An Introduction to Finnish: Lesson 2

Before we begin this lesson, why don’t we do a quick review.

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Well, as long as we know third-person forms, we should get to know first and second.

The word for I is minä.

The word for am is olen.

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It’s important to note that the whole "Minä olen" is only spoken in formal situations - first, you don’t actually need the "minä", because the ending of the word shows that it’s first-person. So, for the rest of these lessons, let’s just use the verb.

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Although we’re not going to use it in these lessons, you’ll commonly hear the phrase "Mä oon". That’s a shortened form of both "minä" and "olen", used to shorten things - like "I’m" in English. But remember, we won’t be using that form here.

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And what about what you are?

The informal word for you is sinä.

The word for you (informal) are is olet.

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"Sinä is only used in informal situations - friends, etc. A good rule of thumb is, if you use the person’s first name, and have talked to them more than a few times, you’re probably using "sinä".

But remember, we don’t need the pronoun! So, how would you now say "you are":

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Speaking on nouns, shouldn’t we know how to say "You are my friend"?

To make a word "My (noun)", you add -ni onto the end of the word.

Yes, more endings to add on. Now, unlike -ko/kö, "ni" can be put on any words. This is because of Finnish’s vowel harmony, which will be explained in the next lesson. For now, just know that those two letters can be put on any word.

So, let’s try it:

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We need a few more nouns to practice with - after all, not everything is your friend!

The word for dog is koira.

My dog is very coy...

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Imagine you’ve lost your dog in the dog park, and she responds to your voice. (Remember the "ko" ending? It’s applied to "are" the same way it is to "is.)

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Just to complete the circle, how about we learn how to say "your" as well. Here’s a hint: It rhymes with "ni", and look at the first letter of the word for "you".

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"Si" can be added onto any word, just like "ni" can. So, let’s say you’re doubting if your best friend really likes you.

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How tragic.

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In fact, since we’re learning the forms of "to be", we should learn verb conjugations in general. This word might help you:

ANT.

Yup, ANT. It helps, because those are the last letters of the infinitive, first, and second cases of a verb.

Almost every infinitive (i.e. to walk, to see) in Finnish ends in "a", or "ä". For example, puhua (to speak), ymmärtää (to understand).

The first-person ending for verbs in "n".

The second-person (informal) ending is "t".

Now, unfortunately, conjugating verbs is usually not so simple as just adding the letter onto the end. I will explain the essential concept of consonant gradation in Lesson 3, along with vowel harmony. For now, let’s use those two words.

In puhua, you simply replace the "a" with the letter of the ending you want. So, how would you say...

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That’s simple enough. Now, "ymmärtää" is a little more complicated. However, if you know the first-person form of a verb, then you can almost always get the other present-tense conjugation forms from it. If you know how to say, "I understand", you can most likely say "You understand."

I understand is ymmärrän.

So...

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Why don’t we learn how to ask, before the lesson is over. If you wanted to ask someone if they understood, you would use the -ko/kö ending. But, in this word, we have to use . Again, you’ll learn why in just a minute.

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That’s certainly enough for now! Good. In the next lesson, I’ll finally explain the concepts behind vowel harmony and consonant gradation, which are essential if you want to speak Finnish. Take a quick break, though.