Finnish for busy people

Kysymyslause – Making Questions in Finnish – Lausetyypit

In Finnish, you can make questions in two ways: by using a question word like mikämiksi and kuka, and by using the -ko/kö suffix. This is how we create a kysymyslause (a “question sentence”, ie. an interrogative clause).

This article tells you more about the types of kysymyslause Finnish has! You can find an overview of all the different sentence types (lausetyypit) in Finnish on this page.

Table of Contents
  1. Questions with a question word
  2. Questions with the -ko/kö suffix
    1. KO or KÖ?
    2. KO/KÖ added to the verb
    3. KO/KÖ added to the negative verb
    4. KO/KÖ added to other words
  3. Subordinate interrogative clauses
  4. Word order in question sentences
  5. Spoken language questions

1. Questions with a question word

The first type of interrogative sentences uses an interrogative pronoun ie. a question word (kysymyssana). This word will appear at the beginning of the sentence. The rest of the sentence will have the same word order as the normal, affirmative sentence would have.

Finnish English
Mitä sinä opiskelet kurssilla? What do you study on the course?
Milloin tulet kurssilta kotiin? When do you come home from the course?
Kuka sinun opettajasi on? Who is your teacher?
Kenellä on ruskea tukka? Who has brown hair?
Mistä sinä olet kotoisin? Where are you from?
Missä sinä asut? Where do you live?
Mihin aikaan tulit kotiin? At what time did you come home?

I have another, longer article that goes through all the question words in more detail here. I also go over how questions are typically formed in spoken Finnish here.

2. Questions with the -ko/kö suffix – YES/NO questions

The second interrogative sentence type is the Finnish equivalent of “Do you?”, “Does he?”, “Are they?” and “Will you?” sentences. It’s very common to start these sentences with the verb of the sentence, but almost any word can get the ko/kö suffix. This suffix creates questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no”.

2.1. KO or KÖ?

In order to know whether to add –ko or –kö as the suffix, you need to know about vowel harmony (vokaaliharmonia in Finnish). Words which have an A, O or U will always get -ko. Words without A, O and U will get -kö.

Base word KO/KÖ Reason
tulet tuletko? base word has U
haluavat haluavatko? base word has U and A
seisot seisotko? base word has O
saan saanko? base word has A
syömme syömme? base word doesn’t have A, O nor U
säästän säästän? base word doesn’t have A, O nor U
itkette itkette? base word doesn’t have A, O nor U

2.2. KO/KÖ added to the verb

When adding KO/KÖ to the verb, you place the verb at the beginning of the sentence and follow it up with the subject.

Regular sentence Question
Talo on punainen. Onko talo punainen?
Eilen oli tiistai. Oliko eilen tiistai?
Tietokone toimii. Toimiiko tietokone?
Eeva tulee mukaan. Tuleeko Eeva mukaan?
Miehet kävelevät metsässä. Kävelevät miehet metsässä?

Note that we can drop the pronouns minä, sinä, me and te from both regular sentences and question sentences! In other words, you can also ask “Syötkö kotona?” and “Haluatteko teetä?“. However, sentences with hän and he must have the pronoun.

Regular sentence Question
Hän opiskelee suomea. Opiskeleeko hän suomea?
Hän osaa uida. Osaako hän uida?
He käyvät baarissa. Käyvät he baarissa?
Sinä auttaisit minua. Auttaisitko sinä minua? OR Auttaisitko minua?
Sinä syöt kotona. Syöt sinä kotona? OR Syöt kotona?
Te tulette mukaan. Tuletteko te mukaan? OR Tuletteko mukaan?

2.2. KO/KÖ added to the negative verb

We can also turn negative sentences into questions by adding the suffix KO/KÖ to the negative verb form. For example, Enkö minä ole oikeassa?” means “Am I not right?” and “Eikö hän tule?” means “Doesn’t he come?”.

Regular sentence Question
Minä en ole oikeassa. En (minä) ole oikeassa?
Sinä et tiedä. Et (sinä) tiedä?
Hän ei osaa puhua suomea. Ei hän osaa puhua suomea?
Me emme voi lähteä. Emme (me) voi lähteä?
Te ette tule juhliin. Ette (te) tule juhliin?
He eivät kuuntele. Eivät he kuuntele?

2.3. KO/KÖ added to other words

By adding KO/KÖ to another word besides the verb, we can change the focus of the question.

Finnish English
Sinä rakastat minua. You love me.
Rakastatko sinä minua? Do you love me?
Minuako sinä rakastat? Is it me you love (rather than someone else)?
Sinä rakastat minua? Are you the one who loves me (rather than someone else)?

Another example:

Finnish English
Eeva meni tiistaina kouluun. Eeva went to school on Tuesday.
Meni Eeva tiistaina kouluun? Did Eeva go to school on Tuesday (or didn’t she)?
Eevako meni tiistaina kouluun? Was it Eeva who went to school on Tuesday (or someone else)?
Tiistainako Eeva meni kouluun? Was it on Tuesday that Eeva went to school (or another weekday)?
Kouluunko Eeva meni tiistaina? Was it school Eeva went to on Tuesday (or somewhere else)?

There are of course limits to which words can be put into question using the suffix -kO. For example, conjunctions like mutta and kun won’t work with this suffix. In addition, while there is the theoretical possibility to add the suffix, it can be difficult to find a context where these sentences are actually useful. It’s by far the most common to add the suffix to the verb in the sentence.

Finnish English
Sinun ihana äitisi haluaa tanssia salsaa. Your wonderful mother wants to dance the salsa.
Haluaako sinun ihana äitisi tanssia salsaa? Does your wonderful mother want to dance the salsa?
Sinunko ihana äitisi haluaa tanssia salsaa? Is it your wonderful mother who wants to dance the salsa?
Ihanako äitisi haluaa tanssia salsaa? — Doesn’t work (unless you have two mothers, one of which is wonderful)
Äitisi haluaa tanssia salsaa? Is it your mother who wants to dance the salsa?
Tanssiako sinun ihana äitisi haluaa salsaa? — Doesn’t work (you can’t do anything else with the salsa but dance)
Tanssiako sinun ihana äitisi haluaa? Is it dancing that your wonderful mother wants to do?
Salsaako sinun ihana äitisi haluaa tanssia? Is it the salsa which your wonderful mother wants to dance?

3. Subordinate interrogative clauses – Epäsuora kysymyslause

We can also make more complex sentences, consisting of multiple clauses. It is, for example, possible to make sentences with a subordinate clause containing a question (epäsuora kysymyslause). The first part of the full sentence can either also be a question, or just be a regular sentence. You will add a question mark to the complete sentence when the main clause (ie. the first part) is a question. If not, just use a full stop.

Finnish English
Tiedätkö, missä vessat ovat? Do you know [where the bathrooms are]?
Tiedän, kenen puhelin tämä on. I know [whose phone this is].
En ole varma, mistä hän on kotoisin. I’m not sure [where he’s originally from].
En tiedä, mitä tälle tontille rakennetaan. I don’t know [what they’re building on this lot].
Tiedätkö, haluaako Eeva tietää totuuden? Do you know [if Eeva wants to know the truth]?
En ole varma, haluanko tietää totuuden. I’m not sure [if I want to know the truth].
En tiedä, rakennetaanko tänne koulu vai päiväkoti. I don’t know [if they will build a school or a daycare here].

Note how in English, you will use “if” rather than a KO/KÖ question. You cannot use “jos” in Finnish in these situations!

4. Word order in question sentences

An interrogative sentence will start with either a question word such as missä (where), or with a word with the KO/KÖ suffix. The rest of the sentence is generally similar to what the sentence would look like as a väitelause.

One question regarding word order in question that comes up fairly regularly is where to put the verb olla in questions. In general, you will put the “on” at the end of the sentence. This creates a question that assumes the existence of the thing and asks about its location (ie. surely there is a coffee shop nearby, but I want to know where). In contrast, when putting “on” right after the question word, these questions imply uncertainty as to whether there is any nearby at all.

Finnish English
Missä auto on? Where is the car (a certain car I know about / a car I assume exists)?
Missä on auto? Where is there a car (if there is one anywhere)? (weird question)
Makes a little more sense for e.g. “Missä on robottiauto?”
Millainen auto sinulla on? What kind of a car do you have (I know you have one)?
Millainen sinun autosi on? What’s your car like (your specific car I know exists)?
Millainen on hyvä auto? What’s a good car like (in general, not any specific car)?

I find it is hard for beginning learners of Finnish to grasp the difference in the beginning of their studies. I think – in general – you will be asking where something is while assuming that it exists. Thus, I suppose you could consider sentences with the “on” at the end of the question as the default you stick to until you get more of a feel of how word order works in Finnish.

5. Spoken language questions

Note that spoken language question sentences have their own rules in some cases. I have a whole article about asking questions in colloquial Finnish that you should check out separately.


Tiedätkö nyt, millainen kysymyslause voi olla? Let me know if I failed to mention something vital!

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