Monday, December 7, 2015

Past tenses in Finnish

Here's a post about the past tense and the perfect tense in Finnish. Usually Finnish learners use too much imperfekti in situations where they should use perfekti.

Imperfekti is used when something happened in the past and is now finished. Sometimes there is a word expressing when it happened, but not necessarily. In all these examples, the verb is ostaa, to buy.

  • ostin eilen uuden auton. - I bought a new car yesterday. 

Here's when to use perfekti:

1. When the exact time is not so important:

  • Kalle on ostanut uuden auton. - Kalle has bought a new car. (It doesn't matter or I don't know when it happened.)
  • Joku on ostanut kukkia! - Someone has bought flowers! (I can see that there are flowers on the table.)
  • Oletko koskaan käynyt Lontoossa? - Have you ever been to London?

2.  When the action started in the past and still continues, or at least somehow affects the present time:

  • Mitä sä olet ostanut tällä viikolla? - What have you bought this week? (The week is not over yet.)
  • Kuinka kauan sinä olet opiskellut suomea? - For how long have you studied Finnish?

3. With the future tense:

  • Mä soitan kun olen saanut tämän valmiiksi. - I'll call when I've finished this. 
  • Mä lähetän sulle kuvan sitten kun mä olen ostanut uuden takin. - I'll send you a picture after I've bought a new jacket. 

4. When something hasn't happened, but it is still possible to happen:

  • Mä en ole koskaan ostanut ruokaa netistä. - I've never bought food online (But I might do it some day.)
  • Mä en ole vielä lukenut tätä kirjaa. - I haven't read this book yet.

Here's how to make the NUT form, and here are more examples to demonstrate the difference:

  • Mä asuin Helsingissä viisi vuotta. - I lived in Helsinki for five years. (I don't live there anymore.)
  • Mä olen asunut Helsingissä viisi vuotta. - I have lived in Helsinki for five years. (And I still live here.)

  • Ostitko sä maitoa? - Did you buy milk? (You just came from the store.)
  • Oletko sä koskaan ostanut netistä ruokaa? - Have you ever bought food online? (In general)

  • Missä sä olit eilen? - Where were you yesterday? (Exact time)
  • Missä sä olet ollut? - Where have you been?

  • Mitä sä söit? - What did you eat?
  • Mitä sä olet syönyt? - What have you eaten? (Your face is a mess and I can see that you have definitely eaten something.)

  • en lukenut tätä kirjaa eilen. - I didn't read this book yesterday. (And yesterday is over so obviously I can't read it yesterday anymore.)
  • Mä en ole lukenut tätä kirjaa. - I haven't read this book. (But it is still possible for me to read it.)

Other things that you might be interested in:


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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. Here you can take a look at my available group courses and all my simple Finnish novels. 

5 comments:

bsb said...

Thanks for this. In fact, much of it is very similar to English. eg 'We won the game!' (yesterday) or 'we have won the game' (just now).

Anonymous said...

For some reason, this is one area of Finnish that I've really struggled with. English can be so lazy that even with the example from bsb above, you could exclaim, "we won!" at the exact moment you win rather than "we have won!". I just have to adjust my thinking to decide if time is a factor in the statement or if the action impacts the present or not.

This post has helped me immensely, kiitos paljon!

Hanna Männikkölahti said...

Kiva kuulla! Nice to hear! If you want to practice, you can write more example sentences here and we'll see if they are correct.:)

Anonymous said...

How to say for the meantime.

Unknown said...

Hei kaikille
Mitäs kuuluu ??
Olen Meriem,olen opiskelija,olen opiskellut suomen kieltä jo 7 kuukautta.
Häluaisin kysyä jos mahdollista
Mikä ero välillä uuden auton ja uusi auto ja milloin voin käyttää molempia lauseita?
Kiitos