Finnish language

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Finnish (suomi)

Spoken in

Finland , Sweden , Norway ( Finnmark ), Russia ( Karelia ), Estonia
speaker 6 million


Volga Finnish
Baltic Finnish
  • Finnish
Official status
Official language in Finland
Nordic Council
Recognized minority /
regional language in
Sweden , Finnmark ( Norway ), Karelia ( Russia ), Estonia
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


Finnish (own name suomi  [ ˈsuomi ] or suomen kieli ) belongs to the Baltic Finnish branch of the Finno-Ugric languages , which are one of the two subfamilies of Ural . This makes it distantly related to Hungarian and closely related to Estonian . Along with Swedish, Finnish is one of the two official languages in Finland with around 4.9 million native speakers (89% of the population, in 2015). It is one of the official languages ​​in the EU . In Sweden , where it is spoken by around 300,000 people, Finnish is recognized as an official minority language. There are small Finnish-speaking minorities in northern Norway's Finnmark , the northwestern Russian Republic of Karelia, and in Estonia . Please click to listen!Play

As a Finno-Ugric language, Finnish differs significantly from the Indo-European languages , to which the majority of the languages ​​spoken in Europe belong. However, centuries of language contact has led to a certain approximation of Finnish to the surrounding Indo-European languages in terms of syntax and vocabulary. The peculiarities of the Finnish language include the agglutinating linguistic structure , the large number (15) of cases , a complex morphophonology ( vowel harmony , level change ), the lack of grammatical gender and a lack of consonants.


Finnish belongs to the family of Finno-Ugric languages . While most of the languages ​​spoken in Europe belong to the Indo-European language family, the Finno-Ugric languages, besides Finnish, only include Estonian , Sami and Hungarian , as well as a number of languages ​​spoken in European Russia and Northern Siberia .

The relationship between the various languages ​​belonging to this family can often be demonstrated through the language structure, while the vocabulary sometimes shows few similarities. The original forms of Finnish and Hungarian have been separated for thousands of years, and the relationship is no closer than the relationship between different Indo-European languages ​​such as German and Persian .

The Finno-Ugric languages, together with the small group of Samoyed languages, form the Uralic language family . With the Estonian , the Ischorischen , the Karelian , the Livonian , the Võro , the Wepsischen and Wotischen the Finnish forms the group of Baltic Finnish languages .


Early history

The Uralic languages ​​are traced back by linguists to a common Uralic original language, which first split into the Samoyed and the Finno-Ugric original language. The latter split into the Finno-Permian and the Ugric original language. The original Finno-Permian language produced the earliest forms of Baltic Finnish through further division, from which the Sami language was separated.

The time periods of these development processes, the reconstruction of which is primarily based on the analysis of the vocabulary and linguistic structure of today's languages, can only be determined with great difficulty. However, it is believed that the segregation of the Sami language from early Finnish was not later than 1000 BC. Was completed. Finnish was already in contact with Germanic and Baltic languages in prehistoric times and took numerous loan words from them.

Although the inhabitants of present-day Finland spoke all Finno-Ugric languages, a common Finnish language did not develop until modern times . In the previous period, the inhabitants of Finland were divided into three main tribes, which showed significant differences in language and culture. The population group later referred to as the “real Finns” (varsinaissuomalaiset) lived in the south-west . In this region, immigrants of Germanic origin from Scandinavia mixed with the population and brought many Germanic loanwords with them. In the east lived Karelians and in the forests of the interior, the Hämeer that initially probably not much different from the seeds. The Savo dialect emerged later, but before the Middle Ages, from a mixture of the latter population groups .

Development of the written language

Abckiria , the oldest work in Finnish

The emergence of a uniform Finnish language, especially the written Finnish language, was favored by the Reformation . King Gustav Wasa broke off relations with the Catholic Church in 1524 and ordered the adoption of Lutheran teachings. One of these was to proclaim the word of God in the language of the people. As a result, the pastors began to write down the necessary liturgical texts.

The publication of the first printed texts in Finnish goes back to the work of the later Bishop Mikael Agricola . Martin Luther's student began translating religious texts, especially the New Testament, while still a student . The first printed Finnish book was the "Primer" Abckiria , published no later than 1543 , which was primarily aimed at clergy and contained a catechism . The Finnish translation of the New Testament appeared in 1548.

Agricola created a spelling based on Latin, German and Swedish and laid the foundations for a written Finnish language. He primarily used the dialect spoken in the Turku area , which became the basis of the developing common Finnish language.

From the peasant language to the cultural language

After the creation of a written language, the written use of Finnish remained rudimentary for centuries. From the 16th century, laws were partly written in Finnish, but there was no Finnish-speaking cultural life. In Finland, which belongs to Sweden, Swedish was the language of administration, education and culture.

It was only after Finland came under the rule of the Russian Tsar as the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1809 that Finnish national consciousness began to develop. A movement known as the " Fennomaniac " formed who wanted to develop the Finnish language into a cultural language. In the early 19th century, however, the language still lacked all the prerequisites for this. The grammar had never been systematically recorded and the vocabulary reflected the everyday life of the peasant rural population, but lacked almost all of the vocabulary required for administrative and cultural purposes.

The national epic Kalevala , published by Elias Lönnrot in 1835, reinforced the role of the Finnish language. The activities of the fennomans created a Finnish-language literature and press. Many members of the educated upper class, mostly Swedish speakers, worked on the further development of the Finnish language. In this context, numerous words were created that did not exist in the Finnish language. Following the ideals of the Finnish national movement, the new words of this time were almost without exception not formed from loanwords , but entirely anew, often by modifying old Finnish words.

The establishment of a Finnish-speaking school system, which began in the second half of the 19th century, led to the development of an educated Finnish-speaking population by the turn of the century. By the second decade of the 20th century, Finnish had developed into a full-fledged cultural language that essentially corresponds to today's Finnish.

Spelling and pronunciation

Due to the genesis of the written Finnish language, the Finnish alphabet is identical to that of Swedish. It consists of the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet , supplemented by the special characters å , ä and ö . When sorting alphabetically, e.g. B. in dictionaries, the umlauts are arranged in the order mentioned at the end of the alphabet, not as in German with a and o. The letter w, which is often freely exchanged with the same sounding letter v, especially in older texts, is used in the Sorting mostly not differentiated from the latter. The ü , which occurs in German and Estonian names, is sorted identically to y.

The letters c, q, w, x, z and å do not appear in Finnish words, but sometimes appear in foreign words , especially the å also in the Swedish names that occur frequently in Finland. The letters b and f only appear in loanwords . To some extent, with loan words for the sound [⁠ ʃ ⁠] an S with caron (š) is used. It can be replaced by sh or simply s (e.g. šakki , shakki or sakki "chess"). The voiced equivalent ž, which occurs in geographical names such as Fidži, is even rarer .

Finnish has an almost entirely phonematic orthography ; that is, the assignment of phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters) is clear. Loan words are consistently adapted to the Finnish orthography (e.g. filosofia "philosophy"). The sound value differs from German for the following letters:

Letter Sound value description
e [⁠ ɛ ⁠] always open, but a little more closed than in German if
H [⁠ h ⁠] as German h; also clearly pronounced before consonants
k [⁠ k ⁠] like German k, but bare
O [⁠ ɔ ⁠] always open as in German great
p [⁠ p ⁠] like German p, but not breathed
r [⁠ r ⁠] rolled r (tongue tip r)
s [⁠ s ⁠] always voiceless as in German barrel
t [⁠ t ⁠] like German t, but bare
v [⁠ v ⁠] like German w
y [⁠ y ⁠] like German ü
Ä [⁠ æ ⁠] more open than German, as in English Has
ö [⁠ œ ⁠] always open as in German hell

The letter combinations nk and ng, which are pronounced [ ŋk ] and [ ŋː ], are among the few exceptions to the congruence of letter and sound value . Furthermore, an n that precedes a p is always pronounced as m (e.g. pronounced kumpa in kunpa , but also spoken in haen pallon haem pallon ). After certain types of words, the initial consonant of the following word or part of a word is doubled during pronunciation, for example after words ending in -e ( tervetuloa , pronounced tervettuloa ) or after negative verbs ( en juo maitoa , pronounced en juom maitoa ). The following word begins with a vowel, takes the place of consonant doubling a Glottisverschlusslaut [⁠ ʔ ⁠] .

The difference between long and short sounds plays a central role in Finnish pronunciation. This difference is consistently reflected in the spelling, as long sounds are represented by double letters. This applies to both vowels and consonants ( tuli "fire"; tulli "inch"; tuuli "wind"). The long sounds are usually exactly twice as long as the simple sound. The quality of the vowels is independent of their quantity. Unlike in German, z. B. o always [⁠ ɔ ⁠] speaking, regardless of whether it is long or short. The lengthening of the consonants k, p and t takes place in such a way that the respective locked state is maintained for a short time.

In Finnish, the first syllable of a word is always stressed. In addition, from the third syllable onwards, every second syllable has secondary stress, with the last syllable remaining unstressed. The length of the vowels is independent of the intonation.



Finnish has eight vowels (given in IPA phonetic transcription ):

  front central back
unrounded rounded
closed i y   u
half open ɛ œ   ɔ
open æ   ɑ  

In addition, there are 16 to 18 different diphthongs in Finnish, depending on how they are counted, which are counted as phonemes : ai [ ɑi̯ ], au [ ɑu̯ ], ei [ ɛi̯ ], eu [ ɛu̯ ], ey [ ɛy̯ ], ie [ iɛ̯ ], iu [ iu̯ ], iy [ iy̯ ], oi [ ɔi̯ ], ou [ ɔu̯ ], ui [ ui̯ ], uo [ uɔ̯ ], yi [ yi̯ ], yö [ yœ̯ ], äi [ æi̯ ], äy [ æy̯ ], öi [ œi̯ ] and öy [ œy̯ ]. The diphthong status of ey and iy is ambiguous. In general, a distinction must be made between diphthongs and two-syllable vowel compounds, although the line is not always clear. The au in kaula [ ˈkɑu̯lɑ ] (throat) is a diphthong, but in kulaus [ ˈkulɑus ] (sip) it is a vowel connection.

Finnish has 14 separate consonant phonemes . Another four consonants (bracketed in the table) only occur in loanwords.

  Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosives p , ( b )   t , d       k , ( g ) ʔ
Nasals m   n       ŋ  
Vibrants       r        
Fricatives   ( f ), v   s ( ʃ )     H
Approximants           j    
Lateral       l        

With only 14 consonant phonemes, Finnish is a low-consonant language. In a Finnish text there are an average of 96 consonants for every 100 vowels (for comparison: in German there are 177).

There is no contrast between voiced and unvoiced sounds. The sound [ d ] is the only voiced plosive that has a special role in the phonological system of Finnish. In real Finnish words it occurs only in the internal as a weak level of [ t ]. Historically, it goes back to the fricative [ ð ], which was written as d or dh . When the sound [ ð ] was no longer spoken, the spelling d was retained and, following the Swedish example, [ d ] was pronounced. The sound [ d ] does not appear in any Finnish dialect, there the original sound has either dropped out or has evolved into [ r ], [ l ] or [ j ]. During the time of the language disputes in the 19th and 20th centuries, efforts were made to abandon the letter d as non-Finnish and replace it with a t . However, this school did not succeed.

Traditional Finnish words cannot begin with consonant connections. Older loanwords were adjusted if necessary: ​​With them only the last consonant of the connection is preserved.

  • koulu (school) from Swedish skola
  • ranta (beach) from Swedish beach

In the case of newer loanwords, the consonant connections are retained. However, pronunciation is difficult for some Finns and they only speak the last consonant.

  • stressi (stress) is as Ressi , isolated as tressi spoken
  • professori (professor) is then pronounced rofessori

Only vowels or the consonants -n , -t , -l , -r and -s can appear at the end of a word . Newer loanwords are usually formed by adding an -i (e.g. presidentti "president").

Vowel harmony

Volume diagram to illustrate the Finnish vowel harmony system

The vowel harmony belongs to the central sound laws of Finnish . The rear vowels a , o and u cannot appear within a word together with the front vowels ä , ö and y . Endings and other suffixes are adapted to the vowels contained in the word stem:

  • talo (the house) - talossa (in the house)
  • metsä (the forest) - metsässä (in the forest)

The vowels e and i are neutral and can appear in both groups within a word. If a word only contains neutral vowels, the front vowels are used for the endings:

  • meri (the sea) - meressä (in the sea)

In compound words, the laws of vowel harmony are applied to each word component separately. The vowels of the ending are based on the vowels in the last word component:

  • Pohjanmeri (the North Sea) - Pohjanmeressä (in the North Sea)

Foreign words sometimes contain both leading and trailing vowels. In careless pronunciation, the corresponding back vowels are usually spoken instead of the front vowels. For example, Olympia is spoken by some speakers like Olumpia .

Level change

The consonant k , p and t are in the declination as the conjugation Finnish words a stage change . They occur in a "strong" and a "weak" level. The strong level is in open syllables, that is to say ending in a vowel (e.g. katu "the street") and in front of long vowels and diphthongs (e.g. katuun "in the street"). Otherwise there is the weak level (e.g. kadun "the road").

For the majority of words, the basic form ( nominative for nouns , infinitive for verbs ) is in the strong level. Some words are subject to the reverse level change, in which the basic form is in the weak level and the inflected forms predominantly assume the strong level (e.g. tuote "the product" - tuotteen "the product").

A distinction is made between quantitative and qualitative level changes. With the quantitative level change, double consonants in the weak level are reduced to single ones:

  • kk → k: pankki (the bank) - pankin (the bank)
  • pp → p: oppia (learn) - opin (I learn)
  • tt → t: katto (the roof) - katot (the roofs)

The individual consonants k , p and t as well as numerous consonant connections are affected by the qualitative level change . This type of level change is no longer productive; that is, newer words are no longer affected (cf. katu "the street" -  kadun "the street", but auto "the car" - auton "the car").

  • k → ∅: lukea (read) - luen (I read)
  • p → v: rapu (cancer) - ravun (cancer)
  • t → d: katu (the street) - kadulla (on the street)
  • nk → ng: Helsinki - Helsingissä (in Helsinki)
  • mp → mm: kampa (the comb) - kammat (the combs)
  • lt → ll: valta (power) - vallan (power)
  • nt → nn: antaa (to give) - annan (I give)
  • rt → rr: parta (the beard) - parran (of the beard)

Special cases:

  • hke → hje: rohkenen (I dare) - rohjeta (dare)
  • lke → lje: hylkeen (the seal) - hylje (the seal)
  • rke → rje: särkeä (to break) - särjen (I break)
  • uku → uvu: luku (the number) - luvun (the number)
  • yky → yvy: kyky (the ability) - kyvyn (the ability)


Language structure

Finnish is an agglutinating language. This means that the relationships between the words are expressed using suffixes (suffixes). Many grammatical issues, which in German, as in most Indo-European languages, are analytically identified by individual words, are expressed synthetically in Finnish using suffixes. A single word expanded in this way by a large number of suffixes can contain a great deal of information. One example is the word taloissanikinko , which is derived from the basic form talo (house) and means something like "also in my houses?" The word can be resolved as follows:

talo -i -ssa -ni -kin -ko
House (Plural) in my also (Question)

In contrast to inflected languages ​​like German or Latin , these suffixes are unique, a suffix only fulfills one function and a function is only fulfilled by one suffix. For example, the is Inessive plural taloissa ( "in the houses") by combining the Pluralsuffixes -i and Inessivsuffixes -ssa is generated while in the Latin forms Amici ( "friend" or "friends") and amicorum ( "friends “) The endings -i and -orum denote the same (and not always unambiguous) case and number. An exception in Finnish is that the plural in the nominative and accusative case is marked by -t , in the other cases by -i- .

Example of a participle construction

Finnish words are also linked synthetically in the area of syntax , German subordinate clauses often correspond to compact participle or infinitive constructions, called sentence equivalents. For example, the four words on the photo opposite mean: 1. (The) parking; 2. only; 3. the / a place; 4. For those who have reserved - in other words: "Parking only for those who have reserved a space".

However, Finnish typologically has come closer to the Indo-European languages ​​in many ways. In this way, the sentence correspondences can be replaced by conjunctional subordinate clauses. In contrast to Hungarian or most other agglutinating languages, the attributive adjective in Finnish takes on the same ending as the corresponding noun (cf. Hungarian nagy ház "big house" - nagy házakban "in big houses" with Finnish iso talo - isoissa taloissa ) . Also, the preferred sentence order in Finnish, as in most living Indo-European languages, is subject-verb-object (SVO) and not subject-object-verb (SOV), as is the case with agglutinating languages. Therefore, Finnish does not embody the agglutinating language type in a particularly pure form.


Among the nouns are nouns , adjectives , pronouns and numerals . The declension endings are the same for all nouns. However, they are classified into different types according to the changes the root goes through.

Finnish knows neither indefinite nor definite articles . Talo can mean “the house” or “a house” depending on the context. There is also no gender category . Even at the personal pronouns there is only one word hän for "he" and "she".

Declination types

The Finnish nouns are divided into different types. The endings are the same for all types, but the roots of the words are subject to different changes in declination. In order to be able to decline a noun, one has to know the type; this results in the word stem required for the respective ending. The following are characteristic of the individual types:

  • the nominative (basic form)
  • the vowel stem (most endings like -n, -lle, -ksi are attached to it)
  • the consonant stem (only if the partitive -ta / ta is attached to a consonant)
  • the plural stem

With the declination, the root of the word can be changed by changing the level. For reasons of linguistic history, these changes are not always applied (cf. lasi - lasin "glass" and vuosi - vuoden "year"). There are also some adjectives that are not declined.

Example word Genitive Partitive Sg. Partitive pl. Mark translation
talo talon taloa taloja to -o / ö, -u / y House
ilta illan iltaa iltoja two-syllable on -a, 1st vowel a / e / i Eve
kuuma kuuman kuumaa kuumia two-syllable on -a, 1st vowel o / u hot
omena omenan omenaa omenoita three-syllable to -a / ä Apple
lasi lasin lasia laseja on -i with genitive -in Glass
vuosi vuoden vuotta vuosia on -si year
vuode vuoteen vuodetta vuoteita three-syllable to -e bed
himine heisen eristä erisiä on -nen human
rikas rikkaan rikasta rikkaita on -as / as rich
kiitos kiitoksen kiitosta kiitoksia to -os / ös thanks
puhunut puhuneen puhunutta puhuneita Participles spoken

This table shows examples of some of the most important declination types. All word formations can be derived from the root forms.


There are 15 cases in Finnish . Most of them take on similar functions as the prepositions in German . They are divided into grammatical cases, which are similar in function to German cases, local cases, which designate concrete and abstract local relations, and the marginal cases, which are rarely used in today's language and are mostly replaced by postcodes or prepositions. In addition to the 15 cases, there are 12 other adverbial cases that are only used for a small number of words, e.g. B. the prolative , which expresses the way in which an action is carried out (e.g. postitse by post, kirjeitse by letter).

The cases are formed by adding the case endings to the root of the word. The case endings are uniform regardless of the word type. The endings in the plural basically correspond to those in the singular , with the plural -i- appearing between the root and the ending (e.g. singular talossa , plural taloissa ). The nominative plural is formed by an appended -t ( talot ).

case suffix example translation Explanation
Grammatical case
Nominative - talo the House Basic form; Subject case
Genitive -n talon of the House Affiliation (whose?)
accusative -, -n 1) talon, talo the House Object case
Partitive - (t) a 2) taloa the House Partial object, indefinite quantity; often an object, can also function as the case of the subject
Inner local case
Inessive -ssa 2) talossa in the house in the room (where?)
Elative -sta 2) talosta out of the house from the room (from where?)
Illative -Vn 3) taloon into the house into the room (where to?)
Outer local case
Adessive -lla 2) talolla at home at, on, on or with something (where?, with what?)
ablative -lta 2) talolta away from the house of something (where from?)
Allative -ll talolle to the house towards / towards something (where?); also often corresponds to the German dative
Abstract local case
Essive -na 2) talona as a house State (as what?)
Translative -ksi taloksi to the house (to become or to make) State as a result of a change
Marginal case
Abessive -tta 2) talotta without a house Lack without anything
Instructive -(in taloin by means of houses Manner (by whose means?); usually only in the plural
Comitative - (i) ne- 4) taloinees including (his) houses Belonging (with whom or with what?); is always in the plural

1) The form of the accusative corresponds to the nominative or the genitive in the singular, depending on the syntactic position, in the plural it corresponds to the nominative.
2) These endings are subject to vowel harmony , i.e. H. an
ä can be used instead of the a . 3) doubling the preceding vowel + n; if a word ends in a double vowel, then with monosyllabic words ( maa country, puu tree, wood) a tripling of the vowel is prevented by inserting an h : maahan , puuhun ; For words with multiple syllables, the syllable -seen is added: Porvoo (place in Finland), Porvooseen 4) The comitive requires a possessive suffix for nouns .

adjectives and adverbs

Adjectival attributes come before and congruent with the word they refer to . The comparative is formed with the suffix -mpi ( iso “large” - isompi “larger”), the superlative with the suffix -in ( isoin “the largest”).

Adverbs are formed with the suffix -sti (cf. auto on nopea "the car is fast" - auto ajaa nopeasti "the car drives fast").


In the personal pronouns of the third person, no distinction is made between male (er) and female (she) form, both are hän . Personal pronouns only refer to people. Demonstrative pronouns are used for nonhumans.

person Finnish German
1. Sg. minä I
2nd Sg. sinä you
3rd Sg. han he / she (with people)
1st pl. me we
2nd pl. te her
3rd pl. hey they (in people)

The 2nd person plural Te is used for polite salutation (Siezen) . The Siezen is far less common in Finland than in German. On the other hand, in addition to the Siezen, various impersonal expressions are considered polite. On official occasions, for example, the person you are speaking to is often addressed by their surname (without Mr or Mrs) and in the third person. A direct address is often avoided entirely by choosing impersonal formulations.

The demonstrative pronouns can stand alone or as an attribute. The distinction between humans and non-humans in the 3rd person is made by choosing between personal and demonstrative pronouns.

number Finnish German
Sg. tämä this, this, this
tuo that, that, that
se the, that, the; he it she
Pl. namely this
nuo those
no the; she

The question pronouns are kuka (who) or mikä (what).

The pronouns are declined like the nouns. The personal pronouns have a special ending -t in the accusative ( minut , sinut ).

Possessive suffixes

In contrast to German, ownership is not only indicated by pronouns (mein, dein), but by suffixes attached to the end of the word . In addition to the possessive suffix, the genitive of the personal pronoun can be used. The third person possessive suffixes usually require a reference word. If the subject of the sentence is in the third person and the object belongs to the subject, the reference word is omitted. Example: Hän myi talonsa (He sold his [own] house).

person suffix Example word translation
1. Sg. -ni (minun) taloni my house
2nd Sg. -si (sinun) talosi your house
3rd Sg. -nsa 1) , -Vn 2) tan talonsa his / her house
1st pl. -mme (meidän) talomme our house
2nd pl. - no (teidän) talonne your house
3rd pl. -nsa 1) , -Vn 2) heidän talonsa Your House

1) This ending is subject to vowel harmony , i.e. i.e. instead of the a there can be an ä .
2) Doubling of the preceding vowel + n. This variant occurs in the declination (eg Inessiv hänen talossaan "in his / her house").

The possessive suffixes also appear in postpositions that require a reference word in the genitive.

  • (minun) edessäni (in front of me), (sinun) kanssasi (with you).

In addition, the possessive suffixes in the so-called sentence equivalents can indicate the subject.

  • tultuani (after I came), haluamattasi (without your wanting to).


The formation of the Finnish numerals is based on the basic numbers one to ten: yksi (1), kaksi (2), kolme (3), neljä (4), viisi (5), kuusi (6), seitsemän (7), kahdeksan (8), yhdeksän (9) and kymmenen (10). Whole tens are formed by adding -kymmentä , i.e. kaksikymmentä for "two tens", i.e. twenty. Further numbers over 20 are formed by simply adding the number of ones : kaksikymmentäyksi for twenty-one. The same procedure is used for hundreds, thousands, and so on.

The numbers from 11 to 19 deviate from this system and are formed by adding -toista to the units, i.e. kaksitoista for twelve. Translated directly, this means “two of the second”, i.e. the second number of the second block of ten. In the past, this numbering concept was also followed for higher numbers, so that 35 was read as viisineljättä , ie “five from the fourth”. However, this mode of expression has disappeared from language; they can only be found in older texts (e.g. in the chapter references in the Kalevala ). Similarly, the word for one and a half is formed as "half of the second", puolitoista .

One of the peculiarities of the Finnish numerals is that they are declined like nouns: Kolmesta talosta for "from three houses." This declination affects all parts of numerals made up of several parts:

  • 234 houses: kaksisataakolmekymmentäneljä taloa
  • from 234 houses: kahdestasadastakolmestakymmenestäneljästä talosta

The numerals from two onwards, if they are in the nominative or accusative case, require the partitive singular for the item being counted: yksi auto (one car), kaksi autoa (two cars). In other cases, numerals and counted words are in the same case, but the noun is always in the singular: kahdessa autossa (in two cars).


The Finnish verb has four tenses ( present , imperfect , perfect and pluperfect ), four modes ( indicative , conditional , imperative and potential ), several infinitives and a verbal noun and four participles . The Finnish passive voice is different from the German passive voice and is an impersonal form.

Conjugation types

The Finnish verbs are divided into six types. This division can be refined into different sub-types. The endings are the same for all types, but the word stems are subject to different changes during conjugation. In order to conjugate a verb, one has to know the type; it is required for the respective ending of the word stem. The following are characteristic of the individual types:

  • the infinitive (basic form)
  • the vowel stem (most endings like -n, -t, -mme are attached to it)
  • the consonant stem (for the formation of the participle)
  • the passive trunk (for the formation of impersonals )

In conjugation, the root of the word can be changed by changing the level. For reasons of linguistic history, these changes are not always applied.

Type Example word 1st person Pres. 3rd person Imp. participle Impersonal Imp. Mark translation
1a puhua puhun puhui puhunut puhuttiin to -oa, -ua / yä speak
1b oppia opinion oppi oppinut opittiin to -ea / eä, -ia / iä learn
1c antaa annan antoi antanut annettiin on -aa, 1st vowel a / e / i give
1d johtaa johdan johti johtanut johdettiin on -aa, 1st vowel o / u to lead
2a saada saan sai saanut saatiin long vowel + -da / dä to get
2 B syödä syön söi syönyt syotiin two vowels + -da / dä eat
3 tulla to do tuli tullut tultiin to -la / lä, -na / Na, -ra / rä come
4th haluta haluan halusi halunnut haluttiin to -uta / ytä to wish
5 tarvita tarvitsen tarvitsi tarvinnut tarvittiin to -ita / itä need
6th paeta pack pakeni paennut paettiin to -eta / etä flee

This table shows examples of some of the most important conjugation types. Characteristic are the infinitive (speaking) / 1st person present tense (I speak) / 3rd person past tense ( he spoke) / participle (spoken) / impersonal past tense (one spoke) . All word formations can be derived from these root forms.


Conjugation of the verb puhua (to speak) in the present tense:

person Ending Example word translation
1st Sing. -n (minä) puhun I speak
2nd Sing. -t (sinä) puhut you speak
3rd Sing. -V 1) hän puhuu he / she speaks
1st pl. -mme (me) puhumme We speak
2nd pl. -tte (te) puhutte you talk
3rd pl. -vat 2) hey puhuvat you speak

1) Duplication of the preceding vowel only occurs with short vowels, not with long vowels or diphthongs.
2) This ending is subject to vowel harmony , i.e. i.e. , there can be an ä instead of the a .

The personal pronouns of the first and second person can be omitted , since the person is already clearly identified by the personal ending.


The present tense denotes present or future actions. The past tense (also past tense ) refers to the completed past. It is regularly formed with the tense sign -i- . The endings are the same as in the present tense.

  • puhun (I speak) - puhuin (I spoke)

The perfect tense denotes an action that took place or started in the past, but still has an effect or is important for the present. It largely corresponds to the English present perfect . The past perfect refers to an action that occurred prior to a comparison point in the past. The perfect and past perfect are formed with the auxiliary verb olla (to be) and the past participle.

  • olen puhunut (I spoke), olet puhunut (you spoke).
  • olin puhunut (I had spoken), olit puhunut (you had spoken).

The future tense does not exist in Finnish. Future actions are expressed through the present tense ( menen huomenna "I am going tomorrow", "I will go tomorrow"). In the majority of cases, despite the lack of a future tense, a clear temporal assignment is possible, especially because this is often derived from the case used ( luen kirjaa “I'm (currently) reading a book”, but luen kirjan “I'm going to read a book”). In order to clearly identify the future reference, in recent times a paraphrase with the verb tulla (to come) has sometimes been used in the adoption of concepts of Indo-European languages (tulen menemään huomenna) .


The indicative is the basic mode and is used to represent reality.

  • phew (I speak), phew (you speak).

The conditional expresses hypothetical or conditional actions. It is formed with the mode character -isi- .

  • puhuisin (I would speak / would speak), puhuisit (you would speak / would speak)

The imperative is the form of command. In addition to the imperatives of the 2nd person singular and plural, there are also rarely used imperatives for the 3rd person singular and plural and the 1st person plural in everyday language.

  • phew! (speak!), puhukoon! (he speaks!), puhukaamme! (let's talk!), puhukaa! (speak!), puhukoot! (should they speak!)

The potential denotes a probable, but not certain, action. It is quite rare in today's spoken language. It is formed with the mode character -ne- .

  • puhunen (I speak well), puhunet (you speak well).


In contrast to German and most other Indo-European languages , the Finnish passive voice is not a reversal of the active , but actually an impersonal, which most closely corresponds to German formulations with man . It describes actions in which the person performing the action remains anonymous. The passive voice could be used as a kind of “4. Person ”.

The indicator is of the passive - (t) ta / - (t) TAE . It occurs in all tenses and modes.

  • Present tense: puhutaan (people speak / speak)
  • Past tense : puhuttiin (they spoke / they spoke)
  • Perfect: on puhuttu (it has been spoken / one has spoken)
  • Past perfect : oli puhuttu (it had been spoken / one had spoken)
  • Conditional: puhuttaisiin (it would be spoken / one would speak)
  • Imperative: puhuttakoon! (it is spoken! / one speaks!)
  • Potential: puhuttaneen (it is spoken well / one speaks well)

The intended subject of a passive sentence must always be a person. A German sentence like “A man was killed in the accident” could not be translated into a passive sentence in Finnish, as this would imply that an unnamed person killed the man during the accident.


Finnish verbs have three, four or five infinitives and a verbal noun (the number of infinitives varies in different grammars) , depending on the view . The 1st infinitive ( puhua "to speak") corresponds to the German infinitive and is the basic form of the verb. The remaining infinitives are declined and are used to form numerous temporal, modal, final sentence constructions (e.g. puhuessani “while I speak”, puhumatta “without speaking”, olen puhumaisillani “I'm close to speaking”).

The verbal noun is formed with the suffix -minen and can be declined in all cases. It corresponds to the substantiated infinitive of German ( puhuminen "das Sprechen " , puhumisen "des Speaking".).


There are four participles in Finnish . They exist in two time levels (present tense or at the same time and perfect or premature) as an active and passive form. There is also an agent participle, which replaces the past participle passive when the agent (the acting person) is mentioned.

  • Present active participle : puhuva (speaking)
  • Present participle passive: puhuttava (to speak)
  • Past participle active : puhunut (having spoken - singular), puhuneet (having spoken - plural)
  • Past participle Passive : puhuttu (spoken)
  • Agent participle: puhuma + genitive or possessive suffix (spoken by sb.)


The negative is formed with the special negative verb ei and the non-conjugated verb stem.

  • (minä) en puhu (I don't speak)
  • (sinä) et puhu (you don't speak)
  • hän ei puhu (he doesn't speak)
  • (me) emme puhu (we don't speak)
  • (te) ette puhu (you don't speak)
  • hey eivät puhu (they don't speak)

The negative past tense is formed differently than the affirmative, namely with ei and the past participle active of the verb. The negative perfect and past perfect are formed by negating the auxiliary verb olla .

  • puhuin (I spoke), puhuimme (we spoke) - en puhunut (I did not speak), emme puhuneet (we did not speak).
  • olen puhunut (I spoke), olemme puhuneet (we spoke) - en ole puhunut (I did not speak), emme ole puhuneet (we did not speak).
  • olin puhunut (I had spoken), olimme puhuneet (we had spoken) - en ollut puhunut (I had not spoken), emme olleet puhuneet (we had not spoken)

In the negative imperative, the negative verb is in a special imperative form älä .

  • phew! (speak!), puhukaa! (speak!) - älä puhu! (don't speak!), älkää puhuko! (don't speak!)

To have

There is no word for “to have” in Finnish, instead a construction with the 3rd person singular of olla (to be) and the adessive .

  • minulla on auto (literally "I have a car": "I have a car")


Word order

The usual word order of a Finnish sentence is subject - predicate - object , so Finnish is an SVO language. The word order is in principle free, if not arbitrary, since it expresses nuances of meaning. New information usually appears at the end of the sentence. Compare:

  • Koira puri miestä. - The dog bit the man.
  • Miestä puri koira. - A dog bit the man.
  • Miesta koira puri. - It was the man the dog bit. (and not someone else)
  • Koira miestä puri. - It was a dog that bit the man. (and no other animal)
  • Puri koira miestä. - Yes, the dog bit the man. (in response to a doubt whether the dog bit the man)
  • Puri miestä koira - Yes, a dog bit the man. (as a response to a doubt whether the man was bitten by a dog)


In decision-making questions, the verb is at the beginning of the sentence and is provided with the question particle -ko / -kö . If the question focuses on another word, this is at the beginning of the sentence with the question particle. Question words, on the other hand, are never provided with the question particle in the standard language. The question can also be elliptical .

  • Tuleeko Anna kesällä? - Is Anna coming in summer?
  • Annako tulee kesällä? - Is it Anna coming in summer?
  • Kesälläkö Anna tulee? - Is Anna coming in summer? (or sometime else)
  • Kuka tulee kesällä? Annako? - Who's coming in summer? Anna?

When answering a decision-making question, the German "ja" corresponds to the repetition of the verb, the German "no" corresponds to the negative verb.


The categories of subject and object are less pronounced in Finnish than in German. The subject can be in nominative or partitive stand or even completely absent. The normal case as the subject case is the nominative.

  • Tyttö nahki linnun. - The girl saw a bird.

A partitive subject occurs in the so-called existential clauses (“there is” clauses) when an indefinite amount is designated.

  • Lasissa on maitoa. - There's milk in the glass.
  • Pihalla juoksee poikia. - There are boys running in the yard.

For sentences that express a necessity, the Finnish equivalent of the German subject is in the genitive and is called a dative adverbial because it is semantically a dative. The grammatical subject is the infinitive.

  • Sinun tytyy tehdä se. - You have to do this. (literally: "You are obliged to do this.")

Sentences that have an impersonal “man” or the expletive “es” as a subject in German are without a subject in Finnish.

  • Ulkona sataa. - It's raining outside.


The object can be in the accusative or partitive. The object is always in the partitive when the sentence is negated.

  • Ostin kirjan. (Accusative) - I bought the book.
  • En ostanut kirjaa. (Partial) - I didn't buy the book.

In affirmative sentences, the case choice has two tasks. The accusative expresses a quantitative determinateness, while the partitive is used when an indeterminate or uncountable set is meant.

  • Juon kahvia. (Partial) - I'm drinking coffee. (undetermined amount)
  • Juon kahvin. (Accusative) - I drink the coffee. (= I'll finish this cup of coffee.)

In addition, an aspect difference can be expressed. The accusative expresses a perfect or resultative (completed) and the partitive an imperfective or irresultative (incomplete) action.

  • Bad ampui hirveä. (Partitive) - The man shot the elk.
  • Bad ampui hirven. (Accusative) - The man shot the elk.

Sentence equivalents

The sentence equivalents are compact infinitive or participle constructions that replace a subordinate clause . The infinitive forms are declined and express a temporal, modal or final meaning. The subject of the subordinate clause appears in the genitive or can be added as a possessive suffix.

  • Hän sanoo, että Pekka on sairas. = Hän sanoo pecan olevan sairas. - He says that Pekka is sick. / He says Pekka is sick.
  • Syömme, kun olemme tulleet kotiin. = Syömme tultuamme kotiin. - We eat when we get home.
  • Menin kauppaan, jotta saisin tuoretta maitoa. = Menin kauppaan saadakseni tuoretta maitoa. - I went to the store for fresh milk.
  • Hän lähti ilman että huomasin. = Hän lähti minun huomaamattani. - He left without my noticing.


Word formation

The Finnish language has a complex word formation system that allows numerous different terms to be derived from a single word stem. For example, the following words all come from the same root word: kirja ("book"), kirjain ("letter"), kirjaimisto ("alphabet"), kirje ("letter"), kirjasto ("library"), kirjailija ("writer "), Kirjallisuus (" literature "), kirjoittaa (" write "), kirjoittaja (" author "), kirjoitus (" writing "), kirjallinen (" written "), kirjata (" book "," register "), kirjasin ("Letter", " Print letter"), kirjaamo ("registry"), kirjoitin ("printer"), and kirjuri ("writer").

Many final syllables contribute to word formation, which bring the word stem into a certain context. In the above example, for example, -in a tool, -sto a collection, -uri an object or a person who carries out an activity (in the word stem) and -mo a place where an activity (in the word stem) is carried out . Another frequently used syllable for place names is -la .

Verb suffixes can be used to express numerous shades of meaning, e.g. B. nauraa ("laugh"), naurahtaa ("laugh"), naureskella ("laugh to yourself"), naurattaa ("make you laugh").


In the case of neologisms , independent words are generally preferred to foreign words in Finnish. New terms are often created on the basis of the existing vocabulary (e.g. tietokone , literally “knowledge machine ” = “computer”, puhelin from puhua (to speak) = “telephone”). A state commission (Kielitoimisto) regularly issues recommendations for foreign words to be translated into Finnish today , but these are not of a binding nature. In more recent times, instead of the independent Finnish word creations, direct phonetic adaptations from the respective foreign language have become increasingly common (e.g. the usual skanneri instead of the recommended kuvanlukija , literally “image reader”).


In the Finnish vocabulary, there are borrowings from very different periods of time. The historical linguistics can prove ancient loanwords. The Finnish numeral for “100”, sata , probably comes from an original Indo-Iranian and is related to the Sanskrit word śatam . Also in prehistoric times, since the 1st millennium BC. BC, the ancestors of the Finns had contacts with the Baltic , Germanic and Slavonic people , from whose languages ​​they adopted numerous words. The sound form of these old loanwords has often been better preserved in Finnish than in the original languages. The Finnish kuningas is still practically identical to the Germanic original form * kuningaz , while the word has developed further in today's Germanic languages ​​( German king , English king , Swedish konung or kung ).

Most of the loan words in Finnish come from the Swedish language . Today's Finland belonged to the Kingdom of Sweden from the 12th century until 1809 . During this time and well into the 20th century, the upper class was Swedish-speaking. A large number of loan words from Swedish have been adopted into the Finnish language, e.g. B. kuppi (Swedish kopp “cup”) or the days of the week maanantai , tiistai (Swedish måndag , tisdag ) etc. Also loan translations like the phrase ole hyvä (like Swedish var så god , literally “be so good”) for “please “Are common. Finland's brief affiliation with Russia has left far fewer traces in the language, especially since Russian was never an official language. More recently, loan words from English have been added, albeit to a lesser extent than, for example, in the German language.

Forms of speech

Colloquial language

In Finnish, the written and spoken language differ more significantly than in most other European languages. The differences are both phonetic and grammatical. The written language is used for almost all written texts; Informal messages (e-mails, SMS messages) are an exception. In conversational situations, on the other hand, colloquial language is spoken almost exclusively, except on particularly formal occasions. The colloquial language varies depending on the dialectal background, age and social position of the speaker, but also with one and the same person depending on the situation.

The Finnish slang is essentially based on the Helsinki dialect .

The most important features of colloquial language are:

  • Loud rounding : mä oon instead of minä olen (I am), lukee instead of lukea (read)
  • Use of neuter pronouns of the 3rd person (singular se , plural ne ) also for persons (instead of hän , he )
  • In the 1st and 2nd person the personal pronouns are usually mentioned: mä kuulen instead of kuulen (I hear)
  • Loss of possessive suffixes in favor of the genitive of personal pronouns: mun auto instead of autoni (my car)
  • Differences in conjugation: Replacement of the 1st person plural by the passive construction: me mennään instead of me menemme (we go); Instead of the 3rd person plural, the form of the 3rd person singular is used: autot ajaa instead of autot ajavat (the cars drive)
  • Preferring analytical constructions: sentence equivalents are replaced by subordinate clauses: kun mä olin tullut instead of tultuani (when I came); The rarer cases like the abessive are replaced by prepositions: ilman rahaa instead of rahatta (without money)
  • Abbreviations of words, especially in the informal sector: telkkari instead of televisio (television)


Distribution of dialects in Finland and its neighboring countries (situation before World War II)

The differences between the Finnish dialects are quite small, they differ almost exclusively in their pronunciation. The Finnish dialects are divided into a western and an eastern main group. The classification of the Meänkieli spoken in the northern Swedish Torne valley is controversial. In Finland it is mostly viewed as the Peräpohjola dialect, while in Sweden it is classified as a separate language and is also taught as a written language in schools. The same applies to the spoken in Northern Norway Kvenisch .

Western Finnish dialects (The numbers refer to the adjacent map.)

  1. Southwest Finnish dialects in Varsinais-Suomi and Satakunta
  2. Häme dialects in Häme
  3. South Ostrobothnian dialect in Southern Ostrobothnia
  4. Central and North Ostrobothnian dialects in Central and North Ostrobothnia
  5. Peräpohjola dialects in Lapland , Tornedalen and Finnmark

Eastern Finnish dialects

  1. Savo dialects in Savo , North Karelia , Central Finland , Kainuu , Järviseutu and Koillismaa
  2. Southeast Finnish dialects in South Karelia and on the Karelian Isthmus before World War II

The most important distinguishing feature between western and eastern dialects is the correspondence of the written language d . In the western Finnish dialects the sound is mostly replaced by r or l ( tehrä instead of tehdä ), in the eastern Finnish it is canceled ( tehä ). In the south-west dialects , vowels are often dropped, especially at the end of a word (e.g. snuuks instead of sinuksi ), while vowels are inserted in the eastern dialects (e.g. kolome instead of kolme ). The eastern dialects have palatalized consonants (e.g. vesj instead of vesi ).

Language example

The sample text given is a news report from the daily newspaper Kaleva, published in Oulu , on April 10, 2008 with the original text, IPA phonetic transcription , interlinear translation and German translation:

Turhan aikaisin talvihorroksesta herännyt siili kierteli kajaanilaisen omacotitalon pihamaalla myöhään keskiviikkoiltana.
[ ˈTurhɑn ˈⱭi̯kɑi̯sin ˈTɑlviˌhɔrːɔksɛstɑ ˈHɛrænːyt ˈSiːli ˈKiɛrtɛli ˈKɑjɑːnilɑi̯sɛn ˈƆmɑkɔtiˌtɑlɔm ˈPihɑˌmɑːlːɑ Myœhæːŋ ˈKɛskiviːkːɔˌiltɑnɑ ]
Excessively early Hibernation-off awakened Hedgehog circled Kajaanians Family home Yard-up late Wednesday evening on.
A hedgehog, prematurely awakened from hibernation, roamed the courtyard of a family home in Kajaani late on Wednesday evening .
Sen jälkiä Näkyi marjapensaiden ympärillä. Tuoreessa lumessa jälkiä pystyi seuraamaan.
[ ˈSɛn ˈJælkiæ ˈNækyi ˈMɑrjɑˌpɛnsɑi̯dɛn ˈYmpærilːæ ˈTuɔrɛːsːɑ ˈLumɛsːɑ ˈJælkiæ ˈPystyi̯ ˈSɛu̯rɑːmɑːn ]
Whose Tracks ( part. ) was visible Berry bushes ( gen. ) around. Fresh-in Snow-in Tracks (part.) could consequences.
His tracks could be seen around the berry bushes. You could follow the tracks in the fresh snow.
Siili pyrki koiran häkkiin, josta siilit käyvät usein napsimassa ruoan muruja.
[ ˈSiːli ˈPyrki ˈKɔi̯rɑn ˈHækːiːn ˈJɔstɑ ˈSiːlit ˈKæyvæt ˈUsɛi̯n ˈNɑpsimɑssɑ ˈRuːɑn ˈMurujɑ ]
Hedgehog aspired Dog Cage-in, which-from Hedgehog ( pl. ) go often snap-in Food Crumbs (Part. Pl.)
The hedgehog tried to get into a dog pen, from which the hedgehogs often steal food crumbs.
Siili sewing viipottamassa lehtikompostille päin, jonne se toivottavasti meni takaisin nukkumaan.
[ ˈSiːli ˈNæhtiːn ˈViːpɔtːɑmɑsːɑ ˈLɛhtiˌkɔmpɔstilːɛp ˈPːæi̯n ˈJɔnːɛs ˈSɛ ˈTɔi̯vɔtːɑvɑstim ˈMɛni ˈTɑkɑi̯sin ˈNukːumɑːn ]
Hedgehog was seen waddle-in Deciduous compost too down where it hopefully went back sleep-to.
The hedgehog was seen waddling towards the compost heap, where it was hoped that it would return to sleep.





  • Hillevi Low: Finnish - word for word (Gibberish Volume 15) . 10th edition. Reise Know-How Verlag, Bielefeld 2006, ISBN 3-89416-014-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Finnish  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Category: Finnish  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Finnish  - learning and teaching materials
Wikivoyage: Finnish  - Travel Guide (Finnish)
Commons : Finnish language  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Finnish pronunciation  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ European Commission - Euromosaic: Finnish in Sweden
  2. Euromosaic III (PDF; 4.6 MB) (p. 84)
  3. Tilastokeskus
  4. Antti Iivonen: Suomen fonetiikkaa, Institute of Phonetics at the University of Helsinki.
  5. Lauri Hakulinen: Suomen kielen rakenne yes kehitys. Helsinki 1941.
  6. Panu Mäkinen: Adverbial case. ( Memento from August 13, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  7. Asko Parpola: The Nāsatyas, the Chariot and Proto-Aryan religion. In: Journal of Indological Studies. 16-17, 2004-2005, p. 39 (pdf; 1.3 MB).
  8. Siili heräsi turhan aikaisin Kajaanissa
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on May 19, 2006 in this version .