Finnish for busy people

How to Say FOR in Finnish – English Preposition

This article is focused around how to say FOR in Finnish. This topic was suggested by Cass in our Discord server:

I have been monitoring things that I get confused about, and one is how to say “for” in Finnish. It can be one of six different endings, and I am confused about the differences of some of them. Borrowing from Random Finnish Lesson: Kiitos kyydistä. – Thank you for the ride. Minä odotan sinua. – I’ll wait for you. Tämä on sinulle. – This is for you. I think I have a sense of it (thanks comes from the ride, sinua is maybe more like an object and may only be for certain verbs like rakastaa and odottaa, and sinulle is a direction of a action), but would like more examples to solidify my understanding.Cass

So let’s take a look at this very complicated word!

Table of Contents
  1. The problem with this article
  2. Most common ways to translate “for”
  3. “For” expressing who something is meant for
  4. “For” expressing what something is used for
  5. “For” expressing what something is meant for
  6. “For” expressing what purpose you do something for
  7. “For” expressing support, favor or benefit
  8. “For” expressing a length of time or distance
  9. “For” expressing a location or destination
  10. “For” expressing what can be expected
  11. “For” in English phrasal verbs
  12. “For” in English phrases

1. The Problem With this Article

English is a messy language, so when asking how to say FOR in Finnish, we’re basically asking how to express dozens of different things that all happen to have this one word in common. Because “for” has so many meanings in English – many of which are just phrases – it’s hard to translate any sentence straight from English to Finnish.

There are very few tendencies where the English and Finnish way of saying something can be translated one way and one way only. Usually there are many ways, both in English and in Finnish, to say the same thing. For example, “What did you do that for?” could just as well be “Why did you do that?”. The following three sentences all mean the same thing and all work. Only one uses “for”:

  • I need it for studying.
  • I need it to study.
  • I need it in order to study.

I’m doing my best in this article to point out some general tendencies but the categories below are far from exhaustive. I’m pointing out some regularities, but since both English and Finnish have several ways to express these phrases, there is no way to give any complete overview of these phrases without doing months of research.

2. Most Common Ways to Translate “For”

Here’s the list of forms that I found to be most often common as a translation for “for” in Finnish.

  • the allative (-lle): eg. Tämä on sinulle “This is for you”
  • the mihin-form: eg. Tarvitsen sen kouluun “I need it for school”
  • the translative (-ksi): eg. Syön puuroa iltapalaksi “I eat porridge for supper”
  • “varten”: eg. Tulin tänne sinua varten “I came here for you”
  • “takia”: eg. Minkä takia tulit tänne? “What did you come here for?”
  • “puolesta”: eg. Olen iloinen sinun puolestasi “I’m happy for you”

3. “For” Expressing Who Something is Meant For

The intended recipient of a thing – the person for whom something is meant – will in Finnish often appear in the allative case (-lle).

Finnish English
Tämä paketti on sinulle. This parcel is for you.
Minulla on hyviä uutisia vanhemmilleni. I have good news for my parents.
Lelu on tarkoitettu yli 6-vuotiaille. The toy is meant for ages 6 and up.
Ostin lahjan ystävälleni. I bought the present for my friend.
Tein sen koko ihmiskunnalle. I did it for all mankind.
Tämä on oikea paikka minulle. This is the right place for me.
Teen ruokaa kahdellekymmenelle. I’m cooking for twenty (people).
Eikö se riitä sinulle? Isn’t it enough for you?

4. “For” Expressing What Something is Used For

When you want to express that you use a thing to fulfill a certain function or purpose, Finnish fairly often uses the mihin-form, while in English you can use “for”. Often the function is an action, which in Finnish will appear in the minen-form’s illative (eg. maalaaminen → maalaamiseen).

Finnish English
Käytän näitä vanhoja housuja maalaamiseen. I wear these old trousers for painting.
Nämä saappaat on tehty kävelemiseen. These boots are made for walking.
Ostin tämän leivän leikkaamiseen. I bought this for cutting bread.
Vedenkeitin on tarkoitettu kotitalouskäyttöön. The kettle is for domestic use.
Olen ainoa hakija tähän työhön. I’m the only applicant for this job.
Tarvitsen sen kirjan kouluun. I need the book for school.
Mihin tarvitset sen? What do you need it for?

5.”For” Expressing What Something is Meant For

If something is specifically created for something, English can also use “for”, while Finnish sometimes uses the postposition varten.

Finnish English
Tarvitaan laki ihmisen kloonausta varten. A law is needed for human cloning.
Kaikki on valmista kilpailua varten. Everything is ready for the competition.
Tämä huone luotiin tätä hetkeä varten. This room was born for this moment.
Minä tulin tänne sinua varten. I came here for you.
Tämä paketti on sinua varten. This parcel is (meant) for you.
Luotiin yhteinen perusta tulevaa työtä varten. A common basis was laid for future work.

6. “For” Expressing What Purpose You Do Something For

When you do something for a purpose – and the purpose is an abstract noun – the translative case (-ksi) can be used.

Finnish English
Opiskelen suomea huvikseni. I’m studying Finnish for fun.
Maalaan omaksi ilokseni. I paint for my own pleasure.
Mitä teet työksesi? What do you do for a living?
Ota influenssarokotus suojaksesi. Take the flu vaccine for protection.
Meidän onneksemme sää muuttui.
Fortunately for us, the weather changed.

7. “For” Expressing Support, Favor or Benefit

All the sentences below are similar in meaning: they all express one of the following:

  • in support of (a person or policy)
  • in favour of (a person or policy)
  • on behalf of (a person or policy)
  • to the benefit of (a person or policy)
Finnish English
Joukot taistelivat Napoleonin puolesta. The troops fought for Napoleon.
Nämä vanhemmat eivät puhu kaikkien puolesta. These parents aren’t speaking for everyone.
He järjestivät rukoushetken uhrien puolesta. They held a prayer for the victims.
Mielipiteitä esitettiin puolesta ja vastaan. Opinions were expressed for and against.
Noin 70% äänesti ehdotuksen puolesta. About 70% voted for the proposal.
Päätä itsesi puolesta! Decide for yourself!
Olen niin iloinen puolestasi! I’m so happy for you!

8. “For” Expressing a Length of Time or Distance

English seems to use “for” with several different types of expressions of time. First, if we’re expressing an intended time span, Finnish will generally utilize the translative case (-ksi) (#1). Second, if we’re expressing a realized time span, Finnish won’t use any case at all and just state the time span (#2), or use the genetive if there’s only one of the time increment (#3). This is also true for distances (#4). In negative sentences, we will use the mihin-form for the time span (#5).

# Finnish English
1 Muutin ulkomaille kolmeksi vuodeksi. I moved abroad for three years.
1 Syön muroja aamiaiseksi. I eat cereal for breakfast.
1 Tulen kotiin jouluksi. I’m coming home for Christmas.
2 Pelasin tennistä kolme vuotta. I played tennis for three years.
2 Olen tuntenut hänet kolme kuukautta. I’ve known her for three months.
3 Kokous kesti tunnin. The meeting lasted for an hour.
4 Hän ajoi kolme kilometriä. He drove for three kilometers.
4 He kävelivät 40 mailia. They walked for 40 miles.
5 En ole syönyt lihaa kolmeen vuoteen. I haven’t eaten meat for (in) three years.
5 En ole nähnyt häntä kolmeen vuoteen. I haven’t seen her for (in) three years.

9. “For” Expressing a Location or Destination

Finnish uncomplicates location and destination sentences by just using the general missä-mistä-mihin system. So, “for” will either be translated as “to” or as “in”, depending on the sentence.

Finnish English
Me lähdemme Lontooseen huomenna. We are leaving for London tomorrow.
Onko tämä bussi Chicagoon? Is this the bus for Chicago?
Mennään kävelylle metsään. Let’s go for a walk in the forest.
Hän lähtee risteilylle Välimeren alueella. She leaves for a cruise around the Mediterranean.
Hän työskentelee vakuutusyhtiössä. She’s working for an insurance company.

10. “For” Expressing W

This is a pretty minor use of the preposition “for” in English, but I’m adding it anyway.

Finnish English
Hän on pitkä tytöksi. She’s tall for a girl.
Hän on pitkä ikäisekseen. She’s tall for her age.
Hän on aika hyvä aloittelijaksi. She’s pretty good for a beginner.
Sää oli lämmin vuodenaikaan nähden. The weather was warm for the time of year.

 11. “For” in English Phrasal Verbs

Both English and Finnish have “rections”. In English, these are called “phrasal verbs”, which usually come with prepositions (eg. to wait for, to listen to, to depend on, to be good at). Finnish also has verb rections, but these only very rarely match up with the English rections. Below, you can find some English “for” verbs and their Finnish translation.

 

English Finnish
to ask for advice pyytää neuvoja (partitive)
to wait for you odottaa sinua (partitive)
to care for a child hoitaa lasta (partitive)
to look for a job etsiä töitä (partitive)
to thank for the help kiittää avusta (mistä)
to answer for something vastata jostain (mistä)
to pay for something maksaa jostain (mistä)
to punish for something rangaista jostain (mistä)
to settle for something tyytyä johonkin (mihin)
suitable for something sopiva johonkin (mihin)
famous for something kuuluisa jostain (mistä)
thankful for something kiitollinen jostain (mistä)
an award for something palkinto jostain (mistä)
responsible for something vastuussa jostain (mistä)
closed for something suljettu viikonlopuksi (-ksi)
too heavy for someone liian painava jollekin (-lle)

12. “For” in English Phrases

English Finnish
for example esimerkiksi
for free ilmaiseksi, maksutta
for hire vuokrattavana
for sale myytävänä
for no particular reason ilman erityistä syytä
for nothing turhaan, syyttä suotta
for once kerrankin
for a change vaihteeksi
for certain varmasti
for sure varmasti
for real oikeasti
for the first time ensimmäistä kertaa
for some time jonkin aikaa
for the most part suurimmaksi osaksi
for what it’s worth oli miten oli
for some reason jostain syystä
for better or for worse myötä- ja vastoinkäymisissä
for the sake of jonkin vuoksi
take for granted pitää itsestään selvänä
for the foreseeable future lähitulevaisuudessa
for now toistaiseksi
for the time being toistaiseksi
for the moment tällä hetkellä
for days and days päiväkausia
for the last time viimeisen kerran
for good lopullisesti, pysyvästi
run for his life juosta henkensä edestä
an eye for an eye silmä silmästä

There you are! Those are some of the many ways of how to say FOR in Finnish. I think this could definitely be the topic of a dissertation in comparative linguistics. I’ve only scraped at the top of the iceberg of how to say FOR in Finnish. I’ll leave it to someone wiser than me to give a more complete picture!

3
Leave a Reply

avatar

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Cass
Cass

Wow! Thank you so much for this post. I really appreciate the work you put into it. It clarifies a lot. The issue of differences between English and Finnish had been difficult for me to clarify, even with access to local Finns. I have a hard translation crutch I need to break.

Inge (admin)
Inge (admin)

I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one with a “translation crutch”, so I hope this article will reach others like you 🙂 It’s a hard habit to break, but it’s vital if you want to advance.

Rasikko
Rasikko

This preposition really exposes the familial differences between the two languages. My first instance of this was with mihin. Threw me for(haha) a huge loop.