Friday, March 11, 2016

Being polite in Finnish

Voida is a a handy verb to use when you want to be polite. The conditional mode makes you sound even more polite.

  • Voitko auttaa minua? - Can you help me?
  • Voisitko auttaa minua? - Could you help me?
  • Auttaisitko minua? - Would you help me?

Here's how to say the same things in spoken language:

  • Voiksä auttaa mua? 
  • Voisiksä auttaa mua? 
  • Auttaisiksä mua? 

Sometimes I hear students saying Auta minua, ole hyvä or Ole hyvä ja auta minua which are technically correct, but a bit too much and kind of strict. I never use the imperative + ole hyvä construction unless I'm losing my patience with my kids. If you are for example a doctor, you can say things like Ole hyvä ja istu (Please, sit down) but make sure your tone of voice is super friendly. 


3 comments:

  1. If you don't say 'ole hyvä', but only 'istu', that sound very rude to me. But is is polite in Finnish? For example when friends come to my house, I can day 'istu'? Without being rude?

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    Replies
    1. First of all, istu = singular, istukaa = plural.

      Second, there are several ways to soften these expressions, like

      "Tulkaapa istumaan."
      "Istukaahan."
      "istukaa ihmeessä."

      Third, nobody expects foreigners to be so idiomatic, so I think "ole hyvä" is just fine, perhaps slightly more natural if you say:

      "Ole hyvä ja istu" or
      "Olkaa hyvä(t) ja istukaa."

      I might even imagine saying such sentences myself.

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  2. In my spoken language I would say just:
    Hei, voisitko vähän auttaa?

    'hei' ja 'vähän' make the question just a shade more friendly. Also, I think most of us Finns do not say 'mua' (tai 'minua' tai 'minnuu' - I myself never say 'sä' tai 'mua', but that is a matter of dialect).

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