Finnish for busy people

Reflexive Verbs -UTU/YTY- Peseytyä Ilmoittautua

Reflexive verbs (refleksiiviset verbijohdokset) express that the subject does something to themselves. In other words, the target of the action is the subject themselves.

  • Minä pesen itseni. → Minä peseydyn. (I wash myself)
  • Minä puen itseni. → Minä pukeudun. (I get dressed, I dress myself)
  • Minä puolustan itseäni. → Minä puolustaudun. (I defend myself)

1. Transitivity vs Intransitivity

The matter of transitivity and intransivity of Finnish verbs is quite complex. This article is part of a series about transitive and intransitive verbs.

In short, transitive verbs are verbs that get an object, e.g. Jatkan työt “I continue the work”. Intransitive verbs don’t get an object, e.g. Työt jatkuvat “The work continues”. As you see, a transitive verb’s object can become an intransitive verb’s subject.

In this post, you can find reflexive verbs ending in -utua/-ytyä. These are a type of intransitive verbs. The -UtU- element (see: vowel harmony) can have several meanings (automative, translative and reflexive). I’m limiting the verbs below to only the ones that are clearly reflexive.

There are many other verbs that belong completely or partly in this semantical group, but I’m limiting the scope of this article considerably. In addition, many of these verbs have several meanings. I’m only presenting the translations that make the most sense within the reflexive derivate system.

2. List of Reflexive Verbs ending in -utua/-ytyä

I have marked the most basic verbs in green, so you know which ones to focus on when you’re just getting started. This is another of those word lists that are useful to look through, but that you shouldn’t just copy, paste and learn by heart. Pick the ones you will actually be using!

sb = somebody, sth = something

Base verb English Reflexive English
aseistaa to supply with arms aseistautua to arm oneself
eristää to isolate sb eristäytyä to isolate oneself
esittää to introduce sb esittäytyä to introduce oneself
heittää to throw sth heittäytyä to throw oneself
hirttää to hang sb hirttäytyä to hang oneself
hukuttaa to drown sb hukuttautua to drown oneself
ilmoittaa to register sth ilmoittautua to register oneself
irrottaa to detach sth irrottautua to cut oneself loose
julistaa to declare sth julistautua to declare oneself
kaunistaa to beautify sth kaunistautua to beautify oneself
kietoa to wrap sth kietoutua to wrap oneself in
kirjata to log sth kirjautua to log oneself in
kohottaa to raise sth kohottautua to raise oneself up
koristaa to adorn sth with koristautua to adorn oneself with
kääriä to wrap sth kääriytyä to wrap oneself in
näyttää to show sth näyttäytyä to show oneself
omistaa to dedicate sth omistautua to dedicate onself to
pakottaa to force sb pakottautua to force oneself
upottaa emerge sth in sth uppoutua to emerge oneself
pelastaa to save sth pelastautua to save oneself
pestä to wash sth/sb peseytyä to wash oneself
riisua to undress riisuutua to undress oneself
piilottaa to hide sth piiloutua to hide oneself
pudottaa to drop sth pudottautua to let oneself drop
puhdistaa to clean sth puhdistautua to cleanse oneself
pukea to dress pukeutua to dress oneself
puolustaa to defend sth puolustautua to defend oneself
raahata to drag sth raahautua to drag oneself
siistiä to tidy sth up siistiytyä to tidy oneself up
sijoittaa to place sth swh sijoittautua to place oneself
suojata to shield, protect suojautua to shelter oneself
tarjota to offer sth tarjoutua to offer oneself
terästää to steel sth terästäytyä to steel oneself
tuhota to destroy sth tuhoutua to destroy oneself
uhrata to sacrifice sth uhrautua to sacrifice oneself
ujuttaa to sneak sth in ujuttautua to sneak oneself in
valmistaa to prepare sth valmistautua to prepare oneself
verhota to veil sth verhoutua to cover oneself
vieroittaa to wean off sth vieroittautua to wean oneself off
virkistää to freshen sth up virkistäytyä to freshen oneself up

3. Example sentences of reflexive -utua/ytyä verbs

Below, you can find example sentences. I hope that these will give you a more concrete idea of how to use these verbs. If you’re a beginner, the sentences with a green verb are the ones to focus on.

Finnish English
Hän aseistautui veitsellä. He armed himself with a knife.
Eristäydyin kavereistani. I secluded myself from my friends.
Saanko esittäytyä? May I introduce myself?
Hän heittäytyi maahan. He threw himself on the ground.
Hän hirttäytyi metsässä. He hung himself in the forest.
Miksi Aino hukuttautui? Why did Aino drown herself?
Haluan ilmoittautua kurssille. I want to sign up for the course.
Irrottauduin syleilystä. I broke loose from the embrace.
Suomi julistautui itsenäiseksi. Finland declared its independence.
Kaunistaudun juhlia varten. I make myself pretty for the party.
Hän koristautui rannerenkailla. She adorned herself with bracelets.
Muista kirjautua ulos! Remember to log out!
Mies kohottautui sängystä. The man got up from the bed.
Kietoudun neuletakkiini. I wrap myself in my knit cardigan.
Sinä kääriydyit vilttiin. You wrapped yourself in a blanket.
Älä näyttäydy täällä enää! Don’t show yourself here anymore!
Älä piiloudu äläkä pakene! Don’t hide yourself and don’t run!
Hän omistautui taiteeseen. She dedicated herself to art.
Pakottauduin hymyilemään. I forced myself to smile.
Hän aina uppoutuu työhönsä. He’s always absorbed in his work.
Hän pelastautui liekeistä She saved herself from the flames.
Peseydy kunnolla!
Wash yourself properly!
Hän riisuutui ja sulkelsi.
He undressed himself, then dived in.
Hän pudottautui polvilleen. He dropped to his knees.
Puhdistaudu saunassa! Cleanse yourself in the sauna!
Pukeuduin makuuhuoneessa. I dressed myself in the bedroom.
Raahaudun kouluun. I’m dragging myself to school.
Joukkue sijoittautui asemiinsa. The team got into their positions.
Me suojauduimme kellariin. We took cover in the basement.
Hän ujuttautui väkijoukkoon. He snuck into the crowd.
Puolustauduin lyönneiltä. I defended myself from punches.
Terästäydyin taistelemaan. I steeled myself to fight.
Hän uhrautui lasten puolesta. He sacrificed himself for the kids.
Valmistaudu kunnolla! Prepare yourself properly!
Verhouduin pitkiin vaatteisiin. I draped myself in long clothes.
Hän vieroittautui heroiinista. He weaned himself off heroin.
Virkistäydy luonnossa! Refresh yourself in nature!

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Hugh Moules

Thank you for covering a topic not often found elsewhere. From a student perspective I find it confusing that, although grammatically correct, reflexive forms are so often avoided in practice, e.g. “pukeuduin makuuhuoneessa” replaced by “mä puin päälle” or “laitoin vaatteet päälle”. The reflexive form “pukeutua” seems to be restricted to something similar to “sonnustautua” (“deck oneself out”). I notice the English translation given for “hän riisuutui ja sukelsi” (or should that be “hän riisui ensin ja sukelsi”?) reads “he undressed himself and dove”, but I humbly suggest “went for a dive” or “then dived in” might be more appropriate, especially as a Finnish reader might misconstrue the sentence as having something to do with a “kyyhkysiä”!

Inge (admin)

Hei Hugh!

Yes, it’s confusing that this great way to say something with less words is less common in colloquial Finnish.

You can hear people use pukeutua in everyday speech, it’s just less common. Pukeutua is much more common that sonnustautua!

Kiitos for the suggestion about the English translation. I’ve adjusted that!