Finnish for busy people

Eri Pikku Rikki Viime Ensi Poikki – Indeclinable Words

In general, Finnish words will inflect in the grammatical cases. This means that we can have several elements added to the end of words, such as -ssa, -ia, or -ksi. There are some exceptional indeclinable words that always appear in their basic form. You won’t inflect ie. decline them in any Finnish case. Viime, ensi, irti and rikki are four examples of words like this.

1. Overview of indeclinable words

Indeclinable words are uncommon in Finnish. In the list below, I have provided you with both the indeclinable word and the closely related word that does indeed decline.

Cuvinte indeclinabile – taipumattomia sanoja

Indeclinable word Declinable alternatives
aimo “major, decent” hyvä, mainio, aikamoinen
auki “open” avoin, avonainen, avattu
eka “first” ensimmäinen
ensi “next” seuraava
eri “different” erilainen, erikoinen
halki “split along” haljennut
hiljaa “quietly” hiljainen
ilmi “apparent” ilmeinen
irti “loose” irtonainen, irronnut
joka “every” jokainen
julki “public” julkinen
kelpo “decent” hyvä, kelpoinen
kiinni “closed” suljettu
koko “the whole” kokonainen
kunnon “proper” kunnollinen, hyvä
pikku “tiny” pieni, pikkuinen
poikki “split across” katkennut, murtunut
puhki “pierced, flat” puhjennut
rikki “broken” rikkinäinen
toka “second” toinen
vaiti “quietly” vaitonainen
viime “last” edellinen, viimeinen
vika “last” viimeinen
ääneti “silently” äänetön

All through this article, I’m talking about “indeclinable words” rather than getting more specific. I’m mirroring kielitoimiston sanakirja here which, for many of these words, doesn’t specify what wordtype there are. If you’re really interested in wordtypes, eri, koko and ilmi are considered adjectives. The words irti, poikki, rikki and halki, for example, will usually be listed in the dictionary as adverbs.

The adverbs have in common that they express that something is in a state. For example, the thing is closed, open, loose or broken. These adverbs usually take the place of a complement.

In general, we could say that most adverbs are indeclinable. For example, päivittäin, pahoillani, sisällä, aina, melko and todennäköisesti don’t decline at all. There are many types of adverbs, so you could work your way through the many articles I have related to adverbs.

Some adverbs do have limited declination. For example, the adverbs hyvin, nopeasti and paljon can be inflected in the comparative (paremmin, nopeammin, enemmän) and superlative (parhaiten, nopeimmin, eniten).

The words I’m including in this article don’t get inflected in any of the cases.

2. Eri and erilainen

Both eri and erilainen can be translated as “different”. However, there is a difference in meaning as well as a difference in inflection between the two. The adjective erilainen will be inflected (e.g. erilaista, erilaisiin), which eri will be used in its basic form no matter the context.

The adjective erilainen refers to a difference in e.g. personality, style or content. It expresses that something is different, as in “not the same”. The adverb eri expresses that something is a different, “separate entity”. When talking about people, we can say that someone is different from us or different than we expected (in certain character traits) using the adjective erilainen. The word eri will be used when someone is a completely different person than we thought.

# Finnish English
1 Hän on erilainen kuin minä. He/she’s different than I am.
1 He ovat erilaisia kuin odotin. They are different than I expected.
1 Hän on [eri ihminen] kameran edessä. He’s a different person in front of the camera.
1 He ovat [eri ihmisiä]. They are different people (not the same person).
2 He asuvat [erilaisissa maissa]. They live in countries that are different.
2 He asuvat [eri maissa]. They live in different countries.
2 He ovat [eri maiden] kansalaisia. They are citizens of different countries.

You can read more in this article: Eri Erilainen Erikoinen Erityinen

3. Viime ja viimeinen

The indeclinable words viime “last, previous” is very commonly used in expressions of time (#1). When talking about last week (ie. the week before the current one), we will say viime viikolla. When talking about a week prior to another week (not the current one), we will say edellisellä viikolla (#2).

If you want to express that something is the “last” of something (e.g. the last chance, the last cookie), you use viimeinen rather than viime (#3). The adjective viimeinen will inflect in the cases (e.g. viimeiset, viimeisessä).

Note that there are situations where we can use both the word viime and viimeinen, but with a slightly different meaning! For example, viime viikolla means “last week”, but if we want to talk about the last week of a longer time period, you use viimeisellä viikolla. We could say that this means “the last week of” (#4).

# Finnish English
1 [Viime viikolla] satoi lunta. It snowed last week.
1 En saanut palkkaa [viime kuussa]. I didn’t get my wages last month.
2 [Edellisellä viikolla] ei satanut lunta. During the previous week it didn’t snow
2 [Edelliset viikot] ovat olleet vaikeita. The previous weeks have been difficult.
3 Rakastan vuoden [viimeis kuukautta]. I love the year’s last month.
3 [Viimeiset keksit] on syöty.
The last cookies have been eaten.
4 Sairastuin lomani [viimeisellä viikolla]. I got sick during the last week of my vacation.
4 Itsenäisyyspäivä on vuoden [viimeisessä kuussa]. Independence day is in the last month of the year.

You can read more about viime and viimeinen in this article.

4. Ensi and seuraava

In expressions of time, you will use ensi to mean “next” (#1), but also in certain expressions (#2). More commonly, you will use seuraava to mean “next”. This adjective inflects normally in the different cases (#3).

# Finnish English
1 Muutan [ensi vuonna] Suomeen. I will move to Finland next year.
1 [Ensi ] ei sada lunta. It won’t snow tonight.
2 Se oli rakkautta [ensi silmäyksellä]. It was love at first sight.
2 Totuus ei selvinnyt [ensi näkemältä]. The truth wasn’t clear at first glance.
3 Puhutaan siitä [seuraavassa kokouksessa].
Let’s talk about that in the next meeting.
3 [Seuraavat asiakkaat] ovat kärsimättömiä. The next customers are impatient.
3 Milloin [seuraava bussi] saapuu?
When does the next bus arrive?

5. Koko and kokonainen

The relation between koko and kokonainen is interesting. Both can be translated as “whole”. You use koko when you’re referring to a specific thing. For example, in the sentence “Söin koko kakun“, I’m referring to the whole cake which mother baked yesterday, ie. a specific cake in its entirety. In contrast, kokonainen is used to refer to a whole, but unspecified thing. For example, “Söin kokonaisen kakun” refers to a whole cake, but not a specific one.

In general, koko will require the total object of a sentence to appear in the genitive case. Following the normal object rules, you will use the basic form rather than the genitive when, for example, your verb is conjugated in the passive (He evakuoivat koko talon vs. Koko talo evakuoitiin).

# Finnish English
1 Palokunta evakuoi [koko talon] yöllä. The fire brigade evacuated the whole building at night.
1 Eilen satoi [koko päivän]. Yesterday, it rained the whole day.
2 Ikkunalaudalla on [kokonainen piirakka]. There’s a complete pie on the window sill.
1 Hän söi [koko piirakan]. He ate the whole pie. (the specific pie completely)
2 Hän söi [kokonaisen piirakan]. He ate a whole pie. (a complete, undefined pie)
1 Siivoukseen meni [koko päivän]. Cleaning took the whole day. (this specific day)
2 Siivoukseen meni [kokonaisen päivän]. Cleaning took a whole day. (a complete, unspecified day)
1 Grillasin [koko kalan]. I grilled the whole fish (using all parts).
2 Grillasin kalan kokonaisena. I grilled the fish whole (without cutting it up).

6. Pikku and pikkuinen

The word pikku means “small, tiny”, close to the meaning of pieni, but stressing the small size. It can be both written as its own word, or be used in a compound word. In my examples below, I’ve used it as a separate adjective describing the noun attached.

Synonyms that do inflect in the cases are pieni, pienikokoinen and pikkuinen (#2).

# Finnish English
1 Sain lahjaksi [pikku peilin]. I got a tiny mirror as a gift.
1 Voisitko odottaa [pikku hetken]? Could you wait for a small moment?
1 [Pikkuhotellissa] oli joukko suomalaisia. In the tiny hotel was a group of Finns.
2 Sain lahjaksi [pienen peilin]. I got a small mirror as a gift.
2 Sain lahjaksi [pienikokoisen peilin]. I got a small-sized mirror as a gift.
2 Sain lahjaksi [pikkuisen peilin]. I got a tiny mirror as a gift.

7. Rikki and rikkinäinen

Both rikki and rikkinäinen (as well as rikkonainen) can be translated as “broken”. However, there is a difference in function as well as a difference in inflection between the two.

Grammatically, the word rikki is an adverb, while rikkinäinen is an adjective. In complement sentence (#1) both can be used, though rikkinäinen will be inflected in the cases. With the verb mennä (#2), you will exclusively use rikki. In sentences where you use “broken” as an adjective in front of a noun (#3), rikkinäinen is more natural, though you can use “rikki oleva” as a (less favorable) alternative.

# Finnish English
1 Ikkuna on rikki. The window is broken.
1 Ikkuna on rikkinäinen. The window is broken.
1 Ikkunat ovat rikkinäisiä. The windows are broken.
1 Ikkunat ovat rikki. The windows are broken.
2 Puhelin meni rikki. The phone broke.
2 Puhelimet menivät rikki. The phones broke.
3 Ostin [rikkinäisen puhelimen]. I bought a broken phone.
3 [Rikkinäinen puhelin] on pöydällä. The broken phone is on the table.
3 [Rikki oleva puhelin] on pöydällä. The broken phone is on the table.
3 [Rikkinäiset puhelimet] ovat pöydällä. The broken phones are on the table.
3 [Rikki olevat puhelimet] ovat pöydällä. The broken phones are on the table.

In addition to the word rikki, you might also want to get acquainted with this list of words that are also used to refer to something that’s broken.

8. Irti, puhki, halki and poikki

I’m dedicating a separate section to irti, puhki, halki and poikki words because they all function in the same way. Just like rikki, these words are adverbs rather than adjectives. This means you’ll mainly see them in sentences such as #1 below.

If you need an adjective, the most common way to express the same thing is by using the NUT-participle of a verb as an adjective:

  • The adjective for irti is irronnut from the verb irrota
  • The adjective for puhki is puhjennut from the verb puhjeta
  • The adjective for halki is haljennut from the verb haljeta
  • The adjective for poikki is katkennut (from katketa) or murtunut (from murtua)
# Finnish English
1 Nappi on irti. Nappi tuli irti. The button is loose. The button came loose.
1 Rengas on puhki. Rengas meni puhki. The tire is pierced. The tire got pierced.
1 Lautanen on halki. Lautanen meni halki. The plate is split. The plate was split in two.
1 Sähköt ovat poikki. Sähköt menivät poikki. The electricity is out. The electricity went out.
2 [Irtonaiset napit] ovat laatikossa. The loose buttons are in the box.
2 [Irronneet napit] pitää ommella takaisin. The loosened buttons have to be sewn back on.
2 [Puhjenneita renkaita] ei voi korjata. Flat tires can’t be fixed.
2 Laitoin [haljenneen lautasen] roskiin. I put the broken plate into the trash.
2 [Katkenneet sähköt] korjataan parhaillaan. The broken electricity is currently being fixed.

9. Auki and kiinni

The words auki and kiinni are adverbs that are never inflected. They’re mainly used as complements, so in sentences where you use the verb olla (e.g. Kirja on auki/kiinni). These words won’t be used in front of a noun (e.g. “auki ovi” or “kiinni ikkuna” don’t work).

For auki, the corresponding adjectives (which do inflect) for auki are avoin, avonainen and avattu (#1). For kiinni, there’s the adjective suljettu (#2).

# Finnish English
1 Ovi on auki. Ikkuna on auki. The door is open. The window is open.
1 [Avoin ovi] odottaa meitä. The open door waits for us.
1 Kauppa on avoinna. The store is open.
1 Katsoin [avoimen oven] kautta kameraan. I watched the camera through the open door.
1 Sulje [avoimet ovet]! Close the open doors!
1 Sulje [avatut ovet]! Close the opened doors!
2 Ovi on kiinni. The door is closed
2 [Suljettu ovi] ei pysäytä meitä. A closed door doesn’t stop us.
2 Keskustellaan [suljettujen ovien] takana. Let’s chat behind closed doors.

I have a separate article on “open” and “closed” because there are especially many nuances to the ways of saying “open” in Finnish.

10. Aimo

Of these, aimo is most clearly on indeclinable word. It’s used as an intensifier in order to emphasize quality in a positive sense. You can replace this word with synonyms such as hyvä, iso, runsas, mainio and aikamoinen.

# Finnish English
1 Projekti meni [aimo askeleen] eteenpäin. The project went a major step forward.
1 Hän on saanut [aimo etumatkan]. He’s got a real lead.
1 Siemenistä saat [aimo annoksen] proteiinia. You can get a decent dose of protein from seeds.

11. Kelpo and kunnon

Kelpo and kunnon both mean “good, decent, proper”. The word kelpo is usually indeclinable. However, you can sometimes come across it in an inflected form, but this is fairly uncommon.

I’m adding kunnon to this section because its meaning is similar to kelpo. This is an indeclinable word but, technically, it’s the genitive case of kunto. However, when used to mean “decent, proper”, you won’t inflect it in any other cases.

# Finnish English
1 Hän jätti [kelpo tipin]. He left a decent tip.
1 Olemme [lainkuuliaisia kelpo kansalaisia]. We are law-abiding decent citizens.
2 He ovat [kunnon tyttö]. They are decent/good girls.
2 Hän sai [kunnon hautajaiset]. He got a proper funeral.

12. Eka toka vikaEnsimmäinen toinen viimeinen

In spoken language, ensimmäinen “first”, toinen “second” and viimeinen “last” are often shortened to eka, toka and vika. These words can inflect, so they’re not as rigid as the other words on this page. Below, you can find both the spoken language (#1) and the written language (#2) versions of each phrase. The case ending have been put between brackets when it can be used but isn’t obligatory.

Note that the word vika also means “fault, defect”. When used in this meaning, the noun does inflect normally in all the cases.

# Finnish English
1 Pelasin [eka(a) kertaa] biljardia. I played billiards for the first time.
2 Pelasin [ensimmäis kertaa] biljardia. I played billiards for the first time.
1 Lapseni on [eka(lla) luokalla]. My child is in first grade.
2 Lapseni on [ensimmäisellä luokalla]. My child is in first grade.
1 Kaikki onnistui [toka(lla) kerralla]. Everything succeeded the second time.
2 Kaikki onnistui [toisellä kerralla]. Everything succeeded the second time.
1 Minä tulin tokana kilpailussa. I came second in the competition.
2 Minä tulin toisena kilpailussa. I came second in the competition.
1 Kävin [vika(a) kertaa] uimassa. I went swimming for the last time.
2 Kävin [viimeis kertaa] uimassa. I went swimming for the last time.

13. Joka and jokainen

The word joka can mean “every”. In this context, it doesn’t inflect at all. However, joka is also used as a relative pronoun and, in that context, it does inflect in all the cases.

Another important thing to note is that joka usually requires the basic form of the time frame we use (e.g. every year, month, day) (#1). The word attached to joka will be inflected when it doesn’t refer to a repeating time frame (#2). The adjective jokainen will inflect (#3).

# Finnish English
1 Käymme [joka talvi] Thaimaassa. We visit Thailand every winter.
1 [Joka vuosi] hukkuu lähes 150 ihmistä. Every year close to 150 people drown.
2 Tuo kukka kasvaa [joka paikassa]. That flower grows everywhere.
2 Teemme sen [joka tapauksessa]. We will do it in any case.
3 [Jokainen päivä] tuo uusia haasteita. Every day brings new challenges.
3 [Jokaisen tuolin] alla on lahja. There’s a present underneath every chair.
3 [Jokaisessa paikassa] on jotain hyvää. There’s something good in every place.

14. Vaiti, ääneti and hiljaa

The words vaiti, ääneti and hiljaa are adverbs that all can mean “quietly, silently”. The adjectives for these three adverbs are, respectively, vaitonainen, äänetön and hiljainen.

Of these three, hiljaa is used the most in everyday language. This adverb has a second meaning: it can also mean “slowly”.

# Finnish English
1 Ole vaiti! Istuimme vaiti. Be quiet! We sat silently.
1 Istuin vaitonaisen pojan vieressä. I sat next to the silent boy.
1 Vaitonaiset miehet saapuivat. The silent men arrived.
2 Hän alkoi rukoilla ääneti.
He started quietly praying.
2 Jumala kuuluu äänettömät rukoukset. God hears the silent prayers.
2 Laita puhelin äänettömälle. Put your phone on mute.
3 Ole hiljaa tai kuolet! Be quiet or you’ll die!
3 Hän sanoi hiljaa: “Rakastan sinua”. He said quietly “I love you”.
3 Muistan hiljaisett mökillä. I remember the quiet nights at the cottage.
3 Hiivin hiljaisen huoneen läpi. I sneaked through the quiet room.

15. Ilmi and ilmeinen

In comparison with the other indeclinable words on this page, ilmi is very clearly an adverb. It won’t appear with the verb olla, for example, in complement sentences like many of the words above.You will mainly find ilmi in the phrases “käydä ilmi” and “tulla ilmi“, which both mean “to become clear, apparent”. Ilmi is related to the adjective ilmeinen “clear, obvious”.

# Finnish English
1 Kävi ilmi, että olin oikeassa. It became clear I was right.
1 Uusi huijauskeino tuli ilmi Tampereella. A new scam came to light in Tampere.
2 Ilmeiset viat korjataan heti. The obvious defects are fixed right away.
2 On ilmeis, että olin oikeassa. It’s clear/obvious I was right.

16. Julki and julkinen

The adverb julki is mainly used in the phrases “tulla julki” (to become public) and “tuoda julki” (to make public). The related adjective that means “public” is julkinen.

# Finnish English
1 Uutinen tuli julki tammikuussa. The news became public in January.
1 Aikataulut ovat nyt julki. The time schedules are now public.
2 Insinöörien palkat ovat julkista tietoa. The wages of engineers are public information.
2 Julkiset asiakirjat löytyvät nettisivuilta. The public documents can be found on the website.

Check out these other sources:

That’s all for this article on indeclinable words. Hopefully you found this article helpful!

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Ole Kirkeby

Nice! Very useful.