are a few different ways you could answer it negatively. All of them involve using the Finnish negative form of a verb in its correct conjugation.

  • Haluatko lisää mämmiä? (“Do you want more mämmi?”)

In first person singular, your answer could look like this:

  • En. (“I don’t.”)
  • En halua. (“I don’t want.”)
  • Ei, en halua. (“No, I don’t want.”)

If you want to decline an offer politely, you could say:

  • Ei kiitos. (“No, thank you.”)

Head over to our Finnish Manners lesson to learn more polite phrases in addition to “No, thank you.”

A Woman Rejects Dessert.

Ei kiitos. Olen syönyt tarpeeksi. (“No, thank you. I’ve eaten enough.”)

4. Asking Negative Questions

An affirmative sentence, an affirmative question, a negative sentence, and a negative question walk into a bar… Okay, not really, but let’s compare the four anyway! 

  • Puuro on terveellistä. (“Porridge is healthy.”)
  • Onko puuro terveellistä? (“Is porridge healthy?”)
  • Puuro ei ole terveellistä. (“Porridge is not healthy.”)
  • Eikö puuro ole terveellistä? (“Isn’t porridge healthy?)

You’ll notice that the negative question begins with the negative verb, which has a -kö ending. Easy-peasy!

Here are a few more examples: 

  • Etkö halua tulla sisälle? (“Don’t you want to come inside?”)
  • Emmekö ole ystäviä? (“Aren’t we friends?”)
  • Enkö ole jo auttanut tarpeeksi? (“Haven’t I already helped enough?”) 

5. Other Useful Negative Words

Now that you’ve seen the negative verb so many times that you’ll be dreaming of it at night, let’s add some other useful Finnish negative words into the mix. Just remember that these words still need the help of the negative verb in statements—they can only appear without it in questions.

 For example: 

  • (ei) koskaan (“never” / “ever”)
  • Ette ole koskaan käyneet Suomessa. (“You have never been to Finland.”)
  • Oletteko koskaan käyneet Suomessa? (“Have you ever been to Finland?”)

 Here are more words to learn:

  • (ei) kukaan (“nobody” / “anybody”)
  • Kukaan ei tiedä missä Toni on. (“Nobody knows where Toni is.”)
  • (ei) yhtään (“no” / “any”)
  • Kaupassa ei ollut yhtään vessapaperia. (“There was no toilet paper in the shop.”)
  • (ei) enää (“no longer”)
  • Tero ei asu enää Porissa. (“Tero no longer lives in Pori.”)
  • (ei) edes (“even”)
  • Edes Seppo ei tiennyt vastausta. (“Even Seppo didn’t know the answer.”)
  • (ei) ollenkaan (“at all”)
  • En ole ollenkaan varma. (“I’m not sure at all.”)
  • (ei) missään (“nowhere” / “anywhere”)
  • En tunne oloani kotoisaksi missään. (“I don’t feel at home anywhere.”)
  • (ei) mikään (“nothing” / “anything”) [used as a subject]
  • Mikään ei ole pysyvää. (“Nothing is permanent.”)
  • (ei) mitään (“nothing” / “anything”) [used as an object]
  • En pyydä sinulta mitään. (“I’m not asking you for anything.”) 

From “disappointed” to “annoyed,” grow your Finnish vocabulary even more by learning the Top 21 Words for Negative Emotions.

A Woman in a Yellow Top Looks Uncertain.

En ole ollenkaan varma. (“I’m not sure at all.”)

6. Negative Prefixes and Suffixes

This wouldn’t be an ultimate guide to Finnish negation if we didn’t discuss a few negative affixes, too!

1 – Prefixes

Just like in English, there are a couple of Finnish prefixes that can be used to flip the meaning of a word. 

The most common prefix used in Finnish-language negation is epä-, which performs the same function as the English prefixes “un-,” “im-,” and “-a,” for example.

  • epäonnekas (“unlucky”)
  • epämukava (“uncomfortable”)
  • epäkohtelias (“impolite”)
  • epäkäytännöllinen (“impractical”)
  • epätyypillinen (“atypical”)

Ei- is also used as a negative prefix: 

  • ei-toivottu (“unwanted”)
  • ei-uskonnollinen (“non-religious”)

2 – Suffixes

Suffixes can be used for emphasis in negative statements. For example, if you ever need to deny something or counter an outrageous claim, you can use the suffixes -päs or -kä with the negative verb to emphasize it:

  • Olet myöhässä. (“You’re late.”)
  • Enpäs ole! (“No, I’m not!”)
  • Suomi on vaikea kieli oppia. (“Finnish is a difficult language to learn.”)
  • Eikä ole! (“No, it’s not!”)

The suffixes -kaan/-kään can correspond to “neither” or “either,” or even “not after all,” depending on the context:

  • En osaa uida. – En minäkään. (“I can’t swim.” – “Me neither.”)
  • Ystävänikään ei halua lähteä. (“My friend doesn’t want to leave either.”)
  • Ystäväni ei haluakaan lähteä. (“My friend doesn’t want to leave after all.”)

A Man with an Umbrella.

Onko perjantai 13. oikeasti epäonnekas päivä? (“Is Friday the 13th really an unlucky day?”)

7. Negative Conjunctions

Finally, let’s take a quick look at a couple of negative Finnish conjunctions.

The pattern [ negative verb + -kä ] corresponds to “or” or “nor.”

  • En voi auttaa sinua enkä perhettäsi. (“I can’t help you or your family.”)
  • Emme aio mennä ulos tänään emmekä huomenna. (“We are not planning to go out today or tomorrow.”)

Eikä can also mean “and…not.”

  • Anna-Liisa on sairas eikä voi tulla kouluun. (“Anna-Liisa is ill and can’t come to school.”)
  • Lapset olivat väsyneitä, eivätkä halunneet nousta sängystä. (“The children were tired and didn’t want to get out of bed.”)

Then we have ettei (“that…not”), which is an example of a Finnish contraction that combines että (“that”) and the negative verb. 

  • Toivon, ettet ole vihainen. (“I hope that you are not angry.”)
  • Anne kertoi minulle, ettemme ole vieraslistalla. (“Anne told me that we are not on the guest list.”)

Lopuksi

In this in-depth guide to Finnish negation, we’ve explored both basic and advanced rules and vocabulary used to form negative statements, questions, and answers in Finnish. Did we miss any useful negative words or phrases that you know of? Do you have any tips or questions? We’d love to hear from you—leave a comment below!

If you’re ready to learn some more Finnish, FinnishPod101 has plenty of free resources for you to discover, including vocabulary lists with handy audio recordings. Or why not take Finnish lessons with you wherever you go with our free app?

Happy learning!

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An Introduction to Finnish Tenses

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Conjugating verbs is something that Finnish learners need to tackle very early on in their studies. At first glance, it can look really hard, especially if you’re a beginner and have just started wrapping your head around those personal endings. Just thinking about learning different tenses might make you feel, well, a little tense!

But there’s good news! The Finnish tenses are very similar to their English counterparts, so they should feel quite familiar. What’s even better: Most of the time you’ll be using only two of them. 

In this guide, we’ll take a quick look at the fundamentals of Finnish verb conjugation before focusing on tenses.  Are you excited to start talking about the past, the present, and the future in Finnish?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Finnish Verb Conjugation Basics
  2. Preesens (The Present Tense)
  3. Talking About the Future in Finnish
  4. Past Tenses
  5. A Quick Conjugation and Auxiliary Verb Summary
  6. Lopuksi

1. Finnish Verb Conjugation Basics

In a nutshell, verb conjugation is the act of making changes to a verb in order to convey who is doing the action, when the action is taking place, and even how the speaker feels about the action.

Tense is what we use to convey when an action is taking place. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s quickly review how to convey who is doing the action. In Finnish, the verb ending changes according to person. These personal endings are added to the stem of the verb.

The personal endings are -n (first singular), -t (second singular), -mme (first plural), -tte (second plural), and -vat/-vät (third plural). For the third singular, depending on the verb, we either use the stem of the word or duplicate the vowel at the end of the word. When using third person verbs, you must remember the vowel harmony.

Conjugating the verb puhua (“to speak”) in the present tense looks like this when the personal endings are added to the verb stem puhu-:

  • Minä puhun. (“I speak.”)
  • Sinä puhut. (“You speak.”)
  • Hän puhuu. (“He/she speaks.”)
  • Me puhumme. (“We speak.”)
  • Te puhutte. (“You speak.”)
  • He puhuvat. (“They speak.”)

Verbs with a personal ending are in the active voice. In other words, we know who is doing the action. In contrast, the passive voice is used in Finnish when it’s not known (or when it’s unimportant) who performs the action. The passive looks like this in the present tense:

  • puhutaan (“is spoken”)

In this guide, we’ll stick to the active voice.

1 – How Many Tenses are Used in Finnish?

In Finnish, tenses are called aikamuodot (literally: “time forms”) and they modify a verb according to when the action takes place. There are four tenses in Finnish:

  • Preesens (“Present”)
  • Imperfekti (“Past”)
  • Perfekti (“Perfect”)
  • Pluskvamperfekti (“Past-perfect” or “Pluperfect”)

As you can see, there’s no future tense in the list above. We’ll talk more about this later in the ‘future’ section of this guide.

The most important tenses to learn are the present and the past. You can get by reasonably well in everyday conversations using just these two tenses.

Alarm Clocks Showing Different Times.

Tense is all about the timing of actions.

2 – Grammatical Moods

When we conjugate verbs, we also need to take the mood into account. The mood concerns the speaker’s attitude toward the action. These are called tapaluokat in Finnish (literally: “manner classes”), and there are four:

  • Indikatiivi (“Indicative”) is used when an action is considered factual.
  • Imperatiivi (“Imperative”) is used when making requests and giving orders.
  • Konditionaali (“Conditional”) is used when an action depends on a condition.
  • Potentiaali (“Potential”) is used when an action is probable but not certain.

By far, the mood you’ll use most often is the indicative. It’s also the most straightforward of the four, because there’s no indicative mood marker to worry about! The potential, on the other hand, is very rarely used in standard Finnish and should not be a priority to learn.

3 – Simple Tenses & Compound Tenses

What do we mean by ‘simple’ and ‘compound’ tenses? Simple tenses require just a main verb, while a compound tense is formed with the help of an auxiliary verb. In Finnish, they’re known as apuverbit (literally: “help verbs”) and the two main ones are: olla (“to be”) and ei (the negative verb).

When forming compound tenses, the auxiliary verbs are conjugated:

PersonOlla – presentOlla – pastThe negative verb
Minä (“I”)OlenOlinEn
Sinä (“You”)OletOlitEt
Hän (“He” / “She”)OnOliEi
Me (“We”)OlemmeOlimmeEmme
Te (“You”)OletteOlitteEtte
He (“They”)OvatOlivatEivät

Let’s look at a few examples, using the verb puhua (“to speak”).

Simple tense (one verb):

  • Minä puhun. (“I speak.”)
  • Minä puhuin. (“I spoke.”)

Compound tense (auxiliary verb[s] + main verb):

  • Minä olen puhunut. (“I have spoken.”)
  • Minä olin puhunut. (“I had spoken.”)
  • Minä en puhu. (“I don’t speak.”)
  • Minä en puhunut. (“I didn’t speak.”)
  • Minä en ole puhunut. (“I have not spoken.”)
  • Minä en ollut puhunut. (“I had not spoken.”)

In this guide, we won’t delve any deeper into the use of the negative verb, but you can learn more about the negation of verbs on Wikiwand.

4 – Finnish Verb Types

One more important note before we move on to explore Finnish tenses! Finnish verbs are usually divided into six categories based on what the infinitive form of the verb looks like and how the verb behaves when it’s conjugated.

Type 1 is the most common verb type in Finnish, so we’ll stick to Type 1 verbs—ajaa (“to drive”) and ostaa (“to buy”)—in this guide to keep things simple. If you want to familiarize yourself with all the different Finnish verb types, take a look at a quick overview on Wikipedia.


2. Preesens (The Present Tense)

Preesens, or the Finnish present tense, is used just like the English present tense to talk about actions that are currently taking place as well as habitual actions.

1 – Present Tense, Indicative Mood

The indicative mood, as we’ve discussed, is used when we talk about actions that we consider factual.

Here are a few examples:

  • Ajan autoa. (“I’m driving a car.”)
  • Ajamme yleensä varovaisesti. (“We usually drive carefully.”)
  • Ostan vain leipää tänään. (“I’m buying bread today.”)
  • Ostamme luomuvihanneksia aina kun mahdollista. (“We buy organic vegetables whenever possible.”)

Note that there’s no visual difference in Finnish between “I drive” (English simple present) and “I’m driving” (English continuous present). Minä ajan can mean either.

A Hand on a Steering Wheel.

Ajan autoa. (“I’m driving a car.”)

2 – Present Tense, Imperative Mood

You’ll recall that the imperative mood is about making requests, giving orders, and providing instructions.

For example:

  • Aja hitaammin. (“Drive slower.” – 2nd person singular)
  • Ajakaa oikealla. (“Drive on the right.” – 2nd person singular)
  • Osta netistä, nouda myymälästä. (“Buy online, pick up from store.” – 2nd person singular)
  • Ostakaa liput ennakkoon. (“Buy tickets in advance.” – 2nd person plural)

The singular imperative is formed by taking off the personal marker -n from the first person singular form of the verb. The plural imperative is formed by adding -kaa/-kää to the infinitive stem of the verb.

3 – Present Tense, Conditional Mood

To recap, the conditional is used to talk about things that could or would happen under certain circumstances. It can also be used to make a polite request and to express wishes or doubt.

  • Ajaisin autoa, jos minulla olisi ajokortti. (“I would drive a car, if I had a driving license.”)
  • Ajaisitko mieluummin Ferrarilla vai Porschella? (“Would you rather drive a Ferrari or a Porsche?”)
  • Ostaisin kesämökin, jos olisin rikas. (“I would buy a summer cottage, if I were rich.”)
  • Ostaisinko uuden mekon juhliin? (“I wonder if I should buy a new dress for the party?”)

The conditional marker is -isi-. Ajaisin (“I would drive”) is composed of aja (stem) + isi (conditional marker) + -n (personal ending).

4 – Present Tense, Potential Mood

The potential mood is rarely used, so we won’t linger on it here. However, if you’re curious, it looks like this:

  • Ajanen kohta kotiin. (“I will probably drive home soon.”)
  • Lasse ostanee asunnon Kertun kanssa. (“Lasse will probably buy an apartment with Kerttu.”)

In a conversation, it’s more natural to use the indicative mood and a word like varmaan or todennäköisesti (they both mean “probably”):

  • Ajan varmaan kohta kotiin. (“I will probably drive home soon.”) 

5 – Time Phrases Used with the Present Tense

Let’s get more specific. Here’s a selection of time phrases that are commonly used with the present tense:

  • Tänään (“Today”)
  • Nyt (“Now”)
  • Juuri nyt (“Right now”)
  • Tällä hetkellä (“At this moment”)

These time phrases often appear in statements describing habitual actions:

  • Joka päivä (“Everyday”)
  • Yleensä (“Usually”)
  • Usein (“Often”)
  • Aina (“Always”)
  • Joskus (“Sometimes”)
  • Harvoin (“Seldom”)

For even more words and phrases you can use, head over to our vocabulary list of essential adverbs of frequency and time or learn how to talk about time in Finnish on our blog! 

3. Talking About the Future in Finnish

As mentioned previously, there’s no separate future tense in Finnish. Instead, the present tense is normally used for both. So how do you know if someone is talking about the present or the future?

1 – The Context

 Imagine that your friend says:

  • Ostan Ronjalle kukkia.

This could mean:

  • “I’m buying Ronja flowers.”
  • “I buy Ronja flowers.”
  • “I will buy Ronja flowers.”

You can often figure out the meaning from the context:

  • Ostan Ronjalle kukkia. Luuletko, että hän pitäisi näistä ruusuista? (“I’m buying Ronja flowers. Do you think she would like these roses?”)
  • Ostan Ronjalle kukkia vähintään kerran kuukaudessa. (“I buy Ronja flowers at least once a month.”)
  • Ostan Ronjalle kukkia, jos hän suostuu lähtemään treffeille kanssani. (“I will buy Ronja flowers, if she agrees to go on a date with me.”)

Red Roses

2 – Time Phrases Used When Talking About the Future

We can also make it clear that we’re talking about the future by using time phrases. Common ones include:

  • Huomenna (“Tomorrow”)
  • Ylihuomenna (“The day after tomorrow”)
  • Ensi viikolla (“Next week”)
  • Ensi vuonna (“Next year”)
  • Kuukauden päästä (“In a month’s time”)

4. Past Tenses

There are three past tenses in Finnish, so let’s take a closer look at each one.

1 – Imperfekti (The Simple Past Tense)

Imperfekti corresponds to the simple past tense in English. It’s the most commonly used past tense in everyday conversations. It describes actions that were completed at some point before the present moment.

For example:

  • Ajoin autoa eilen ensimmäistä kertaa. (“I drove a car yesterday for the first time.”)
  • He ajoivat kotiin sanomatta sanaakaan. (“They drove home without saying a word.”)
  • Ostimme kaksi paitaa yhden hinnalla. (“We bought two shirts for the price of one.”)
  • Petra osti värityskirjan hetken mielijohteesta. (“Petra bought a coloring book on the spur of the moment.”)

The marker for the past tense is usually -i-, though it can also appear as -oi- or -si-, depending on the verb.

Time Phrases Used When Talking About the Past

Common time phrases that are often used with the Finnish past tense include:

  • Eilen (“Yesterday”)
  • Toissapäivänä (“The day before yesterday”)
  • Viikko sitten (“A week ago”)
  • Viime vuonna (“Last year”)
  • Vuonna 2000 (“In the year 2000”)

2 – Perfekti (The Perfect Tense)

Perfekti corresponds to the English perfect tense. It can describe actions that started in the past and are still happening, or actions that took place in the past but are still relevant to the present moment.

The Finnish perfect tense is a compound tense. It’s formed with the help of the auxiliary verb olla (“to be”), which is conjugated in the present tense, while the main verb takes the active past participle (also known as the NUT-participle) form.

 Examples:

  • Risto on ajanut taksia työkseen kymmenen vuotta. (“Risto has been driving a taxi for a living for ten years.”)
  • Olemme ostaneet vihanneksia ja leipää. Mitä muuta tarvitsemme? (“We have bought vegetables and bread. What else do we need?”)

In the first example, the action continues (Risto is still driving a taxi for a living). In the second example, the past (what was bought) is relevant to the present (what still needs to be bought).

A Couple Shopping in a Supermarket

3 – Pluskvamperfekti (The Past Perfect Tense)

Pluskvamperfekti corresponds to the English past perfect tense. The past perfect tense is usually paired with the past tense, conveying a relationship between two separate past actions.

The past perfect tense is also a compound tense. It’s formed by conjugating the auxiliary verb olla (“to be”) in the past tense, while the main verb takes the active past participle form again.

For example:

  • Olin ajanut noin kolme tuntia, kun päätin pitää kahvitauon. (“I had driven for about three hours when I decided to have a coffee break.”)
  • Reetta oli ostanut lipun ennakkoon, koska hän ei halunnut jonottaa. (“Reetta had bought a ticket in advance, because she didn’t want to queue.”)

People Standing in a Line

5. A Quick Conjugation and Auxiliary Verb Summary

Finally, let’s look at those four tenses side by side for comparison. In this table, we’ve conjugated the verb ostaa (“to buy”). The verb is conjugated in the active voice and in the indicative mood.

 PersonTense
Simple TenseCompound Tense
PresentPastPerfectPast perfect
Minä (“I”)OstanOstinOlen ostanutOlin ostanut
Sinä (“You”)OstatOstitOlet ostanutOlit ostanut
Hän (“He” / “She”)OstaaOstiOn ostanutOli ostanut
Me (“We”)OstammeOstimmeOlemme ostaneetOlimme ostaneet
Te (“You”)OstatteOstitteOlette ostaneetOlitte ostaneet
He (“They”)OstavatOstivatOvat ostaneetOlivat ostaneet

If you’d like to see all the different ways you can conjugate ostaa at a glance, try out the handy Cooljugator.

6. Lopuksi

In this guide, we’ve discussed the many ways that Finnish verbs can be conjugated, with a focus on the four Finnish tenses (preesens, imperfekti, perfekti, and pluskvamperfekti). Were you surprised that there’s no future tense in Finnish?

If you’re a beginner, we recommend prioritizing the present tense and the past tense. It’s also a good idea to learn how to conjugate each verb type one at a time, starting with Type 1, which is the most common Finnish verb type. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, it’ll be easier to expand your conjugating skills! And if you’re further along in your Finnish studies, we’d love to hear about your experiences with Finnish tenses so far, especially if you have any good learning tips to share with the community!

Don’t forget that FinnishPod101 has plenty of free resources to help you at every stage of your learning journey. Our vocabulary lists come with audio recordings to help you with pronunciation, and our grammar section is the place to visit if you want to master the Finnish alphabet, for example! Furthermore, doors to our Premium PLUS subscription are always open, so get in touch if you think you could benefit from one-on-one coaching. Our experienced teachers are more than happy to help you with verb conjugation or any other aspect of Finnish that you’re struggling to grasp.

Happy learning!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Finnish?

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If you’re like most aspiring language learners, this question has likely crossed your mind: How long does it take to learn Finnish? 

The answer is, of course: It depends! 

In order to work out a realistic estimate, there are many factors to consider. These include your native tongue, how experienced you are at learning languages, and your learning environment, for example. We’ll look at each of these factors to help you work out how much time you might need; we’ll also give you some tips on how to learn the Finnish language more effectively! 

Another thing to consider is what proficiency level you’re talking about. Is your goal to master the basics of the Finnish language, to become a fluent Finnish speaker, or something in-between? Whether it’s the beginner, intermediate, or advanced proficiency level you’re aiming for, there are several tips and tricks you can utilize right from the start to learn Finnish faster.

Close-up of a Stopwatch.

Ready, steady, learn Finnish!


Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. The Factors That Influence Your Learning Speed
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve a Beginner Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve an Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve an Advanced Level?
  5. Lopuksi

1. The Factors That Influence Your Learning Speed

The FSI (Foreign Service Institute) has ranked Finnish as a Category III language. This means that, based on the differences between English and Finnish, Finnish is one of the harder languages for English speakers to learn. According to this ranking, it should take approximately 1100 hours or 44 weeks on average for an English-speaking learner to reach a general proficiency level in Finnish. This corresponds to the level B2 in CEFR, Level 3 on FinnishPod101, and Level 4 of YKI (the official Finnish language proficiency test).

Naturally, we’re not all going to progress at the exact same speed. In this section, we’ll consider the most important variables to take into account when working out your own estimate. Keep these in mind when we move on to the next section, where we’ll discuss what skills you should have mastered by the time you reach levels A1, B1, and C1, and what you can do to reach these proficiency levels a bit faster!

Your Language Background 

While you’re reading this article in English, perhaps it’s not your native tongue. Or maybe you are a native English speaker, but have also learned another language or two. The languages you know can potentially make a huge difference in how fast you can learn Finnish.

For example, if you speak Turkish or Indonesian, the fact that Finnish is an agglutinative language will not baffle you. Or if you know Hungarian or Estonian—languages that share roots with Finnish—you’ll have no trouble with the concept of using a large number of grammatical cases. In other words, the more linguistic aspects Finnish shares with the languages you already know, the easier it will be for you to learn the language. 

  • Curious about how closely related the languages you speak are to Finnish? This language family tree beautifully illustrates the relationships between different languages.

Your Language Learning Experience  

How strong is your language learning game?

Research shows that language learning skills are transferable. Therefore, even if the languages that you’ve studied before are not exactly similar to Finnish, those past learning experiences will have developed and strengthened many cognitive skills that will also help you with your Finnish studies.

Furthermore, having a language learning success already under your belt, you’ll feel more confident in your own abilities and will know which learning methods work best for you.

A Woman Looks Up from Her Books to Think.

Your Motivation Levels

Why do you want to study Finnish?

The goal you have in mind matters and can make a real difference in how fast you’ll progress. The more passionate you feel about learning Finnish, the easier it will be to motivate yourself to put in the necessary effort and carve out the time to keep at it even when life gets busy.

So what are your reasons? Do you want to travel or live in Finland? Have you fallen in love with the Finnish language—or a Finn? Are you simply looking for something fun and challenging to do, and learning Finnish seems to fit the bill? Whatever it is, be prepared to remind yourself why you’ve decided to do this on a regular basis, especially if you ever find yourself frustrated and unmotivated. Keeping that passion alive is important in learning Finnish faster!

Your Learning Environment

How, where, and with whom you’re studying all play a role in how long it takes to learn Finnish.

There are many ways to learn a language, and your choices can influence how quickly and efficiently you’ll develop your skills. You could learn in a formal setting under the guidance of a qualified teacher, enroll in an online course, or teach yourself using books or an app, for example.

The more independent your approach to learning Finnish, the more self-motivated you need to be to make steady progress. It’s always a good idea to mix various learning tools, and to try connecting with other learners even if you’re otherwise studying by yourself. And if it’s an option, completely immersing yourself into the language by spending time in Finland is the best way to really speed up your Finnish learning. We’ll talk more about that later!

A Group of Students in a Class.

Connect with other language learners for mutual support.

2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve a Beginner Level?

So you’d like to reach a beginner level in Finnish? Let’s see what that involves.

The beginner level A1 in CEFR corresponds to YKI 1.

At this level, you will have learned…

  • …basic vocabulary such as common nouns, colors, numbers, and days of the week.
  • …everyday expressions, such as hei (“hi”), kiitos (“thank you”), and näkemiin (“goodbye”).
  • …how to ask and answer basic personal questions and how to form very simple sentences.
  • …how to conjugate common verb types in the present tense.
  • …how to form the t-plural.
  • …the basics of using the most common grammatical cases.

How quickly can you expect to reach level A1 in Finnish? It should take roughly 140 to 180 hours.

Tips for Reaching the A1 Level in Finnish Faster

Wondering how to learn basic Finnish easily? 

First piece of advice: Keep it fun! Now is not the time to get bogged down in complex grammar concepts. Focus on the basics—pronunciation, key vocabulary, and simple phrases—to build your confidence. Start talking as soon as you can, and don’t be too afraid of making mistakes.

Frequent repetition is key when you’re learning a completely new language, so rather than scheduling a marathon session once a week, try to incorporate Finnish learning into your daily life as much as you can. Using a language learning app is a fun way to turn frequent downtime (like your morning commute or waiting for a friend) into an opportunity to pick up a couple of new words or to practice introducing yourself in Finnish. And using flashcards is always a neat way to memorize essential phrases and core vocabulary faster.

FinnishPod101 Beginner Lessons

Our curated pathway for Level 1 Finnish is a great place to start learning Finnish. The 32 lessons included in the pathway make up about 5 hours of audio, and you can test your skills along the way with 12 interactive assignments.

In the first lesson, Welcome to Finland, you’ll learn simple dialogue, vocabulary, and grammar. You’ll have access to audio recordings, comprehensive lesson notes, and a lesson transcript. You have the option of listening to the recordings at either normal or slow speed, and you can also record yourself to improve your pronunciation. The lesson notes introduce you to essential grammar points and the Finnish alphabet. Finally, the section on cultural insights helps you put your new skills into use in real life!

A Smiling Woman on the Street Looks at Her Phone.

Take Finnish lessons with you anywhere with a mobile app.


3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve an Intermediate Level?

The intermediate level B1 in CEFR corresponds to YKI 3. This is the level that you would need to reach if you wanted to pass a Finnish language exam in order to apply for a Finnish citizenship.

At this level, you should be able to…

  • …pronounce Finnish clearly and understandably.
  • …write everyday vocabulary without mistakes.
  • …use adverbs, as well as comparative and superlative adjectives.
  • …read and understand simple news articles.
  • …express opinions and describe how you’re feeling.
  • …ask for and give directions and advice.
  • …use common idioms.
  • …conjugate verbs in different tenses.
  • …use most grammatical cases.

How quickly can you expect to reach level B1 in Finnish? It should take roughly 630 to 730 hours.

Tips for Reaching the B1 Level in Finnish Faster

It’s quite a jump from absolute beginner to intermediate! To reach this level quickly, you’ll want to make sure that you’re covering all the different language learning bases: grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening comprehension, and writing and speaking skills. If you can, take progress tests on a regular basis to identify which areas need more work.

At this point, you’ll also want to immerse yourself in Finnish as much as you can. Listen to Finnish music, watch Finnish films and TV shows with subtitles, and find interesting things to read (anything from short news stories to web comics). To hone your writing skills, try keeping a simple journal in Finnish, or write to your language learning buddies or Finnish friends.

Check out our guide on must-watch Finnish TV shows to get started with your immersion!

FinnishPod101 Intermediate Lessons

Our curated pathway for Level 3 Finnish will build your confidence and help you express yourself in a range of situations, from ordering food to opening a bank account. It will also deepen your understanding of grammatical cases and different tenses.

The first lesson, A Finnish Job Interview, introduces work-related vocabulary, which you can add to a personalized flashcard deck or a word bank. The grammar notes walk you through how to use the present tense to discuss your qualities as a candidate and the past perfect tense to describe your work history. You can take a quiz after the lesson to see how well you can remember the new vocabulary!

A Woman Watches a Show on a Tablet.

Find something enjoyable to watch in Finnish to accelerate your learning.

4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve an Advanced Level?

The advanced level C1 in CEFR corresponds to YKI 5.

At this level, you’ll feel very comfortable communicating in Finnish and can…

  • …speak fluently and spontaneously about a large range of topics in both personal and professional contexts.
  • …follow discussions, TV shows, and films with ease.
  • …understand literary texts and specialized vocabulary.
  • …compose detailed and well-structured texts on a wide range of topics.
  • …use complex grammar correctly.

So how long does it take to learn Finnish fluently? You’re probably looking at about 1550 to 1650 hours.

Tips for Reaching the C1 Level in Finnish Faster

It takes commitment to take your language skills to the advanced level. The best way to get there faster, of course, is to spend time in Finland. Your language skills will be reinforced constantly and you’ll absorb new vocabulary quickly when you’re hearing, seeing, and speaking Finnish on a daily basis.

What if spending time in Finland is not an option for you? In that case, find other ways to make Finnish an integral part of your daily life. If you don’t know any native Finnish speakers, try an online conversation exchange to practice talking in Finnish. If you’re on social media a lot, follow interesting Finnish people and organizations to see Finnish content on your timeline—make sure to leave some comments in Finnish, too! Combine your favorite hobbies with your language learning by listening to Finnish podcasts, playing games in Finnish, or cooking your next meal following a recipe in Finnish.

To make sure that your grammar and pronunciation are up to scratch, it’s a good idea to seek detailed feedback from an experienced teacher.

FinnishPod101 Advanced Lessons

Our curated pathway for Level 5 Finnish focuses on growing your vocabulary, boosting your reading and listening skills, familiarizing you with complex grammar, and immersing you deeper in Finnish culture.

In the first lesson, Top 10 Finnish Tourist Destinations: Inari, you can hear or read about this northern destination in both Finnish and English to hone your comprehension skills.

A Dinner Party.

At an advanced level, you can easily participate in real-life conversations.

Lopuksi

In this article, we’ve considered the various factors that can make learning Finnish easier, discussed the different levels of Finnish proficiency, and shared various language learning tips to help you reach your learning goals faster. We hope that this information has been useful to you!

Or perhaps you already know Finnish? If so, share your experiences with the community in the comments below! How long did it take you to learn Finnish? What proficiency level have you reached? Which tools have you found especially useful?

Whether you’re an absolute beginner or have already mastered an intermediate level of Finnish, we have lots of resources and tools for you at FinnishPod101. Get started with free resources, or learn new words and correct pronunciation with our vocabulary lists. For a personalized lesson plan and one-on-one tutoring with an experienced Finnish teacher to fast-track you to Finnish fluency, try our Premium PLUS account.

Happy learning, and good luck!

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The Top 30 Finnish Proverbs and Sayings

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Proverbs: every language has these little nuggets of wisdom that everyone seems to know and use on a regular basis. Finnish is no exception—there are lots of Finnish proverbs that are commonly used in everyday conversations. Some of them are borrowed from other languages, while others are unique to Finnish. Those in the latter category create a particularly fascinating window into the Finnish mindset and culture!

For a language learner, studying proverbs can be a really fun way to build language skills and pick up new vocabulary. In this article, we’ll teach you some of the best Finnish proverbs and their equivalents in English (where applicable).

Let’s get started!

Four Young People Chatting

Impress your Finnish friends by learning proverbs in Finnish.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Proverbs About Wisdom
  2. Proverbs About Caution
  3. Proverbs About Learning
  4. Proverbs About Family
  5. Proverbs About Love
  6. Proverbs About Courage
  7. Proverbs About Being Home and Abroad
  8. Miscellaneous Proverbs
  9. Lopuksi

1. Proverbs About Wisdom

Proverbs are known for their ability to deliver little bundles of wisdom in a brief (and often witty) phrase. Below are a few popular Finnish sayings about wisdom and how to live life well. 

FinnishParempi pyy pivossa kuin kymmenen oksalla.
Literally“Better a hazel grouse in fist than ten on a branch.”
EquivalentA bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
What you already have is of greater benefit to you than things that are more valuable but out of reach. Note that pivo is an archaic Finnish word for koura (“fist”) or kourallinen (“fistful”).

Joonas on aina ollut varovainen sijoittaja. Parempi pyy pivossa kuin kymmenen oksalla, hän sanoo usein. 
“Joonas has always been a careful investor. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush, he often says.”

FinnishEi auta itku markkinoilla.
Literally“It’s no use crying at the marketplace.”
EquivalentIt’s no use crying over spilled milk.
The world is tough, and tears won’t help. This proverb is used when something doesn’t go according to plan and nothing can be done about it.

Pihla myöhästyi linja-autosta. Ei auta itku markkinoilla—hänen täytyy vaan kävellä kotiin. 
“Pihla missed the bus. It’s no use crying over spilled milk—she simply has to walk home.”

FinnishÄlä nuolaise ennen kuin tipahtaa.
Literally“Do not lick before it drops.”
EquivalentDon’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Avoid celebrating too soon or making plans based on a future event that may or may not happen.

Älä nuolaise ennen kuin tipahtaa—finaali on vielä edessä. 
“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch—the final is still ahead.”

FinnishHiljaa hyvä tulee.
Literally“Slowly it’ll go well.”
EquivalentSlow and steady wins the race.
Proceed slowly and carefully if you want good results.

Kiirehtiminen johtaa virheisiin. Hiljaa hyvä tulee.
“Rushing leads to mistakes. Slow and steady wins the race.”

A Tortoise

Hiljaa hyvä tulee. / “Slow and steady wins the race.”


2. Proverbs About Caution

When was the last time you got hurt or made a poor decision because you didn’t practice caution? It happens to all of us, but can definitely be avoided! The following Finnish expressions talk about the importance of caution in everyday life. 

FinnishEi savua ilman tulta.
EquivalentThere’s no smoke without fire.
Rumors often have some truth behind them.

En halua uskoa kaikkia huhuja, mutta ei savua ilman tulta. 
“I don’t want to believe all the rumors, but there’s no smoke without fire.”

FinnishParempi katsoa kuin katua.
Literally“It’s better to look than to regret.”
EquivalentBetter safe than sorry.
A cautious approach can save you from harm.

Riskinotto ei kiinnosta minua. Parempi katsoa kuin katua. 
“Risk-taking doesn’t interest me. Better safe than sorry.”

FinnishItku pitkästä ilosta.
Literally“Tears after long-lasting joy.”
EquivalentIt’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
A rather gloomy proverb, this one is often used to warn children about playing too roughly.

Kohta käy huonosti, jos ette leiki vähän varovaisemmin. Itku pitkästä ilosta! 
“Soon something bad will happen if you don’t play a bit more carefully. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!”

FinnishValheella on lyhyet jäljet.
Literally“A lie has short tracks.”
EquivalentA lie has no legs.
According to this proverb, lying isn’t worth it because falsehoods get exposed quickly. (Though this might actually not be true: according to a study by MIT researchers, false news spreads far more rapidly than true stories, at least on Twitter.)

Pekka ei ole vieläkään oppinut että valheella on lyhyet jäljet. 
“Pekka has still not learned that a lie has no legs.”

A Sign Warns of Danger.

A sign warns of danger.


3. Proverbs About Learning

Are you feeling discouraged with your Finnish studies, thinking about taking on a new hobby, or about to start classes at university? It sounds like you’re in need of some motivation and practical advice! Here are the best Finnish proverbs about learning to give you just that… 

FinnishKukaan ei ole seppä syntyessään.
Literally“No one is a blacksmith when they are born.”
EquivalentPractice makes perfect.
You need to put effort into learning new skills.

Älä huoli, Antero! Jatka vaan harjoittelua—kukaan ei ole seppä syntyessään. 
“Don’t worry, Antero! Just keep practicing—no one is a blacksmith when they are born.”

FinnishKertaus on kaikkien opintojen äiti.
EquivalentRepetition is the mother of all learning.
Every language learner knows this! Repetition really helps you remember things, whether you’re learning grammar rules or new vocabulary.

Sallan opettaja muistutti oppilaitaan aina ennen kokeita, että kertaus on kaikkien opintojen äiti. 
“Salla’s teacher always reminded her students before tests that repetition is the mother of all learning.”

FinnishOppia ikä kaikki
Literally“To learn at any age”
EquivalentLive and learn.
Learning new things never ends! This proverb is especially apt when you come across a piece of information that you find surprising.

En tiennyt, että Australiassa on pingviinejä. Oppia ikä kaikki. 
“I didn’t know that there are penguins in Australia. Live and learn.”

A Woman Looks Up from Her Studies.

4. Proverbs About Family

The relationship we have with our family is precious, and it’s one of the most important relationships we’ll have in life. That said, here are a few Finnish proverbs on the topic of family! 

FinnishEi omena kauas puusta putoa.
EquivalentAn apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Children get not only their physical appearance from their parents, but often their character traits too—for good or for ill!

Näyttää että Erkistä on tulossa yhtä taitava jääkiekonpelaaja kuin isästään. Ei omena kauas puusta putoa. 
“It looks like Erkki is becoming as talented an ice hockey player as his father. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

FinnishVeri on vettä sakeampaa.
EquivalentBlood is thicker than water.
Familial ties are stronger than any other bonds we make throughout life.

Vaikka tappelemme usein, olen aina valmis puolustamaan veljeäni, sillä veri on vettä sakeampaa. 
“Even though we fight often, I’m always ready to defend my brother, because blood is thicker than water.”

A Family Enjoys a Walk in the Woods.

A family enjoys a walk in the woods.


5. Proverbs About Love

Whether you have a Finnish sweetheart or just want to learn some lighthearted quips on the topic of romance, these Finnish proverbs about love are exactly what you need!  

FinnishTie miehen sydämeen käy vatsan kautta.
EquivalentThe way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
According to this proverb, cooking a delicious dinner may be the surest way to win a man’s affections.

Kati on aina sanonut, että tie miehen sydämeen käy vatsan kautta. Ja ehkä hän on oikeassa—Katin oma mies kosi syötyään hänen lohikeittoaan! 
“Kati has always said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And perhaps she’s right—Kati’s own husband proposed after eating her salmon soup!”

FinnishRakkaudesta se hevonenkin potkii.
Literally“The horse kicks out of love too.”
This proverb claims that people sometimes show their love in very strange ways!

Kaarina väittää, että Eemeli aina kiusaa Tanjaa siksi koska tykkää hänestä. Rakkaudesta se hevonenkin potkii, hän sanoi! 
“Kaarina claims that Eemeli is always teasing Tanja because he likes her. The horse kicks out of love too, she said!”

FinnishVanha suola janottaa.
Literally“Old salt makes one thirsty.”
This saying refers to a situation where one still harbors romantic feelings for someone from the past.

Kuulitko, että Katri on taas nähty Esan kanssa? Taitaa vanha suola janottaa. 
“Did you hear that Katri has been seen with Esa again? Seems that old salt is making her thirsty.”

A Couple Enjoys a Romantic Dinner.

A couple enjoys a romantic dinner.


6. Proverbs About Courage

Some of the best things in life are only achieved after facing one’s fears or making a bold move. Here are a couple of Finnish proverbs on the topic of courage. 

FinnishRohkea rokan syö.
Literally“The brave will eat the soup.”
EquivalentFortune favors the bold.
If you want to achieve something great, you need to be brave and go for it. Why rokka (“soup” colloquial), though? Possibly because it alliterates with rohkea (“brave”)! According to the Tiede magazine, this Finnish proverb might be over a thousand years old. The brave one gets the catch and can fill his stomach. 

The proverb used to continue with …ujo kuolee nälkään, kaino ei saa kaaliakaan (“…the shy one will die of hunger, the coy one won’t get even a cabbage”).

Rohkea rokan syö, ajatteli Salli mennessään pyytämään palkankorotusta. 
“Fortune favors the brave, thought Salli on her way to ask for a raise.”

FinnishYrittänyttä ei laiteta.
Literally“Who has tried will not be scolded.”
EquivalentNothing ventured, nothing gained.
You won’t get anything if you don’t try—and according to this proverb, a Finn will not judge you if you’ve done at least that much! (Note that “to scold” is an archaic meaning for the verb laittaa.)

Tommia ärsyttää, jos joku luovuttaa yrittämättä—‘yrittänyttä ei laiteta’ on hänen mottonsa. 
“Tommi finds it annoying if someone gives up without trying—‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is his motto.”

A Skydiver.

A skydiver.


7. Proverbs About Being Home and Abroad

Do you love to travel or are you more of a homebody? (Or maybe a little bit of both?) In either case, here are some proverbs in Finnish that discuss travel and home time. 

FinnishOma koti kullan kallis.
Literally“One’s own home is worth gold.”
EquivalentHome sweet home.
Home: the best place in the world!

Oma koti kullan kallis, Erja huokaisi laskiessaan matkalaukkunsa lattialle. 
“Home sweet home, Erja sighed as she put her suitcase down on the floor.”

FinnishMaassa maan tavalla.
Literally“In a country according to its customs.”
EquivalentWhen in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Anyone who’s traveled a lot knows to follow this golden rule! Adapting to local customs when abroad makes for richer experiences.

Näytin varmaan hassulta kun yritin käyttää syömäpuikkoja, mutta maassa maan tavalla. 
“I probably looked silly when I tried to use chopsticks, but when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

FinnishOma maa mansikka, muu maa mustikka.
Literally“One’s own country (is) a strawberry, another country a blueberry.”
Equivalent“There’s no place like home.”
This proverb tells us that one’s own country is the best place in the world.

Ulkomailla on aina kiva käydä, mutta en haluaisi asua missään muualla kuin Suomessa. Oma maa mansikka, muu maa mustikka, eikö totta? 
“It’s always nice to go abroad for a visit, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but Finland. There’s no place like home, right?”

A Family Sits in Front of Their Home.

A family sits in front of their home.


8. Miscellaneous Proverbs

To wrap up, let’s look at a few more Finnish proverbs on a variety of topics… 

FinnishMikä laulaen tulee, se viheltäen menee.
Literally“What comes singing, goes whistling.”
EquivalentEasy come, easy go.
Things that are easy to come by tend to be just as easy to lose. Or perhaps we simply don’t care that much about losing them!

Kuulitko, että Kirsi voitti ison summan rahaa mutta kulutti sen kokonaan kahdessa kuukaudessa? Tyypillistä—mikä laulaen tulee, se viheltäen menee. 
“Did you hear that Kirsi won a great sum of money but spent it all in two months? Typical—easy come, easy go.”

FinnishLoppu hyvin, kaikki hyvin.
EquivalentAll’s well that ends well.
Often, it’s all about the happy ending—no matter what trials we had to get through first.

Terhi myöhästyi omista häistään, mutta se ei onneksi pilannut juhlaa. Loppu hyvin, kaikki hyvin! 
“Terhi was late for her own wedding, but luckily it didn’t ruin the celebration. All’s well that ends well!”

FinnishKolmas kerta toden sanoo.
Literally“Third time speaks the truth.”
EquivalentThird time’s a charm.
This one is slightly mysterious. Why are we more likely to succeed on our third try? Perhaps failing twice at something makes for an effective learning experience.

Teppo oli pettynyt, kun hän ei läpäissyt ajokoetta toisellakaan yrittämällä. ’Kolmas kerta toden sanoo’, muistutin häntä. 
“Teppo was disappointed when he didn’t pass the driving test even on his second attempt. ‘Third time’s a charm,’ I reminded him.”

FinnishParempi myöhään kuin ei milloinkaan.
EquivalentBetter late than never.
Even if it takes a long time to achieve something, it’s still better than not succeeding at all.

Tuula kertoi minulle, että hän on vihdoin valmistunut. Niinkö? Parempi myöhään kuin ei milloinkaan! 
“Tuula told me that she has finally graduated. Really? Better late than never!”

FinnishHätä ei lue lakia.
Literally“An emergency does not read the law.”
EquivalentNecessity knows no law.
Similar to the proverb “desperate times call for desperate measures,” this proverb asserts that in a dire situation, it may be necessary to break the law.

Olen aina ollut lainkuuliainen, mutta kiperässä tilanteessa minäkin rikkoisin sääntöjä, sillä hätä ei lue lakia. 
“I have always been law-abiding, but in a tricky situation even I would break rules, because necessity knows no law.”

FinnishTarkoitus pyhittää keinot.
Literally“The purpose sanctifies the means.”
EquivalentThe end justifies the means.
Similar to the previous proverb, this proverb claims that unethical actions can be forgiven if the outcome is beneficial.

A: ‘Sinä siis varastit auttaaksesi vähäosaisia?’ B: ‘Kyllä, tarkoitus pyhittää keinot, eikö niin?’ 
A: “So you stole to help the poor?”B: “Yes, the end justifies the means, doesn’t it?”

FinnishPaistaa se päivä risukasaankin.
Literally“The day will shine even into a pile of twigs.”
EquivalentEvery dog has his day.
Do you ever feel like everything is going wrong for you? This proverb is here to assure us that even the most unfortunate will enjoy success at times!

Sanoin Petterille ettei pidä koskaan luovuttaa, koska paistaa se päivä risukasaankin. 
“I told Petteri that one should never give up, because every dog has his day.”

FinnishVaihtelu virkistää.
Literally“Change refreshes.”
EquivalentVariety is the spice of life.
Big or small, changes can indeed be refreshing.

Janne ja Elina päättivät yhtäkkiä muuttaa maalle. Kun kysyin heiltä miksi, he sanoivat vain että vaihtelu virkistää. 
“Janne and Elina suddenly decided to move to the country. When I asked them why, they simply said that variety is the spice of life.”

FinnishHädässä ystävä tunnetaan.
Literally“In an emergency, a friend is known.”
EquivalentA friend in need is a friend indeed.
True friends will support you when you’re in trouble, while fair-weather friends quickly disappear.

Sirpa ei epäröinyt hetkeäkään kun pyysin apua. On totta, että hädässä ystävä tunnetaan! 
“Sirpa didn’t hesitate even for a moment when I asked for help. It’s true that a friend in need is a friend indeed!”

FinnishAika parantaa haavat.
Literally“Time heals wounds.”
EquivalentTime heals all wounds.
According to folk wisdom, even the bitterest disappointment and the worst kind of heartbreak will heal over time.

Avioero on usein tuskallinen kokemus, mutta aika parantaa haavat. 
“A divorce is often a painful experience, but time heals all wounds.”

Have you experienced heartbreak? Read our list of Finnish Break-Up Quotes to read what others have to say about it.

A Friend Extends a Helping Hand.

Hädässä ystävä tunnetaan. / “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”


9. Lopuksi

In this guide, we dived deep into Finnish wisdom and learned some of the most commonly used Finnish proverbs about a variety of topics, from courage to love. Were there any that you particularly liked or had heard before? If you know any other Finnish proverbs, feel free to share with the community by leaving a comment below! 

We have a lot for you to explore on FinnishPod101.com if you’re interested in learning more about the Finnish language and culture. Get started with our free Finnish resources, or take a look at our expansive collection of Finnish vocabulary lists with audio recordings. Have fun learning with FinnishPod101!

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Finnish Grammar Overview

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Whether you’ve just started learning Finnish or have a lot of lessons under your belt already, grammar is something you’ll keep coming back to throughout your studies. Finnish grammar, in particular, is best learned in smaller chunks through continuous exposure and lots of repetition.

If you’re a beginner, our guide will give you a thorough introduction to Finnish grammar. Don’t worry about taking everything in at once—just focus on a few of the most relevant rules and take it from there! And if you’re more advanced in your studies, you can use our guide as a handy summary page to revisit whenever you need a refresher on a certain grammar point.

We’ll introduce you to the most important Finnish grammar rules, from verb conjugation to noun cases. After a quick overview, we’ll move on to more-specific aspects of the language. Feel free to skip the first section if you’re already familiar with basic Finnish grammar.


Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Finnish Grammar for Beginners
  2. Vowel Harmony and Consonant Gradation
  3. Mastering Finnish Verbs
  4. Noun Cases
  5. Lopuksi

1. Finnish Grammar for Beginners

So, what can you expect when you begin learning Finnish grammar? 

For starters, Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language, and thus not related to Indo-European languages like English, French, and German. This means that many aspects of Finnish grammar may come as a surprise to new learners. For example, Finnish has no definite or indefinite articles, grammatical gender, or future tense.

Finnish is an Agglutinative Language

“What is an agglutinative language?” I hear you ask. 

It means that a lot of information in Finnish is conveyed by inflecting words (adding one or more suffixes to the word stem), instead of relying extensively on grammatical particles such as “of” and “from.” Inflection applies to all nominals (nouns, adjectives, numerals, and pronouns) as well as verbs.

Take a look at this example:

  • Juoksentelisinkohan. (“I wonder if I should run around.”)

Thanks to a bunch of suffixes, this single Finnish word can convey all the information expressed by an entire English sentence. However, you’ll be glad to know that this example is rather extreme. Typically, you only need to worry about one or two suffixes at a time.

Introduction to Finnish Verbs

We’ll revisit verbs later on this page, but for now, this is what you need to know about Finnish verbs:

  • Finnish verbs are conjugated.
  • There are six persons corresponding to six personal suffixes.
  • There are four tenses.
  • There are four moods.
  • There are two voices: active and passive.
  • Verbs are usually divided into six types based on how they look in their basic form and how they behave when inflected.

The Basic Word Order

The basic word order in Finnish is the very same one you’re already familiar with as an English speaker: subject-verb-object (SVO).

Here’s the subject verb object order in action:

  • Heikki juo kahvia. (“Heikki drinks coffee.”)

In English, the word order (usually) allows you to identify the subject and the object of a sentence. In contrast, the subject and object are identified by their case markings in Finnish sentences. This makes the Finnish sentence structure much more flexible.

You can add strong emphasis to a specific word by placing it at the beginning of your sentence. For example, you could stress that Heikki is drinking coffee as opposed to tea:

  • Kahvia Heikki juo. (“Heikki drinks coffee.”)

We talk more about Finnish word order in our Talking Nationality in Finnish lesson on FinnishPod101.com.

A Man Drinking Coffee Straight from the Coffee Pot.

“Heikki drinks coffee” is an example of the SVO word order.

2. Vowel Harmony and Consonant Gradation

Certain Finnish grammar rules exist to make the pronunciation easier, and it’s good to be aware of these rules from the beginning.

Vowel Harmony

There are three Finnish vowel groups: front, back, and neutral.

Front vowelsBack vowelsNeutral vowels
Ä, Ö, YA, O, UI, E

The rule of thumb: Neutral vowels will happily hang out with any other vowel within a word, while front and back vowels wouldn’t be caught dead in each other’s company. This rule applies to individual words as well as to any suffixes that are added.

As you can see in these examples, each word contains only front or back vowels:

  • Käärme (“Snake”)
  • Ankkuri (“Anchor”)

If your word contains only neutral vowels, choose the suffix with front vowels:

  • Tie (“Road”)
  • Tiestä (“Of the road”)

There are a few exceptions to vowel harmony: both front and back vowels can appear in compound words and loanwords: 

  • Silmälasit (“Eyeglasses”), A compound word
  • Synonyymi (“Synonym”), A loanword

When inflecting a compound word, look at the last individual word—lasit (“glasses”) in the above example—to choose the correct suffix.

Consonant Gradation

This is a difficult concept in Finnish grammar for foreigners, so we’ll go into some detail on this.

When words are inflected, the word stem may change: consonants may disappear, be doubled, or be replaced with other consonants. This phenomenon is called consonant gradation (or the KPT rule), and it applies to nominals and certain verb types. While it may seem unnecessarily cruel from a language learner’s point of view, the changes are actually there to make the Finnish words easier to pronounce!

The basic rule: Consonants in open syllables (syllables that end in a vowel) are “strong.” Consonants in closed syllables (syllables that end in a consonant) are “weak.”

For example, words with plosives (k, p, t) often change from strong (-kk-, -pp-, -tt-) to weak grade (-k-, -p-, -t-) when words are pluralized:

  • Takki, Takit (“Jacket,” “Jackets”)
  • Kaappi, Kaapit (“Closet,” “Closets”)
  • Rotta, Rotat (“Rat,” “Rats”)

The table below shows the different types of changes that can take place when you inflect Finnish words. Note that the changes can happen in either direction. For example, the nominative of osoite (“address”) is weak but becomes strong in the t-plural: osoitteet (“addresses”).

StrongWeakExample (nominative, t-plural)
-kk--k-kakku, kakut (“cake,” “cakes”)
-pp--p-nappi, napit (“button,” “buttons”)
-tt--t-hattu, hatut (“hat,” “hats”)
-k-sika, siat (“pig,” “pigs”)
-p--v-leipä, leivät (“a loaf of bread,” “loaves of bread”)
-t--d-taito, taidot (“skill,” “skills”)
-nk--ng-kaupunki, kaupungit (“town,” “towns”)
-mp--mm-lampi, lammet (“pond,” “ponds”)
-lt--ll-silta, sillat (“bridge,” “bridges”)
-nt--nn-ranta, rannat (“beach,” “beaches”)
-rt--rr-parta, parrat (“beard,” “beards”)

You can read about Finnish consonant gradation in more detail on Wikipedia.

A Close-up of a Mouth.

Vowel harmony and consonant gradation streamline Finnish pronunciation.

3. Mastering Finnish Verbs

You can’t have a complete sentence without verbs! Here, we’ll cover several Finnish language grammar rules related to verbs and their usage. Buckle up. 

Conjugation Basics

Six personal suffixes are used in Finnish. These suffixes are added to the verb stem. The best thing about personal suffixes is that they’re exactly the same in all tenses and moods!

Let’s conjugate the verb muistaa (“to remember”). The personal endings are added to the verb stem muista-.

PersonSuffixExample
minä (“I”)-nMinä muistan. (“I remember.”)
sinä (“you”)-tSinä muistat. (“You remember.”)
hän (“he” / “she”)-v orHän muistaa. (“He/she remembers.”)
me (“we”)-mmeMe muistamme. (“We remember.”)
te (plural “you” / formal “you”)-tteTe muistatte. (“You remember.”)
he (“they”)-vat or -vätHe muistavat. (“They remember.”)

The third person singular (hän) is marked by a long vowel. If there are already two vowels at the end of the stem, the third person form equals the verb stem. For example, the stem of the word juoda (“to drink”) is juo- which is also the third person singular form:

  •  Hän juo. (“He/she drinks.”)

Because the personal endings tell us who is performing the action, it’s possible to drop the personal pronouns in first and second person. For example:

  •  (Minä) opiskelen suomea. (“I study Finnish.”)

The Six Verb Types

While the personal endings of verbs never change, the same is not true about verb stems. Typically, verbs are divided into six types depending on their basic form and the changes they undergo when conjugated. Knowing which verb type you’re looking at will help you work out how to conjugate it!

Verb TypeInfinitive endingExample
Type 1-va/-välukea (“to read”)
Type 2-da/-däsyödä (“to eat”)
Type 3-la/-lä, -na/-nä, -ra/-rä, -sta/-statulla (“to come”)
Type 4-vta/-vtäsiivota (“to clean”)
Type 5-ita/-itävalita (“to choose”)
Type 6-eta/-etävanheta (“to age”)

When conjugating verbs, follow these steps:

1. Identify the verb type. For example, rakastaa (“to love”) has a -va ending and is a Type 1 verb.

2. Follow the rules for this verb type to derive the verb stem. For Type 1 verbs, you need to remove the final -a or . Therefore, the stem of rakastaa is rakasta-.

3. Add your personal ending to the stem. For first person singular, add -n: rakastan (“I love”).

4. Remember that consonant gradation applies to verb types 1, 3, and 4.

You can dive deeper into Finnish verb types and conjugation on Wikipedia.

A Man Snowboarding

Lumilautailla (“to snowboard”) is a Type 3 verb.

Tense

In Finnish grammar, verbs also conjugate for the four indicative tenses: present, imperfect, perfect, and pluperfect.

1. The Finnish present tense describes timeless, continuing, and future actions. It’s formed by adding a personal ending to the verb stem.

  • Minä ostan (“I buy”)

2. The imperfect tense corresponds to the English simple past tense. It is formed by adding the affix -i- (sometimes -si-) before the personal suffix.
  • Minä ostin (“I bought”)

3. The perfect tense corresponds to the English present perfect. It’s formed using the verb olla (“to be”) as an auxiliary verb and the past active participle form of the main verb.
  • Minä olen ostanut (“I have bought”)

4. pluperfect tense corresponds to the English past perfect. We use olla (“to be”) as an auxiliary verb again, but in its past form.
  • Minä olin ostanut (“I had bought”)

An Ornamental Sundial.

Tenses deal with the timing of actions.

Moods

There are four moods in modern Finnish: indicative, conditional, imperative, and potential.

1 . Indicative is the ‘basic’ form used in most statements and questions.

2. Conditional corresponds to actions that may or may not happen, and it appears in conditional sentences and polite requests. The affix that marks a conditional form is -isi-.

  • Tulisin, jos pyytäisit. (“I would come, if you asked.” / Literally: “I would come, if you would ask.”)
  • Haluaisin teetä. (“I would like some tea.”)

3. Imperative expresses commands. The most commonly used forms of the imperative are the active, second person imperatives.
  • Juokse! (“Run!”) Singular
  • Älä juokse! (“Don’t run!”) Singular
  • Juoskaa! (“Run!”) Plural
  • Älkää juosko! (“Don’t run!”) Plural

4. Potential expresses actions that are likely but not certain. It isn’t used mu4. ch in modern Finnish, but may appear in newspaper articles and such. The typical conditional affix is -ne-, added before the personal ending. 
  • Minä laulanen. (“I will probably sing.”)

Voice

In Finnish, there are two voices: active and passive. Active verbs are linked to the six persons and always have a personal ending, while there is only one form of the passive. Passive is used in Finnish when the agent is a human who is either unknown or unimportant:

  • Koulussa opetetaan matematiikkaa. (“Math is taught in school.”)

Passive can also be used when making suggestions:

  • Mennäänkö rannalle? (“Shall we go to the beach?”)

Finally, passive can replace the first person plural active form in informal, spoken Finnish:

  • Me asutaan Kotkassa. (“We live in Kotka.”)

Negation

In Finnish, the word ei (“no”) behaves like a verb (hence, it’s called a negative verb). It gets the same personal endings as regular verbs:

  • en, et, ei, emme, ette, eivät

To form a negative sentence, use the negative verb with the stem of the main verb. For example:

  • Minä en puhu. (“I don’t speak.”)

In the imperfect, perfect, and pluperfect tenses, the negative verb is paired with the past active participle form of the main verb. The auxiliary verb stem ole is also added to the negative imperfect and ollut (singular) or olleet (plural) to the negative pluperfect.

The negative imperfect: 

  • Minä en puhunut. (“I didn’t speak.”)
  • Me emme puhuneet. (“We didn’t speak.”)

The negative perfect: 

  • Minä en ole puhunut. (“I haven’t spoken.”)
  • Me emme ole puhuneet. (“We haven’t spoken.”)

The negative pluperfect: 

  • Minä en ollut puhunut. (“I hadn’t spoken.”)
  • Me emme olleet puhuneet. (“We hadn’t spoken.”)

A Man with Tape Over His Mouth.

Hän ei puhu. (“He doesn’t speak.”)

The First Finnish Verb to Learn

Olla (“to be”) is an essential verb to learn because you’ll be using it again and again. It also happens to be a very rare example of a Finnish irregular verb! This is how to conjugate it:

  • minä olen, sinä olet, hän on, me olemme, te olette, he ovat
    • For example: Minä olen iloinen. (“I am happy.”)

Olla can also be used as an auxiliary verb in a compound tense, as we’ve seen:

  •  Sinä olet asunut Suomessa. (“You have lived in Finland.”)

There is no separate possession verb in Finnish, so olla performs double-duty as “to be” and “to have.” When we want to say “to have” in a sentence, we use the adessive case of a noun with the third person singular form of olla. Like this:

minulla onsinulla onhänellä onmeillä onteillä onheillä on
“I have”“you have”“he/she has”“we have”“you have”“they have”

For example: Minulla on kissa. (“I have a cat.” / Literally: “On me is a cat.”)

You’ll also come across the verb olla used this way when talking about certain states of being. For example:

  • Sinulla on nälkä. (“You are hungry.” / Literally: “On you is hunger.”)
  • Meillä on jano. (“We are thirsty.” / Literally: “On us is thirst.”)

Can’t get enough of Finnish verbs? Look up all those lovely affixes and conjugation rules on Wikipedia, and check out our list of Vocabulary for the 25 Most Commonly Used Verbs.

4. Noun Cases

Finnish noun cases have a reputation of being fiendish to learn, but all you really need is a lot of patience.

Types of Noun Cases

There are fifteen total Finnish noun cases. In Finnish grammar, cases are divided into subgroups: grammatical, locative, role, and marginal. 

Grammatical cases

NameEnding(s)Example
Nominativekoti (“home”)
Genitive-nkodin (“home’s” / “of a home”)
Accusative-, -t, -nkoti/kodin (“home”)
Partitive-(t)a/-(t)äkotia (“home”)

The nominative is the basic (dictionary) form of a noun, the genitive indicates possession, accusative is used when we refer to an object as a whole, and partitive is used when we refer to a part of an object.

Internal locative cases

NameEnding(s)Example
Inessive-ssa/-ssäkodissa (“in a home”)
Elative-sta/-stäkodista (“out of a home”)
Illative-vnkotiin (“into a home”)

External locative cases

NameEndingExample
Adessive-lla/-lläkodilla (“on a home”)
Ablative-lta/-ltäkodilta (“from a home”)
Allative-llekodille (“onto a home”)

As the names suggest, internal location cases generally indicate ‘interior’ spatial positions (in, into, and from within), while external locative cases generally indicate ‘surface’ positions (on, onto, and from on top of).

Role cases

NameEndingExample
Essive-na/-näkotina (“as a home”)
Translative-ksikodiksi (“into a home”)

The translative case indicates transformation (into something).

Marginal cases

NameEndingExample
Instructive-nkodein (“with the aid of homes”)
Abessive-ttakoditta (“without a home”)
Comitative-ne-koteineen (“together with their homes”)

The marginal cases are rarely used in modern Finnish. The comitative is usually replaced with the postposition kanssa (“with”) and the abessive is usually replaced with the preposition ilman (“without”). You might run into the instructive case in expressions such as omin avuin (“with one’s own help”).

The Basics of Using Noun Cases

The most important things to remember about the use of noun cases are:

1. All nominals (nouns, adjectives, numerals, pronouns) are inflected. For example:

  • se yksi nopea auto (“that one fast car”) Nominative
  • sitä yhtä nopeaa autoa (“that one fast car”) Partitive

2. Nouns are inflected by adding the correct suffix to the word stem. A lot of the time, the word stem is the same as the nominative, but not always! For example, the stem of the word kaunis (“beautiful”) is kaunii- in most of the cases.

3.   Remember consonant gradation!

A Drawing of a Treasure Map.

Use locative cases to find the treasure.

5. Lopuksi

In this guide, we’ve touched on many Finnish grammatical delights, from the negative verb to consonant gradation. Are there any particular Finnish grammar rules you would like to see covered in more detail?

To help you learn Finnish grammar organically, many of our audio lessons on FinnishPod101.com include essential grammar information in easy-to-understand chunks. We’ve also built a lesson around some simple tricks to learn grammar. And if you would like to have access to a professional Finnish teacher who can answer even your trickiest grammar-related questions, our Premium PLUS account with one-on-one tutoring is perfect for you.

By the way, if you enjoy learning by watching, check out our videos 4 Ways to Improve Your Finnish Grammar and Fix Your Finnish Grammar in 30 Minutes on the FinnishPod101 YouTube Channel.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish

Is Finnish Hard to Learn?

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Finnish has a reputation of being a difficult language to learn. But is Finnish hard to learn, really? 

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has come up with a difficulty ranking for language-learning based on how different each language is from English. Using this system, FSI has placed Finnish in category IV. In other words, an English-speaker would need approximately forty-four weeks (or 1,100 hours) to reach general professional proficiency in Finnish (speaking and reading).

In general, it’s the Finnish grammar that tends to put learners off. However, there are many aspects of the language that learners also find very straightforward and simple! So perhaps we should reframe the question: How easy is it to learn Finnish?

Let’s take a closer look at each side of the coin so you can decide for yourself!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Why Finnish is a Lot Easier to Learn Than You Think!
  2. What are the Challenging Parts of Learning Finnish?
  3. I Want to Learn Finnish. Where Should I Start?
  4. A Few More Quick Tips for New Finnish-Learners
  5. Why is FinnishPod101 Great for Learning Finnish?

A Boy Having Difficulties in His Study

Does Finnish deserve its reputation as a difficult language?

1. Why Finnish is a Lot Easier to Learn Than You Think!

1 – The pronunciation is highly regular.

If you’ve ever struggled with unpredictable pronunciation and silent letters while learning a new language, you’re going to love Finnish! In general, each sound in the Finnish language corresponds to a specific letter in the alphabet. Learn these sounds and you can simply “say what you see” (with very few exceptions).

The Finnish stress pattern is also a gift to language-learners: the primary stress always falls on the first syllable of a word. So forget about awkward accent marks—you’ll find none in Finnish. 

Why not learn the Finnish alphabet from A to Z with our free eBook?

The Alphabet

Most sounds used in Finnish correspond to a specific letter.

2 – There’s no grammatical gender or articles.

If you were learning a language like French or Spanish, having to memorize the gender of each noun would certainly slow you down. Finnish-learners rejoice: You can forget all about that nonsense! There are no gendered nouns in Finnish. Even the third person singular pronoun hän (“he” / “she”) is gender-neutral, so there’s no risk of offending anyone by accidentally using the wrong pronoun.

There are no articles either. Whether you’re talking about “a dog” or “the dog,” in Finnish, it’s the same: koira.

A Male and Female Symbol

You’ll find no gendered nouns in Finnish!

3 – It’s easy to expand your vocabulary fast.

At first glance, Finnish can look completely alien to an English-speaker. However, learning new words can be surprisingly easy.

Loanwords

It won’t take long until you start spotting familiar words. Finnish has borrowed many words from other languages, and according to lexicographers, the number of English loanwords entering Finnish is growing every year. A relatively recent addition is internetti (“internet”), or netti for short. 

Compound words

Another reason you’ll be able to expand your Finnish vocabulary faster than you thought is the large number of compound words in the language. It’ll often be a breeze to work out the meaning of a compound word if you’re already familiar with the component words. 

  • jääkaappi (“fridge” – “ice + cupboard”)
  • tietokone (“computer” – “knowledge + machine”)

Derivative suffixes

Another thing that can help you pick up Finnish words quickly is to learn related words in groups. All the words in the list below are derived from the same word stem:

  • kirja (“book”)
  • kirjain (“letter” / “character”)
  • kirjasto (“library”)
  • kirjanen (“pamphlet”)
  • kirjoitus (“text” / “writing” – noun)
  • kirjailija (“writer”)
  • kirjaimellinen (“literal”)
  • kirjallisuus (“literature”)
  • kirjoittaa (“to write”)

Many of these words have been created by attaching a suffix to the word stem. For example, the word for “library” is created by applying the suffix -sto, which signifies a collection of things (books, in this case). Familiarizing yourself with some of the more common suffixes can really speed up your vocabulary learning!

Learn more about Finnish noun-forming suffixes here and find more derivational suffixes here.

A Little Girl in the Library

Kirjasto (“library”) literally means ‘a collection of books.’

 4 – There’s no future tense.

Could Finnish be any more streamlined? Yes! Because there’s no future tense. Why overcomplicate things? 

Future actions in Finnish are usually expressed using the present tense. You can work out the difference from the context or from the use of adverbs like huomenna (“tomorrow”) or ensi vuonna (“next year”).

A Woman with Artificial Intelligence

Talking about the future? Just use the present tense!

 5 – The grammar is consistent.

Few things about language-learning are as frustrating as learning a rule by heart only to trip over one exception after another. We’ll get to the challenging aspects of Finnish grammar in due course, but for now, let us just say this: Finnish grammar is typically very consistent and regular. Yes, it may take you a while to become ‘besties’ with Finnish grammar, but once you do, you’ve found yourself a very good friend that you can rely on!

 2. What are the Challenging Parts of Learning Finnish?

We’re never going to lie and say that learning Finnish is all easy. There are aspects of the language that can feel very frustrating at first—but the same is true about any language, right? The trick is to know what you’re in for, take it step-by-step, and keep the faith!

Here are a few things that make Finnish hard to learn…

1 – The notorious noun cases

English-speakers are used to relying on lots of little words, like prepositions, to convey information. In Finnish, the same is usually achieved by inflecting words. While only three noun cases are used in modern English (the subjective, the objective, and the possessive), there’s a grand total of fifteen noun cases in Finnish.

Understandably, this can make prospective Finnish-learners nervous. To illustrate the difficulties, let’s talk about cake.

  • Minä pidän kakusta. (“I like cake.”)
  • Minä haluan kakkua. (“I want cake.”)
  • Minulla on kakku. (“I have a cake.”)
  • Minä söin kakun. (“I ate a cake.”)
  • Minä olen kyllästynyt kakkuun. (“I’m sick of cake.”)

You’ve just seen five different cases (elative, partitive, nominative, genitive, and illative) in action! Wherever you turn, you’re bound to run into noun cases. But while it may take you a while to learn the rules, remember that Finnish grammar is consistent and logical. You’ve got this!

A Slice of Cake

Sick of cake—or noun cases?

2 – Say hello to even more word endings

As if noun cases weren’t enough, there are even more endings for you to learn. You have a choice of seven different clitics. They can often be combined, like this:

  •  Onkohan se totta? (“I wonder if it’s true?”)

In the example above, the ending -ko turns the verb on (“is”) into a question, while the ending -han changes the tone, making the question less pressing and direct (“I wonder if”). If using more than one clitic, you need to get the order right!

Learn more about Finnish clitics and their uses here.

A Woman with Lots of Questions on Her Head

Onkohan se totta? (“I wonder if it’s true?”)

3 – Verb conjugation

Verb conjugation is another thing that can make the Finnish language hard to learn and induce feelings of dread in new learners! In Finnish, there are six main types of verbs that all behave somewhat differently. In order to inflect verbs correctly, you’ll need to be able to recognize the different verb types and remember what changes take place when the verb is inflected.

However, we’ve got some good news, too. You’ll be glad to know that irregular verbs are very rare in Finnish! The main offenders are the verb olla (“to be”), juosta (“to run”), tehdä (“to do”), and nähdä (“to see”). Once you’ve dealt with those, you’re unlikely to come across another irregular verb.

Find a concise introduction to Finnish verbs on our website, learn more about the six different Finnish verb types in this lesson, and dive deeper into Finnish verb conjugation on Wikipedia.

Children Happy Running

Juosta (“to run”): a rare example of an irregular verb in Finnish.

4 – Consonant gradation

Consonant gradation has to do with spelling changes that affect the stem of a noun when an ending is added. It’s also considered one of the most tedious aspects of learning Finnish! However, the rules of consonant gradation are logical, so there’s no doubt that you’ll master this skill—as long as you’re willing to put in the effort.

Learn about consonant gradation here, and see more examples in this lesson.

5 – Finnish is full of long words

The Finns’ love for compound words can get out of hand sometimes. In theory, it’s possible to coin massive word monsters by combining any number of words (though four words is typically the maximum you’ll see). From a learner’s point of view, this can make some Finnish words a nightmare to make sense of.

Here are some long Finnish compound words that you might come across: 

  • käsipyyherullajärjestelmä (“hand towel roll system”)
  • pyyhkäisyelektronimikroskooppi (“scanning electron microscope”)
  • elintarviketurvallisuusvirasto (“food safety authority”)
  • kolmivaihekilowattituntimittari (“three phase kilowatt hour meter”)

As you can imagine, these are not only hard to spell, but they’re also some pretty hard Finnish words to pronounce! 

Thankfully, most compound words consist of only two words! And once you’re more comfortable with compound words, you can even start having fun with them. That is, you can create your very own compound words in Finnish, and no one will bat an eyelid as long as they make sense!

A Woman Making Funny Face

Is that a word or a tongue-twister?!

3. I Want to Learn Finnish. Where Should I Start?

1 – Define your goal.

First of all, be clear about why you want to learn Finnish! Do you want to learn a little conversational Finnish in preparation for a trip to Finland? Are you dreaming of living in Finland one day and want to pass the YKI exam? Or are you addicted to Nordic Noir and desperate to read Finnish crime novels that haven’t been translated yet?

Your learning strategy will depend on what you want to achieve, so define your goal and keep it in mind to stay motivated!

A Dart Bullseye

Stay focused on your learning target.

2 – Start with the vocabulary that you need the most.

If you’re planning to learn Finnish, you’ll want to start using the language as quickly as possible. To do just that, make sure you prioritize learning the most relevant vocabulary and expressions. Of course, what’s most relevant depends on you! Are you planning to travel around Finland? Get started with some essential travel vocabulary. Or perhaps you’re dating a Finn? Learn how to compliment him or her.

You can create personalized flashcards to help you learn your chosen words. Alternatively, get started with the 100 most common Finnish words.

A Man Travelling with Suitcase

Plan to travel in Finland? Start learning travel vocabulary, like matkalaukku (“suitcase”).

 3 – Break grammar into manageable chunks.

Finnish grammar can feel overwhelming at times, but you don’t need to take it all in right away! Focus on practicing just a few noun cases at first, and tackle the conjugation of one verb type at a time. And if you do get frustrated, remember that Finnish is a very logical and methodical language. Remain patient, and you’ll get there!

4 – Speak from day one.

You may think of speaking as one of the last steps you take in the process of learning a new language. You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself by mispronouncing words or making grammar mistakes, right? No—we passionately advocate the exact opposite! Start speaking Finnish as soon as possible, and use every opportunity to use the words and phrases that you’re learning. This will boost your confidence and also help you learn by trial and error. Don’t ever let the fear of making mistakes hold you back.

Get started right away with these Finnish key phrases.

Friends Chatting with Each Other while Drinking

Don’t be shy! Speak Finnish from day one.

4. A Few More Quick Tips for New Finnish-Learners 

1 – Don’t give up!

Learning a language takes time and effort. If it didn’t, we’d all be polyglots! Therefore, you’re likely to get frustrated at times. If this happens to you, take a break from whatever you’re struggling with and focus on something easier (like learning new vocabulary) for a bit. And if you ever get really stuck, you can always reach out to an experienced Finnish tutor for extra help and guidance.

2 – Immerse yourself.

Boost your learning by taking every opportunity to expose yourself to Finnish. Find Finnish music and podcasts to listen to (you’re getting used to the sounds and the rhythm of the language, even if you understand very little to start with!). You should also watch YouTube videos and films in Finnish, and start reading articles and books as soon as possible. Seeing and hearing Finnish used in real life helps solidify the lessons you’ve learned in a fun and exciting way.

3 – Team up with other learners.

Sharing your triumphs and struggles, and exchanging language-learning tips with other people, can be really motivating! Why not chat with other Finnish learners on social media? Check out our Instagram and Facebook pages to engage with other learners.

4 – Make language-learning a part of your routine.

If you can make time for language-learning on a regular basis, you’ll make progress a lot faster. The best way is to schedule time to study Finnish each day. Could you fit in a lesson or two during your morning commute or your lunch break? Our language apps allow you to access Finnish lessons anywhere, and are the perfect way to incorporate Finnish-learning effortlessly into your life, no matter how busy you are!

A Man Listening Something with His Headphone

Use our app to access Finnish lessons on-the-go.

5. Why is FinnishPod101 Great for Learning Finnish?

If you’re keen to learn Finnish, FinnishPod101 has an effective learning system for learners at every level.  

1 – An integrated approach

One of the strengths of our method is combining multiple skills into a single lesson. Combining grammar notes with a listening exercise, for example, makes our lessons more organic and powerful, helping you progress faster.

2 – Plenty of free resources

Whether you’re just dipping your toes into Finnish-learning to see if it’s really for you, or are already fully committed to becoming fluent, we have a huge collection of suitable learning materials for you. Even better, a lot of our content is completely free to use.

3 – Customizable content

From customized vocabulary flashcards to lesson pathways tailored to your specific needs, our system is designed to support you and help you reach your personal learning goals, whatever they are.

4 – Extra help from a Finnish tutor

If you ever need extra support or want to take your language learning to the next level, our Premium PLUS program gives you access to a private Finnish tutor. Your tutor can help you with all aspects of language-learning, such as giving you feedback on your pronunciation and providing personalized assignments to help you test your knowledge.

A Woman Hands Up in the Air

We’ll help you succeed!

So how hard is it to learn Finnish? In this guide, we’ve discussed the notorious noun cases (among other stumbling blocks that Finnish-learners face), as well as the many ways in which Finnish can be surprisingly straightforward. Our final verdict is this: The language has its challenges, but learning Finnish is definitely doable—and also very rewarding!

What are your thoughts? Are you feeling more hesitant or reassured? Feel free to reach out to us if you want to know more about how we can help you learn Finnish!

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The 10 Most Common Finnish Mistakes That Learners Make

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Learning a new language is a great adventure. On your journey, you’ll come across many tricky sounds, some confusing grammar, and many words that seem to behave strangely for no good reason… 

But all good adventurers come prepared, and we’re here to help you prepare! That is, we’ll shine our spotlight on the ten most common Finnish mistakes, so that your journey will go that much more smoothly. In addition, knowing what Finnish mistakes to watch out for will give you an easier time making yourself understood when speaking with locals.

We’ll be looking at common pronunciation mistakes for Finnish-learners, typical mistakes in Finnish grammar, and a few other things that Finnish-learners often struggle with. Be sure to read to the end of this guide, where we’ll reveal the biggest mistake of all!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Long Vowels and Double Consonants
  2. Tricky Sounds
  3. Common Homonyms
  4. The Many Meanings of No niin!
  5. Postpositions
  6. The Object Trilemma: Partitive, Nominative, or Accusative?
  7. Vowel Harmony
  8. Consonant Gradation
  9. Repeating Things Unnecessarily
  10. Not Preparing for Spoken Finnish
  11. The Biggest Mistake!

A Little Boy Frustrated with His Homework

Älä huoli, kaikki tekevät virheitä! (“Don’t worry, everybody makes mistakes!”)

1. Long Vowels and Double Consonants

Have you noticed how many Finnish words sound extremely similar to each other? Often, the only difference is a double letter, so it’s very easy to mix up similar words. However, taking time to tune your ear to the sound of long vowels and double consonants—and getting your pronunciation right—is very important. A single letter can change the meaning of a word drastically.

Consider these very similar-sounding statements:

  • Tapaan Esan huomenna! (“I’m meeting Esa tomorrow!”)
  • Tapan Esan huomenna! (“I’m killing Esa tomorrow!”)

Poor Esa will surely hope you meant the first one! Here are other examples of words that look and sound very similar:

  • tuli / tuuli / tulli (“fire” / “wind” / “customs”)
  • muta / mutta / muuttaa (“mud” / “but” / “to move”)
  • tili / tiili / tilli (“account” / “brick” / “dill”)

 Here’s the rule of thumb when it comes to pronunciation: Double equals longer and stronger.

Flames Against a Dark Background

Tuli, ei tuuli! (“Fire, not wind!”)

2. Tricky Sounds

While most sounds in Finnish will present no problems for English-speakers, there are a couple that can be challenging and require some practice to get right. Trust us, with enough practice and exposure, you’ll be able to avoid an embarrassing pronunciation mistake in Finnish later on down the line.

 Let’s take a closer look at the Finnish ä, ö, y, and r!

Ä

Ä: pronounced like “a” in “that” and “cat”

Ää: pronounced like the “a” in “bad” and “sad”

Go ahead and say these words out loud:

  • äkkiä (“quickly”)
  • äiti (“mother”)
  • ääni (“sound”)
  • häät (“wedding”)

Ö

 Ö: Pronounced like “e” in “better”

Öö: Pronounced like “ea” in “earn” or “u” in “turn”

 A few words for you to practice with:

  • öinen (“nightly”)
  • ötökkä (“bug”)
  • lööppi (“headline”)
  • söötti (“cute” – colloquial) 

Y

The “y” sound is one of the trickiest for Finnish-learners to master, because it isn’t found in English. The best way to get the sound just right is to listen to recordings of Finnish words with y and repeat those words until you feel confident. 

For example, listen to the recording of tyttärentytär (“granddaughter”) on this vocabulary list.

Here are a few more words for you to practice with:

  • yksi (“one”)
  • nyt (“now”)
  • kyynel (“teardrop”)
  • tyyny (“pillow”)

R

If you’re struggling with the Finnish “r,” take heart—even many Finns get help from a speech therapist to correct their ärrävika (saying “r” incorrectly) while growing up!

If you’ve ever studied Spanish, you’ll have an advantage because the Finnish “r” is similar to the “r” sound in Spanish. The key to getting the clear sound is to really roll the “r.” You can literally feel your tongue vibrating when you’re doing it right!

Note that the Finnish “r” is made at the front of the mouth (the same place where you make the “d” sound!), while the English “r” is made further back in the mouth.

Here’s a selection of Finnish words to practice rolling your “r” with. Remember to make the sound longer when you see a double “r”!

  • ravintola (“restaurant”)
  • radio (“radio”)
  • suuri (“big”)
  • murre (“dialect”)

If you’re feeling especially brave, try this Finnish tongue-twister:

  •  Ärrän kierrän ympäri orren. (“I wrap the ‘r’ around the perch.”)

Would you like more help with your pronunciation? FinnishPod101.com has a comprehensive guide to Finnish sounds and how to master them, a Finnish alphabet page, and a relevant audio lesson.

A Little Kid Holding Snow in Hands

The Finnish sound “y” is made with rounded lips.

3. Common Homonyms

Alright, so we’ve gone on quite a bit about Finnish words that are similar to each other. Now we’re going to talk about homonyms—words that sound and look the same but have different meanings. They’re very common in Finnish!

Being aware of common homonyms means that you’re less likely to trip over them, so let’s take a look at some examples, starting with the classic kuusi palaa.

The word kuusi can mean any of these things: 

  • “Six”
  • “A fir tree” 
  • “Your moon” (kuu + the possessive suffix -si)

The word palaa can mean any of these things: 

  • “Pieces” (in the partitive case)
  • “Burns” 
  • “Returns”

Therefore, kuusi palaa can mean a fair number of things, including “six pieces” and “the fir tree is burning”!

Here are a few more words with different meanings:

  • Tuli (“fire” or “came” in third person singular)
  • Keksi (“biscuit” or “invented” in third person singular)
  • Kurkku (“cucumber” or “throat”)

Discover more Finnish homonyms on this list.

4. The Many Meanings of No niin!

If you’re spending time in Finland, you’ll probably hear no niin (or noni) uttered a lot. Many Finnish-learners are confused by the sheer range of meanings that this simple utterance can have. It can signal enthusiasm, disappointment, and irritation, for starters. You can’t simply decide that no niin means “well” or “now” and be done with it. The Finnish stand-up comedian Ismo Leikola went so far as to claim that no niin is the most important Finnish expression there is!

 Here are a few examples of no niin in action.

  • No niin, ruoka on valmista! (“Okay, the food is ready!”)
  • No niin, hieno homma! (“That’s great, well done!”)
  • No niin, taas mennään. (“Oh dear, here we go again.”)
  • No niin, aika näyttää. (“Well, time will tell.”)

5. Postpositions

In general, you’ll find that Finnish word order is not that dissimilar from the English one. Take this basic declarative sentence:

  • Mies söi omenan. (“A man ate an apple.”) 

It follows the subject + verb + object order that you’re already familiar with. 

However, there are still a few word order surprises for Finnish-learners. A case in point is Finnish postpositions, which express place, cause, time, consequence, or relation. While in English, you would say “behind the sofa” or “after school,” in Finnish, you’ll put the adposition after your noun, hence the term postposition. Note that the noun will usually be in the genitive case.

Look at these examples with the postposition underlined:

  • Sohvan takana (“Behind the sofa”)
  • Pöydän päällä (“On top of the table”)
  • Maton alla (“Under the rug”)
  • Laatikon sisällä (“Inside the box”)
  • Koulun jälkeen (“After school”)

You can learn more Finnish postpositions on Wiktionary.

Though far less common, there are a few prepositions in Finnish as well. The most useful ones to memorize are ennen (“before”) and ilman (“without”). Note that the noun is now in the partitive case.

  • Ennen joulua (“Before Christmas”)
  • Ilman apua (“Without help”)

Wait! Then we have a couple of words that can be either, such as keskellä (“in the middle of”) and lähellä (“near”)! Remember that the order affects the case of the noun. 

  • Keskellä kaupunkia (“In the middle of the city”)
  • Kaupungin keskellä (“In the middle of the city”)

Learn more vocabulary related to positions and directions on our website.

A Man Crossing His Fingers Behind His Back

Selän takana (“Behind the back”)

6. The Object Trilemma: Partitive, Nominative, or Accusative?

One aspect of Finnish grammar that scares prospective learners (and frustrates the current ones) the most is the use of numerous noun cases. We agree, it’s a lot to wrap your head around. But on the bright side, once you’ve mastered your noun cases, you’ll be well on your way to Finnish fluency!

The best approach to learning the noun cases is to focus on a few at a time and practice them a lot (and then practice them some more). Right now, we’ll focus on the tricky trilemma of choosing whether to put the object of your sentence into the nominative, accusative, or partitive case. Getting it wrong is one of the easiest mistakes in Finnish to make, but we know that you can do this!

1. The object in the partitive case

Choose the partitive when:

  • The object follows a partitive verb, such as rakastaa (“to love”), vihata (“to hate”), or odottaa (“to wait for”).
  • The object is a part of a negative sentence.
  • The object follows a number.
  • The action is taking place now and may not be fully completed.
  • The object is uncountable.

 Examples:

  • Minä rakastan sinua. (“I love you.”)
  • En halua koiraa. (“I don’t want a dog.”)
  • Sanna lukee kirjaa. (“Sanna is reading a book.”)
  • Arto juo kahvia. (“Arto is drinking coffee.”)

 2. The object in the nominative case

Choose the nominative when:

  • The object follows a verb that’s in the passive form.
  • The object follows a necessive, such as minun on pakko (“I have to”), minun täytyy (“I must”), or minun pitää (“I need”). 
  • The object follows a command.

Examples:

  • Tänään siivotaan keittiö. (“Today, the kitchen is cleaned.”)
  • Minun täytyy pedata sänky. (“I must make the bed.”)
  • Ota puhelin. (“Take the phone.”) 

3. The object in the accusative case

Finally, choose the accusative case when: 

  • The action has been fully completed.
  • The intention is to fully complete the action.

Examples:

  • Ostin kesämökin. (“I bought a summer cottage.”)
  • Aion sulkea oven. (“I’m going to close the door.”)

No niin, you’ve probably already spotted a problem here. What if several of these rules apply to the same sentence? Well, in situations like that, the partitive trumps the nominative, and the nominative trumps the accusative. So, the hierarchy looks like this:

Partitive > Nominative > Accusative

Can you think of a mnemonic to help you remember the correct order? Things get more complicated when you add things like plurals or possessive suffixes into the mix, but that is a lesson for another day! For now, keep your eye on objects and cases whenever you’re reading Finnish sentences, and see if you can work out which rule is being followed.

A Girl Reading a Book

Tyttö lukee kirjaa. (“A girl is reading a book.”)

7. Vowel Harmony

Compared to the difficulty of wrestling with the Finnish noun cases, figuring out vowel harmony is a walk in the park. Still, forgetting about vowel harmony is a common mistake in the Finnish language, so let’s take a closer look.

What exactly is vokaaliharmonia (“vowel harmony”), and why does it matter? In Finnish, vowels are grouped into front, back, and neutral vowels. 

  • Front vowels: A, O, U
  • Back vowels: Y, Ä, Ö
  • Neutral vowels: E, I

Normally, you can’t mix front and back vowels in the same word, while neutral vowels can mix with either front or back vowels. Knowing this will help you with your spelling, but more importantly, it will help you choose the right endings when you inflect words.

For example, talo (“house”) in the partitive case becomes taloa, but mörkö (“ghost”) inflected in the partitive case becomes mörköä. Words containing only neutral vowels generally take the same ending as words with back vowels. For example: vintti (“attic”) becomes vinttiä in the partitive case.

Note that there are some words that don’t follow the rules, including many loanwords.

  • konduktööri (“conductor”)
  • Olympialaiset (“Olympics”)
Olympic Rings on White Background

Vokaaliharmonia ei päde olympialaiset-sanaan.
(“Vowel harmony doesn’t apply to the word ‘Olympics’.”)

8. Consonant Gradation

Another type of error Finnish-learners make quite often has to do with astevaihtelu (“consonant gradation”). It’s something you’ll come across a lot in your Finnish studies, so it’s good to learn about it sooner rather than later!

Consonant gradation comes into play when we add an ending to a noun or a verb. There are “strong” and “weak” grades of words, and these grades determine whether the word changes or not. As you probably guessed, “strong” words don’t change while “weak” words do.

We’ll look at simple consonant gradation affecting words with the consonants K, P, and T.

Examples of words in the nominative case (the basic form), which is always strong:

  • pankki (“bank”)
  • kuppi (“cup”)
  • katto (“roof”)

The same words are also strong in the following cases:

  • Partitive: pankkia, kuppia, kattoa
  • Illative: pankkiin, kuppiin, kattoon
  • Essive: pankkina, kuppina, kattona

See? No changes there. However, when the same words are in the following cases, they become weak and drop a letter:

  • Plural: pankit, kupit, katot
  • Genitive: pankin, kupin, katon
  • Inessive: pankissa, kupissa, katossa
  • Elative: pankista, kupista, katosta
  • Adessive: pankilla, kupilla, katolla
  • Ablative: pankilta, kupilta, katolta
  • Allative: pankille, kupille, katolle
  • Translative: pankiksi, kupiksi, katoksi

That was so easy that you’ll no doubt want to know more about Finnish consonant gradation. Luckily, there’s a lot more to learn! You could start by reading this Wikipedia article or listening to this audio lesson.

A Woman with a Large Stack of Papers in Front of Her

Just doing some light reading on Finnish consonant gradation.

9. Repeating Things Unnecessarily

One mistake that many Finnish-learners make is putting a lot of effort into things like memorizing correct verb conjugation but not taking advantage of what they’ve learned! Whatever do we mean? Well, conjugating like a pro allows you to become “lazy.” That is, you can start dropping unnecessary words like minä (“I”)!

Take a look at this introduction:

  • Hei, minä olen Helena! Minä asun Oulussa. (“Hi, I’m Helena! I live in Oulu.”)

Our example is grammatically correct. However, the conjugated verb already tells us that the subject of the sentence is “I.” Therefore, you can drop it and no one will miss it!

  • Hei, olen Helena! Asun Oulussa.

Leaving out words that aren’t strictly necessary sounds more natural to Finnish ears. The same applies when you’re asking questions. Feel free to drop sinä (“you”) as well. For example:

  • Puhutko sinä suomea? (“Do you speak Finnish?”)
  • Puhutko suomea?

Listen to this audio lesson, where we chat more about this common mistake.

10. Not Preparing for Spoken Finnish

For many Finnish-learners, their first time talking to a Finn in real life comes as a shock. Why? Spoken Finnish can sound very different from standard Finnish!

In general, spoken Finnish is simply more economical than standard Finnish.

Here are some common features of spoken Finnish:

  • Syllables are dropped. 
    • e.g. mutta (“but”) becomes mut.
  • Words are ‘squished’ together. 
    • e.g. Tuutsä? (“Are you coming?”) instead of Tuletko sinä?
  • The word se (“it”) replaces hän (“he” / “she”).
  • The verb is in the passive form in the first person plural. 
    • e.g. Me ollaan koulussa. (“We are in school.”) instead of Me olemme koulussa.
  • The possessive suffix is dropped. 
    • e.g. Minun koira (“My dog”) instead of Minun koirani.

Learn more about colloquial Finnish on Wikipedia.

Two Women Chatting with Each Other on a Park Bench

Wait, are we speaking Finnish?

11. The Biggest Mistake!

No niin, we’ve finally made it to the big reveal! So, what is the biggest mistake a Finnish-learner could make? Being afraid of making mistakes! That’s right; mistakes are a part of your learning journey, so embrace them.

We certainly don’t expect you to never make any of the mistakes mentioned in this article. What we do hope, though, is that you’ve become more aware of the common pitfalls, so that you’ll notice more easily when you might have stumbled. In order to learn from our mistakes, we need to be able to notice them first!

FinnishPod101 is full of free resources to help you with your Finnish studies, so remember to make full use of them! For example, a brilliant way to perfect your pronunciation of tricky Finnish sounds is to listen to the audio recordings that accompany our vocabulary lists and repeat each word out loud!

And if you’d like an experienced teacher to help you wrap your head around consonant gradation or any other grammar rules, our Premium PLUS one-on-one coaching is perfect for you. 

However you prefer to learn, we’re cheering you on!

Before you go, let us know in the comments how many of these mistakes you’ve made before. We look forward to hearing from you!

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10 Essential Finnish Language Questions & How to Answer Them

Have you ever stopped to think just how often we ask questions on a daily basis? Questions are incredibly helpful in our everyday lives—and doubly so when we’re speaking a foreign language! Learning Finnish conversational questions and answers will not only help you navigate practical situations (like finding a bank) while you’re in Finland, but it’ll also allow you to converse more naturally with Finns in social situations.

This guide will introduce you to the basics of forming questions in Finnish. After that, we’ll cover the ten most useful questions in Finnish for beginners. And of course, we’ll go over a number of ways to answer each question, so that you can always be ready with a reply!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. How to Ask Questions in Finnish
  2. The 10 Most Common Questions in Finnish
  3. Conclusion

Asking and answering questions keeps a conversation going!

1. How to Ask Questions in Finnish

Before you learn the ten most common Finnish language questions, we’ll take a brief look at the two main ways to form questions in Finnish.

A – Creating closed questions

Closed questions—questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”—are very easy to form in Finnish! All you need to do is take a statement, place the verb at the beginning, and add -ko or -kö to the end of the verb.

The correct ending is determined by vowel harmony. The rule of thumb is: if the word contains back vowels (a, o, u), choose -ko; if the word contains front vowels (ä, ö, y) or only neutral vowels (i, e), choose -kö.  

Here are a few examples:

  • Se on totta. (“It is true.”)

Now, begin the question with the verb (on) and add the correct ending (-ko) to the verb.

  • Onko se totta? (“Is it true?”)

Another example:

  • Sinä pidät kahvista. (“You like coffee.”)
  • Pidätkö sinä kahvista? (“Do you like coffee?”)

Let’s see how you can answer this important question!

i- Affirmative Answers

When the answer is “yes,” you can simply use the word kyllä (“yes”), or the colloquial joo. It’s also common to simply repeat the verb and drop the word kyllä altogether—just remember to conjugate the verb correctly!

  •  Pidätkö sinä kahvista? (“Do you like coffee?”)

    Kyllä. (“Yes.”)
    Pidän. (“Yes.” Literally: “I like.”)

ii- Negative Answers

When the answer is ei (“no”), things get a little bit trickier. It’s important to remember that the negative verb in Finnish is conjugated in the six personal forms, like this: en, et, ei, emme, ette, eivät. We’ll take a look at three different ways to say that you don’t like coffee.

1. Use ei (“no”), the conjugated form of the negative verb, and the main verb:

    Ei, en pidä kahvista. (“No, I don’t like coffee.”)

2. Use the conjugated form of the negative verb and the main verb:

    En pidä. (“No.” Literally: “I don’t like.”)

3. Use just the conjugated form of the negative verb:

    En. (“No.” Literally: “I don’t.”)

Ei, en pidä kahvista. (“No, I don’t like coffee.”)

B – Finnish Question Words

Finnish question words (we’re sorry to say) are not as straightforward as the English ones. One reason for this is that some of the Finnish question words are inflected and have multiple cases. For a beginner, it’s best to focus on the most common question words first. You can dive into the deep end after you’ve mastered the basics!

 1. Kuka? / Ketkä? (“Who?” Singular / Plural)

  •  Kuka on Suomen pääministeri? (“Who is Finland’s prime minister?”)
    Sanna Marin. (“Sanna Marin.”)
  •  Ketkä ovat tulossa mukaan? (“Who is coming along?”)
    Sini ja Pekka. (“Sini and Pekka.”)

 2. Mikä? / Mitä? (“What?”)

  •  Mikä se on? (“What is it?”)
    Se on kissanpentu. (“It’s a kitten.”)
  • Mitä sinä sanoit? (“What did you say?”)
    Sanoin, että haluan mennä ulos. (“I said that I want to go out.”)

(Note that mikä usually refers to defined, concrete things, while mitä usually refers to uncountable, abstract things.)

 3. Missä? (“Where?”)

  •  Missä sinä asut? (“Where do you live?”)
    Asun Oulussa. (“I live in Kallio.”)

 4. Miksi? (“Why?”)

  •  Miksi et soittanut minulle? (“Why didn’t you call me?”)
    Koska unohdin, että lupasin soittaa. (“Because I forgot that I promised to call.”)

 5. Milloin? (“When?”)

  •  Milloin lentokone laskeutuu? (“When does the airplane land?”)
    Puolen tunnin päästä. (“In half an hour.”)

6. Kuinka? / Miten? (“How?”)

  •  Miten voin auttaa? (“How can I help?”)
    Voit auttaa viemällä roskat ulos. (“You can help by taking the trash out.”)
  •  Kuinka kuumaa saunassa on? (“How hot is it in the sauna?”)
    Saunassa on 80 astetta. (“It’s 80 degrees in the sauna.”)

Note that in most cases, kuinka and miten are interchangeable with no difference in meaning. So pick your favorite!

Mitä sinä sanoit? (“What did you say?”)

2. The 10 Most Common Questions in Finnish

With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to form endless closed Finnish language questions. In addition, learning the most important question words by heart will be of great help in all of your Finnish interactions. Pretty neat, huh?

Now we’ll focus on the ten most common Finnish conversational questions and answers that you’re bound to use sooner or later.

1 – What’s your name?

You’ve met a Finnish person—wonderful! Let’s get to know them. This is how you ask “What’s your name?” in Finnish, and how you can answer the same question.

  •  Mikä sinun nimesi on? (“What’s your name?”) – Casual
  • Mikä teidän nimenne on? (“What’s your name?”) – Formal

To answer this Finnish question, you could simply state your name. But to give a full answer, say: Minun nimeni on… (“My name is…”). You can also drop the word minun because the possessive suffix in nimeni  already communicates whose name you’re talking about.

    Minun nimeni on Anna. (“My name is Anna.”) 
    Nimeni on Anna. (“[My] name is Anna.”)

 On our website, you can find more handy Finnish phrases to use when introducing yourself.

2 – Where are you from?

Finns will be curious about where you’re from—and perhaps you’re curious about which city your Finnish friend comes from. This question covers both situations:

  • Mistä sinä olet kotoisin? (“Where are you from?”) – Casual
  • Mistä te olette kotoisin? (“Where are you from?”) – Formal

Note: In Finnish language questions, the pronouns are sometimes left out, as the verb already gives information about the pronoun. For example, “Where are you from?” can simply be expressed as Mistä olet kotoisin? or Mistä olette kotoisin?

 You can also be more specific:

  • Mistä maasta (sinä) olet kotoisin? (“Which country are you from?”)
  • Mistä päin Suomea sinä olet kotoisin? (“Which part of Finland are you from?”)
  • Mistä kaupungista sinä olet kotoisin? (“Which city are you from?”)

Answers to the previous questions start with Olen kotoisin… (“I’m from…”). The place (country, region, or city) will usually be in the elative case (-sta/-stä), although the names of some towns may be in the adessive case instead (-lta/-ltä).

    Olen kotoisin Saksasta. (“I’m from Germany.”)
    Olen kotoisin Pohjois-Karjalasta. (“I’m from North Karelia.”)
    Olen kotoisin Tampereelta. (“I’m from Tampere.”)

Mistä maasta sinä olet kotoisin? (“Which country are you from?”)

What about India and Argentina? Learn the Finnish names of some other countries on FinnishPod101.com.

3 – Do you speak Finnish?

Here’s another question you may find yourself asking and answering a lot when meeting new people:

  • Puhutko sinä suomea? (“Do you speak Finnish?”) – Casual
  • Puhutteko te suomea? (“Do you speak Finnish?”) – Formal
  • Puhutko sinä englantia? (“Do you speak English?”)

Remember those tips we covered about answering closed questions? Now’s a good time to review them! Simple answers look like this:

    Kyllä, puhun suomea. (“Yes, I speak Finnish.”)
    Ei, en puhu englantia. (“No, I don’t speak English.”)

These answers indicate how well you speak the language in question:

    Kyllä, mutta vain vähän. (“Yes, but only a little.”)
    Kyllä, jonkin verran. (“Yes, some.”)
    Kyllä, puhun suomea sujuvasti. (“Yes, I speak Finnish fluently.”)
    Kyllä, englanti on äidinkieleni. (“Yes, English is my mother tongue.”)

Look up the Finnish names of thirty-eight different languages with our free vocabulary list

4 – How are you?

Vaihdetaan kuulumisia! (“Let’s exchange news!”) 

When we ask someone how they are in Finnish, we use the verb kuulua (“to be heard”).

  • Mitä sinulle kuuluu? (“How are you?”) – Casual
  • Mitä teille kuuluu? (“How are you?”) – Formal
  • Mitä kuuluu? (“How are you?”)

The typical answer that suits most situations is simply composed of kiitos (“thank you”) and Minulle kuuluu hyvää (“I’m good”). With close friends and family, you can go into more detail!

    ► Kiitos, minulle kuuluu hyvää. (“I’m good, thank you.”)
    Kiitos ihan hyvää. Entä sinulle? (“Pretty good, thank you. What about you?”)

Here’s an alternative way to ask the question:

  • Miten menee? (“How’s it going?”)

    ► Hyvin, kiitos. (“I’m well, thank you.”)
    ► Ei hassummin. Entä sinulla? (“Not bad. How about you?”)

Learn more relevant Finnish phrases, and listen to this audio lesson to learn how to give a vague answer when you don’t feel like sharing!

5 – What do you do for a living?

When talking with someone, work will often come up as a topic. Here are a few different ways you can ask someone about their work or profession:

  • Mikä sinun ammattisi on? (“What’s your profession?”) – Casual
  • Mikä teidän ammattinne on? (“What’s your profession?”) – Formal

Answering this one is easy! Just put together Olen (“I am”) and your profession. For example:

    Olen valokuvaaja. (“I’m a photographer.”)
    Olen myyntiapulainen. (“I’m a sales assistant.”)
  • Mitä (sinä) teet työksesi? (“What do you do for a living?”) – Casual
  • Mitä (te) teette työksenne? (“What do you do for a living?”) – Formal

The answer to this one is also pretty straightforward. Note that the subject in these answers is in the partitive case. 

    Opetan ruotsia. (“I teach Swedish.”)
    Kävelytän koiria. (“I walk dogs.”)
  • Millä alalla (sinä) olet töissä? (“What field do you work in?”) – Casual
  • Millä alalla (te) olette töissä? (“What field do you work in?”) – Formal

Begin your answer with Olen töissä (“I work [in]”) followed by your ala (“field”) in the adessive case.

    Olen töissä muotialalla. (“I work in fashion.”)
    Olen töissä IT-alalla. (“I work in IT.”)

Olen valokuvaaja. (“I’m a photographer.”)

Learn even more Finnish words for different occupations on our website! 

6 – What are your hobbies?

Meet the verb harrastaa. It refers to doing something you’re interested in on a regular basis, usually in your free time. All of that packed into one little word! Think of it as “enjoy something (as a hobby).” (By the way, the word for “a hobby” is harrastus.)

  • Mitä sinä harrastat? (“What do you enjoy as a hobby?”) – Casual
  • Mitä te harrastatte? (“What do you enjoy as a hobby?”) – Formal
  • Mitä harrastuksia sinulla on? (“What hobbies do you have?”) – Casual
  • Mitä harrastuksia teillä on? (“What hobbies do you have?”) – Formal
  • Mitä (sinä) teet vapaa-ajallasi? (“What do you do in your free time?”) – Casual
  • Mitä (te) teette vapaa-ajallanne? (“What do you do in your free time?”) – Formal

To answer any of the above questions, you can use the verb harrastan (“I enjoy as a hobby”) or another verb like pelaan (“I play”), followed by the activity in the partitive case. For example:

    Harrastan kansantanssia ja maalausta. (“I enjoy folk dancing and painting.”)

    Pelaan jääkiekkoa. (“I play ice hockey.”)

Pelaan jääkiekkoa. (“I play ice-hockey.”)

Learn more Finnish words for different hobbies, and ace your pronunciation with the help of the audio recordings.

7 – What time is it?

Imagine that you’ve just landed at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport after a long flight and want to double-check the local time. Or maybe someone just asks you what the time is! No problem. If that happens, you’ll already have learned how to ask and answer questions about time in Finnish.

Note that when talking about the time, Finns say kello (“clock”) instead of aika (“time”).

These three questions are interchangeable:

  • Mitä kello on? (“What time is it?”)
  • Kuinka paljon kello on? (“What time is it?”)
  • Paljonko kello on? (“What time is it?”)

You can begin with Kello on (“The time is”) or Se on (“It is”), but it’s also fine to simply state the time!

    Kello on kymmenen aamulla/illalla. (“It’s ten a.m./p.m.”)
    Kello on tasan kaksitoista. (“It’s exactly twelve o’clock.”)
    Se on puoli neljä. (“It’s half past three.” Literally: “It’s half four.”)
    Se on varttia vaille kuusi. (“It’s a quarter to six.”)
    Viisi minuuttia yli yhdeksän. (“Five minutes past nine.”)

Pay close attention to puoli (“half”) here. While in English, 3:30 is “half past three,” in Finnish it’s puoli neljä (“half four”)!

Here’s more useful Finnish vocabulary related to time, and here’s another list for numbers in Finnish.

Kello on tasan 12 (kaksitoista). (“It’s exactly twelve o’clock.”)

8 – What are you doing? 

Here’s how you can ask somebody what they’re doing in Finnish, and how to answer the question yourself.

  • Mitä sinä teet? (“What are you doing?”) – Casual
  • Mitä te teette? (“What are you doing?”) – Formal or plural

You could answer this with just one word, for example Juoksen (“I’m running”), but your answer will often consist of a verb and an object in the partitive case.

    Opiskelen suomea. (“I’m studying Finnish.”)
    Katson televisiota. (“I’m watching TV.”)
    Syömme aamupalaa. (“We’re eating breakfast.”)

    Suunnittelemme huomista retkeä. (“We’re planning tomorrow’s trip.”)

Syömme aamupalaa. (“We’re having breakfast.”)

 9 – How do you say this in Finnish? 

Can’t remember a word in Finnish? Want to learn a new expression? Here’s how you can ask your Finnish friends to teach you specific words and phrases!

  • Mitä tämä on suomeksi? (“What is this in Finnish?”)
  • Mitä on “parliament” suomeksi? (“What is ‘parliament’ in Finnish?”)
  • Miten sanotaan “it’s complicated” in Finnish? (“How do you say ‘it’s complicated’ in Finnish?”) 

The key words to remember here are on suomeksi (“is in Finnish”). Not complicated at all!

    ► “Parliament” on suomeksi eduskunta. (“‘Parliament’ is ‘eduskuntain Finnish.”)
    ► “It’s complicated” on suomeksi “se on monimutkaista.” (“‘It’s complicated’ is ‘se on monimutkaista’ in Finnish.”)

10 – How much is it? 

If you’re spending any amount of time in Finland, you’ll most likely need to buy (ostaa) something, so it’ll be useful to know how to ask for prices! 

Confusingly, the verb we’re using this time, maksaa, means both “to cost” and “to pay”! To ask “how much,” you can use the words kuinka paljon or mitä or paljonko.

  • Kuinka paljon se maksaa? (“How much does it cost?”)
  • Anteeksi, mitä tämä maksaa? (“Excuse me, what does this cost?”)
  • Paljonko maksaa kuppi kahvia? (“How much does a cup of coffee cost?”)

The phrase you’ll want to memorize is Se maksaa… (“It costs…”). However, it’ll be useful to be aware of a few alternatives too:

    Se maksaa 5 (viisi) euroa. (“It costs 5€.”)
    Se tekee yhteensä 10 (kymmenen) euroa. (“It’s 10€ altogether.”)
    Hinta on 12 (kaksitoista) euroa/päivä. (“The price is 12€/day.”)

Watch this short video on FinnishPod101.com to learn more about the Finnish currency (euro) and how to talk about prices.

Kuinka paljon se maksaa? (“How much is it?”)

3. Conclusion

In this guide, we’ve covered a simple way to turn a statement into a question, the basic Finnish question words, and the ten most common questions you’ll want to memorize before your next Finnish conversation.

To practice, try writing a Finnish question and answer from this article in the comments section. We look forward to seeing how you do! 

We hope you’re feeling more confident asking and answering questions and that you’re just buzzing to go out there and use your skills in real life. Keep practicing—we’ll see you back at FinnishPod101.com soon for another Finnish lesson!

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Start Conversing with 10 Common Finnish Sentence Patterns

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Are you eager to start speaking in Finnish, but worry that you’ll need to tackle a ton of complex grammar rules first? You’ll be glad to hear that the best way to learn a language is actually to jump straight in and start speaking it as soon as possible. And learning the most common Finnish sentence patterns is a great way to start!

Our guide will walk you through the top ten sentence patterns that you’ll be using again and again in everyday conversations with Finns. We’ll be keeping things fairly basic so that you can get started fast!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Finnish Table of Contents
  1. Linking Two Nouns: A is B
  2. Describing Things: A is [Adjective]
  3. Expressing “Want”: I Want (to)…
  4. Expressing “Need”: I Need (to)… / I Have to…
  5. Expressing “Like”: I Like (to)… / I Love (to)…
  6. Confirming That You Can Do Something: I Can…
  7. Stating How You’re Feeling: I Am… / I Feel…
  8. The 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and How
  9. Asking for Permission: Can I…? / Could I…?
  10. Turning a Statement into a Question: Do You…?
  11. Final Thoughts

1. Linking Two Nouns: A is B

Sentence patterns

Here’s a very simple Finnish language sentence structure that allows you to link two nouns. The verb we’re using is olla (“to be”).

  • Matti on ystäväni. (“Matti is my friend.”)
  • Siskoni on insinööri. (“My sister is an engineer.”)
  • Tämä on työpaikkani. (“This is my workplace.”)
  • Helsinki on Suomen pääkaupunki. (“Helsinki is Finland’s capital city.”)
  • Se oli hyvä idea. (“It was a good idea.”)

Notice the use of the possessive suffix -ni in the first three examples. In these examples, the possessive suffix stands for the English word “my.” You can also add the word minun (“my”) and say minun ystäväni (“my friend”), but it isn’t necessary. 

For more about Finnish possessive suffixes, look at the relevant section of this Wikipedia page.To get you started on creating more sentences like those above, take a look at our collection of 100 Finnish core words. And here, you can find how to conjugate the verb olla (“to be”) for even more possibilities.

Helsinki, Finland’s capital

Helsinki on Suomen pääkaupunki. (“Helsinki is Finland’s capital city.”)

2. Describing Things: A is [Adjective]

We’ll stick to the verb olla (“to be”) for now, but this time, we’ll use it with an adjective.

  • Henri on komea. (“Henri is handsome.”)
  • Tämä auto on uusi. (“This car is new.”)
  • Huomisen tapaaminen on erittäin tärkeä. (“Tomorrow’s meeting is extremely important.”)
  • Sinä olet todella ystävällinen. (“You are really friendly.”)
  • Elokuva, jonka katsoimme eilen, oli pelottava. (“The film we watched yesterday was scary.”)

But wait, what if you want to say that A is not B? In that case, you need to inflect the negative particle ei (“no”) and use the present base form of olla (“to be”):

  • Minä en ole kotona. (“I am not home.”)
  • Sinä et ole opiskelija. (“You are not a student.”)
  • Se ei ole totta. (“It’s not true.”)
  • Me emme ole lomalla. (“We are not on holiday.”)
  • Te ette ole nukkumassa. (“You are not sleeping.” – plural or polite singular “you”)
  • He eivät ole valmiita lähtemään. (“They are not ready to go.”)

Why not put together some of your own Finnish phrases and sentences? Get creative using this list of the most common Finnish adjectives!

a large chair, small table, and cactus plant

Minä en ole kotona. (“I am not home.”)

3. Expressing “Want”: I Want (to)…

Whether you’re in a restaurant or at a friend’s place, being able to say what you want in Finnish will come in handy for sure! We’ll use the verb haluta (“to want”), and will cover a direct way (expressed with the indicative mood) and a more polite way (expressed with the conditional mood) to express want:

  • Minä haluan… (“I want…”)
  • Minä haluaisin… (“I would like…”)

Here are some Finnish sentence examples:

  • Minä haluan hernekeittoa. (“I want pea soup.”)
  • Minä haluan nähdä sinut. (“I want to see you.”)
  • Minä haluan tulla mukaan. (“I want to come along.”)

And a few examples using the more polite haluaisin (“I would like”):

  • Minä haluaisin tilata. (“I would like to order.”)
  • Minä haluaisin ehdottaa jotakin. (“I would like to suggest something.”)
  • Minä haluaisin että tulet häihimme. (“I would like you to come to our wedding.”)

Tip: It’s fine to drop the word minä (“I”) in these examples, because it’s already obvious from the conjugation of the verb that you’re talking about yourself.

And of course, it can be equally important to say when you don’t want something! Simply replace haluan (“I want”) with en halua (“I don’t want”).

  • En halua lähteä ulos tänään. (“I don’t want to go out today.”)

Fancy trying some traditional Finnish dishes (besides pea soup)? Learn more about Finnish food in this lesson.

Sentence components

4. Expressing “Need”: I Need (to)… / I Have to…

Being able to say what you need is even more important than being able to express what you want! Just think of how often you end up looking for a bathroom in an unfamiliar city…

We’ll tackle “I need” and “I need to” separately. First, let’s take a look at how to use the verb tarvita (“to need”) with a noun. 

  • Tarvitsen kahvia. (“I need coffee.”)
  • Tarvitsen lisää aikaa. (“I need more time.”)
  • Tarvitsemme parempia ideoita. (“We need better ideas.”)
  • Tarvitsen uuden passin. (“I need a new passport.”)
  • Tarvitsemme vastauksen pian. (“We need an answer soon.”)

In the first three examples, the noun is in the partitive case, and in the last two, the accusative case. (Learn more about Finnish noun cases on Wikipedia.)

Next, we’ll take a look at how to say that you need to do something. It’s a bit more complicated! 

Construct a sentence like this: 

The subject of the sentence in the genitive case, e.g. minun / sinun / meidän (“my” / “your” / “our”) + pitää / täytyy (“have to”) + a verb in the infinitive form.

  • Anteeksi, minun pitää lähteä. (“Sorry, I have to leave.”)
  • Minun pitää käydä vessassa. (“I have to go to the toilet.”)
  • Sinun täytyy tehdä jotakin. (“You have to do something.”)
  • Sinun täytyy harjoitella lisää jos haluat onnistua. (“You have to practice more if you want to succeed.”)
  • Meidän täytyy vain yrittää uudestaan. (“We just have to try again.”)

Not a fan of coffee? Learn words for other drinks in Finnish.

A woman yawning and holding a cup of coffee

Minä tarvitsen kahvia! (“I need coffee!”)

5. Expressing “Like”: I Like (to)… / I Love (to)…

Are you eager to get talking about all the things you enjoy and are passionate about? Then this section is for you!

The verbs we’ll focus on are pitää or tykätä (“to like”) and rakastaa (“to love”).

Let’s take a look at some examples of the Finnish sentence structure using pitää (“to like”) + a noun in the elative case:

  • Minä pidän hänestä. (“I like him/her.”)
  • Minä pidän intialaisesta ruoasta. (“I like Indian food.”)
  • Minä pidän raittiista ilmasta. (“I like fresh air.”)
  • Minä pidän haastavista lautapeleistä. (“I like challenging board games.”)
  • Minä pidän oluesta, mutta juon mieluummin viiniä. (“I like beer, but prefer to drink wine.”)

A common way to express that you like doing something in spoken language is to use the verb tykätä (“to like”) + a verb in the infinitive form:

  • Minä tykkään laittaa ruokaa. (“I like to cook.”)
  • Minä tykkään herätä aikaisin. (“I like to wake up early.”)
  • Minä tykkään poimia marjoja. (“I like picking berries.”)
  • Minä tykkään kuunnella rock-musiikkia. (“I like to listen to rock music.”)
  • Minä tykkään neuloa sukkia lapsilleni. (“I like to knit socks for my children.”)

If you truly love something or want to emphasize just how much you like it, you can use the verb rakastaa (“to love”) + a noun in the partitive case or a verb in the infinitive form:

  • Minä rakastan sinua. (“I love you.”)
  • Minä rakastan perhettäni. (“I love my family.”)
  • Minä rakastan puhua filosofiasta samanhenkisten ihmisten kanssa. (“I love to talk about philosophy with like-minded people.”)

 Dating a Finn? Then you’ll need this lesson on romantic words!

a family eating ice cream at the mall

Minä rakastan perhettäni. (“I love my family.”)

6. Confirming That You Can Do Something: I Can…

A word of warning: Finns are usually very modest and aren’t fans of excessive bragging! However, there are situations in which it’s very useful to be able to state that you can do something.

All of these three verbs mean “can,” but note the slight differences in meaning:

  • Osata (“have the skills to”)
  • Pystyä (“have the ability to”)
  • Voida (“to be willing to”)

Let’s look at some specific examples:

  • Minä osaan uida. (“I can swim.”)
  • Minä osaan puhua suomea. (“I can speak Finnish.”)
  • Minä pystyn siihen! (“I can do it!”)
  • Minä pystyn olemaan hiljaa, jos todella yritän. (“I can be quiet if I really try.”)
  • Minä voin auttaa sinua. (“I can help you.”)
  • Minä voin tulla sinua asemalle vastaan. (“I can come and meet you at the station.”) 

These sports are popular in Finland—can you play any of them?

 7. Stating How You’re Feeling: I Am… / I Feel…

Letting others know how we feel can be really important sometimes! And sometimes, it’s very simple. Just look at these straightforward examples:

  • Minä olen onnellinen. (“I am happy.”)
  • Minä olen surullinen. (“I am sad.”)

However, when talking about how you’re feeling (especially physically), you’ll typically want to use the following sentence structure:

Minulla on (“I have”) + a noun in the nominative case, such as nälkä (“hunger”). 

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Minulla on nälkä. (“I am hungry.”)
  • Minulla on huono olo. (“I am feeling unwell.”)
  • Minulla on ikävä sinua. (“I miss you.”)

Learn more words and phrases to describe how you’re feeling, and prepare for emergencies by learning these important phrases.

a kid holding a fork and knife in his hands at the dinner table

Minulla on nälkä. (“I am hungry.”)

8. The 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and How

Whether you need to ask for directions or want to get to know someone better, learning how to ask questions should be a top priority for anyone learning Finnish! We’ll get you started by covering the most important question words and how to use them.

  • Kuka (“Who”)
  • Mikä / Mitä (“What”)
  • Milloin (“When”)
  • Missä (“Where”)
  • Miksi (“Why”)
  • Miten (“How”)

Note that question words can be singular or plural, and used in different cases—we’ll keep things simple and focus on the most basic ones here. FinnishPod101.com has more relevant lessons on how to use question words that you can check out, though. Why not start with the word “what”?

 Here are the question words we mentioned in action: 

  • Kuka on Suomen presidentti? (“Who is Finland’s president?”)
  • Mikä on hyvä lahja 5-vuotiaalle? (“What is a good gift for a 5-year-old?”)
  • Mitä tämä tarkoittaa? (“What does this mean?”)
  • Milloin pääset töistä? (“When do you get off work?”)
  • Missä haluaisit tavata? (“Where would you like to meet?”)
  • Miksi et tullut juhliimme? (“Why didn’t you come to our party?”)
  • Miten pääsen täältä keskustaan? (“How do I get from here to the city center?”)

To figure out whether to use mikä or mitä (“what”), follow this rule of thumb: Use mikä when the subject is concrete, defined, or countable. Use mitä when the subject is abstract, undefined, or uncountable.Get even more confident in your question-asking skills by learning the top fifteen questions in Finnish with FinnishPod101.com.

a man and woman on bikes looking at a map

Miten pääsen täältä keskustaan? (“How do I get from here to the city center?”)

9. Asking for Permission: Can I…? / Could I…?

Finns appreciate good manners, and knowing how to ask for something politely will always help you make a good first impression. 

The verbs we’re going to use are saada and voida.

  • Saanko…? (“Can I…?”)
  • Saisinko…? (“Could I…?”)
  • Voinko…? (“Can I…?”)
  • Voisinko…? (“Could I…?”)

 Here are a few examples. (Using the equivalent of “could I” is more polite.)

  • Saanko ehdottaa jotakin? (“Can I suggest something?”)
  • Saisinko ruokalistan? (“Could I have the menu?”)
  • Voinko tulla sisään? (“Can I come in?”)
  • Voisinko puhua kanssasi? (“Could I talk with you?”)

 Learn more about manners and the power of “thank you” in Finland on our blog.

10. Turning a Statement into a Question: Do You…?

Here’s a neat trick that you can use to turn a statement sentence in Finnish into a question. First, take a simple sentence like the ones we looked at earlier in this article:

  • Hän on suomalainen. (“He/she is Finnish.”)

Now, switch the verb and the noun around and add -ko or -kö to the verb (use -kö if the verb also contains ä or ö; otherwise, stick to -ko), and your question looks like this:

  • Onko hän suomalainen? (“Is he/she Finnish?”)

Here are a few more examples:

  • Sinä syöt lihaa. (“You eat meat.”) > Syötkö sinä lihaa? (“Do you eat meat?”)
  • Sinä pidät koirista. (“You like dogs.”) > Pidätkö sinä koirista? (“Do you like dogs?”)
  • Hän lukee sanomalehtiä. (“He/she reads newspapers.”) > Lukeeko hän sanomalehtiä? (“Does he/she read newspapers?”)
  • Elina osti leipää. (“Elina bought bread.”) > Ostiko Elina leipää? (“Did Elina buy bread?”)

Who knew Finnish sentence patterns could be this easy? Why not try your hand at forming more questions like the ones above? Look up more common Finnish verbs in FinnishPod101’s guide to the fifty most common Finnish verbs.

11. Final Thoughts

You’ve now learned the ten most useful Finnish sentence patterns, and are hopefully feeling excited about going out there and using them in real life! 

Keep practicing those skills, and do visit FinnishPod101.com anytime to further increase your vocabulary, learn correct pronunciation, and brush up on your grammar!

If you have any questions about this lesson, or if we didn’t cover a sentence pattern you want to know, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments. We’ll do our best to help!

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