Monday, December 7, 2015

Past tenses in Finnish

Here's a post about the past tense and the perfect tense in Finnish.

Imperfekti is used when something happened in the past. Sometimes there is a word expressing when it happened, but not necessarily. (Sorry about the misleading name imperfekti. The action might actually be completed.)

  • ostin eilen uuden auton. - I bought a new car yesterday. 
  • Olin ostamassa uutta autoa, kun äiti soitti minulle. - I was in the middle of buying a new car when my mom called me.
  • Luin kirjaa kunnes nukahdin. - I was reading a book until I fell asleep.

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.

More examples:

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:

About the author of Random Finnish Lesson: 

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.


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!

Random Finnish Lesson / 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?

Unknown said...

I'll call when I've finished this.
I'll call when I've this finished .

Anonymous said...

Mä lähetän sulle kuvan sitten kun mä olen ostanut uuden takin. - I'll send you a picture after I've bought a new jacket.

I'll send you a picture after having new jacket bought

I think this context could more understandable

Laura said...

Hello, am I crazy, or is the use of imperfect and perfect in Finnish the reverse of what it is in most other languages? As I understand, for example, in Russian the imperfect refers to an action without a specific completion. Actions that have been completed (perfected) are in the perfect tense. Of course this is expressed in the verb itself (verb pairs for each action) and not conjugation...French, Spanish, and othe Romances also consider an UNcompleted action as the IMperfect, which is from the Latin. I argue about this with my Finnish friends all the time. Could you maybe shed light on where this reverse understanding comes from? Great site, btw :)