Are you a beginner in Finnish? Do you want to know what Finnish is like? Here’s a great video for you if want to have an overall picture of what to expect when you start learning Finnish. If you keep this in mind and learn new vocabulary like there’s no tomorrow, you’re off to a great start!

Watch the video below to find out more about Finnish.

Finnish has no articles

There are no definite or indefinite articles. You won’t have to make a difference between indefinite and definite articles like you do in English, for example. Now I hear you ask: How do you know whether someone means dog or the dog when we say Koira haukkuu (that can mean “the dog is barking” or “a dog is barking”)? The answer is that the context is usually enough to give you that information.

Ok, there is one thing that happens in spoken/colloquial Finnish. We often use a demonstrative pronoun (se) in a similar way to indefinite articles. Se koira haukkuu literally means “That dog is barking”, but it’s very common to use se in a way that resembles the use of an indefinite article. In short, se koira could also mean “the dog” in colloquial Finnish. You’ll notice this once you start hearing and understanding spoken Finnish.

Finnish pronouns have no gender

How do we know what gender someone is referring to when they say hän? We don’t, until context reveals it. Does it cause confusion? No, I don’t think so. If gender is relevant in a certain context, then it is usually indicated in some other way.

Endings in the Finnish language

Nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals take endings, which often carry the same meanings as prepositions in English. I’ll give you some very simple examples.

For example, “a house” is talo in Finnish. “In the house” is talossa in Finnish. The ending –ssa (the inessive singular is the grammatical term for this case) means “in” in this context. There needs to be congruence, which means that any adjective that goes with the head noun (talo) has to be in the same case.

“A big house”? Iso talo.

In a big house”? Isossa talossa.

Finnish verbs are conjugated. They, too, take endings. They can change according to the person, tense and mood.

puhua – to speak

minä puhun – I speak

sinä puhut – you speak

hän puhuu – he/she speaks

me puhumme – we speak

te puhutte – you speak (2 or more people)

he puhuvat – they speak

 

Add an to the middle, and you’ve got the past tense:

minä puhuin – I spoke

sinä puhuit – you spoke

hän puhui – he/she spoke

me puhuimme – we spoke

te puhuitte – you spoke

he puhuivat – they spoke

Consonant gradation

When Finnish words go through the conjugation or declension, it may be that the word changes a little bit in the middle. For example, there’s variation in how many k‘s there are in the verb nukkua:

Minä nukun – I sleep

but

hän nukkuu – he/she sleeps

The Finnish vowel harmony

There’s something called the vowel harmony in Finnish. That means that y and u, for example, don’t usually occur in the same word. is a front vowel, whereas is a back vowel. Back vowels like to be in the same word with other back vowels, and front vowels prefer to be with other front vowels. You can watch my video about the Finnish vowel harmony here.

The length of vowels and consonants matter in Finnish

The words tuli (“fire”) and tuuli (“wind”) mean different things, and they should also sound different. The same with kuka (“who”) and kukka. It is completely normal if it takes Finnish learners a while to get used to hearing the difference.

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