An Introduction to Finnish: Lesson 1

If you've never studied a Uralic language before, Finnish might seem a little odd (and a little difficult). However, once you get past the unfamiliar vocabulary, Finnish can be a fun language to speak! Finnish shares a lot of its features with Estonian, and sometimes the languages can look almost identical, so you can also start by taking the Estonian course on this site.

Also, try to note that I am not a native speaker of Finnish. If some mistake has slipped past my attention, by all means correct me!

Anyway, let's get started. In this lesson, we'll start out slow with some basic nouns and the verb is.

The word for it is se.
The word for is is on.

Any memory device about how something is on something else can work for this word. Let's learn one more word so we can make a full sentence:

The word for here (as in, over here) is täällä.

1 translation: It is here.

The word for this is tämä.

2 translation: This is here.

Now, what else can something be?

The word for friend is ystävä.

3 translation: This is a friend.

4 translation: It is a friend.

Now, you might be wondering whether Finnish has articles. It doesn't, but it actually does have a way to distinguish between "a friend" and "the friend". However, it's rather complicated, and if you simply said "ystävä" you would be understood. For now, understand that a noun will be translated as "a (noun)" unless stated otherwise.

Now, what if you want to make a question?

To make a verb into a question (e.g.Does it move? Do you see?), you add either -ko or -kö onto the end of the verb.

If you're wondering "How do you know which one to use?", I'll explain that in the next lesson. (Finnish has a system of vowel harmony, which sounds complicated but isn't.) Now, every verb we're using in this lesson uses the -ko ending.

Also, for asking questions like these, the word order is the same as it is in English. So, when asking "Is it a friend?", the word for is (with ko on the end!) will come before the word for it.

So, how would you ask:

5 translation: Is it a friend?

Or:

6 translation: Is this a friend?

Not difficult at all! Good, now we know "it" - why don't we learn how to say "he" and "she"?

Well, in Finnish, like in Estonian, "he" and "she" are both one word.

The word for he and for she is hän.

7 translation: She

8 translation: He

The great thing about this word is that it eliminates the awkwardness we have in English of constantly having to say "Him or her", or "s/he".

9 translation: She is a friend.

10 translation: Is he here?

While we're at it, why don't we learn two more important words:

The word for and is ja.
The word for also/too is myös.

11 translation: She is a friend and he is a friend, too.

Pretty simple! In the next lesson, we'll get into the first and second person forms, as well as a bit of possession.

Answers to Lesson 1

1 answer: Se on täällä.
2 answer: Tämä on täällä.
3 answer: Tämä on ystävä.
4 answer: Se on ystävä.
5 answer: Onko se ystävä?
6 answer: Onko tämä ystävä?
7 answer: Hän
8 answer: Hän
9 answer: Hän on ystävä.
10 answer: Onko hän täällä?
11 answer: Hän on ystävä ja hän on ystävä, myös.