Finnish for busy people

Verbs in Finnish Spoken Language

Verbs in Finnish spoken language get conjugated quite differently than normally. This article goes over those changes and links you to related articles that go more into depth.

Table of Contents
  1. Personal pronouns
  2. The me-passive (me mennään)
  3. The third person plural (ne menee)
  4. The present tense of verbs
    1. Olla, mennä and tulla
    2. Lähteä, odottaa and ajatella
    3. Most verbs
    4. Tarvita
  5. The other tenses and moods

    1. The imperfect tense
    2. The perfect tense
    3. The conditional

1. Personal pronouns

The personal pronouns are the first difference between standard and spoken Finnish. In fact, these pronouns are very often the ONLY spoken language element that’s used in course books you’re using to study. They are, however, only the tip of the iceberg.

There are regional difference between what variant of the ones below is used. Only the most common forms are listed here, which means I’ve excluded forms such as mnää and miä for minä.

Standard Spoken
minä mä, mää, mie (mnää, miä, meä)
sinä sä, sää, sie (snää, siä, seä)
hän se
me me, myö (met)
te te, työ (tet)
he ne, hyö (het)

Read more in this article about mä, mulla, mun, mua!

2. The me-passive

The me-form is spoken language doesn’t have the familiar -mme at the end of it. Instead, we use the passive.

Standard Spoken
me nukumme me nukutaan
me syömme me syödään
me opiskelemme me opiskellaan
me tapaamme me tavataan
me häiritsemme me häiritään
me pakenemme me paetaan

This isn’t limited to only the present tense. You will find it in all cases! Read more about this here!

Standard Spoken
me nukumme me nukutaan
me emme nuku me ei nukuta
me nukuimme me nukuttiin
me emme nukkuneet me ei nukuttu
me olemme nukkuneet me ollaan nukuttu
me emme ole nukkuneet me ei olla nukuttu
me olimme nukkuneet me oltiin nukuttu
me emme olleet nukkuneet me ei oltu nukuttu
me olisimme nukkuneet me oltais(iin) nukuttu

3. The third person plural – Ne menee

In the third person plural (he menevät), we will use the same person as in the third person singular (ne menee). This form is used all through the paradigm. For example, the past tense will be ne meni, the perfect tense ne on mennyt and the conditional ne menisi.

Standard Spoken
he nukkuvat ne nukkuu
he syövät ne syö
he opiskelevat ne opiskelee
he tapaavat ne tapaa
he häiritsevät ne häiritsee
he pakenevat ne pakenee

Read more in this article about ne menee, ne syö, ne tekee!

4. The present tense of verbs

4.1. Olla, mennä and tulla

I’m starting with the verbs that are most clearly different from their standard language version.

olla mennä tulla
mä oon mä meen mä tuun
sä oot sä meet sä tuut
se on se menee se tulee
me ollaan me mennään me tullaan
te ootte te meette te tuutte
ne on ne menee ne tulee

4.2. Lähteä, odottaa and ajatella

Leaving letters out of the middle of a word (sisäheitto) is fairly common in Finnish, especially for the -d- sound.

lähteä odottaa ajatella
mä lähen mä ootan mä aattelen
sä lähet sä ootat sä aattelet
se lähtee se oottaa se aattelee
me lähetään me odotetaan me aatellaan
te lähette te ootatte te aattelette
ne lähtee ne oottaa ne aattelee

4.3. Most verbs

Not all verbs are as dramatically different in spoken language than in standard Finnish. The examples below demonstrate this: for most verbs, only the me-form and the ne-form are different.

nukkua nousta sanoa
mä nukun mä nousen mä sanon
sä nukut sä nouset sä sanot
se nukkuu se nousee se sanoo
me nukutaan me noustaan me sanotaan
te nukutte te nousette te sanotte
ne nukkuu ne nousee ne sanoo

4.4. Tarvita

The verb tarvita is interesting because it has two paradigms in spoken language, which are both used. In #1 that you will also find tarvin with one -i-, and in #2 you will also find tarten with one -t-.

Standard Spoken #1 Spoken #2
minä tarvitsen mä tarviin mä tartten
sinä tarvitset sä tarviit sä tarttet
hän tarvitsee se tarvii se tarttee
me tarvitsemme me tarviimme me tarvitaan
te tarvitsette te tarviitte
he tarvitsevat ne tarvii ne tarttee

5. The other tenses and moods

The other tenses and mood aren’t especially different from standard Finnish. They undergo the sound changes that are typical for Finnish in general, such as dropping the -i from the end of a word.

5.1. The imperfect tense

The imperfect tense is general very similar in spoken and written Finnish. The biggest differences lays in 1) the me-form (where we use the passive imperfect), and 2) the third person forms, where we can sometimes drop the -i from the end of the word.

This is a regular occurance all through spoken Finnish and not exclusive to the imperfect tense. Read more here.

Standard Spoken
minä kysyin mä kysyin
sinä kysyit sä kysyit
hän kysyi se kysy(i)
me kysyimme me kysyttiin
te kysyitte te kysyitte
he kysyivät ne kysy(i)

The third person changes are interesting, because in the singular you will need to listen very closely to hear the difference.

5.2. The perfect tense

The perfect tense will often lose its final -t. Another different to note is that in the plural forms, -nut/-nyt doesn’t become -neet: in spoken language -nut/-nyt is also used in the plural forms.

Standard Spoken
minä olen kysynyt mä oon kysyny(t)
sinä olet kysynyt sä oot kysyny(t)
hän on kysynyt se on kysyny(t)
me olemme kysyneet me ollaan kysytty
te olette kysyneet te ootte kysyny(t)
he ovat kysyneet ne on kysyny(t)

This is of course also the case in the negative imperfect tense (mä en kysyny) and the plusquampefect (mä olin kysyny).

5.3. The conditional

The conditional’s marker is -isi-, so according to regular occurances all over spoken Finnish, we will drop the final -i when it occurs at the end of the word. Read more here.

Standard Spoken
minä kysyisin mä kysyisin
sinä kysyisit sä kysyisit
hän kysyisi se kysyis
me kysyisimme me kysyttäis(iin)
te kysyisitte te kysyisitte
he kysyisivät ne kysyis

In verbtype 4, we will find some verbs that will in standard Finnish contain a string of three vowels in a row (eg. haluaisin, siivoaisin). These forms will lose the middle vowel (eg. haluisin, siivoisin).

Standard Spoken
minä haluaisin mä haluisin
sinä haluaisit sä haluisit
hän haluaisi se haluis
me haluaisimme me haluttais(iin)
te haluaisitte te haluisitte
he haluaisivat ne haluisivat

That’s all for verbs in Finnish spoken language!

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Guus Bonnema

Hi, I was listening to music of Anne Mattila encountering the song “Ethän mee”. Someone in my fb group told me it was puhekieli for “you won’t go, will you?” explaining that mee was short for menee. So I was wondering if there is some kind of contraction here that makes sense?

Guus Bonnema

I should have been more clear: I was referring to the “Ethän” part and how the meaning refers to “you”. Sorry about that little omission.

Inge (admin)

If I understood correctly, you’re confusing the personal pronoun “hän” and the suffix -han/-hän with each other.

As you know, et means “you don’t”. You’re also correct that mee is short for mene in spoken language.

The -han/hän ending is used to make the statement into a soft/polite request.

Et mene: “You don’t go”, general statement
Älä mene: “Don’t go”, order
Ethän mene: “You won’t go, right? Please don’t go.”

You can read more about -han/hän here. You could also take a look at this real-life example which is pretty cool.

Dimitra

Interesting! Useful! Thanks for the examples!

Guus Bonnema

Thank you very much. The link to your page contains a very complete explanation. Thanks!