Finnish Language Characteristics

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Variant Forms of Words

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. Finnish indicates the plural of a word in two ways:

  • The letter t is added to nouns that have no other endings. For example, talo (house) becomes talot(houses).
  • The letter i is added if the noun has another ending. For example, talossa (in the house) becomes taloissa (in the houses).

Possessives. 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. In English, words like in, on, with, before, and after are prepositions. They come before a noun. For example, in the house.

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

  • They may come before the noun. For example, ennen sotaa (before the war).
  • They may come after the noun. (In this case, it is called a postposition.) For example, sodan jälkeen(after the war).
  • They may be added to the noun. For example Helsinki becomes Helsinkiin (into Helsinki). Table 2, on the next page, contains other examples.

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

Table 1. Possessive Endings

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

Table 2. Prepositional Endings on Nouns

Ending Basic Meaning Example Translation -a, -ä, -ta, -t of, some suku » sukua family » of a family -in by means of, with oma käsi » omin ksin 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

Table 3. Other Word Endings

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 talo » näen talot house » I see the house house » I see the houses

Ending: -lla, -ll followed by a form of the verb olla (to be): on, ei ole, oli, ei ollut, on ollut, or ei ole ollut Basic Meaning: shows possession or ownership (to have)

Example Translation

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

Spelling Changes

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


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