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Finnish for Beginners

Tervetuloa opiskelemaan suomea! (Welcome to studying Finnish!)

Finnish is spoken by almost 4.9 million speakers, and is one of two official languages in Finland, the other being Swedish. There are 250,000 Finns in Sweden speaking Finnish as their mother tongue. Finnish is totally different from English and other Germanic languages as it belongs to the Finno-Ugrian language group. This means that a lot of the vocabulary is different from any other main languages. The nearest related languages to Finnish are Estonian and Hungarian. Finnish is an inflectional language, so if you don't like prepositions it's definitely the language you should study!

Part One

Lesson 1: The Very Basics

Tervehdykset/Greetings

 Hello/Good Day  Hyvää päivää
 Good Morning  Hyvää huomenta
 Good Afternoon  Hyvää iltapäivää
 Good Evening  Hyvää iltaa
 Good Night  Hyvää yötä
 Hi  Hei/Moi/Terve
 Goodbye  Näkemiin
 Bye!  Hei hei/Moi moi

Emergency Words/Phrases

 Yes  Kyllä
 No  Ei
 Yeah  Joo
 Thank you  Kiitos
 You're welcome  Ole/Olkaa* hyvä
 Help!  Auta!/Auttakaa!*
 Do you speak English  Puhutko englantia?/Puhutteko englantia?*

* These boxes refer to the polite/informal and singular/plural person. The informal/singular is first, and the polite/plural is second.

Miscellaneous Phrases

 How are you? Mitä kuuluu?
 I'm fine thank you  Hyvää, kiitos.
 Just fine, thank you  Ihan hyvää
 And you?  Entä sinulle?
 Excuse me/Sorry  Anteeksi
 I don't understand  En ymmärrä
 Speak slowly please!  Puhukaa hitaasti, olkaa hyvä!
 I don't know  En tiedä
 What is this?  Mikä tämä on?

Dialog

Liisa has just bumped into John on the street.

Liisa: Anteeksi! Ai, hyvää päivää, John!
John: Hei, Liisa!
Liisa: Mitä kuuluu?
John: Hyvää, kiitos, entä sinulle?
Liisa: Ihan hyvää, kiitos.

They talk for a while, but John has to get going, and so they say their goodbyes.

John: Näkemiin, Liisa.
Liisa: Hei hei!

Translation:

Liisa: Excuse me! Oh, Hello John!
John: Hi Liisa!
Liisa: How are you?
John: Good, thank you, and yourself?
Liisa: Just fine thanks.

They talk...

John: Goodbye Liisa.
Liisa: Bye!

Exercises (Harjoitellaan)

1)You are talking with Liisa. Try to have a conversation with her! (Sinä is you)

Liisa: Hyvää päivää!
Sinä: a)(say Hello back and ask how she is)
Liisa: Ihan hyvää, kiitos. Entä sinulle?
Sinä: b)(say that you are good, thank you)

Your conversation is coming to a close, and it's late (you've been talking for a very long time!)

Sinä: c)(say Good evening)
Liisa: Näkemiin!
2) How would you say "Do you speak English?" in Finnish? (formal/plural)
3) Someone says "kiitos" to you. How do you reply in the informal/singular?
4) How do you shout "help!" in Finland?
5) You're tired after all this Finnish and you want to go to bed! How do you say "Good night"?

Answers

1) a)Hyvää päivää, mitä kuuluu? b)Hyvää, kiitos. c)Hyvää iltaa.
2) Puhutteko englantia?
3) Ole hyvä!
4) Auta!/Auttakaa!
5) Hyvää yötä.


Lesson 2: Handy things to know!

Numerot / The Numbers

0 - nolla
1 - yksi
2 - kaksi
3 - kolme
4 - neljä
5 - viisi
6 - kuusi
7 - seitsemän
8 - kahdeksan
9 - yhdeksän
10 - kymmenen

To make the `teens` you just add "-toista";

Yksitoista, kaksitoista, kolmetoista.... Until you get to Twenty..

20 - kaksikymmentä
21 - kaksikymmentäyksi
22 - kaksikymmentäkaksi
23 - kaksikymmentäkolme...

30 - kolmekymmentä
40 - neljäkymmentä
50 - viisikymmentä
60 - kuusikymmentä
70 - seitsemänkymmentä
80 - kahdeksankymmentä
90 - yhdeksänkymmentä
100 - sata
101 - satayksi
200 - kaksisataa
300 - kolmesataa
400 - neljäsataa
1,000 - tuhat
2,000 - kaksituhatta
3,000- kolmetuhatta
4,000 - neljätuhatta
10,000 - Kymmenentuhatta
100,000 - satatuhatta
200,000 - kaksisataatuhatta
1,000,000 - miljoona
2,000,000 - kaksi miljoonaa

Fractions

1/2 - puoli
11/2 - puolitoista
21/2 - kaksi ja puoli

The Personal Pronouns

 I Minä
 You  Sinä
 He/She/It  Hän or Se*
 We  Me
 You  Te
 They  He or Ne

*There is no distinction between "he" and "she" in Finnish. Hän is used for people, and Se is for animals or inanimate objects.

Olla-verbi / The Verb "To Be"

 I am Minä olen
 You are  Sinä olet
 She/he/it is  Hän/ Se on
 We are  Me olemme
 You are  Te olette
 They are  Ne ovat

Elative Case

How to say where you are from. (the elative case)

Because Finnish is an agglutinative language (that is, prepositions and other such words are used as suffixes instead of being a separate word as in English), there are many endings to signify the exact meaning of the word. For example, to say "from" or "out of", you use the elative case, which is -sta/stä.
You use the ä according to vowel harmony, but that will be explained later. Iäll indicate those words that need the ä with a (:). For example:

Minä olen englannista.   I am from England.

Nations and their elative case endings:
 Englanti  Englannista
 Suomi  Suomesta
 Saksa  Saksasta
 Ranska  Ranskasta
 Venäjä  Venäjältä (:)

Vocabulary

 Englanti  Englannista  England, from England.
 Suomi  Suomesta  Finland, from Finland
 Saksa  Saksasta  Germany, from Germany
 Ranska  Ranskasta  France, from France
 Venäjä  Venäjältä  Russia, from Russia
 Kiina  Kiinasta  China, from China
 USA (Amerikka)  USA:sta (Amerikasta)  America, from America
 Australia  Australiasta  Australia, from Australia
 Ruotsi  Ruotsista  Sweden, from Sweden
 Espanja  Espanjasta  Spain, from Spain

Harjoitellaan! / Exercises

1) Count from one to ten in Finnish.
2) What number is Kaksikymmentäkolme?
3) How would you say "I am"?
4) Is Ne ovat "you are" or "they are"?
5) How would you say you came from Finland?
6) How would you say "He comes from Russia" (Russia = Venäjä)

Answers

1) yksi, kaksi, kolme, neljä, viisi, kuusi, seitsemän, kahdeksan, yhdeksän, kymmenen.
2) Twenty-three.
3) Minä olen.
4) They are.
5) Minä olen Suomesta.
6) Hän on Venäjältä.


Lesson 3: About Yourself

The Ko/Kö Suffix

When Finns want to ask a question, they usually add the word -ko or -kö to a word. This indicates that it is indeed a question and not just a statement. Intonation is sometimes not enough.
For example:
Oletko sinä englantilainen? Are you English?
And;
Pidätkö sinä kahvista? Do you like coffee?
For now, only note that the words use ko and .

With this knowledge you may want to ask a few questions, here are some examples with some vocabulary.

 Oletko/Oletteko englantilainen?  Are you English? (informal, formal)
 Puhutko/Puhutteko suomea?  Do you speak Finnish?
 Ymmärrätkö/Ymmärrättekö ranskaa?  Do you understand French?
 Kyllä, olen englantilainen.  Yes, I am English.
 Ei, olen skotlantilainen.  No, I am Scottish.
 Ei, olen amerikkalainen  No, I am American.
 Kyllä, puhun.  Yes, I speak (language you were asked)
 Ei, en puhu  No, I don't speak...
 En ymmärrä.  I don't understand.
 Ymmärrän.  I understand.

As you can see, on the negative answers, one answers with "En" in the first person singular. The negative forms of "olla (to be)" are as follows.

 Minä en ole.  I am not.
 Sinä et ole.  You are not.
 Hän/Se ei ole.  S/he/it is not.
 Me emme ole.  We are not.
 Te ette ole.  You are not.
 Ne eivät ole.  They were not.

You may leave out the pronouns as the endings of the verb indicate which pronoun it is: ie, Olen saksalainen I am German, and; with the negative the negative particle indicates it:
En ole I'm not.
Nationalities:

 suomalainen  Finnish, a Finn.
 englantilainen  English, an Englishman/Englishwoman
 amerikkalainen  American, an American.
 espanjalainen  Spanish, a Spaniard.
 saksalainen  German, a German.
 ranskalainen  French, a Frenchman/Frenchwoman
 venäläinen  Russian, a Russian.
 ruotsalainen  Swedish, a Swede.
 eestiläinen/virolainen  Estonian, an Estonian.
 kiinalainen  Chinese, a Chinese man or woman.

The Inessive Case

This is used to indicate where something is, and corresponds to the English "in". It is formed by adding the suffix -ssa/-ssä.

ie: Minä asun Helsingissä. I live in Helsinki.
 Sinä asut Lontoossa. You live in London.
 Hän asuu New Yorkissa. S/he lives in New York.

However, some of the Finnish names don't use -ssa/-ssä but lla/llä. There are no rules set in stone here, and some of the natives get into discussions about it but if you follow what everyone else says you'll be ok! Here's a list of some countries and cities in the inessive form.

 Suomi  Suomessa  Finland, in Finland.
 Helsinki  Helsingissä  Helsinki, in Helsinki.
 Tampere  Tampereella  Tampere, in Tampere.
 Rovaniemi  Rovaniemellä  Rovaniemi, in Rovaniemi
 Jyväskylä  Jyväskylässä  Jyväskylä, in Jyväskylä
 Englanti  Englannissa  England, in England
 Lontoo  Lontoossa  London, in London
 Liverpool  Liverpoolissa  Liverpool, in Liverpool
 Amerikka  Amerikassa  America, in America
 New York  New Yorkissa  New York, in New York
 Ruotsi  Ruotsissa  Sweden, in Sweden
 Tukholma  Tukholmassa  Stockholm, in Stockholm.
Useful verbs to help with this lesson:
   Olla -
  to be
 Asua -
  to live
 Puhua -
  to speak
 Työskennellä -
  to work
 Minä  Olen  Asun  Puhun  Työskentelen
 Sinä  Olet  Asut  Puhut  Työskentelet
 Hän/se  On  Asuu  Puhuu  Työskentelee
 Me  Olemme  Asumme  Puhumme  Työskentelemme
 Te  Olette  Asutte  Puhutte  Työskentelette
 Ne  Ovat  Asuvat  puhuvat  Työskentelevät

Exercises

1) How do you say "He lives in Scotland"?
2) Someone says to you "Ymmärrätkö?" What does it mean?
3) If you answer negatively, what do you say?
4) How do you say "They speak French."?
5) "Asutteko te Espanjassa?" You're currently living in Germany, how do you say "No, I live in Germany?"

Answers

1) Hän asuu Skotlannissa.
2) Do you understand?
3) En ymmärrä.
4) He puhuvat Ranskaa.
5)"En asu Espanjassa, asun Saksassa."


Lesson 4: A little bit of grammar

Vokaaliharmonia - Vowel Harmony

This is a phenomenon within the Finnish language. It means that certain groups of letters do not appear within the same word.
So, the "back vowels" A, O, U do not mix with Ä, Ö, Y.
But, E and I are called neutral vowels and so they can be mixed with both groups. This is why you need two versions of each case ending to match each set of vowels. For example:
Helsinki --> Helsingissä
Lontoo --> Lontoossa
Onko
Pidätkö

Konsonanttivaihtelu/Consonant Changes(Gradation)

Some Finnish words can be classed as 'open' and some are classed as being 'closed'. Those that are 'open' have a syllable ending in a vowel, and those that are closed end in a consonant.
It would be much easier if you just added case endings to the end of a word, but some consonants change if you close a previously open syllable.
This sounds hard, and it is difficult to get used to, but here are some examples to try to make it appear simpler. The main consonant changes are:

 nk-->ng  Helsinki  Helsingissä "in Helsinki"
 nt-->nn  Englanti "England"  Englannissa "In England"
 pp-->p  Kauppa "shop"  Kaupassa "in a shop"
 tt-->t  Ekspertti "expert"  Ekspertin "the expert's"
 k-->0(disappears)  Hakea "to fetch"  Haen "I fetch"
 kk-k  Pankki "bank"  Pankissa "in a bank"
 p-->v  Kylpy "bath"  Kylvyn "of the bath"
 t-->d  Pitää "to like"  Pidän "I like"

Try to think of this as the English equivalent of "stop - stopped" in reverse. Or "shelf - shelves".

Some more complicated changes follow:

K is the worst consonant in Finnish!

  • Between two u's or y's it compresses to v:
             -puku (dress, suit) --> puvun
  • Between other vowel combinations, the k disappears as above in "Hakea--> Haen"
  • If an l or an r, the k either compresses to 0, as in "härkä-->härän"
             -But if it's followed by an e it turns into a "j" "solki-->soljen"

If nasals (m, n, ng) have a p, t or a k to the right of them (ie hinta) the p t or k "copy" the nasal sound. "hinta--> hinnan"
Mp-->mm
Nt--> nn
Nk-->ng

Lastly, apart from t-->d (katu--> kadun), if an l or an r comes before a t, it disappears, ie "kulta-->kullan"

NB: most of these examples were expressed using the genitive (that's the n on the end of the word that indicates possession, equivalent to the English 's)

Exercises

1) What would the genitive of "tyttö" (girl) be?
2) Is "In England" compressed? If so, which letters change, and to what?
3) If "Shop" is "kauppa" and "name" is "nimi" how do you say "Shop's name?"
4) Is "Pidatteko" spelt right? If not, how should you spell it?
5) Can you mix I and E with Ä, Ö, and Y?

Answers

1) Tytön.
2) Yes. Nt-->nn.
3) Kaupan nimi.
4) No, "Pidättekö"
5) Yes, I and E are "neutral", that is they can mix with both A, O, U and Ä,Ö,Y.


Lesson 5: The Plural & The Illative Case

Plurals

The plural in Finnish is fairly simple. There is more than one way of constructing the plural, however. For the first, you simply add "-t" to the end of the word. This is known as the plural nominative.
"Pankki --> Pankit"
"tyttö (girl)--> tytöt"
"kaupunki (town, city)-->kaupungit"
"maa-->maat"

For making plurals with cases...for example "in houses", you need to put an "-i-" in the word.
Talo (house) Talossa (in a/the house) Taloissa (in the houses)
Some examples:

 Tukholman asemilla In Stockholm's stations. (station - asema at a station - asemalla)
 Maissa In countries. (country - maa)

NB:- there is a third way of building the plural, but it includes the partitive. The partitive is extremely important but we will cover it later!

The Illative Case

This case means "to" as in "to London" "to Helsinki" and it's formed by adding on an extra vowel and an "n". For example, Helsinki --> Helsinkiin. There is no consonant gradation with this case, because the syllable is still open; if the ending was "in" as in Helsingin (Helsinki's), the nk changes because the syllable is 'closed', but as there is an extra vowel, The syllable stays open.
Here are some examples:

 Lontoo  Lontooseen  London, to London
 Pankki  Pankkiin  Bank, to the bank
 Turku  Turkuun  Turku, to Turku
 Työ  Työhön  Work, to work
 Joensuu  Joensuuhun  Joensuu, to Joensuu
 New York  New Yorkiin  New York, to New York
 Tokio  Tokioon  Tokyo, to Tokyo
 Oslo  Osloon  Oslo, to Oslo
 Kööpenhamina  Kööpenhaminaan  Copenhagen, to Copenhagen
 Moskova  Moskovaan  Moscow, to Moscow.

As you can see, there are three ways to form this illative case. The most common way is to lengthen the vowel and put an 'n' on the end. However, if you have a word that changes its vowel, like Suomi, Suomen, Suomessa, you include that, (suomeen).
If the word is longer, you add on 'seen'.
Lontooseen
Espooseen
Porvooseen
This ending is also used for words which end in ee, like huone, huoneessa, huoneeseen.

If the word is short, but ends in a double vowel, you add an 'h' before lengthening the vowel and adding 'n'.
Maa, maahan,
Joensuu, Joensuuhun,
Työ, työhön.

Exercises

1) Now that you can say from and to, write out this sentence in "from X to X"- Bank, Shop
2) Do the same with: Shop, street (katu)
3) Do the same with: -car (auto), house (talo)
4) How would you say "Finland's winters" (talvi)?
5) How would you say "America's houses"?

Answers

1) Pankista kauppaan.
2) Kaupasta kadulle.
3) Autosta taloon.
4) Suomen talvet.
5) Amerikan talot.


End Of Part One

This is the end of part one. Now you know the basics you will probably manage to learn more with our other aids. You can continue with part II of this course.

Continue to part II

Thanks for your interest in this course! If you discovered any mistakes or you just want to say something then please let us know . We do need feedback!

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