Finnish for busy people

Missä Mistä Mihin – Location Cases

This page is built on the assumption that you have studied the names of common places in a city already (eg. park, church, garden or station). In this article, we will be looking at how to use the location cases (missä mistä mihin).

This article does not discuss how place names are inflected in the cases (eg. Tampereella vs Helsingissä). It also doesn’t explain any of the uses of the location cases in more abstract situations (such as how the verb tykätä requires –sta). We’re purely looking at places in and around the city.

Table of Contents
  1. Location Cases
  2. Missä? – Where? Inessive (-ssA) vs. Adessive (-llA)
    1. General Rule
    2. How to know when to use –ssA or –llA
  3. Missä Mistä Mihin
    1. Inner location cases: –ssA, –stA, mihin
    2. Outer location cases: -lla, -lta, -lle

1. Location Cases

Location cases tell you something about the location of something. Finnish has 6 location cases:

Case Term Example
Inessive missä koulussa, kaupassa, Suomessa
Elative mistä koulusta, kaupasta, Suomesta
Illative mihin kouluun, kauppaan, Suomeen
Adessive millä asemalla, pihalla, kioskilla
Ablative miltä asemalta, pihalta, kioskilta
Allative mille asemalle, pihalle, kioskille

The case is the grammatical name for the case. The term is what the case will be called in immigrant Finnish lessons and some course books. If your goal is to learn to speak, write or understand Finnish, you don’t need the grammatical terms. Don’t break your head over trying to memorize them!

2. Missä? – Where?

When asking for the location of someone, we can ask Missä sinä olet? “Where are you?” and for the location of things, we can ask Missä se on? “Where is it?”. The missä question word is used to ask for the static location of something.

2.1 General Rule

When we answer a missä question, we will generally have two pick one of two cases: either the inessive (-ssA) or the adessive (-llA). The capital A is used to express that we can have both -a and in these case endings, as vowel harmony rules require.

The general rule is that when you’re inside a building, you use the ending -ssA. When you’re at a place, out in the open air, you’ll use -llA. Read on below the table to learn more about the problems of this general rule.

English Place Missä
post office posti postissa
hotel hotelli hotellissa
bakery leipomo leipomossa
hospital sairaala sairaalassa
school koulu koulussa
park puisto puistossa
forest metsä metsässä
restaurant ravintola ravintolassa
bar baari baarissa
cafe kahvila kahvilassa
museum museo museossa
bank pankki pankissa
shop, store kauppa kaupassa
pharmacy apteekki apteekissa
day care päiväkoti päiväkodissa
church kirkko kirkossa
English Place Missä
train station juna-asema juna-asemalla
gas station huoltoasema huoltoasemalla
airport lentoasema lentoasemalla
police station poliisiasema poliisiasemalla
fire station paloasema paloasemalla
bus station bussiasema bussiasemalla
yard piha pihalla
market square tori torilla
kiosk kioski kioskilla
road tie tiellä
street katu kadulla
beach ranta rannalla
tennis court tenniskenttä tenniskentällä
playground leikkikenttä leikkikentällä
golf court golfkenttä golfkentällä
bus stop bussipysäkki bussipysäkillä

2.2. How to know when to use -ssA or -llA

The examples in the table should quickly make you doubt the rule that –ssA is used when inside a building and –llA for when you’re out in the open air. This is definitely not a perfect rule.

For example: Metsä (forest) and puisto (park) are both out in the open air, but will become metsässä and puistossa. Maybe because the trees form a “roof” over your heard?

A better approach to which words use –llA is to just learn these words by heart as exceptions. Most words will get –ssA, so you could use this ending as the default when answering the question missä. The ending –llA will be used:

  • for all places ending in –asema (eg. juna-asema, poliisiasema)
  • for all places ending in –kenttä (eg. urheilukenttä, leikkikenttä)
  • for the words piha, tori, kioski, katu, tie, pysäkki

There are some exceptional and/or interesting cases of the opposition between these two cases.

3. Missä Mistä Mihin

As mentioned about, Finnish has 6 location cases. Above, we’ve only looked at two: the –ssA and –llA forms. Both of those refer to a static location.

In addition, Finnish has a separate case that refers to movement towards a location, as well as a case for movement away from a location. This means that “in the store”, “to the store” and “from the store” will all require a different case.

3.1. Inner location cases: -ssa, -sta, mihin

Location Example English
missä Olen kaupassa. I’m in a/the store.
mistä Tulen kaupasta. I come from a/the store.
mihin Menen kauppaan. I go to a/the store.
missä Olen koulussa. I’m in/at school.
mistä Tulen koulusta. I come from a/the school.
mihin Menen kouluun. I go to a/the school.
missä Asun Suomessa. I live in Finland.
mistä Tulen Suomesta. I come from Finland.
mihin Menen Suomeen. I go to Finland.

3.2. Outer location cases: -lla, -lta, -lle

When you know that a word like asema will get –lla when we answer the question “where”, you automatically also know what the answer to the questions “from where” (mistä?) and “to where” (mihin?) will look like.

For example, the word for bus stop, pysäkki becomes pysäkillä, so we know that the other location cases will be pysäkiltä and pysäkille. We can’t mix the inner and outer location cases, so pysäkistä isn’t possible.

Location Example English
millä Olen asemalla. I’m at a/the station.
miltä Tulen asemalta. I come from a/the station.
mille Menen asemalle. I go to a/the station.
millä Olen kioskilla. I’m at a/the kiosk.
miltä Tulen kioskilta. I come from a/the kiosk.
kioskille Menen kioskille. I go to a/the kiosk
millä Olen kadulla. I’m on the street.
miltä Tulen kadulta. I come from the street.
mille Menen kadulle. I go to the street.

That’s it for “missä mistä mihin” for now. You could check out the article we have separately on each location case next:

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