Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric family of languages, unlike most of the other languages spoken in Europe. Therefore, its structure and vocabulary are very different from the Indo-European languages.

Do not try to compare Finnish with your mother tongue (unless it happens to be Estonian, which is closely related to Finnish) Instead, empty your mind and take Finnish as it comes –  a different but an exciting language!

Welcome to study Finnish!





Finnish has no articles (cf. English a, the).


bussi       a/the bus

tomaatti   a/the tomato




Finnish words have no grammatical gender (cf. German der, die, das).

Even the pronoun hän ´he, she´ is used for both sexes.




The basic characteristics  – and the basic difference to Indo-European languages – is that Finnish expresses different grammatical meanings mainly by adding endings and suffixes to a word.


bussi+ssa   in a/the bus

bussi+lla     by bus


puhu+t    you speak

puhu+t+ko?    do you speak?



We do have words which are used the same way as English prepositions. But most of them are put after the word, not before. They are called postpositions. The preceding word has to have a certain ending.


Teijan kanssa     with Teija

hotellia vastapäätä     opposite the hotel





Finnish is a phonetic language: each written letter is always represented by the same sound and each sound is written with the same letter.
(Think of English words such as e.g. blue, do, moon, shoe – the vowel sound is the same but the spelling is different.)


There are long and short sounds (and letters) in Finnish. It is very important to keep them separate when spelling and pronouncing. If you don´t you might not get your message through.


Pay attention to the differences between short and long sounds:

tuli        fire

tuuli      wind

tulli       customs office


tapaan      I meet

tapan        I kill


Listen and repeat:

kuka – kukka                         who – flower

mato – matto                         worm – carpet

sata – sataa – saattaa           hundred – it is raining – to see someone off

mutta – muta – muuttaa         but – mud – to move








The main stress of the word is always on  the first syllable.


Listen and repeat the words:

musiikki     music

banaani     banana

tomaatti     tomato

televisio     television

matematiikka     mathematics

museo       museum




Sentence intonation falls off. Even in questions it does not rise. The question has either a question pronoun or the question suffix.


Listen and repeat:


Puhutko suomea?

Do you speak Finnish?


Mikä sinun nimi on?

What is your name?








Listen and repeat the alphabets:

A a [aa]K k [koo]U u [uu]
B b [bee]L l [äl]V v [vee]
C c [see]M m [äm]W w [tupla vee]
D d [dee]N n [än]X x [äx]
E e [ee]O o [oo]Y y [yy]
F f [äf]P p [pee]Z z [zeta]
G g [gee]Q q [kuu]Å å [ruotsalainen oo]
H h [hoo]R r [är]Ä ä [ää]
I i [ii]S s [äs]Ö ö [öö]
J j [jii]T t [tee]

Å (ruotsalainen oo = Swedish o) is needed in some Swedish proper names, e.g.  Åke Fågel (a Finnish man with a Swedish name)




You hear some names spelt in Finnish. Write the name down. Use the capital first letter.

Listen and write the names down:





1) jii – uu – aa – än

2) tee – ee -ii – jii -aa

3) koo – aa – ii – är – ee

4) hoo – ee – äl – ee – än – aa

5) gee – oo – är -gee -ee


Practise to spell your name in Finnish.







There are 8 vowels in Finnish. They can all be long and short.

Listen and repeat:

a          aa         kamala aamu    awful morning

o          oo        oma koodi    own code

u          uu         hullu muuli    crazy mule

e          ee         heti Suomeen     at once to Finland

i           ii           iso viini     large wine

ä          ää         nätti ääni     nice voice

ö          öö        hölmö insinööri    silly engineer

y          yy         hyvä tyyli     good style




There are lots of vowel combinations and diphtongs. Remember that each vowel has its own sound and must be uttered. Here are a few examples. Listen to them and try to pronouce them in a Finnish way:


Listen and repeat:

sauna    sauna

Australia     Australia

Eurooppa       Europe

radio      radio

biologia       biology

viulu      violin

tuo       that

työ      work, job






Although the vowels can combine in many ways, there is one  important restriction: The vowels a, u, o can never occur in a single word together with the vowels ä, ö, y.

(The vowels e and i can combine with any other vowels.)



ä      a


ö      o


y      u



This is called vowel harmony. Because of it most endings have two variants, both carrying the same meaning, e.g.


bussi+ssa     in a bus

keittiö+ssä    in a kitchen


puhut+ko?    do you speak?

kysyt+kö?     do you ask?






Listen and repeat he words:

ConsonantExample in FinnishTranslation
k kkkuka, kukkawho, flower
p pppapu, soppabean, soup
t ttsata, vuottahundred, years
l lltuli, tullifire, customs
m mmsama, mummosame, granny (grandmother)
n nnuuni, sinneoven, there
r rrmeri, herrasea, mister
s ssvesi, passiwater, passport
htähti, lehtistar, newspaper
jjoo, kaljaayes, beer
vhyvä, vessagood, toilet
dkadullain a street
ngHelsingissäin Helsinki


Notice the pronunciation of the following consonants:

k, p, t   are pronounced without the aspiration

     as in Roma (Italian)

    as in hello

     as in yes

    as in video

nk    as in think

ng    as in thing


The following consonants can occur in loan words and foreign names

You can probably understand the meaning of the words!


Listen the words:

b          banaani

c          Celcius; Coca-Cola

f           filmi

g          geologia, grilli

z           jazz, pizza

x          Marx





1.Listen carefully and write the words you hear:


2.You will hear some place names of European countries or cities. Write them down in Finnish:


Scroll down to see the correct answers!










1: joo, hän, vaari, baari, lehti, hyvä

2:Pariisi, Ateena, Berliini, Italia, Espanja, Belgia, Hollanti







Finnish vocabulary has a fair number of words borrowed from Indo-European languages. Although they are written and pronounced differently (that is: in a Finnish way), many of them are quite easy to recognize, e.g.










Can you guess what these are in English (or in your language)?

turisti, ooppera, kitara, sohva, paperi, elefantti, auto, viini, viski



However, most of  the Finnish words are either original Finno-Ugric words, or even if borrowed they have changed so much that it is quite impossible to assosiate them with anything you already know.

It is, therefore, very important that you pay attention to the vocabulary right from the start.


puhelin  telephone

tietokone  computer

kirjasto   library

sähkö   electricity



We have many suffixes for forming new words from the existing ones. A few examples:


kirja            a book                       kirjasto       library

sana           word                          sanasto      vocabulary

kahvi           coffee                        kahvila       café

asunto         residence/flat?          asuntola     dormitory?

opettaa        to teach                     opettaja      teacher

opiskella      to study                     opiskelija    student



Finnish vocabulary has a huge amount of compound words: two or three words stuck together thus creating a new word.


sana + kirja = sanakirja        dictionary (“wordbook”)

tieto+ sanakirja = tietosanakirja      encyclopaedia (“knowledgewordbook”)

tieto + kone = tietokone       computer  (“knowledgemachine”)

maa + ilma = maailma        world (“earth+air”)

posti+merkki = postimerkki       (postal) stamp







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