Sunday, June 7, 2015

Expressing possibility and probability in Finnish

There are several ways to express possibility and probability in Finnish.

Ehkä is maybe, perhaps.

  • tuun ehkä kuudelta. - Maybe I'll come at six.
  • Ehkä se on unohtanut. - Perhaps he has forgotten.

Kai is probably.

  • Niin kai. - I guess so.  
  • Meillä on kai ruotsin sanakoe huomenna. - I suppose we have a Swedish vocabulary quiz tomorrow. 

Kai is also used in the of course meaning in slightly irritated expressions. 

You can also use kai when you hear something positively or negatively amazing.

  • No kai mä nyt sen tiedän! - Well of course I know that!
  • Ei kai! - No way!
  • Totta kai! - Of course!

Varmaan also means probably.

In more official Finnish, use luultavasti.

  • Mun pitäisi varmaan opiskella. - I should probably study.
  • Niin varmaan - I guess so.
  • Hän on luultavasti oikeassa. - He's probably right. 

Varmaan  is actually kind of weird. In a negative sentence, it can be used the same way as varmasti, for sure. I'd say that the meaning depends on the tone of voice.

  • Tuutko sä uimaan? - En mä varmaan tuu. - I probably won't come.
  • Tuutko sä uimaan? - En VARmaan tuu! - Absolutely not!

Then the verbs. Taitaa and saattaa are almost the same. I'd say that taitaa is used when something seems or looks like something, and saattaa expresses the probability.

Taitaa (taidan, taisin, tainnut)

  • Mä taidan nyt lähteä. - I guess I'll be going now. 
  • Tämä taitaa olla rikki. - This seems to be broken. 
  • Mä taisin unohtaa kahvinkeittimen päälle. - I think I left the coffee maker on.
  • Sä taidat olla oikeassa. - I guess you're right.

Saattaa (saatan, saatoin, saattanut)

  • Se saattaa tulla myöhässä. - He might come late.
  • Tämä saattaa olla väärin. - This might be wrong. 
  • Mä saatan olla väärässä. - I might be wrong.

Lue lisää: 

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My name is Hanna Männikkölahti. I am a professional Finnish teacher who gives private online lessons and simplifies books into easy Finnish. Please read more in and follow this blog, if you want to be the first one to know when I post something new. 


Anonymous said...

Can voida also be used like saattaa?

Hanna said...

Almost. I actually forgot the whole 'voida', but I just added it there. 'Voida' also has the idea of being able to do something, physically or mentally. I will edit this post later to make the tiny differences more clear.

Anonymous said...

Varmaan is one of those words that easily lend themselves to sarcasm. Hence the two meanings - even in positive sentences. Use varmaankin for a less colloquial, non-sarcastic (unless very high-brow sarcasm) version.
Some people also say varmana.

Random Finnish Lesson / Hanna Männikkölahti said...

Or "varppina!" :)