Log in

Okay, this is a tough one. You try talking to Finns and to learn something at the same time, but you feel you can't learn anything because nobody corrects your mistakes. Is it because you don't make any mistakes? Are they afraid to hurt your feelings? Are they just lazy? Let me give you a few insights on the matter, as good as I can.

You've probably asked a few Finns whether they could correct what you say. Maybe they corrected you a little in the beginning. When you're at the very beginning of studying Finnish, you will make a lot of mistakes. At that point of your studies, correcting you would not be very useful. The sentence constructions handed to you by the native Finn will often be too hard for you to master right away. You might ask WHY it should be said that way, and then be annoyed when the Finn shrugs his shoulders and appologizes for not knowing. "IThat's just the way it is," they'll say.

First of all, most Finns are not linguists. They have learned in school what a subject and a verb is, but detached from reality. They've learned the grammatical cases by heart in one specific order (ines, ela, illa, ades, abla, alla), but don't need them in real life. They've learned what the partitive is, but they haven't learned the rules you've been dealing with as a student of Finnish. They don't know why you say "ymmärrän sinua" but "luotan sinuun". Finns don't need to know the grammar, because they can apply its principles by intuition. They don't care about the rules, because they don't need them.

Another thing is that you're in a conversation with this Finn you're talking to. You're not in school learning how to use the translative correctly. The point of a conversation is to understand someone and to be understood yourself. As long as you get your point across, a Finn won't bother correcting your mistakes. Finns make mistakes too while talking. They forget words momentarily, which will be lying on the tip of their tongue but still not come out. They start one sentence and then change their mind and say it in a different way or say something else intirely. There's no point correcting everything that comes out of a person's mouth. The point is to keep the conversation going and conveying the meanings one wants to convey. Finns will focus on the content of your message, not the form. My Finnish boyfriend will leave my mistakes uncorrected all the time. When I realize my mistake myself half a second later and correct it myself, he'll say  "oh, right", but the mistake will have gone right past him while we were just talking. Sometimes he'll have an inkling that what I said was not completely native-like, but won't be able to put his finger on it. It's perfectly normal and you shouldn't be angry about that.

While you learn more and more Finnish, you will make less mistakes. That's the point at which you will, again, ask "your" Finn to correct your mistakes. You probably reasoned that - since you make less mistakes now - it's easier to correct them. And it is, sometimes. But while you get better and better at Finnish, you will also make less obvious mistakes. Mistakes that aren't really mistakes per se. You are using sentence constructions that COULD be correct, for all the Finn might know. He (or she) would probably say it in a different way himself, but your way sounds okay too. Don't ask them how THEY would say the same thing, because they'll be stunned and unable to answer that question too. Language is communication, and therefore it's hard for non-linguists to think of how they would say something without the actual NEED to say the thing in any situation. One thing that might help is if you describe a context for your Finn ("You're in the bus station and a stranger comes up to you and says.... How would you reply when you want to convey this meaning or sentiment?"). Inventing situations that your Finn can really imagine is hard though. And this takes time and might annoy him or her.

I have a friend who makes lots of mistakes. She wants me to correct her Finnish. Since I'm more linguistically inclined, I hear her mistakes, notice them all even when a Finn would focus on the meanings. Yet I rarely correct my friend. We're communicating, conveying meanings. It is not a language test. A conversation is not supposed to be filled with constant corrections and interruptions. Sometimes we'll have a ten minute break from the actual conversation, in which I'll correct EVERY mistake she makes. It's really tiring and I'm not sure she really learns anything from it. I think she's learning much by just talking, making mistakes, listening to my replies, and subconsciously absorbing everything she hears so that she'll make less and less mistakes as time goes by. Her writings I DO correct. Those are a lot easier, because I can stop and make a correction and still not interrupt the story that's coming from the pages she wrote.

So if you want corrections, try writing and handing your text to a Finn instead of talking. Tell them not to correct every mistake, but rather to look for mistakes you make often. Correcting every mistake would depress you, because there's bound to be many. A teacher would know which mistakes you made are the kind you can LEARN from at that point of your studies, a regular Finn won't. So the corrections will be more chaotic, harder to understand and - most of all - you won't get an answer to the neverending "why" that you're constantly confronted with. Go easy on your Finn, don't ask the why's but rather try to come up with the answers yourself, through my website maybe, or with a dictionary, or based on a whole group of mistakes that seem similar to each other. Analyze your own writings as well as you can. When you learn from the mistakes you make while writing, you will also learn to avoid them now and then while talking. That's my two cents of advice :)
The words tämä, tuo and se can be put in the different cases, just like almost any word in Finnish. But how do you use them in the location cases? I'll be talking about the words tässä, täällä, tuossa, tuolla, siinä and siellä in this post!

There are two dimensions to take into account when dealing with these words. One is SIZE, the other is DISTANCE. In other words, these words differ from each other based on the size of the area that we'ra talking about and the distance of the thing we're talking about from the speaker or the listener.

SIZE is the simplest of the two: tässä, tuossa and siinä refer to a small area, täällä, tuolla and siellä to a bigger area.
So you will say for example to your friend sitting on an uncomfortable chair: "Tässä on mukava istua", referring to the soft couch you are using. When you're outside with the same friend, and the two of your are sitting in the park, you could say "Täällä on mukava istua". Then you mean that it's nice to be sitting in this park, a larger place.
Likewise, you will use tuossa to refer to a small area: "Missä on kynäni?" "Se on tuossa, pöydällä." And tuolla will be used for a bigger area: "Missä sinun mummosi asuu?" "Hän asuu tuolla, sinisessä kerrostalossa." If you'd be pointing at one specific window of the apartment building, though, you could say "Hän asuu tuossa." and your friend would know exactly in which apartment your grandma lives.
Another example will demonstrate the use of siinä and siellä. Imagine you're in the living room and your friend is in the bedroom. He yells from the other room whether you know where his watch might be. Then you can say "Etsi makuuhuoneen vaaleanpunaisesta laatikosta. Luulen, että se on siinä." The box you are referring to is a small area, so you are using siinä instead of siellä. When talking about a bigger area, you can use siellä: "Etsi rannekelloasi kylpyhuoneesta! Luulen, että se on siellä."

DISTANCE is a little more tricky, because people and things are constantly moving. A thing that is tuolla during one moment, will be täällä a little later. Tässä and täällä are used for things that are in your immediate surroundings. "Tässä on mukava istua." (on the couch) and "Täällä on mukava istua." (in the park) were used for a situation where the couch and the park were in your close surroundings. "Kynä on tuossa." and "Hän asuu tuolla." were used for things you could point at, but  not touch. They were within the edge of your vision, but not touchable. "Rannekellosi on siinä." (on the table) and "Rannekellosi on siellä." (in the bathroom) were two examples where the place you were referring to was somwhere outside your line of vision. You could not see the place or item, not touch it nor point at it.

Tässä: small area, close-by
Täällä: bigger area, close-by
Tuossa: small area, close enough so you can point but not touch it
Tuolla: bigger area, close enough so you can point but not touch it
Siinä: small area, you can't see it nor touch it
Siellä: bigger area, you can't see it nor touch it

For the ones who thought this was easy: next there's a list of these words in the location cases! I suggest that you DON'T learn these yet IF the previous explanation was new to you. Practise the missä-form which was given above during a few weeks, until it becomes natural to you, and then move on to the other location cases. I could write a second post for those to remind you at that point ;)
tässä - tästä - tähän
tuossa - tuosta - tuohon
siinä - siitä - siihen
täällä - täältä - tänne
tuolla - tuolta - tuonne
siellä - sieltä - sinne


The verb "pitää" has many meanings. Here's the ones that came to mind the first:

1. Pitää + mistä
Minä pidän sinusta. = I like you.
Me pidämme suklaajäätelöstä. = We like chocolate ice cream.

2. Pitää kiinni + mistä
Pidä minusta kiinni! = Take/keep hold of me!
Minä pidän hänestä kiinni. = I keep hold of him.

3. Pitää + partitiivi
Minä pidän talvella kaulaliinaa. = I wear a scarf in winter.
Kotona pidän aina tossuja. = I always wear slippers as home.

4. Genetive + pitää
Minun pitää lähteä nyt. = I have to leave now.
Sinun pitää levätä paljon. = You have to rest a lot.

5. Pitää + partitive + essive
Pidän häntä hyvänä ystävänä. = I consider him a good neighbour.
Pidämme sitä itsestäänselvyytenä. = We consider it to be self-evident.

The point of this list is not to give you a list to learn by heart. It doesn't really work that way. If you're a beginner, you will need 1 and 4 the most, and you can for the moment forget the rest. If you're a bit more advanced, you should probably read these attentive and realize that pitää kan mean many things in different situations. What those meanings exactly are is something you learn little by little. It takes a while to get used to all these meanings, I guess, but once you do, they will seem obvious :) Patience, young grasshopper!


Any ideas what I could write about here? Seems I ran out of ideas :p


I'll be in France until the 11th of May so no new updates for a little while!

While I'm gone, have some fun figuring out what grammar mistakes are in this picture.

Professions, verbs and places

For the beginners among you!

An easy way to expand your vocabulary is to learn words that have been formed from the same stem. My students always have lots of fun learning who does what profession where, because that's an area where you have lots of similar words.

Kampaaja kampaa kammalla ('with a comb') kampaamossa.
Ompelija ompelee ompelimossa.
Leipuri leipoo leipää leipomossa.
Tarjoilija tarjoilee ruokaa asiakkaalle.
Lastenhoitaja hoitaa lasta.
Sairaanhoitaja hoitaa sairasta sairaalassa
Lentäjä lentää lentokonetta.
Maanviljelijä viljelee maata maalla.
Myyjä myy myymälässä.
Opettaja opettaa.
Opiskelija opiskelee.
Siivooja siivoaa.
Vartija vartioi.
Tanssija tanssii.
Laulaja laulaa.
Urheilija urheilee.

Comment and get corrections!

So is the difference between missä and millä clear to you guys?
Think for a second then:

How do you say the following things in Finnish:
1. The lamp is on the ceiling and the bird is on the roof.
2. My watch is on my wrist.
3.  I have a hat on my head.
4. The painting is on the wall.
5. I travel by train. I sit in a train.
6. I'm at the bus stop.
7. I will be the in an hour.
8. My noseis bloody.
9. Let's meet at the school.
10. In a year there are 365 days.
11. In winter I skate, but this winter I don't.
12. I live in this country.
13. I live on the country side.
14. I live in Tampere and you live in Helsinki.

Numbers :)

I'm sure you can count to 30 by now, but can you say you're waiting for bus xx? There's two ways to do this, one simple one and a difficult one. The difficult one is used more than the simple one here in Tampere.

"Odotan bussia yksitoista." (I wait for bus 11)
-> Here you just put the "bussi" in the partitive (because odottaa is a partitive verb) and add the number in its basic form behind it.
"Matkustin bussilla yksitoista." (I traveled with bus 11)
-> Here you put the "bussi" in the allative (-lla) and add the number in its basic form behind it.

Complicated: get rid of the word "bussi" altogether and add the cases to the numbers themselves!
1. Odotan ykköstä. Matkustin ykkösellä.
2. Odotan kakkosta. Matkustin kakkosella.
3. Odotan kolmosta. Matkustin kolmosella.
4. Odotan nelosta. Matkustin nelosella.
5. Odotan vitosta (viitosta). Matkustin vitosella (viitosella).
6. Odotan kutosta (kuutosta). Matkustin kutosella (kuutosella).
7. Odotan seiskaa. Matkustin seiskalla.
8. Odotan kasia. Matkustin kasilla.
9. Odotan ysiä. Matkustin ysillä.
10. Odotan kymppiä. Matkustin kympillä.
11. Odotan yhtätoista. Matkustin yhellätoista (yhdellätoista).
12. Odotan kahtatoista. Matkustin kahellatoista (kahdellatoista).
13. Odotan kolmeatoista. Matkustin kolmellatoista.
14. Odotan neljäätoista. Matkustin neljällätoista.
15. Odotan viittätoista. Matkustin viidellätoista.
16. Odotan kuuttatoista. Matkustin kuudellatoista.
17. Odotan seittemäätoista (seitsemäätoista). Matkustin seittemällätoista (seitsemällätoista).
18. Odotan kahdeksaatoista (kahdeksaatoista). Matkustin kaheksallatoista (kahdeksallatoista).
19. Odotan yheksäätoista (yhdeksäätoista). Matkustin yheksällätoista (yhdeksällätoista).
20. Odotan kahtakymppiä. Matkustin kahellakympillä (kahdellakympillä).
21. Odotan kaksykköstä. Matkustin kaksykkösellä.
22. Odotan kakskakkosta. Matkustin kakskakkosella.
23. Odotan kakskolmosta. Matkustin kakskolmosella.
24. Odotan kaksnelosta. Matkustin kaksnelosella.
25. Odotan kaksvitosta (kaksviitosta). Matkustin kaksivitosella (kaksviitosella).
26. Odotan kakskutosta (kakskuutosta). Matkustin kakskutosella (kakskuutosella).
27. Odotan kaksseiskaa. Matkustin kaksseiskalla.
28. Odotan kakskasia. Matkustin kakskasilla.
29. Odotan kaksysiä. Matkustin kaksysillä.
30. Odotan kolmeakymppiä. Matkustin kolmellakympillä.
40. Odotan neljääkymppiä. Matkustin neljälläkympillä
50. Odotan viiskymppiä. Matkustin viiskympillä.

To some of you, the ones living in Finland, these might seem perfectly natural. But try covering some up and inventing the forms yourself! I can't be the only one who keeps getting them wrong. These are based on the language ear of ONE Finn, so if YOUR Finn uses a different form, let me know! I'd love to know if there are other variations to these forms.

A few more rections

Let's discuss some more rections that deal with the choice between -sta and -lta! It's confusing when two possiblities are present, but the choice between either is usually pretty simple. You just need to see the logic. Here's my explanation for the verbs "to search" and "to find".

1. Etsin pyörää monesta kaupasta. Löysin pyörän torilta.
Etsiä (to search) and löytää (to find) are verbs that can require TWO rections. There's the THING you search/find and the PLACE you search/find it. The thing you search will be put in the partitive ( for etsiä) or the genetive/accusative (for löytää), while the place for BOTH VERBS will be put in the elative (-sta) or the ablative (-lta).

Etsiä goes with partitive: "Etsimme lompakkoa." The reason for this is that searching is not an action that has a clear ending point. For verbs like etsiä that describe more of a process than an action to be completed, you use the partitive. Löytää is different, because it describes an action with a clear ending. "Löydän pyörän." (The finding of something is always an action with a clear action point: once you find it, the action is over) but "Etsin pyörää." (the searching has no fixed ending, you can either find the bike, or not). In this post I am not talking in detail about what to say when you're searching/finding MULTIPLE things, but let it be said that you will either use the T-plural or the plural partitive in that case. This could be the subject of another post, if anyone is interested!

The second possible rection for both etsiä and löytää is the -sta or -lta case. You search/find you wallet FROM a certain place in Finnish. Usually, you will use the elative (-sta): "Etsin kynää taskustani.", "Löysimme parkkipaikan kaupungista." or "Olen etsinyt mp3-soitintani joka paikasta!". The ablative (-lta) will be used for certain places that just as a rule always have the ablative: "Etsin rannekelloani asemalta", "Löysin kolikoita kadulta." You will also use the ablative (-lta) for situations where you find something of the TOP of something: "Etsin lompakkoani pöydältä" (the top of the table), "Etsin rahaa lattialta."(the "top" of the floor :p), "Etsimme katolta lintuja." (the top of the roof).

Comments and requests for future posts are always welcome!

A little bit about rections

Rections. Rektiot in Finnish. It's a word not many Finns know. But most students learning Finnish know it. Rections is what we call the situations where a word requires that a word attached to it is put in a specific case. A bit like how you in English need to know what preposition to use (to/from/on/about/etc).

There are easy rections, that are taught to foreigners almost right away. A few examples of those:
Rakastan sinua. Tykkään sinusta. Tutustun sinuun. Soitan sinulle. Otan sinulta.

There are rections you don't learn right in the beginning. The problem is that there are MILLIONS of them. The list is neverending and you will need to keep studying more Finnish rections pretty much forever. There are some books on the market that have lists with rections and examples. The nicest one is probably "Tarkista tästä" (by Jönsson-Korhola Hannele). I suggest to most students to buy it, but warn them that HAVING the book doesn't always help. You need to USE it too. It's nice to have it stand on your book shelf, but if you never take it out, you will not have much use for it. Seriously, lots of people buy in and then never use it. I'm not sure why, because it's a very easy to use book.

My website has a page with verb rections and one with adjective rections. They're useful, but I fear nobody really ever looks at those pages. They're somehow a little chaotic. Hard to avoid that... Here's an explanation for the first verb mentioned on the verb rection page:

Ostan ruokaa Lidlistä. Ostan kalaa torilta.
You buy things FROM a place, both in English and in Finnish. Still, in Finnish you have two possibilities to express "from": -sta and -lta. The first one is the regular one, the one you will use the most often. The -lta is only used for some specific places. Those places get -lla, -lta and -lle in most situations, instead of -ssa, sta or the regular mihin form. Just like you say "He ovat torilla, rautatieasemalla ja bussipysäkillä", using the -lla case, you say "Ostan omenan torilta, rautatieasemalta ja bussipysäkiltä". These words are just the kind you'll have to learn by heart, because there isn't really a rule. I've mentioned to some of my more desperate students that the rule is that these places are OUTSIDE, where there's no roof, and that that's the reason we use -lla. This rule isn't very accurate though, because "Olen metsässä" and "Olen puistossa" don't get the -lla case.

I will probably continue with a more detailed explanation for the other verb rections as well, in another post. Thanks for reading this one!