Finnish for busy people

Postitse Puhelimitse Ohitse Maitse – Prolative

The -(i)-tse ending on words like postitse, puhelimitse, ohitse and maitse is called the prolative. However, the term is so obscure that there is no point in trying to remember it. We will only use this in certain fixed idioms.

Words ending in -tse can generally be used as adverbs or postpositions. They express the manner, means or route through which something moves or is transmitted. Usually, there is an -i- in front of the -tse, which is the plural marker (the meaning, however, isn’t plural).

Thank you, shannabell, for suggesting this topic in our discord server!

Table of Contents
  1. Transportation
    1. Teitse – By road, by way of
    2. Maitse – By land, overland, by road
    3. Ilmateitse – By air
    4. Vesiteitse – By water
    5. Rautateitse – By rail
  2. Communication
    1. Postitse – By mail
    2. Lentopostitse – By airmail
    3. Sähköpostitse – By email
    4. Puhelimitse – By phone, over the telephone
    5. Radioitse – By radio
    6. Televisioitse – Via television
    7. Netitse – Via the internet
    8. Satelliittiteitse – Via satellite
  3. Movement
    1. Ylitse – Over
    2. Alitse – Under
    3. Lävitse – Through
    4. Ohitse – Past
    5. Editse – Past the front
    6. Taitse – Past the back
    7. Valitse – From between
    8. Sivuitse, vieritse – From the side
    9. Jäitse – Via the ice
    10. Puolitse – Past (the compass)
  4. Teitse compounds used in official situations
  5. Medical terms with -teitse
  6. Limitations to the prolative

Below, you will find a large amount of words with the prolative ending (-tse). Not all of them are important to learn, so I’ve marked the ones that are the most useful in green.

1. Transportation

One way to use the prolative ending is in order to express the medium of transportation of something: how is it being transported.

Finnish English
teitse by road
maitse by land, overland
maateitse by road
maanteitse by road
maastoitse through the terrain (army)
ilmateitse by air, e.g. virus
lentoteitse by air, e.g. air mail
ilmoitse by air
vesitse by water
vesiteitse by waterways
meriteitse by sea
meritse by sea
rautateitse by rail

1.1. Teitse – By road, by way of

The word teitse on its own means “by road”, but it rarely used in that meaning. Instead, it’s more likely to say “tietä pitkin“. The word teitse is more common in compound words, where it conveys the meaning of “by way of” (e.g. ilmateitse, vesiteitse, maateitse).

1.2. Maitse – By land, overland, by road

There are three words that carry the same meaning: maitse, maantietse and maatietse. They all refer to transportation by land or roads. Of these three maitse is the most common.

We can also use the postposition pitkin to express the same thing: maata pitkin. There are of course also more everyday vocabulary, such as autolla “by car”, junalla “by train” and bussilla “by bus”.

  • Voisiko Intiaan matkustaa maateitse?
    “Would it be possible to travel to India by road?”
  • Noin kaksi kolmasosaa puutavarasta kuljetetaan maanteitse.
    “About two thirds and all timber is transported by land.”
  • Suomesta pääsee Latviaan maitse helposti.
    “From Finland you can get to Latvia by land easily.
  • Matkustan maata pitkin Venäjälle: ensin bussilla ja sitten junalla.
    “I’m traveling by ground to Russia: first by bus and then by train.”
  • Armeija kulki maastoitse.
    “The army traveled through the terrain (off the roads).”

1.3. Ilmateitse – By air

The ways to express “by air” in Finnish are ilmateitse, lentoteitse and (very rarely) ilmoitse. The expression lentoteitse is used when meaning transportation, while ilmateitse is more used to express that diseases are airborne; are spread through the air.

In addition to the expressions above, it’s very common to say “ilman kautta” instead. In everyday life, you won’t talk about traveling abroad using these -itse words. The expression “ilman kautta” is useful, but you could also use lentäen “flying” or lentokoneella “by plane”.

  • Virus saattaa tarttua myös ilmateitse.
    “The virus can also be transmitted via air.”
  • Posti kuljetetaan lentoteitse.
    “The mail is transported by air, by plane.”
  • Vakavasti sairaita viedään lentoteitse hoitoon.
    “Seriously ill patients are taken for treatment by air.”
  • Matkustan Ruotsiin lentokoneella.
    “I’m traveling to Sweden by plane.”
  • Lentäen Espanjaan pääsee kahdessa tunnissa.
    “By plane Spain can be reached in two hours.”

1.4. Vesiteitse – By water

Waterborne transport and traveling via waterways can happen in many different ways. In Finnish, you can use vesiteitse and vesitse to express general transportation via water. In addition, we can be more specific and use meritse or meriteitse for sea transportation.

In everyday language, we can use merta pitkin “by sea”, laivalla “by ship” and veneellä “by boat”.

  • Hämeenlinnaan voi saapua myös vesiteitse.
    “You can also arrive to Hämeenlinna by water.”
  • Puuta kuljetetaan vesitse Ristiinaan.
    “Wood is transported by water to Ristiina.”
  • Pääosa pakolaisista saapuu meritse Italiaan.
    “Most refugees arrive in Italy by sea.”
  • Meriteitse saapuvista turvapaikanhakijoista 58 % oli miehiä.
    “58% of asylum seekers arriving by sea were men.”
  • Saksaan pääsee merta pitkin.
    “Germany can be reached by sea.”
  • Matkustan mielelläni laivalla.
    “I like to travel by ship.”

1.5. Rautateitse – By rail

If things are transported by train, we can use rautateitse “by rail” in more official situations. If we’re talking about traveling by rail, you will almost exclusively hear junalla “by train” instead.

  • 43% tavaraliikenteestä kuljetetaan rautateitse.
    “43% of freight is carried by rail.”
  • Matkustan Pietariin junalla.
    “I’m traveling to St. Petersburg by train.”

2. Communication

This prolative ending can also be used to express the medium of transmitting information: how the information is delivered.

Finnish English
postitse by mail
kirjeitse by letter
lentopostitse by airmail
sähköpostitse by email
puhelimitse by phone
kännyköitse by mobile
tekstiviestitse by text message, SMS
radioitse by radio, over the radio
radioteitse over the air
televisioitse by/on television
televisioteitse by/on television
netitse by the internet
internetitse by the internet
verkoitse through the internet
sateliittiteitse via satellite

2.1. Postitse – By mail

If we’re sending something by mail, we can use postitse, postin kautta or postin välityksellä. In addition to those fairly official ways, you can also use postissa, which means “in the mail”. We can also use kirjeitse “by letter”.

  • Uudet pankkitunnukset tulevat kotiin postitse.
    “You new bank ID will arrive home by mail.”
  • Nesteitä ei saa lähettää postitse.
    “Liquids may not be sent by mail.”
  • Postin kautta et voi lähettää vaarallisia aineita.
    “You cannot send dangerous goods via mail.”
  • Joululahjat on mahdollista lähettää postin välityksellä.
    “Christmas presents can be sent by mail.”
  • Saako rahalahjan lähettää postissa?
    “Can I send money in the mail?”
  • Ulkomailla asuva suomalainen voi äänestää kirjeitse.
    “A Finn living abroad can vote by letter (mail).”

2.2. Lentopostitse – By airmail

We can send something lentopostitse or lentopostin välityksellä.

  • Kuinka kauan kestää paketin kulku Suomeen lentopostitse?
    “How long does it take for a parcel to reach Finland by air mail?”
  • Litiumakkuja ei saa enää lähettää lentopostitse.
    “You can’t send lithium batteries by air mail anymore.”

2.3. Sähköpostitse – By email

Online, we can send something by email using the phrases sähköpostitse or sähköpostin välityksellä. In addition, in everyday language, sähköpostilla is also often used for the same purpose.

  • Lasku lähetetään sähköpostitse.
    “The invoice will be sent by email.”
  • Huonevaraukset tehdään sähköpostitse tai puhelimitse.
    “Room reservations are mady by email or phone.”
  • Työhakemus voidaan lähettää myös sähköpostilla.
    “The job application can also be sent by email.”

2.4. Puhelimitse – By phone, over the telephone

You can express communication by phone in Finnish with puhelimitse and puhelimen välityksellä. Theoretically, you can also use the word kännykkä in the prolative form: kännyköitse. This word hasn’t really caught on yet, but it is possible.

You might also run into the word puhelimella. This also means “by phone”. Unlike the previous phrases it’s not generally used to mean “by calling”. Rather, it has to do with using your phone to do something. For example, these days, you can pay with your phone.

  • Asiasta sovittiin puhelimitse.
    “The matter was settled by telephone.”
  • Risteilylle voi ilmoittautua puhelimitse.
    “You can register for the cruise by phone.”
  • Moni ikäihminen haluaa hoitaa asiansa puhelimitse.
    “Many older people want to do their business over the phone.”
  • Jätä maksukortit kotiin ja maksa puhelimella!
    “Leave your bank cards home and pay buy phone!”
  • Tietokonetta voi ohjata puhelimella.
    “You can control the computer by phone.”

2.5. Radioitse – By radio

We can send or receive information and messages radioitse or radioteitse “by radio, over the air”. These phrases are only used for communication. Listening to music on the radio (kuuntelen radiota) has nothing to do with radioitse.

  • Kimi Räikkönen sai radioitse käskyn sammuttaa moottori.
    “Kimi Räikkönen received a radio order to stop the engine.”
  • Me vaihdoimme radioitse pari sanaa.
    “We exchanged a few words over the radio.”
  • Ilmavoimat oli radioteitse yhteydessä hävittäjään.
    “The air force was in radio contact with the fighter jet.”

2.6. Televisioitse – Via television

Televisioitse and televisioteitse are both words that mean that we send or receive information through the medium of television. It’s also possible to say television välityksellä “through television”. In everyday language, people will usually just say televisiossa, which means “on television” rather than “via television”.

  • Konsertti lähetetään myös televisioitse.
    “The concert will also be broadcast on television.”
  • Kilpailu näytetään sekä televisioitse että internetitse.
    “The competition will be shown both on tv and on the internet.”
  • Nämä leffat näytetään televisiossa.
    “These films are shown on television.”

2.7. Netitse – Via the internet

Possible newcomers to this word construction are netitse, internetitse and verkoitse. These all three mean that you do something via the internet. While these are useful, they don’t seem to have caught on completely yet as they are rarely used.

  • Kävin keskustelua netitse.
    “I had the conversation through the internet.”
  • Finnair palvelee verkoitse vain Windows-käyttäjiä.
    “Finnair serves only Windows users online.”

2.8. Satelliittiteitse – Via satellite

To express that things are broadcast via a satellite , we can use satelliittiteitse or satelliitin välityksellä. In everyday language, sateliittilla is probably more common.

  • Televisio-ohjelma lähetettiin satelliittiteitse.
    “The television program was broadcast via satellite.
  • Elokuvia lähetetään satelliitilla maasta toiseen.
    “Movies are broadcast by satellite from one country to another.”

3. Movement

The following prolative words express a movement. They can be used both as postpositions and as adverbs.

Finnish English
ylitse over
alitse under
lävitse through
ohitse past, over
editse past the front
etupuolitse past the front side
taitse past the back
takapuolitse past the back side
sivuitse past the side
vieritse past the side
välitse from between
jäitse via the ice
jääteitse via the ice
eteläpuolitse to the South of
pohjoispuolitse to the North of
länsipuolitse to the West of
itäpuolitse to the East of
kiertoteitse via a detour
oikoteitse via a shortcut

3.1. Ylitse – Over

The words ylitse and yli express a movement over something. It’s important that there’s the movement present in the action: the movement starts on one side, then goes over something, and continues at the other side. Say, for example, a bird flies over a tree, or you walk over a bridge. If it’s a static positioning above an object, you use yllä instead (pöydän yllä “above the table”, pöydän yli “over the table”).

The word attached to ylitse will appear in the genitive case, because it’s a postposition.

  • Panssarivaunu ajoi pianon ylitse.
    “The tank drove over the piano.”
  • Huomenna Suomen ylitse liikkuu raju ukkosrintama.
    “Tomorrow there will be a violent thunderstorm moving across Finland.”
  • Annoimme heidän kävellä meidän ylitse.
    “We let them walk over us.”

3.2. Alitse – Under

The words alitse and ali express a movement under something: going from one side of an object, underneath it, and continuing on the other side. It’s important that there’s the movement present. If it’s a static positioning below an object, you use alla instead (istuu pöydän alla “sits under the table”, ryömii pöydän ali äidin luo “crawls under the table to mother”).

The word attached to alitse will appear in the genitive case, because it’s a postposition.

  • Lapsi mahtuu ryömimään aidan alitse.
    “The child can crawl under the fence.”
  • Hän ojensi minulle pöydän alitse muovipussin.
    “She handed me a plastic bag under the table.”

3.3. Lävitse – Through

The words lävitse and läpi express a movement through something. The word lävitse can be used as a postposition, which requires the word attached to it to appear in the genitive. In addition, lävitse can also appear as an adverb on its own.

  • Luoti tuli seinän lävitse.
    “The bullet came through the wall.”
  • Hän hymyile kyynelten lävitse.
    “She smiled through her tears.”
  • Käydään talon säännöt lävitse.
    “Let’s go through the house rules.”

3.4. Ohitse – Past

The words ohitse and ohi express a movement past something. They can also be used in a more abstract meaning in order to express that something is over.

The word ohitse usually appears as an adverb on its own. It can also be used as a postposition, which requires the word attached to it to appear in the genitive.

  • Auto ajoi ohitse.
    “The car drove past.”
  • Viiden vuoden opiskelu on nyt ohitse.
    “The five years of studying are now over.”
  • Pieksämäentie kulkee kylän ohitse.
    “The road Pieksämäntie goes past the village.”

3.5. Editse – Past the front

The word editse expresses a movement past the front of something: going from one side of an object, passing it on the front, and continuing on the other side. We can also use etupuolitse for the same meaning.

The word editse is used as a postposition, so it requires the word attached to it to appear in the genitive.

  • Talon editse kulkeva tie on aurattu.
    “The road which goes past the front of the house has been plowed.”
  • Merkurius kulkee Auringon editse maanantaina.
    “Mercury passes in front of the Sun on Monday.”
  • Mikä tai kuka lentää kuun editse?
    “What or who is flying past the moon?”
  • Nainen käveli lähemmäksi miestä auton etupuolitse.
    “The woman walked closer to the man via the front of the car.”

3.6. Taitse – Past the back

The word taitse is rare. It expresses a movement past the back of something: going from one side of an object, passing it from the back, and continuing on the other side. We can use takapuolitse as a synonym.

The word taitse is only used as a postposition, so it requires the word attached to it to appear in the genitive.

  • Meidän pitää kiertää talon taitse.
    “We have to go around the back of the house.”
  • Hän iski silmää minulle professorin selän taitse.
    “She winked at me from behind the professor’s back.”
  • Lämpökanaaliputket kaivettiin punaisen talon takapuolitse.
    “The heating ducts were dug behind the red house.”

3.7. Välitse – From between

The word välitse means the same as välistä. It expresses a movement away from the space between multiple things. The word välitse is used as a postposition, so it requires the word attached to it to appear in the genitive.

  • Aurinko paistaa puiden välitse.
    “The sun shines from between the trees.
  • Me ryömimme kiviröykkiöiden välitse rannalle.
    “We crawl from between the rocks to the beach.”
  • Kävelen hyllyjen välitse kirjaston toiselle puolelle.
    “I walk between the shelves to the other side of the library.”

3.8. Sivuitse, vieritse – From the side

The words sivuitse and vieritse expresses a movement which comes from the side of an object. Sometimes, they are used as a synonym of ohitse (see above).

They’re postposition, so they require the word attached to it to appear in the genitive.

  • Talon vieritse kulkee tie.
    “A road runs past the side of the house.”
  • Nainen ylitti katua pakettiauton vieritse.
    “The woman crossed the street from beside the van.”
  • Latu lähtee meidän talon sivuitse ylös harjulle.
    “The ski trail goes past the side of our house up the ridge.”

3.9. Jäitse – Via the ice

When a lake is frozen, we can go to the opposite side of it over the ice. You can use the words jäitse and jääteitse to express this.

  • Järviä pystyy ylittämään jäitse.
    “Lakes can be crossed over the ice.”
  • Saareen pääsee talvella myös jäiteitse.
    “You can also access the island by the ice in winter.”

3.10. Puolitse – Past (the compass)

We can use puolitse in combination with the points of the compass: eteläpuolitse “from the South side”, pohjoispuolitse “from the North side”, länsipuolitse “from the West side”, itäpuolitse “from the East side”.

  • Vilkas laivaväylä kulkee saaren eteläpuolitse.
    “A busy shipping lane runs to the South of the island.”
  • Väylä kulkee Venäjän pohjoispuolitse Tyynelle merelle.
    “The waterway runs via the North side of Russia to the Pacific.”
  • Lasse lensi kaupungin länsipuolitse suoraan pohjoiseen.
    “Lasse flew to the West of the city straight to the North.”

4. Teitse compounds used in official situations

The word -teitse “by way of” is used in a lot of compound words. Below, you can find some examples. These are mostly used in official documents and situations.

Finnish English
valitusteitse by appeal
hallintoteitse through administrative channels
kurinpitoteitse through disciplinary action
asetusteitse by decree, regulation
pakkoteitse by force
ulosottoteitse through distraint
neuvotteluteitse by negotiation
sopimusteitse through a contract
oikeusteitse through the courts
sovintoteitse amicable, through reconciliation
diplomaattiteitse through diplomatic channels
komentoteitse through the chain of command
viranomaisteitse through the official authorities
lainsäädäntöteitse by legislation
  • Voit päätökseen hakea muutosta valitusteitse.
    “You can try to change the decision by appealing.”
  • Palasin kotiin kiertoteitse.
    “I returned home via a detour.”
  • Liikennerikkomukset käsitellään hallintoteitse.
    “Traffic offenses are dealt with by administrative means.”
  • Virkamies erotettiin virastaan kurinpitoteitse.
    “The official was dismissed through disciplinary action.”
  • Juoksin oikoteitse peltojen poikki.
    “I ran through the fields as a shortcut.”
  • Rahanpesua estetään asetusteitse Virossa.
    “Money laundring is prevented by regulation in Estonia.”
  • Mieluiten vapaaehtoisesti mutta tarpeen vaatiessa myös pakkoteitse.
    “Preferably on a voluntary basis, but also compulsorily if necessary.”
  • Maksamatta jääneet saatavat voidaan periä ulosottoteitse.
    “Unpaid debts can be recovered through distraint.”
  • Yhteisymmärrys pyritään löytämään neuvotteluteitse.
    “Agreement is sought through negotiation.”
  • Avio-oikeus voidaan poistaa sopimusteitse.
    “Marital right can be contractually terminated by entering into a marriage contract.”
  • Vahingonkorvausta haetaan firmalta oikeusteitse.
    “Compensation is sought from the company through the courts.”
  • Onko kunta halukas selvittämään asian sovintoteitse?
    “Is the municipality willing to settle the matter amicably?”
  • Asiaa käsitellään diplomaattiteitse.
    The matter will be dealt with through diplomatic channels.
  • Kadetti on velvollinen tekemään siitä komentoteitse ilmoituksen.
    “The cadet is required to report it through the chain of commands.”
  • Etenen asiassa nyt viranomaisteitse.
    “I will go forward now through the official authorities.”
  • Asiaan on tulossa muutoksia lainsäädäntöteitse.
    “Legislative changes will be made to the matter.”

5. Medical terms with -teitse

Some medical terms can express the way a disease is transmitted.

Finnish English
hengitysteitse through breathing, by inhalation
sukupuoliteitse through sexual contact
limakalvoteitse mucosally
laskimoteitse intravenously
imuteitse through the lymphatic system
veritse through the blood
alateiste vaginally
  • Tuberkuloosi on hengitysteitse tarttuva tauti.
    Tuberculosis is a respiratory disease (passed on through the air).”
  • Klamydia on sukupuoliteitse tarttuva tauti.
    “Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease.”
  • B-hepatiitti on limakalvoteitse tarttuva tauti.
    “Hepatitis B is a mucosal infectious disease.”
  • Tahdistin asennetaan laskimoteitse oikeaan kammioon.
    “The pacemaker is intravenously mounted in the right ventricle.”
  • Papillaarinen syöpä leviää pääasiassa imuteitse.
    “Papillary cancer is transmitted mainly by lymphatics.”
  • C-hepatiitti on veritse tarttuva virus.
    “Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus.”
  • Lapsi voi syntyä joko alateitse tai keisarileikkauksella.
    “A baby can be born either vaginally or through a C-section.”

6. Limitations to the prolative

The prolative can’t be seen as a productive form: it’s not really possible to make new words with the -tse ending catch on. We can invent words with the same kind of meaning and construction, but they’re not likely to catch on.

There are also limitations to what kind of words can get the ending. You can deliver information puhelimitse “by phone” and kirjeitse “by letter”, but using fakseitse “by fax” and korteitse “by card” just doen’t sound natural.

In literature, you can find some forms that are unusual and not used elsewhere, such as rajoitse “along to border” (Mika Waltari, Turms kuolematon) ja aidanraoitse “through the hole in the fence” (Antti Hyry, Kevättä ja syksyä). VISK also mentions the following examples: Sinä puhuit runoitse. “You spoken through poems.” and Ideat ilmenevät analogioitse. “The ideas become clear through analogues.” Needless to say, you’re not likely to come across those examples anywhere else.

The bible also contains some of these -tse adverbs, which aren’t widely used (Apostolien teot 27)

  • …kulkivat aivan likitse Kreetaa
  • …purjehdimme Salmonen nenitse Kreetan suojaan.
  • Mutta ennen pitkää syöksyi saaren päällitse raju tuuli…

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Michael Hämäläinen

Thank you for introducing this in detail. I am engaged in an ever-escalating one-upmanship with a Hungarian-American polyglot in Beijing and need all the grammatical cases I can find!
Although the prolative case is no longer productive, I do notice some interesting points of overlap with other grammatical forms.
For example, a few of the words here are also included in your Adverbs of Location: Täällä, Kaikkialla, Ylhäällä page: ali(tse), yli(tse) and läpi, which is short form for lävitse.
Regarding the läpi: lävitse pairing, the Wiktionary entry notes that “Possessive suffixes can be attached to lävitse, but not straight to läpi”; an example is Lävitseni Kaikkeen (“Thru Me And Into Everything”). Internet search of words like ylitseni (“[passing] above me”) also turn up some results.
Teitse is derived from tie (“road, way”) +‎ -itse. In a similar vein, tiehensä is formed as tie + (illative suffix -hVn) + (third-person possessive suffix -nsA), to literally mean “[go] to his/her/its [own] way”, but often simply glossed as ‘away’, such as in Kissa pelotti linnut tiehensä (The cat scared the birds away).
I suppose that one view is that many of these case ending + possessive suffix constructions are no longer productive, and the foreign learner should just memorise each idiomatic use case. Would be great to know if anyone has explored this in detail?

I googled up some examples of prolative phrases with a possessive suffix as well:

  • Juna ajoi ylitseni / minun yli – The train drove over me
  • Juna ajoi hänen ylitseen – The train drove over him
  • Juna ajoi miehen yli – Sounds better than ylitse
  • Pilvet kulkevat ohitseni / minun ohitse / minun ohi – The clouds move over me (first one poetic, second neutral, third colloquial)
  • Kukaan ei pääse ohitsemme / meidän ohitse huomaamatta – Nobody can pass us without us noticing – ohitsemme is certainly used a lot
  • It’s interesting indeed that we CAN add a possessive suffix to the prolative but not to the postposition. However, I think it’s mostly glossed over due to the rarity of this type of phrases.

    I haven’t found any sources that specifically dive into this topic.

Michael Hämäläinen

Thank you for the usage explanation! Whenever I read in a textbook or reference material that something is “optional”, I start wondering about the nuance and actual usage patterns. Thanks for clearing that up.