Finnish language

Finno-Ugric language mostly spoken in Finland

Finnish (Finnish: suomen kieli) is a Uralic language. It is one of the two official languages of Finland. It is also an official minority language in Sweden. Finnish is one of the four national languages of Europe that is not an Indo-European language. The other two are Estonian and Hungarian, which are also Uralic languages, and Basque.

suomen kieli
Native toFinland, Estonia, Ingria, Karelia, Norway, Sweden
Native speakers
c. To5 million (2011)[1]
Latin (Finnish alphabet)
Finnish Braille
Official status
Official language in
 European Union
recognised as minority language in:

 Russian Federation:

Regulated byLanguage Planning Department of the Institute for the Languages of Finland
Language codes
ISO 639-1fi
ISO 639-2fin
ISO 639-3fin
  Official language.
  Spoken by a minority.
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The Finnish grammar and most Finnish words are very different from those in other European languages, because Finnish is not an Indo-European language. The two other national languages that are Uralic languages as Finnish are Estonian and Hungarian. Estonians and Finns usually may understand each other, but their languages are very different. Even though Finnish and Hungarian are related languages, they do not look or sound similar. The Finnish and Hungarian languages separated a long time ago, and each language developed its own vocabulary. People who can speak Finnish cannot understand Hungarian without extra study, and Hungarians cannot understand Finnish. However, there are some basic words that are very similar, for example: 'hand' (Finnish 'käsi' vs. Hungarian 'kéz') 'to go' (Finnish 'mennä' vs. Hungarian 'menni'), 'fish' (Finnish 'kala' vs. Hungarian 'hal').

Finnish grammar


Finnish is a synthetic and an agglutinative language. This means that words in Finnish have a stem called "body", and other parts inside them which make up the meaning. Finnish is similar in this respect to the Japanese language and Turkic languages. In Finnish, there are 17 cases/word types (sanatyypit). You can think of a "case" as an ending added to a word that helps describe its purpose in the sentence. Verbs have 5 tempora (present tense, past tense, perfect, pluperfect and future tense). In addition, verbs have two participle (active and passive) cases. Gerunds, which are nouns made from verbs (for example: reading - to read) also exist in Finnish (lukeminen - lukea), are abundant in Finnish.

Finnish is a complex, self-morphing language. It has been ranked as a highly difficult language for native speakers of English by the U.S. Department of State. The difficulty is due not only to the grammatical structure of the language, but also pronunciation and intonation as compared to English.

Finnish spelling and pronunciation


Finnish is pronounced the way it is spelled. The pronunciation of some letters is similar to English. However:

  • 'j' is like English 'y' in 'yes'
  • 's' is like English 's' in 'sad' (never like 'z')
  • 'h' is always pronounced, even at the end of a syllable e.g. 'ahdas' ('narrow')
  • double vowels make the sound long
  • 'ä' is similar to 'a' in English 'cat'
  • 'ö' is almost like English article 'a'. It is pronounced with rounded lips, like 'eu' in French 'peur' or German 'ö'
  • the letter 'c' is not used. It is replaced either by 'k' or 's' to avoid confusion and make writing simple.
  • the letter 'q' is not used. It is replaced by either 'k' or 'kv' to make writing simple.
  • the letter 'y' is pronounced like the 'u' in French language, or 'i' in 'in' but with rounded lips, very close to 'ö'.
  • the letter 'z' is pronounced 'ts' as in German language. It is often written as "ts" to make writing simple.
  • the letter 'x' is usually written out as 'ks' to make writing simple, for example in the word "taksi" instead of "taxi".

English speakers often exhale when saying letters like "k", "p", and "t". They don't do this in Finnish, and to "swallow the sound", as the old saying goes, takes a lot of practice.

The proper pronunciation for the Finnish diphthongs (öy, yö, äy, eu, etc.) is difficult.

Examples of Finnish words

Yksi One
Kaksi Two
Kolme Three
Kyllä Yes
Ei No
Minä I
Sinä/Te You
Hän He/She
Me We
He They
Olen/Minä olen I am
Suomi Finland
Talo House
Koti Home
Tie Way
Äiti Mother
Isä Father
Tyttö Girl
Poika Boy
Vauva Baby
Auto Car
Juna Train
Lentokone Airplane
Ravintola Restaurant
Nukke Doll
Sänky Bed
Tuoli Chair
Kaupunki City/Town
Puisto Park
Polkupyörä Bicycle
Kukka Flower
Kevät Spring
Kesä Summer
Syksy Autumn/Fall
Talvi Winter

Basic Finnish expressions

Terve Hello
Mitä kuuluu? How are you? (informal)
Kiitos hyvää Very well, thank you
Kiitos Thank you
Kiitos paljon Thank you very much
Hyvää huomenta Good morning
Hyvää iltaa Good evening
Hyvää yötä Good night
Hyvästi Goodbye
Nimeni on Anna My name is Anna
En osaa puhua suomea I can't speak Finnish
Puhutteko englantia? Do you speak English?


  1. Finnish at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. Finnish is one of the Official Minority languages of Sweden
  3. "О государственной поддержке карельского, вепсского и финского языков в Республике Карелия" (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2011-12-06.

Other websites