Finnish for busy people

Inflection of French names in Finnish

French names will inflect in the Finnish cases just like any Finnish name. This causes some problems because the French pronunciation and spelling of names can be so unique. Here are the main rules for the inflection of French names as well as their pronunciation.

I’m providing an approximate model for the pronunciation of the names in this article. Instead of using IPA, I’ve added information about how a Finn would spell these names in Finnish. In the following tables, words that are inside quotation marks and in italics are pronunciation models. Please note that these are just approximations. Not every Finn is equally adept at pronouncing foreign names. The Finnish alphabet also lacks nasal sounds, so presenting these is tricky.

1. Names are inflected based on their pronunciation

The base rule for the inflection of French names is that they will be inflected based on their French pronunciation. The way names are pronounced in French often differs from the way a Finn would pronounce the name based on its spelling. Take Bordeaux for example. If spelled the Finnish way, this name would be “Bordoo“. This means the mihin form will be Bordeaux’hon (pronounced as “Bordoohon“). If we’d base the inflection on the spelling of the name, we’d get Bordeauxiin.

Names also undergo vowel harmony based on their pronunciation. This means Camus becomes Camy’ssä because it’s pronounced as “kamyy“. While this is the rule, I’m sure you can find sources online that spell it as Camy’ssa. This is one of those rules which Finns will often have to look up online themselves.

French names won’t undergo consonant gradation when written down. While Lotta will become Lotan the genitive case, the name Colette will be Coletten in the genitive case. However, in conversations, it’s very much possible for the speaker to apply consonant gradation regardless of the rule.

2. The use of an apostrophe

If a name orthographically ends in a consonant, but is pronounced with a vowel sound at the end, you will use an apostrophe before the case ending.

Name Genitive Partitive Adessive Illative
Bordeaux Bordeauxn Bordeauxta Bordeauxlla Bordeauxhon
“bordoo” “bordoon” “bordoota” “bordoolla” “bordoohon”
Montpellier Montpelliern Monpellierta Montpellierlla Monpellierhen
“mompeljee” “mompeljeen” “mompeljeeta” “mompeljeella” “mompeljeehen”
Camus Camusn Camus Camusllä Camushyn
“kamyy” “kamyyn” “kamyytä” “kamyyllä” “kamyyhyn”
Petit Petitn Petit Petitllä Petithin
“peti” “petin” “petitä” “petillä” “petihin”
Poirot Poirotn Poirotta Poirotlla Poirothon
“puaroo” “puaroon” “puaroota” “puaroolla” “puaroohon”
Arnauld
Arnauldn Arnauldta Arnauldlla Arnauldhon
“arnoo” “arnoon”
“arnoota”
“arnoolla”
“arnoohon”
Loiret Loiretn Loiretta Loiretlla Loirethen
 “luaree”  “luareen” “luareeta”
 “luareella” “luareehen”

3.Words ending in a mute -e

If the name orthographically ends in a mute -e, you will add the ending straight to the end of it. This makes the spelling (#1) of these names easy: no changes are made when adding the case ending. However, the pronunciation can differ depending on the person and the situation. Below, you can find two alternatives: the more natural way (#2) and the more literal way (#3) of pronouncing the name.

# Name Genitive Partitive Adessive Illative
1 Loire Loiren Loirea Loirella Loireen
2 “luaar” “luaarin” “luaaria” “luaarilla” “luaariin”
3 “luaar” “luaaren” “luaarea” “luaarella” “luaareen”
1 Toulouse Toulousen Toulousea Toulousella Toulouseen
2 “tuluuz “tuluuzin” “tuluuzia” “tuluuzilla” “tuluuziin”
3 “tuluus “tuluusen” “tuluusea” “tuluusella” “tuluuseen”
1 Lille Lillen Lilleä Lillellä Lilleen
2 “lil” “lilin” “liliä” “lilillä” “liliin”
3 “lil” “lillen” “lilleä” “lillellä” “lilleen”
1 Pierre Pierren Pierreä Pierrellä Pierreen
2 “piäär” “piäärin” “piääriä” “piäärillä” “piääriin”
3 “pier” “pieren” “piereä” “pierellä” “piereen”
1 Marianne Mariannen Mariannea Mariannella Marianneen
2 “marian” “marianin” “mariania” “marianilla” “marianiin”
3 “marianne” “mariannen” “mariannea” “mariannella” “marianneen”
1 Le Moule Le Moulen Le Moulea Le Moulella Le Mouleen
3 “le mul” “le mulen” “le mulea” “le mulella” “le muleen”
1 Alsace Alsacen Alsacea Alsacella Alsaceen
3 “alzas” “alzasen” “alzasea” “alzasella” “alzaseen”
1 Colette Coletten Colettea Colettella Coletteen
3 “kolet” “koleten” “koletea” “koletella” “coleteen”

The most natural and “correct” way (#2) to pronounce the inflected form is based on the pronunciation of the basic form. The name Loire is pronounced as “luaar”. This is a word that – when spoken – ending in a consonant. The regular inflection rules for such a name would be to add an -i before the case ending. That’s why a person who is used to speaking about the Loire will inflect it as “luaarissa” and “luaariin“.

A person who’s less familiar with a name, or who sees the name in writing while speaking, will often pronounce the name closer to how it is written down (#3), so they’re more likely to say “luaaressa” and “luaareen“. The pronunciation of many French names will just be based on their spelling because speakers will often be unaware of how to pronounce these names. In addition, some Finns like to “finnishize” names regardless.

4. Words ending in different consonant sounds

If the name ends in a consonant, but is pronounced with a different consonant sound, you won’t use an apostrophe. Instead, you will add an extra -i to the end of the name.

This section assumes that the Finn knows how the name is pronounced! If the name is unknown to the Finnish speaker, they’re more likely to pronounce it as it is written in Finnish.

Name Genitive Partitive Adessive Illative
Descartes Descartesin Descartesia Descartesilla Descartesiin
“dekart” “dekartin” “dekartia” “dekartilla” “dekartiin”
Rennes Rennesin Rennesiä Rennesillä Rennesiin
“ren” “renin” “reniä” “renillä” “reniin”
Cannes Cannesin Cannesia Cannesilla Cannesiin
“kan” “kannin” “kannia” “kannilla” “kanniin”
Jacques Jacquesin Jacquesia Jacquesilla Jacquesiin
“žak” “žakin” “žakia” “žakilla” “žakiin”

5. Words ending in a nasal sound

If the name ends in a nasal sound, it will be written like it ends in a consonant.

Finnish doesn’t have any nasal vowels, so these names are especially challenging for a Finn to say correctly. The final consonant in names like these is usually pronounced rather than silent like it would be in French. Rather than approximating the pronunciation of Jean as “žaa”, the final -n in this name will generally be pronounced: “žaan“. This is especially the case for the inflected forms. Even if a Finn pronounces Jean as “žaa“, they will use the -n when using the genitive case regardless: “žaanin“.

Name Genitive Partitive Adessive Illative
Chopin Chopinin Chopiniä Chopinillä Chopiniin
“šopään” “šopäänin” “šopääniä” “šopäänillä” “šopääniin”
Jean Jeanin Jeania Jeanilla Jeaniin
“žaan” “žaanin” “žaania” “žaanilla” “žaaniin”
Martin Martinin Martiniä Martinillä Martiniin
“martään” “martäänin” “martääniä” “martäänillä” “martääniin”
Orléans
Orléansin Orléansia Orléansilla Orléansiin
“orleaans”  “orleaansin” “orleaansia”
 “orleaansilla” “orleaansiin”

6. Marseille and Versailles

The most difficult French names you’ll come across are the ones that end in -aille(s) or -eille(s). The two most famous examples are Marseille and Versailles. Both of these can be said and written in two ways in Finnish, which are both valid.

6.1. Marseille

Marseille can be pronounced both as “marsei” (which ends in a vowel sound, see #1) or as “marsej” (which ends in a consonant sound, see #2).

  1. When we consider Marseille to end in a long vowel sound, we will use -ta for the partitive (“marseita“) and -hin for the illative case (“marseihin“). This is similar to, for example, the Finnish word  hai “shark”: haita and haihin.
  2. When we consider Marseille to end in a -j sound, we will use -ia for the partitive (“marsejia“) and -iin for the illative case (“marsejiin“).

All of these endings will be glued directly to the end of the word. This means that the pronunciation and the spelling of these words differ from each other quite a lot in both types.

# Name Genitive Partitive Inessive Illative
1 Marseille Marseillen Marseilleta Marseillessa Marseillehin
1 “marsei” “marsein” “marseita” “marseissa” “marseihin”
2 Marseille Marseillen Marseillea Marseillessa Marseilleen
2 “marsej” “marsejin” “marsejia” “masejissa” “marsejiin”

Other names like Marseille: Corneille, Vieille, Bataille

6.2. Versailles

Versailles can be pronounced both as “versai” (which ends in a vowel sound, see #1) or as “versaj” (which ends in a consonant sound, see #2).

The pronounciation of Versailles:

  1. When we consider Versailles to end in a long vowel sound, we will use -ta for the partitive (“versaita“) and -hin for the illative case (“versaihin“). This is similar to, for example, the Finnish word  hai “shark”: haita and haihin.
  2. When we consider Versailles to end in a -j sound, we will use -ia for the partitive (“versajia“) and -iin for the illative case (“versajiin“).

The spelling of Versailles:

While Marseille had the case endings glued directly to it, Versailles ends in a consonant. This complicated things:

  1. When we consider Versailles to end in a long vowel sound, we will use an apostrophe before the case ending. Thus, the spoken partitive form “versaita” is written as Versailles’ta, and the spoken illative form “versaihin” is written as Versailles’hin.
  2. When we consider Versailles to end in a -j sound, we will add an -i- before the case ending. Thus, the spoken partitive form “versajia” is written as Versaillesia, and the spoken illative form “versajiin” is written as Versaillesiin.
# Name Genitive Partitive Inessive Illative
1 Versailles Versaillesn Versaillesta Versaillesssa Versailleshin
1 “versai” “versain” “versaita” “versaissa” “versaihin”
2 Versailles Versaillesin Versaillesia Versaillesissa Versaillesiin
2 “versaj” “versajin” “versajia” “versajissa” “versajiin”

7. French cities and areas with Finnish names

Some very common names of places will have a Finnish name.

French Finnish
France Ranska
Nice Nizza
Paris Pariisi
Grand Paris Suur-Pariisi
tour Eiffel Eiffel-torni
Genève Geneve
Bourgogne Burgundi
Normandie Normandia
Occitanie Oksitania
Pays basque français Ranskan Baskimaa
Nouvelle-Aquitaine Uusi-Akvitania
Bruxelles Bryssel
Wallonie Vallonia
Québec Quebec
Côte d’Opale Opaalirannikko
Côte d’Azur Ranskan Riviera
Armorique Armorika
Corse Korsika
Vosges Vogeesit
Cévennes Sevennit
Les Pyrénées Pyreneet
Les Alpes Alpit
Alpilles Alpillit
L’Ardenne Ardennit

8. First names and Finnish alternatives

While some names are fairly similar in Finnish and in French (e.g. Eric/Eerik, Marie/Mari, Annie/Anni, Thomas/Tuomas), others are really difficult.

Some names that end in a mute sound will generally be difficult for Finns, so you’ll have to let them know how to pronounce your name. The most problematic names are those which end in a nasal sound, such as Jean and Lucien.

If you aren’t too attached to your name, you could adopt either a more Finnish-sounding alternative or a completely new name when talking to your Finnish acquaintances. The table below contains some Finnish names which have the same sounds as French names. Please note that I used my own judgement for these and you might want to try Google for Finnish names to find one that fits you.

French Finnish
Adrien Adrian, Ari, Aari, Atro
Alain Ari, Antti, Lenni, Lauri
Albert Alpo, Alvi, Pertti, Petri
Amandine Amanda
Angelique Anneli, Liisa
Arnaud Arno, Aarne
Benoit Pekka, Pekko, Ben
Camille Kamilla, Milla
Carole Karoliina
Estelle Stella
Josiane Jonna, Jaana, Sini, Seija
Jeannine Jenni, Jaana, Jonna
Lionel Leo, Niilo
Ludovic Luka, Lyly, Vikke, Ville, Viktor
Annick Annika, Anni
Antoine Antti, Toni
Bernadette Bertta, Netta, Erja, Nadja
Bertrand Petri, Pertti, Raino
Brigitte Birgitta, Riitta
Carlos Kaarlo
Caroline Karoliina
Celine Selina, Linnea, Lilli
Chantal Sanna, Tanja, Taina
Charles Saku, Arlo
Christelle Krista, Stella
Christine Kristina, Kristiina
Christophe Risto, Topi
Claire Klaara
Claude Klaus, Kalle, Kari, Kosti
Corinne Riina
Cyril Simo, Ilari, Riku
Damien Taavi, Daniel, Taneli
Delphine Elvi, Fiona
Didier Daniel, Eeli, Eero
Fabien Fabian, Fabio
Fabienne Fanni, Piia, Pinja
Fabrice Fabio, Risto
Florence Floora, Rauna
Francois Frans, Anssi, Rami, Raimo
Françoise Fanni, Soile
Genevieve Viivi, Jenna
Georges Erkki, Jesse, Juuso
Gerard Raimo, Rami, Eero
Gilbert Simo, Pertti
Gilles Eemil, Keijo, Simo
Guillaume Kimmo, Kimi, Joona, Jouni
Guy Kimi, Kimmo, Jimi
Helene Helena, Elena
Herve Heikki, Henrik
Hubert Pertti, Roope, Urho
Jacques Janne, Jaakko, Jake, Jakke
Janine Janina, Janna
Jean Janne, Jani, Johannes, Juhani, Juha
Jeanne Jenna, Janna, Jaana
Jennifer Jenni, Jenna
Jerome Jere, Jori, Jouni, Roope
Joelle Jonna, Jenni
Joseph Joosef, Jooseppi
Julien Jyri, Jussi, Juho
Karine Kaarina
Laurence Lauri, Rauno
Laurent Lauri
Louis Luka
Louise Loviisa, Lulu
Luc, Lucien Luka, Luukas, Lyly
Lydie Lydia, Lyydia
Marc, Marcel Marko, Markus, Mauri
Martin Martti, Matti, Timo
Maurice Mauri, Mauno, Maunu
Maryse Mari, Maiju, Mailis
Mathieu Matias, Matti
Michel Mikael
Michele Miisa, Mimmi, Selja
Mireille Mirella, Mimmi
Muriel Mirella, Mirja, Mimmi
Nicolas Niko, Niklas
Nicole Ninni, Niina
Odile Outi
Olivier Olli, Olavi
Pascal Pasi
Pascale Paula
Patrice Riia, Ritva, Petra, Tessa
Paul Pauli
Paulette Pauliina, Paula
Pierre Piete, Petri, Pertti, Petteri
Pierrette Pirita, Piia, Reetta
Raymond Raimo, Raino, Rami
Richard Riku
Robert Roope
Roland Roni, Roope, Lauri, Launo
Romain Rami, Roni, Rauno
Sebastien Sebastian, Seppo
Serge Sakari, Saku, Seppo
Simon Simo
Suzanne Susanna
Sylvain Simo, Silvo
Thérèse Teresa, Tea, Tessa, Terhi
Thierry Henri, Timo
Thomas Tuomas
Veronique Veera
Vincent Ville, Veini, Vesa
Xavier Saku, Samu
Yann Janne, Jani
Yannick Jani, Janne
Yves Iivari, Ivar, Iivo, Ivo
Yvette Viivi, Iida, Veera

That’s all for the inflection of French names. If you want to read more about this topic, here are some links:

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Marcin

Are marsei and marsej indeed two different pronunciations of Marseille (in the sense that they sound different) or are they just two ways of interpreting the pronunciation? In both cases we have only two syllables but in the first case we interpret it as a diphthong (which regarding the inflection behaves in the same way as a long vowel) and in the second case we interpret it as a short vowel plus a consonant. Is there some way to distinguish from the speech if someone says marsei or marsej?

Inge (admin)

It’s a different interpretation, they sound so similar that it’s not really something you can RELIABLY hear. The Finnish guides seem to take the approach that if YOU interpret what you hear as being an -i or a -j, then that’s that. The speaker decides if they hear a difference :p

Very similar to the Finnish name Kai and the Swedish alternative Kaj. Kai in the genitive is Kain, and Kaj in the genitive is Kaj’n.