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Lesson Transcript

Michael: How do you ask for the time in Finnish?
Anni: And how do you tell the time?
Michael: At FinnishPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, during a school break, Sasha Lee asks her classmate Noora Nylund about the time. They don't want to be late for their next class. Sasha asks,
"What time is it?"
Sasha Lee: Mitä kello on?
Sasha Lee: Mitä kello on?
Noora Nylund: Se on varttia yli kolme.
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Sasha Lee: Mitä kello on?
Michael: "What time is it?"
Noora Nylund: Se on varttia yli kolme.
Michael: "It's a quarter past three."

Lesson focus

Michael: Knowing how to ask for the time, as well as how to tell the time, is fundamental when you're learning Finnish. In this lesson, you will learn how to do both. The Finnish word for "time," by the way, is
Anni: aika.
Michael: One important thing you must understand when it comes to telling time in Finnish is that both the 24-hour clock and 12-hour clock are used, with the former being used in formal situations and the latter in less formal ones.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Sasha Lee says "What time is it?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Päivi as Sasha Lee: Mitä kello on?
Michael: Just as in any language, this is the easiest way to ask for time in Finnish. When referring to time as measured in hours and minutes, they use the word
Anni: kello
Michael: which literally means "clock." Now, let's say you're asking for the time for a particular event, like a game, for instance. In that case, you can say something like,
Anni: Mihin aikaan peli alkaa?
Michael: or "What time does the game start?" This time, let's assume that you want to ask a stranger for the time because you don't have a watch and your phone is dead. The most polite way to ask for time in this case is by saying,
Anni: Anteeksi, mutta mitähän kello mahtaa olla?
Michael: or "Excuse me, but I'm wondering what time it is?" Literally this question means "Excuse me, but what time might the clock be?" You can also say something like,
Anni: Anteeksi, tiedättekö mitä kello on?
Michael: which means "Excuse me, do you know what time it is?," or
Anni: Anteeksi, sattuisiko teillä olemaan kelloa?
Michael: "Excuse me, would you happen to have the time?"
[Recall 2]
Michael: Now, let's take a look at our second sentence.
Do you remember how Noora says "It's a quarter past three?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Päivi as Noora Nylund: Se on varttia yli kolme.
Michael: There are several ways to tell the time in Finnish, and this is just one of them. In this case, Noora uses the phrase,
Anni: varttia yli
Michael: which means "a quarter past." An optional way to express the same would be
Anni: viisitoista yli kolme
Michael: or "fifteen past three." Finns also use the expression "half past" for telling time thirty minutes past an hour. This is done with the use of the word,
Anni: puoli
Michael: which means "half." Keep in mind that, when using this expression, you don't say the exact hour, but the hour after it. For instance, if the time is 5:30, you would say,
Anni: Kello on puoli kuusi.
Michael: This is literally "It's half six," meaning there is 30 minutes until it's six o-clock, but we understand it as "It's half past five." You can also express the time by using the 24-hour clock and stating the hour, followed by the minutes. For example, 2:30 PM would be
Anni: neljätoista kolmekymmentä
Michael: which is literally "fourteen and thirty." Finally, you can also use the expressions
Anni: yli
Michael: "past," and
Anni: vaille
Michael: "before," when telling the time in Finnish. If it's 2:05, you can say,
Anni: Kello on viisi yli kaksi.
Michael: or "It's five past two." And, if the time is 9:50, you can say,
Anni: Kello on kymmentä vaille kymmenen.
Michael: or "It's ten before ten." When it's just a few minutes past the hour, you can use the adverb "little" and say:
Anni: Kello on vähän yli kaksi.
Michael: or "It's a little over two." The same goes when it's just a few minutes to the hour:
Anni: Kello on vähän vaille kymmenen.
Michael: or, "It's a little before ten." As you can see, the way to tell time in Finnish is very similar to how it's done in the English language.
Michael: In this lesson, you learned various ways to ask for and tell the time in Finnish. Now, let's look at some examples to memorize what we just learned. Our first example is
Anni: Mitä kello on? Se on varttia yli kolme.
Michael: "What time is it? It's a quarter past three."
Anni: Anteeksi, tiedättekö mitä kello on? Se on viisitoista yli kolme.
Michael: "Excuse me, do you know what time it is? It's fifteen past three."
Anni: Anteeksi, mutta mitähän kello mahtaa olla? Se on puoli kahdeksan.
Michael: "Excuse me, do you know what time it is? It's half past seven."
Michael: In English, AM and PM are often used to indicate what part of the day something is happening. In Finnish, the equivalent of AM is
Anni: aamupäivä
Michael: and PM is
Anni: iltapäivä.
Michael: It's acceptable to use both when telling time in Finnish, although Finns prefer to use also other expressions of time to specify the time of day. For instance, one would say,
Anni: Kello on kahdeksan aamulla.
Michael: or "It's eight in the morning," "It's 8 AM," but
Anni: Kello on kymmenen aamupäivällä.
Michael: "It's ten in the forenoon.," "It's 10 AM." If it's 2 PM, you can say,
Anni: Kello on kaksi iltapäivällä.
Michael: or "It's two in the afternoon." You can also say,
Anni: Kello on kahdeksan illalla.
Michael: or "It's eight o'clock in the evening." Finally, you can use two expressions for telling time early in the morning. For instance, if it's 2 AM, you can say,
Anni: Kello on kaksi yöllä.
Michael: This literally means, "It's two o'clock at night." The word,
Anni: yöllä,
Michael: means "at night." However, Finns would understand it as "It's two in the morning." To be more specific, you can say something like
Anni: Kello on neljä aamuyöllä.
Michael: which means "It's four o'clock in the morning," with the word,
Anni: aamuyö
Michael: meaning "the small hours," referring to the time between 2 AM and 6 AM. Other useful time related words are
Anni: keskipäivä
Michael: or "noon," and
Anni: keskiyö
Michael: "midnight."
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: We've learned that we can string the hour and minutes together to tell time in Finnish. We've also learned that, when doing this, Finns would typically use the 24-hour clock instead of the 12-hour clock. For instance, if it's exactly 8 o'clock, one would say,
Anni: Kahdeksan nolla nolla.
Michael: or "Eight zero zero." Numbers in Finnish can be quite long, and one interesting fact about Finnish numbers is that they are often shortened and modified for more efficient speech. This is only done in colloquial speech, however, and not in formal situations. This is also practiced when telling time. For instance, instead of saying,
Anni: seitsemäntoista kaksikymmentä
Michael: one would say,
Anni: seittemäntoista kakskyt
Michael: or "it's seventeen twenty," which is three syllables shorter.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Anni: Hei hei!
Michael: See you soon!

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