Friday, March 11, 2016

Asking something politely 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. 

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Onderweg met Fleur said...

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?

Aulikki Lehkonen said...

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).

Olli Väisälä said...

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

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

"Tulkaapa istumaan."
"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.