Wednesday, October 31, 2012

mutta - vaan

What's the difference between these two buts?


  • Laitoin herätyskellon soimaan, mutta nukuin silti pommiin. - I set the alarm clock, but I still slept in.
  • Haluaisin tulla, mutta minulla on kokous samaan aikaan. - I'd like to come, but I have a meeting at the same time.
  • En pääse, mutta olen hengessä mukana. - I cannot make it, but I'll be with you in spirit.  
  • En tilannut pihviä vaan salaatin. - I didn't order a stake but a salad.
  • Ei se ole minun vaan Kallen! - It's not mine but Kalle's!
  • Täällä ei juhlita vaan mennään aikaisin nukkumaan. - Here we don't party but go to sleep early.

So, usually mutta starts an explaining sentence of its own, and vaan gives an alternative, something else instead.  Notice that vaan is also the spoken language form of vain, which means only.

  • Tää on vaan tytöille! - This is only for girls!
  • Miks sä ostit vaan kaks perunaa? - Why did you buy only two potatoes?
  • Joo, ota vaan se tuoli. - Yeah, go ahead and take the chair.
  • Mene vaan. - Just go.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

leikkiä - pelata

Both of these verbs translate to play in English. Leikkiä is usually what small children do, and pelata is something more serious; a sport, a game, something that has some sort of rules.

leikkiä, leikin, leikin, leikkinyt

  • Osaatko pelata Unoa? - Do you know how to play Uno?
  • Pelataan jalkapalloa! - Let's play soccer!
  • Pelatkaa vaikka jotain. - Why don't you play some game.
  • Oletko pelannut tätä aikaisemmin? - Have you played this before?

Sometimes olla is enough:

  • Ollaan kukkulan kuningasta! - Let's play the king of the hill!
  • Ollaan lumisotaa! - Let's have a snow fight!
  • Ollaan jotain muuta. - Let's play something else.

The nouns are leikki and peli.

  • Minulla on leikki kesken! - I'm in the middle of playing!
  • Tämä on hauska peli. - This is a fun game.
  • Mikä peli tämä on? - What's this game?

To play an instrument is soittaa, soitan, soitin, soittanut. A play in a theatre is näytelmä.

  • Soita meille jotain! - Play us something!
  • Toivottavasti tässä näytelmässä on väliaika. - I hope this play has an intermission.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quizlet flashcards

Here's something awesome I found when I was looking for useful links for this blog: Finnish flashcard sets in an online learning tool Quizlet. In addition to Finnish, you can also study other languages and terminology, and create your own flashcards. Some of you have probably been using Quizlet for years, but I just found out about it five minutes ago. Exciting!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Verb type 1

I know foreigners who have absolutely no clue of this amazing system of the verb types and who are still fluent in Finnish and live happy lives. However, if you are an analytical person and like the comfort of being able to place every single Finnish verb into one of the six categories, this one is for you. I have included the four important forms of each verb so that you can analyze the logic of how to conjugate the verbs in persons and how to talk about the past. This one is about the verb type one. I also have posts about verb type 2, verb type 3, verb type 4 and verb type 5.

to live: asua, asun, asuin, asunut
  • Kuinka kauan te olette asuneet täällä? - How long have you been living here?
to say: sanoa, sanon, sanoin, sanonut
  • Mitä sinä sanoit? - What did you say?
to pay/cost: maksaa, maksan, maksoin, maksanut
to ask: kysyä, kysyn, kysyin, kysynyt

The rule? Drop the last vowel of the basic form before adding the personal ending, past tense i or si, or the present participle ending. The basic form has always two vowels in the end. Notice the possible consonant change:

to read: lukea, luen, luin, lukenut (k > nothing)
  • Mitä sinä luet? - What are you reading?
to give: antaa, annan, annoin, antanut (nt > nn)
  • Minä annoin sen sinulle eilen. - I gave it to you yesterday.
to sleep: nukkua, nukun, nukuin, nukkunut (kk > k)
to understand: ymmärtää, ymmärrän, ymmärsin, ymmärtänyt (rt > rr)
  • Vihdoinkin minä ymmärrän tämän! - Finally I understand this!

The consonant change with these verbs means that there is a strong grade  in the basic form and  the 3rd person, and a weak grade in 1st and 2nd persons. Here's the whole conjugation of nukkua:

I sleep = minä nukun                    
You sleep = sinä nukut                      
S/he sleeps = hän nukkuu (se nukkuu)

We sleep = me nukumme (me nukutaan)
You sleep = te nukutte
They sleep =  he nukkuvat (ne nukkuu)

(I'll have a more detailed post about consonant change consonant pairs later. Meanwhile, take a look at these examples.)

Wait.. why does the past tense of ymmärtää have si just like the verb type 4 verbs?  If you have Leila White's Grammar book of Finnish, the rules are on page 190. The stem has a t and two vowels or n, r, or l in front of it. However, there are also exceptions such as antaa and hoitaa.  Here's my top 10 of the verbs to memorize by heart:

  1. to shout, to yell: huutaa, huudan, huusin, huutanut
  2. to fly: lentää, lennän, lensin, lentänyt
  3. to draw: piirtää, piirrän, piirsin, piirtänyt
  4. to find: löytää, löydän, löysin, löytänyt
  5. to know, to feel: tuntea, tunnen, tunsin, tuntenut
  6. to know: tietää, tiedän, tiesin, tiennyt
  7. to build: rakentaa, rakennan, rakensin, rakentanut
  8. to push: työntää, työnnän, työnsin, työntänyt
  9. to move: siirtää, siirrän, siirsin, siirtänyt
  10. to ask for: pyytää, pyydän, pyysin, pyytänyt

Monday, October 15, 2012


Our three-year-old son really, really likes to chew xylitol gum. And he also likes to talk about it. Test yourself and see if you can understand all these purkka-related sentences I collected yesterday! The correct translations are in the comment box.

  1. Saanko minä purkkaa? 
  2. Saisinko minä purkkaa?
  3. Missä purkka on?
  4. Onko meillä purkkaa?
  5. Onko meillä lisää purkkaa?
  6. Ostatko sinä kaupasta lisää purkkaa?
  7. On hankalaa puhua purkka suussa, purkka voi mennä mahaan. 
  8. Minä haluaisin lisää purkkaa.
  9. Mä haluun lisää purkkaa, oikeesti.
  10. Minä tykkään purkasta.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Transitive and intransitive verbs

What's the deal with transitive and intransitive verbs in Finnish?  And what do they mean anyway? Can you tell by the looks which is which? I've always found this topic kind of confusing, so it's good that I was asked to write about it. Here we go.

Basically, all verbs are either transitive or intransitive, depending on whether they can have an object or not. Sometimes different verbs in Finnish look quite similar to each other and therefore cause confusion. However, not all verbs have a transitive or intransitive counterpart. In my opinion, the object rules are kind of insane anyway, so do not to take this transitivity/intransitivity too seriously either. If you are a beginner at Finnish, this post might be a bit too much. For more advanced learners, I hope this will help you!

Transitive verbs can have an object.

  • herättää: Herätä minut kuudelta. - Wake me up at six.
  • kaataa: Voitko kaataa minulle maitoa? - Can you pour me some milk?

Intransitive verbs cannot have an object and there is often an idea of something happening by itself.

  • herätä: Mihin aikaan heräsit? - At what time did you wake up? 
  • kaatua: Voi ei, mun lasi kaatui! - Oh no, my glass tipped over!

Many intransitive verbs end with ua or yä. (You can be creative and try to form new verbs with this ending!)

  • jatkua: Jatkuuko tämä kurssi keväällä? - Will this course continue in the spring?
  • unohtua: Mun avain unohtui kotiin. - My key was forgotten (forgot itself) home.
  • löytyä: Avain löytyi sängyn alta. - The key was found (found itself) under the bed. 

These are the transitive equivalents of the verbs:

  • jatkaa: Jatketaan matkaa! - Let's continue the trip!
  • unohtaa: Mä unohdin mun avaimen kotiin. - I forgot my key home. 
  • löytää: En löytänyt avainta mistään. - I didn't find the key anywhere.

Another common intransitive ending is utua or ytyä. With these verbs, there's often an idea of doing something to yourself.

  • siistiytyä: Minä käyn siistiytymässä. - I'll go and tidy myself up. (Such as check up my make up and change clothes.)
  • käyttäytyä: Muista käyttäytyä! - Remember to behave!
  • heittäytyä: Älä nyt heittäydy hankalaksi! - Oh come on, don't be difficult! (to throw oneself)

Again, these are the transitive equivalents, the ones that are used with an object.

  • siistiä: Voisitko vähän siistiä olohuonetta? - Could you clean up the living room a bit? (siistiä is almost the same as siivota, but maybe not as profound cleaning.)
  • käyttää: Osaatko käyttää sitä? - Do you know how to use it?
  • heittää: Heitä se minulle! - Throw it to me!

If the verb ends with ttaa or ttää, it's usually transitive and needs an object. These verbs often mean to make someone do something or to feel like doing something.

  • sammuttaa: Muista sammuttaa valot. - Remember to turn off the lights.
  • kasvattaa: Aiotteko kasvattaa tomaatteja tänä vuonna? - Are you planning to grow tomatoes this year?
  • pudottaa: Älä pudota sitä! - Don't drop it!
  • pissattaa: Pissattaako sinua? - Do you need to pee?

These are the intransitive counterparts:

  • sammua: Luulin, että ne sammuvat itsestään. - I thought they turn off automatically.
  • kasvaa: Oletpa sinä kasvanut! - My, have you grown!
  • pudota: Taas sinä putosit sängystä! - You fell off the bed again!
  • pissata: Älä pissaa lattialle! - Don't pee on the floor!

If this was useful, you might like this Google Drive document about transitive and intransitive verbs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Moi moi!

For the past couple of days, I've been paying attention to what people actually say when they leave. In addition to Hei hei, Moi moi, Heippa and Moikka, here's what I've heard. Do you have something to add?

  • Soitellaan. - Let's call each other.
  • Viestitellään. - Let's send each other text messages.
  • Ollaan yhteydessä. - Let's be in touch.
  • Huomiseen. - Until tomorrow.
  • Palataan (asiaan). - Let's get back to the topic.
  • Nähdään. - See you! (In spoken language, this turns into Nähää.)
  • Kiitos seurasta. - Thanks for the company.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


The Finnish object is no doubt tricky. If you're struggling with it, you're not alone! I'll try to keep this as simple as possible. Because it's the apple season in Finland, the object in all the sentences is omena.

Kind of weird thing about the object is that new terminology was introduced a few years ago as Iso suomen kielioppi was published. If you search for objekti in the digital version of ISK, you'll find no less than 131 articles about object! Iso suomen kielioppi is an awesome book, but the only problem is that it weights  almost 2,5 kilos so you don't want to carry it around. I'm also using A Grammar book of Finnish by Leila White as a reference.

These are the five different forms of the object:

  • Minä haluan omenan
  • Haluatko maistaa tätä omenaa
  • Syö tämä omena
  • Minä haluan omenoita
  • Kuka söi kaikki omenat?

Here are the translations and explanations:

  • Minä haluan omenan. - I want an apple. (A whole, countable apple.)
  • Haluatko maistaa tätä omenaa? - Do you want to taste (some of) this apple?
  • Syö tämä omena. - Eat this apple. (The whole apple, and the verb is in imperative mood.)
  • Minä haluan omenoita. - I want apples. (A lot of apples, but I don't specify how many.)
  • Kuka söi kaikki omenat? - Who ate all the apples? (All the apples, apples that we know.)

There are two kinds of objects:

Total object: omena (nominative), omenan (genitive), omenat (plural nominative)
Partitive object: omenaa (partitive), omenoita (plural partitive)

If there is a single reason to use the partitive object, then use it. Here are the reasons for a partitive object:

  1. Minä en halua omenaa /omenoita. - I don't want an apple / apples. (The sentence is negative.)
  2. Osta omenoita! - Buy apples! (Indefinite quantity.)
  3. Saako teidän vauvalle antaa omenaa? - Is it ok to give apple to your baby? (The object is also an indefinite quantity, in this case some pureed apple)
  4. Mitä sinä teet? - Syön omenaa ja kuorin omenoita. - What are you doing? -  I'm eating an apple and peeling apples. (The process is not finished.)
  5. Rakastan omenoita! - I love apples! (The sentence has a partitive verb; a verb that requires partitive no matter how illogical it sounds.)
  6. Haluatko maistaa tätä omenaa? - Do you want to taste this apple? (Another partitive verb, but there's also an idea of some apple, an indefinite amount.)
  7. Haluan kolme omenaa. - I want three apples. (Partitive because of the number. Actually, I guess the number kolme is the object and omena is something else, but let's not focus on that. Just remember that you need a singular partitive after numbers bigger than 1.)

Otherwise, use the total object.

  1. Haluan omenan. - I want an apple. (One whole, concrete apple.)
  2. Otetaan nämä omenat ja mennään. - Let's take these apples and go. (Certain, known apples.)
  3. Saanko antaa teidän vauvalle omenan? - Can I give an apple to your baby? (One, concrete apple.)
  4. Kuorin omenat ja lähdin baariin. - I peeled the apples and went to a bar. (All the apples, completed action.)
  5. Pesen omenat. - I'll wash these apples. (All the apples, and I'm planning on finishing the washing.)
  6. Haluatko viedä tämän omenan isoäidille? - Do you wan to take this apple to Granny? (One, concrete apple.)
  7. Haluan yhden omenan. - I want one apple. (Just one.)

Notice that sometimes you have to use the singular nominative instead of the singular genitive!

  1. Syö omena. - Eat an apple. (The verb is in imperative.)
  2. Otetaan tuo omena. - Let's take that apple. (The verb is in passive.)
  3. Onko minun pakko syödä tämä omena? - Do I have to eat this apple? (A sentence expressing necessity.)
  4. Olipa kivaa saada omena tuolta mieheltä! - Wasn't it nice to get an apple from that man! (The sentence has a Hauskaa-structure. Same thing with any adjective.)
  5. Aina on aikaa syödä omena! - There's always time to eat an apple! (The sentence has a Minulla on aikaa -structure.)

However, if there is any reason to use partitive, use partitive. Usually the reason is some or that the verb just happens to be a partitive verb.

  • Ota omenaa! - Take some apple! (Apple is pureed, so an indefinite amount, and therefore partitive even if the verb is in imperative.)
  • Maistetaan tätä omenaa! - Let's taste this apple. (Sure, the verb is in passive, but maistaa is a partitive verb.)

Notice the difference between these plural sentences:

  • Ota omenat mukaan. - Take the apples with you. (We talked about the apples ear
  • lier. We both know which apples we're talking about.)
  • Ota omenoita mukaan. - Take some apples with you. 

  • Syödään omenat ulkona. - Let's eat the apples outside. 
  • Syödään omenoita! - Let's eat some apples!

Tänä omena on meidän puutarhasta. (Ja tässä lauseessa ei ole objektia. )

What about the accusative, then?  According to the new approach to the object in Finnish, there are only seven words that have the accusative case: the personal pronouns and the question word kuka, who, whose accusative is kenet. Accusative is one of the three cases of a total object. (The others were genitive and singular/plural nominative.)

Here are the accusative and partitive forms of the personal pronouns. The shorter ones are the pronouns in spoken language.

  • me                  minut, minua  (mut, mua)
  • you                 sinut, sinua  (sut, sua)
  • him/her           hänet, häntä (se, sitä)
  • us                    meidät, meitä
  • you                 teidät, teitä
  • them               heidät, heitä (ne, niitä) 

The last example sentences of this post!  If these were negative, the pronouns would be in partitive.

  • Vie minut kotiin. - Take me home. 
  • Minä näen sinut. - I see you.
  • Olen tuntenut hänet jo kolme vuotta. - I've known him for three years already.
  • Herättäkää meidät kuudelta. - Wake us up at six.
  • Minä voin heittää teidät. - I can give you a ride. (heittää = to throw)
  • Tapasin heidät viime viikolla. - I met them last week.

Useful posts:


About the author of this blog:  

My name is Hanna Männikkölahti, and I am a native Finn who gives private lessons via Skype and simplifies books into easy Finnish. Please leave a comment, if you have something to ask about Finnish.