Finnish for busy people

Sekä Että – Joko Tai – Double Conjunctions

In this article we’ll look at some “double connectors” or “paired conjunctions”. By this I mean words that get inserted into a sentence as a pair, but not immediately after one another. The most common examples of this are “sekä että” and “joko tai”.

The most interesting thing about paired conjunctions is their symmetry. Both parts of the paired statements will have elements in the same form, case or tense. In the examples below, I have marked the symmetry with green.

1. Sekä Että – Both X and Y

Sekä and että function as paired conjunctions to express that there are two equal parts in the sentence. It’s possible to just use ja “and” in these sentences too: Puhun sekä suomea että ruotsia could also be Puhun suomea ja ruotsia. By using the paired conjunction sekä että, you express that both things are equally important instead of just neutral.

Usually, you use “sekä että” only when you have two things you want to equate to each other. You can find it in situations with more than two words too, but the clearest two will be symmetrical. This symmetry will also be clear in the sentence construction: both words will be inflected into the same case (e.g. koirista ~ kissoista), or the same person and tense (e.g. kuuntelee ~ katsoo).

Finnish English
Meillä on sekä suihku että amme. We have both a shower and a tub.
Puhun sekä suomea että ruotsia. I speak both Finnish and Swedish.
Tykkään sekä koirista että kissoista. I like both dogs and cats.
Tykkään sekä uida että juosta. I like to both swim and run.
Lapsi sekä kuuntelee että katsoo. The kid both listens and watches.

2. Joko Tai – Either X or Y

Joko and tai function as paired conjunctions to express that there are two options. The options are mutually exclusive, but either option is possible. Usually there are only two things to choose from. We will see the same symmetry happening as with “sekä että“: both words will be inflected in the same case (e.g. Viroon ~ Ruotsiin) or the same person and tense (e.g. soittaa ~ lähettää).

Finnish English
Peliä voi pelata joko yksin tai yhdessä. The game can be played either alone or together.
Matkustan joko Viroon tai Ruotsiin. I will be traveling to either Estonia or Sweden.
Lämmitä joko uunissa tai mikrossa. Heat up in either the oven or the microwave.
Voit joko soittaa tai lähettää viestiä. You can either call or send a message.
Tule joko aamulla tai iltapäivällä. Come either in the morning or the afternoon.

3. Ei Eikä – Neither Nor

The double connector “ei – eikä” is used to express that there are two things that aren’t acceptable. Simply said, eikä is used to replace “ja ei” (e.g. en juo teetä ja en juo kahvia → en juo teetä enkä kahvia).

The most difficult part of this is probably that both negative verbs will be inflected in the same case: “minä en enkä“, “sinä et etkä“, “me emme emmekä“, etc.

Finnish English
Ei saa tupakoida autossa eikä parvekkeella. No smoking in the car nor on the balcony.
Emme kadu sitä emmekä opi siitä. We don’t regret it nor learn from it.
En ole käyttänyt enkä myynyt huumeita. I have neither used nor sold drugs.
En ole muusikko enkä taiteilija. I’m neither a musician nor an artist.
Hän ei ymmärrä fysiikkaa eikä kemiaa. He doesn’t understand physics nor chemistry.

4. Toinen ja Toinen – One and the Other

This double connector is one that learners often have trouble with. “One or the other” will often be “other or the other” in Finnish; you will repeat toinen twice. It is possible to say “yksi ~ toinen” but if you want to stress that both things are equal, repeating toinen conveys that message better.

Toinen can also be used in a variety of different ways, which will be the topic of another article. You will for example use it as a reciprocal pronoun (e.g. toinen toisiamme “each other”), or as an ordinal number (e.g. toinen kerros “second floor”).

Finnish English
Ostin kaksi: toisen minulle ja toisen sinulle. I bought two: one for me and the other for you.
Toinen lähti kotiin ja toinen saapui juuri. One went home and the other just arrived.
Toinen osasi ja toinen ei osannut. One knew how to and the other didn’t.
Toinen osapuoli puhuu ja toinen kuuntelee. One party speaks and the other listens.
Toinen takki on punainen ja toinen musta. One coat is red and the other black.

5. Toiset ja Toiset – Some and the Others

There isn’t much of a difference between toiset ~ toiset and toinen ~ toinen. The plural is generally used for people in the plural rather than for things. You will repeat the toiset twice. There is, however, also the possibility to use jotkut ~ toiset, which is literally “some ~ others”.

Finnish English
Toiset osaavat työnsä ja toiset eivät. Some know how to do their job and others don’t.
Toiset juoksevat, toiset kävelevät. Some run, others walk.
Toiset ovat laiskoja ja toiset ahkeria. Some are lazy and others work hard.
Jotkut tulevat, toiset eivät. Some come, the others don’t.

6. Toisaalta ja Toisaalta – One the One Hand and On the Other

This is another repetitive phrase that has a different format from English. If we want to present both sides of an issue, we can say toisaalta ~ toisaalta. It’s also possible to say use the double connector “yhtäältä ~ toisaalta“, but opinions are divided on how acceptable that pair is.

  • Toisaalta on uni ja kuolema, toisaalta luonto ja rakkaus.
    On the one hand there is sleep and death, on the other hand nature and love.
  • Kielessä on toisaalta tarkkoja sääntöjä, mutta toisaalta tilaa luovuudelle.
    “In language there are on the one hand strict rules, but on the other hand space for creativity.”

The word toisaalta can also be used on its own. You can explain something and then add “on the other hand” to it to express a contrast. For example, Tykkään kissoista, koska niitä ei tarvitse ulkoiluttaa. Toisaalta pitää kuitenkin puhdistaa niiden hiekkalaatikko. “I like cats because you don’t have to take them out on walks. On the other hand, you do have to clean their litter box.”

7. Mitä -mpi Sitä -mpi – The X-er the Y-er

We can use “mitä – sitä” in combination with the comparative. This is probably the hardest of the double connectors on this page because we can have both adjectives and adverbs in these sentence, and they can be inflected in the cases.

Finnish English
Mitä nopeampi, sitä parempi. The faster the better.
Mitä nopeammin lähdet, sitä parempi. The faster you leave the better.
Mitä aurinkoisempi päivä, sitä leveämpi hymy. The sunnier the day, the wider the smile.
Mitä vanhemmaksi tulee, sitä hitaammaksi muuttuu. The older you get, the slower you get.
Mitä sitkeämmin yritän, sitä huonommin menee. The harder I try, the worse it goes.

That’s it for paired connectors like “sekä että“, “ei eikä” “toinen toinen” and “joko tai“! Some of these words will make another appearance in other articles and links will be added to this article accordingly! Thanks for reading!

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Maribel Dahan

Niin hienoa, että I came across in your website. Kiitos paljon.


Hi, Thank you so much for the great article <3

:There is a misspelling on the last line of the last table I guess

Sinä –> Sitä

Inge (admin)

Yes, thank you!

Jukka Käräjäoja

For logic nerds: there is one little difference when using TAI or JOKO-TAI structures.
The TAI conjuction allowes situations when both of the options are possible, but the JOKO-TAI structure excludes that AND-type option, you got to choose between the two, not taking them both.
Matkustan Viroon tai Ruotsiin. – I will travel to Estonia only or Sweden only or to Estonia and Sweden during the same trip.
Matkustan joko Viroon tai Ruotsiin. – I will travel either to Estonia or Sweden, but I cannot make a trip that would connect the two.