Finnish for busy people

The Perfect Tense – Perfekti

The perfect tense consists of two verbs: the verb olla combined with a second verb, which will have the -nut/-nyt/-neet ending.

Table of Contents
  1. The Use of the Perfect Tense
    1. When something is still happening
    2. When something is relevant to the current moment
    3. Oletko koskaan -sentences
    4. When something happened while you didn’t see it
    5. When referring to future events
  2. The Formation of the Perfect Tense
  3. Consonant Gradation in the Perfect Tense
  4. The Negative Perfect Tense

1. Use of the Perfect Tense

When looking at when to use the perfect tense, you have to do so in relation to the imperfect tense. Both tenses are used for things in the past, but mean something different. The way they are used in English is not always like it is in Finnish.

1.1. When Something Is Still Happening

Firstly, the perfect tense is used for things that started in the past, but are still going on at the point of talking. This could be named the “jatkuvuuden perfekti“.

Example 1

  • Perfect: Olen asunut Suomessa yhden vuoden.
    “I’ve lived in Finland for one year.” I’m still living in Finland.
  • Imperfect: Asuin Suomessa yhden vuoden.
    “I lived in Finland for one year.” Right now, I’m not living in Finland, but I lived there for a year.

Example 2

  • Perfect: Olen lukenut tätä kirjaa monta tuntia.
    “I’ve been reading this book for many hours.” I’m still going to continue.
  • Imperfect: Luin tätä kirjaa monta tuntia.
    “I’ve read this book for many hours.” I’m not going to continue anymore.

1.2. When Something is Relevant to the Current Moment

When something is done, but the result is relevant for the current moment, you also use the perfect tense.

  • Nyt olen syönyt tarpeeksi.
    • “Now I’ve eaten enough.”
    • I’m done eating, but the result (that I’m done now) is relevant right now.
  • Kuka on kirjoittanut Työmiehen vaimon?
    • “Who wrote the book ‘työmiehen vaimo’?”
    • The book was written a long time ago, the information is relevant right now.

1.3. Oletko Koskaan -Sentences

When talking about your past life and what things you have done or not done, you use the perfect tense in Finnish.

In negative sentences, it conveys the meaning that you haven’t done the action, but might still do it later. For example the phrase “En ole käynyt Espanjassa” doesn’t exclude the possibility of going there later.

A question asking if someone has done something in the past always starts with “oletko koskaan“. The direct response won’t have a specific time mentioned either (e.g. kyllä, olen käynyt USA:ssa “Yes, I’ve been in the US.”). When we add a specific time to the event (e.g. kävin USA:ssa viime vuonna “I was in the US last year”), we use the imperfect tense instead.

Finnish English
Oletko koskaan matkustanut Thaimaahan? Have you ever traveled to Thailand?
— En ole, mutta haluaisin kyllä! — I haven’t, but I’d like to!
Oletko koskaan syönyt thaimaalaista ruokaa? Have you ever eaten Thai food?
— Kyllä, olen syönyt thaimaalaista ruokaa. — Yes, I have eaten Thai food.
— Söin thaimaalaista ruokaa viime viikolla. — I ate Thai food last week.
Oletko koskaan työskennellyt pankissa? Have you ever worked in a bank?
— Joo, olen työskennellyt pankissa. — Yes, I have worked in a bank.
— Työskentelin Lontoon pankissa vuosi sitten. — I worked in the bank of London a year ago.

1.4. When Something Happened While You Didn’t See It

This use of the perfect tense is often called the “ahaa”-perfect. It’s used when you notice something has happened in your absense.

Example 1

  • Perfect: Yöllä on satanut lunta! (It snowed during the night.)
    Explanation: I slept, and it’s morning now, I see the ground outside is all white!
  • Imperfect: Yöllä satoi lunta. (It snowed during the night.)
    Explanation: I couldn’t sleep and I looked out of the window and it was snowing.

Example 2

  • Perfect: Maija on ostanut uuden mekon! (Maija has bought a new dress.)
    Explanation: I came to work today and saw Maija in a new dress that she didn’t have yesterday.
  • Imperfect: Maija osti eilen uuden mekon. (Maija bought a new dress yesterday.)
    Explanation: I went to the store with Maija and we picked out this dress together.

1.5. When referring to future events

Another quite unusual way to use the perfect tense is related to future events. In sentences with two actions, you can use the perfect tense to express that once you’ve finished something, you will be doing something else. The part of the sentence with the perfect tense will start with the word kun “when”, while the other part will have the verb conjugated in the present tense.

Finnish English
Kun olen imuroinut, aion katsoa televisiota. When I’ve vacuum-cleaned I plan to watch television.
Kun olen käynyt suihkussa, tulen auttamaan sinua. When I’ve showered I will come help you.
Tulisitko tänne, kun olet syönyt? Would you come here when you’ve eaten?
Pesemme astiat aina heti, kun olemme syöneet. We always do the dishes immediately when we’ve eaten.
Saanko kirjan, kun olette lukeneet sen? Can I have the book when you’ve read it?
Kun he ovat juoneet kahvinsa, he palaavat töihin. When they’ve drunk their coffee they get back to work.

1.6. Related Articles

2. The Formation of the Perfect Tense

The formation of the perfect tense is very similar to the negative imperfect. The main verb will be in the exact same form you need for the perfect tense. The verb will be in its NUT-participle form.

Verbtype 1
nukkua kertoa
minä olen nukkunut minä olen kertonut
sinä olet nukkunut sinä olet kertonut
hän on nukkunut hän on kertonut
me olemme nukkuneet me olemme kertoneet
te olette nukkuneet te olette kertoneet
he ovat nukkuneet he ovat kertoneet
Verbtype 2
juoda myydä
minä olen juonut minä olen myynyt
sinä olet juonut sinä olet myynyt
hän on juonut hän on myynyt
me olemme juoneet me olemme myyneet
te olette juoneet te olette myyneet
he ovat juoneet he ovat myyneet
Verbtype 3
ommella nousta
minä olen ommellut minä olen noussut
sinä olet ommellut sinä olet noussut
hän on ommellut hän on noussut
me olemme ommelleet me olemme nousseet
te olette ommelleet te olette nousseet
he ovat ommelleet he ovat nousseet
Verbtype 4
tavata haluta
minä olen tavannut minä olen halunnut
sinä olet tavannut sinä olet halunnut
hän on tavannut hän on halunnut
me olemme tavanneet me olemme halunneet
te olette tavanneet te olette halunneet
he ovat tavanneet he ovat halunneet
Verbtype 5
häiritä valita
minä olen häirinnyt minä olen valinnut
sinä olet häirinnyt sinä olet valinnut
hän on häirinnyt hän on valinnut
me olemme häirinneet me olemme valinneet
te olette häirinneet te olette valinneet
he ovat häirinneet he ovat valinneet
Verbtype 6
rohjeta vanheta
minä olen rohjennut minä olen vanhennut
sinä olet rohjennut sinä olet vanhennut
hän on rohjennut hän on vanhennut
me olemme rohjenneet me olemme vanhenneet
te olette rohjenneet te olette vanhenneet
he ovat rohjenneet he ovat vanhenneet

3. Consonant Gradation in the Perfect Tense

Verbs that are conjugated in the perfect tense will have the same consonant gradation as the infinitive of the verb (the basic form). For example, leipoa (minä leivon) will become leiponut; while tavata (minä tapaan) will become tavannut.

Consonant gradation
Verbtype Infinitive Minä Sinä Hän Me Te He
Verbtype 1 strong strong strong strong strong strong strong
Verbtype 2
Verbtype 3 weak weak weak weak weak weak weak
Verbtype 4 weak weak weak weak weak weak weak
Verbtype 5
Verbtype 6 weak weak weak weak weak weak weak

4. The Negative Perfect Tense

Verb The Perfect Tense Negative Perfect Tense
nukkua minä olen nukkunut minä en ole nukkunut
tarjeta minä olen tarjennut minä en ole tarjennut
antaa sinä olet antanut sinä et ole antanut
valita sinä olet valinnut sinä et ole valinnut
juoda hän on juonut hän ei ole juonut
soittaa hän on soittanut hän ei ole soittanut
imuroida me olemme imuroineet me emme ole imuroineet
suudella me olemme suudelleet me emme ole suudelleet
kävellä te olette kävelleet te ette ole kävelleet
silittää te olette silittäneet te ette ole silittäneet
tavata he ovat tavanneet he eivät ole tavanneet
vanheta he ovat vanhenneet he eivät ole vanhenneet
4.5 16 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

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

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

whats the difference between
Olen asunut Suomessa yhden vuoden. And Olen ollut Suomessa yhden vuoden.

Inge (admin)

They usually mean the same thing. Literally “Olen ollut Suomessa yhden vuoden” just means that you’ve BEEN in Finland for a year. Maybe you didn’t LIVE here, but you just hung around? (Olen asunut = I’ve lived; Olen ollut = I’ve been). Most of the time people mean the same thing with both these phrases though.


Im late with this but I think this could lead into another question on whether one could say “I’ve BEEN LIVING in x” and you would know that as the present perfect continuous English. It seems that Finnish’s Present Perfect doesn’t make that distinction and it’s just wrapped into one tense. I.e olen asunut can also convey “I’ve been living” since the past participles for many verbs that aren’t olla usually are translated as present perfect continuous.

Hmmm maybe it’s a mistake to do that though..

Inge (admin)

Yeah, those two tenses seem to be just grouped together 🙂 I’m pretty bad at using English tenses correctly, as well as not knowing the terms very well.

Patrick K

I’m not certain I’m remembering correctly, but I get the feeling the imperfect and perfect tenses are described backwards? Unless it’s the opposite of latin (my only other language that taught me perfect/imperfect), the perfect tense describes a verb that has been completed, while the imperfect is used for a verb that is ongoing? I would love some clarification on this if possible!

Inge (admin)

Finnish uses these terms differently than Latin, so no wonder you got confused!

When talking past PAST EVENTS:
The imperfect is used for events that are over completely (usually with the idea that it happened recently or that it has some importance in the situation at hand). We usually add an expression of time to show when the event happened. The perfect tense is us for things that have happened at some point in the past, but are clearly over and it’s of less importance when they happened.

In addition, the Finnish perfect tense can be used to express things that happened in the past but are still ungoing. This is in direct contrast with Latin I believe, where that is called the IMPERFECT.


hi.. i am having a hard time looking for the passive perfect tense topic.. (positive passive perfect tense & negative passive perfect tense)
the one that you need to add “ttu” at the ending of the verb.. (for postive passive perfect tense..) kindly pls guide me where exactly i can find it if ever that you have any… 🙏

Inge (admin)

Hei Olivia!

I don’t seem to have a page on the passive perfect tense yet (it’s hard to keep track sometimes of what I do and don’t have an article on). For now, I think the article on the TU-participle might help you a little:

Duy Vi Hao Tiet

I have a wonder that, when the verb is going with -ut or -yt?


It’s related to vowel harmony. If you are not familiar with that concept, that article should be good: