Finnish for busy people

Alkaa Aloittaa Ruveta Ryhtyä – Meanings and Rections

The verbs of this article (alkaa, aloittaa, ruveta and ryhtyä) are all similar verbs. All of them mean “to begin, to start”. Let’s take a look at what situations you use each of these verbs in, as well as what kind of verb rections they have.

The difference between alkaa, aloittaa, ruveta and ryhtyä

1. Aloittaa (aloitan työn, aloitan tekemisen)

When starting a trial, a course, a discussion, a meal, a celebration or a job, you generally use the verb aloittaa. Aloittaa requires a person starting the action (either explicit or deduced). It is regularly used on its own when it is clear from the context what we’re starting.

This verb will generally have an object (underlined in the following examples). If you’re a beginner, focus on the examples with #1. These are simple sentences with an object in the genetive case. This will generally be true when using the verb aloittaa.

More advances learners can use their knowledge of the object rules to compare the different examples marked with #2. In these, the object appears in the normal total object cases: genetive, T-plural, nominative and (in negative sentences) partitive.

In spoken language, you can also come across aloitin tehdä, aloitin tekemään types of sentences. This is not according to the Finnish official standards, but regularly used in colloquial language.

# Finnish English
1 Minä aloitan. I will start.
1 Minä aloitin laihdutuskuurin eilen. I started a diet yesterday.
1 Minä aloitin autokoulun eilen. I started driving school yesterday.
1 Me aloitamme peruskoulun tänään. We’re starting primary school today.
1 Minä aloitin suomenkielisen blogin. I started a Finnish blog.
2 Minä aloitan uuden työn. I’m starting a new job.
2 Aloitin työt ajoissa. I started work on time.
2 Aloitimme työn tekemisen ajoissa. We started doing the work on time.
2 En aloittanut työn tekemistä ajoissa. I didn’t start doing the work on time.
2 Kokeilu aloitettiin Tampereella. The trial run was started in Tampere.

2. Alkaa (alan tehdä, alan tekemään)

When something starts/begins (eg. school, a vacation, an experiment, a TV program, a season), we can use the verb alkaa (#1). The verb alkaa doesn’t necessarily imply a person starting the action, though it is possible: both things and people can start something with alkaa.

Alkaa can’t have an object, but it can be followed by a verb, which will have to appear in either the infinitive (#2) or the third infinitive (#3). There is no difference in meaning between these two. Up to some point in recent history, the form “alkaa tekemään” was frowned upon, but, now, both are accepted as “proper Finnish”.

# Finnish English
1 Kesä alkaa. Summer starts.
1 Koulu alkoi kello 9. School started at 9 am.
1 Lomani alkaa kohta. My vacation will start soon.
2 Alan opiskella. I will start studying.
2 Antti alkaa lihoa. Antti is starting to gain weight.
2 Tyttö alkoi itkeä. The girl started to cry.
3 Lapsi alkoi puhumaan aikaisin. The child started talking early.
3 Aloimme suunnittelemaan matkan. We started to plan the trip.
3 Talo alettiin rakentamaan. They started building the house.

3. Ruveta and Ryhtyä (rupean tekemään, ryhdyn yrittäjäksi)

The verbs ruveta and ryhtyä are more advanced than aloittaa and alkaa, so if you’re a beginner, you should revisit this page a little later. Both of these verbs are used in the same contexts and in the same way:

  • Their subject has to be a person (explicitely or implicitely).
  • They can’t appear on their own (eg. minä ryhdyn doesn’t work, while minä aloitan and minä alan do work on their own).
  • They are generally followed by a verb in the third infinitive (eg. ruvetaan tekemään #1).
  • They can also be used with the mihin form of nouns (eg. ruvetaan toimiin #2).
  • When they are used with the translative of nouns (eg. ruvetaan yrittäjäksi #3), their meaning shifts slightly from start to become.
# Finnish English
1 Minä ryhdyn opiskelemaan ruotsia. I’m starting to study Swedish.
1 Minä rupesin ryyppäämään. I started to drink (to get drunk).
1 Minua rupeaa vähän jännittämään. I’m started to get a little nervous.
2 Minä ryhdyin yrittäjäksi. I became self-employed.
2 Anna ryhtyi kasvissyöjäksi. Anna became a vegetarian.
2 Minä rupean lentoemännäksi. I’m becoming a stewardess.
3 Ministeri ryhytyi toimiin. The minister started to take action.
3 En rupea siihen leikkiin. I won’t start that game.
3 Ryhdyn juttusille hänen kanssa. I start a chat with her.

That’s it for the verbs alkaa, aloittaa, ruveta and ryhtyä! Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

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