Finnish Language Characteristics

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Variant Forms of Words[edit | edit source]

In Finnish, as in English, the forms of some words will vary according to how they are used in a sentence. Who—whose—whom or marry—marries—married, are examples of words in English with variant forms.

As you read Finnish records, be aware that the endings of most words vary with usage. One word in Finnish often translates into English as two or more words. For example, talo (house) changes to talossa (in the house).

Plurals[edit | edit source]

Finnish indicates the plural of a word in two ways:

  1. "T" is added to nouns that have no other endings. For example, talo (house) becomes talot (houses).
  2. "I" is added if the noun has another ending. For example, talossa (in the house) becomes taloissa (in the houses).

Possessives[edit | edit source]

In addition to or instead of using words like my and theirs, Finnish adds endings to words to show possession. If a word already has another ending on it, the possessive ending appears at the end of the word. For example, see how possessives change the words talo (house) and talossa (in the house):

  • his house - hänen talonsa
  • in his house - hänen talossansa

See Table 1 for a more complete description of possessives.

Prepositions and Postpositions[edit | edit source]

In English, words like in, on, with, before, and after are prepositions. They come before the noun in sentence and show direction, location, or time, or introduce an object. For example,

  • in the house
  • on the desk
  • with the meal
  • to the car
  • at the table

Depending on the various grammar rules, Finnish prepositions may appear in one of three ways:

  1. Before the noun. Ennen sotaa (before the war).
  2. After the noun (in this case, it is called a postposition). Sodan jälkeen (after the war).
  3. Added to the noun. Helsinki becomes Helsinkiin (into Helsinki).

Table 2 contains other examples.

Word endings[edit | edit source]

Endings are also added to words for other grammatical purposes. See Table 1 and Table 3 for other examples.

Spelling Changes[edit | edit source]

When an ending is added to a word, the consonants within that word may also change. Consider the following examples:

Letters that Change Examples
ht to hd lahti to lahden
k to (nothing) Ilmajoki to Ilmajoen
kk to k kirkko to kirkon
lt to ll ilta to illan
mp to mm lampi to lammen
n to s Heinonen to Heinosen
nk to ng Helsinki to Helsingin
nt to nn isäntä to isännn
p to v orpo to orvon
pp to p pappi to papin
rk to r Turku to Turun
rt to rr virta to virran
s to d or t uusi to uuden, uuteen
tt to t tyttö to tytön
uku to uvu suku to suvun
vowel+t to vowel+d iti to idin

Tables[edit | edit source]

Possessive Endings[edit | edit source]

Possessive and Ending Meaning Examples: talo (house), talossa (in the house) Translation
minun, -ni my talo » minun taloni house » my house
talo » minun talossani house » in my house
sinun-, si your (singular) talo » sinun talosi house » your house
talo » sinun talossasi house » in your house
hänen, -nsa, -nsä or
double vowel + n
his, her talo » hänen talonsa house » his (her) house
talo » hänen talossansa house » in his (her) house
talo » hänen talossaan house » in his (her) house
meidän -mme our talo » meidän talomme house » our house
talo » meidän talossamme house » in our house
teidän, -nne your (plural) talo » teidän talonne house » your house
talo » teidän talossanne house » in your house
heidän, -nsa, -nsä or
double vowel + n
their talo » heidän talonsa house » their house
talo » heidän talossansa house » in their house
talo » heidän talossaan house » in their house

Prepositional Endings on Nouns[edit | edit source]

Ending Basic Meaning Example Translation
-a, -ä, -ta, -tä of, some suku » sukua family » of a family
-in by means of, with oma käsi » omin käsin one’s own hands » with one’s own hands
-ine + a possessive ending
(see Table 1)
together with lapsi » lapsinensa or lapsineen child » together with his (her or their) children
-ksi changed into, become vaimo » otti vaimoksi wife » took for a wife or became a wife
-lla, -llä at, by, in Tampere » Tampereella Tampere » in (at) Tampere
-lle to Tampere » Tampereelle Tampere » to Tampere
-lta, -ltä from Tampere » Tampereelta Tampere » from Tampere
-n of talo » talon väki house » people of the house
-na, -nä as lapsi » lapsena child » as a child
-ssa, -ssä in Helsinki » Helsingissä Helsinki » in Helsinki
double vowel + n into Helsinki » Helsinkiin Helsinki » into Helsinki
-sta, -stä from Helsinki » Helsingistä Helsinki » from Helsinki

Other Word Endings[edit | edit source]

Ending Basic Meaning Example Translation
-t forms a plural talo » talot house » houses
-ko, -k indicates a question Helsingissä » Helsingissäkö in Helsinki » in Helsinki?
-ton without, -less, un- lapsi » lapseton child » childless
-tta, -ttä (on verbs) without nähdä » näkemätt to see » without seeing
-n, -t shows a direct object talo » näen talon house » I see the house
talo » näen talot house » I see the houses
-lla, -llä followed by a form of the verb olla (to be):
on, ei ole, oli, ei ollut, on ollut, or ei ole ollut
shows possession or ownership (to have) Anna » Annalla on Anna » Anna has
Anna Toivonen » Anna Toivosella oli Anna Toivonen » Anna Toivonen had
minä » minulla on ollut I » I have had
sinä » sinulla oli you (singular) » you had
hän » hänellä oli he/she » he/she had
me » meillä ei ole ollut we » we have not had
te » teillä on you (plural) » you have
he » heillä ei ole they » they do not have

References[edit | edit source]

Family History Department. Genealogical Word List: Finnish. Salt Lake City: Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997.