Finnish for busy people

Adverbs of Intensity – Astemääritteet

Adverbs of intensity are “intensifiers”. They usually make adjectives stronger, although they can also make them milder. In Finnish, you can call them intensiteettiadverbit, vahvistussanat or astemääritteet.

If you’re interested in a different kind of adverbs, you can find those here.

Table of Contents
  1. The Subjectivity of Adverbs of Intensity
  2. Adverbs Organized by Morphology
  3. Adverbs Organized by Strength
    1. Fairly weak intensitivity adverbs
    2. Negative intensitivity adverbs
    3. Strengthening intensitivity adverbs
    4. Prefix modifiers expressing intensity
  4. Limitations
    1. Context (collocations)
    2. Polarity “vähän valmis”
    3. Ihan and aivan
  5. Example Sentences

1. The Subjectivity of Adverbs of Intensity

With adverbs of intensity, you give color to a text: it’s a different thing to say that the party was fun (hauska), pretty fun (ihan hauska), really fun (todella hauska) or terribly fun (aivan hirveän hauska).

Adverbs of intensity are subjective. Something can in the eyes of one person be aika fiksu (pretty smart), while it’s tosi fiksu (really smart) in the eyes of another.

Let’s first look at what these intensivity adverbs look like morphologically. After that, they will be divided in groups based on their meaning and intensity.

2. Adverbs Organized by Morphology

Many of these adverbs are particles: words that don’t inflect at all (eg. aika, melko, erittäin, ihan, oikein, sangen).

There is also a large group that are morphologically speaking the genetive form of an adjective. Very often, this adjective will have a negative meaning on its own, while its genetive form is usually used to express a positive quantity. Some examples are törkeän, helvetin, kauhean, hirveän, sairaan and kamalan (which all mean “very”).

Another group of genetive-based adverbs are adjectives ending in -ton (-ttoman in the genetive). Some examples of this are tavattoman, uskomattoman, suhteettoman, älyttömän and kohtuuttoman (you can find their meanings and examples further below).

3. Adverbs Organized by Strength

3.1. Fairly Weak Intensitivity Adverbs

There is a group of intensitivity adverbs that express that the quality of their main word isn’t all that strong. They can downplay or understate the meaning of the adjective, or just express that it’s not all that much. These usually appear in positive sentences.

Marked in green are the ones you might want to focus on as a beginner.

Intensifiers Example In English
aika aika kaunis pretty beautiful
hieman hieman vino a little crooked
ihan ihan kaunis quite beautiful
jokseenkin jokseenkin tyytyväinen somewhat satisfied
kohtalaisen kohtalaisen suuri moderately large
kohtuullisen kohtuullisen hintainen reasonably priced
melko melko kaunis fairly beautiful
melkoisen melkoisen erikoinen pretty special
suhteellisen suhteellisen tasainen relatively even
varsin varsin hyvä pretty good
verrattain verrattain kaunis relatively beautiful

3.2. Negative Intensitivity Adverbs

The following adverbs are almost exclusively used in negative sentences. They make a negative statement milder.

Intensifiers Example In English
kovin Asuntoni ei ole kovin iso. My apartment isn’t all that big.
järin Eipä ollut järin helppoa. It wasn’t particularly easy.
liioin Se ei ollut hyvä, muttei liioin huono. It wasn’t good but not to bad.
sanottavan Housut eivät ole sanottavan märät. The pants weren’t especially wet.

3.3. Strengthening intensitivity Adverbs

These adverbs strengthen the meaning of the adjective they define. They’re likely to appear in affirmative sentences, but can usually also be used in negative sentence. These can generally strengthen both negative and positive qualities.

Intensifiers Example In English
erikoisen erikoisen sopiva particularly suited
erityisen erityisen vahva particularly strong
erittäin erittäin hyvä extremely good
helvetin helvetin vaikea hellishly difficult
hemmetin hemmetin ilkeä damn nasty
hirveän hirveän iso awfully big
hyvin hyvin kaunis greatly beautiful
ihmeen ihmeen hyvin wonderfully well
ilmeisen ilmeisen selvä evidently clear
kauhean kauhean vaikea terribly difficult
kohtuuttoman kohtuuttoman vaikea unduly difficult
läpeensä läpeensä toivoton utterly hopeless
mahdottoman mahdottoman suuri impossibly large
oikein oikein kaunis truly beautiful
perin perin tärkeä highly, exceedingly important
sairaan sairaan hyvä super good
sangen sangen hyvin perfectly well
suhteettoman suhteettoman suuri disproportionately large
tavattoman tavattoman vaikea awfully, exceedingly difficult
todella todella kaunis very beautiful
tosi tosi kaunis very beautiful (spoken)
tyyten tyyten kalju utterly bald
uskomattoman uskomattoman kaunis unbelievably beautiful
ylen ylen onnellinen exceedingly happy
älyttömän älyttömän nopea ridiculously fast
äärettömän äärettömän pieni infinitesimal
äärimmäisen äärimmäisen normaali extremely normal

3.4. Prefix Modifiers Expressing Intensity

You can express intensity with a fixed marker (alkumäärite) as well. This is limited to certain adjectives only, eg. rutikuiva (super dry), ypöyksin (all alone) and täpötäysi (overcrowded).

You can find more examples of this on our page of adjectives with fixed modifiers.


4. Limitations

4.1. Context (collocations)

Not all adverbs of intensity can appear in all contexts. Some adverbs (eg. tyystin) usually appear in negative sentences, while others (eg. oikein) mostly appear in affirmative sentences. In addition, there are also many adverbs that can appear in both types of sentences and with both positive and negative qualities.

4.2. Polarity “vähän valmis”

One way to divide adjectives is whether they are polaric or not. A polaric adjective describes something that you either have or not have. For example, valmis (ready) is a polaric adjective: you’re either ready or not; you can’t be “a little ready” or “very ready”. Thus, all the adverbs on this page only work with SOME adjectives. Below are some examples of adjectives that can’t get an adverb of intensity.

Polaric? Adjective Examples that don’t work
yes valmis hyvin valmis, kovin valmis
yes tyhjä erikoisen tyhjä, melko tyhjä
yes alaston tavattoman alaston, kauhean alaston

4.3. Ihan and aivan

These two adverbs are interesting because Finnish language learners make a lot of mistakes with them. There are several reasons for this. For one, the adverbs ihan and aivan will make the meaning of positive adjectives weaker, but make the meaning of negative adjectives stronger. For example ihan hyvä means “fairly good”, while ihan hirveä means “really bad”.

If you would like to learn more about these words, you could check out this blog. If your Finnish is good enough, you could also read this master’s thesis.


5. Example Sentences

Finnish English
Tämä on ihan hyvä paikka istua. This is a pretty good place to sit.
Minusta on ihan hirveää herätä kuudelta. I think it’s just awful to wake up at six.
Puseron kutominen on kohtuullisen nopea homma. Knitting a sweater is a fairly quick job.
Rahka on älyttömän hyvä jälkiruoka. Curd is a ridiculously good dessert.
Hän on uskomattoman kaunis sinisessä mekossaan. She’s unbelievably beautiful in her blue dress.
Olen helvetin tyhmä! I’m fucking stupid!
En ole kovin hyvä piirtämään. I’m not all that good at drawing.
Tämä on kohtalaisen suuri ongelma. This is a fairly large problem.
Tämä keitto on aika hyvää. This soup is pretty good.
Olen erittäin pettynyt sinuun. I’m very disappointed in you.
Suomen kielioppi on tosi helppo. Finnish grammar is really easy.

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