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Osata Saada Voida Pystyä Kyetä – Verb Differences

Consider these verbs: osata, saada, voida, pystyä, kyetä. Do you know their differences and similarities? Learn more about them now! However, if you’re completely new to these verbs, you should first learn about the difference between osata, voida and saada on their own page. On the page you’re currently on, we will add some other verbs to the mix, plus give more detail about each verb.

The verbs osata, saada, voida, pystyä and kyetä all have in common that they’re used as auxiliary verbs, which means that they’re attached to a second verb. However, this second verb will not always appear in the same form for each of these verbs. The first three verbs on this page – osata, saada and voida– will require the verb attached to them to appear in the infinitive form: osaan uida, voin tulla, saan ajaa (see this page about verb rections). In contrast, the verbs pystyä and kyetä will require a third infinitive rection (pystyn tulemaan, kykenen uimaan).

The Verb Osata

The following list of meanings for the verb osata contains – in addition to #1, which is the most common meaning – also some rarer uses. Many of these are lone phrases without there being a larger rule as to why the verb osata is used.

  1. To know how to, to have mastered a skill
  2. To understand, to get
  3. To know the way
  4. In negative sentences: not being able to (also abstract)
Finnish English
1 Minä osaan ajaa autoa. I know how to drive a car, I’ve had lessons.
1 Lapsi osaa lukea ja kirjoittaa. The child knows how to read and write.
1 Hän osaa ammattinsa. He knows, masters his profession.
2 Hän osaa suhtautua asiaan oikein. He gets how to handle the matter correctly.
2 Hän osaa käyttäytyä. He knows how to behave himself.
3 Lintu osaa ulos ilman apua. The bird knows its way out without help.
3 Osaatko tänne takaisin? Do you know how to get back here?
4 En osaa sanoa. I don’t know, I can’t say.
4 En osannut muuta kuin itkeä. I could do nothing but cry.
4 En osannut aavistaakaan tätä. I couldn’t even have guessed this.

Maybe these examples have made you wonder about the difference between tietää “to know” and the less common meaning of osata “to know”. The answer is simple: tietää is mainly used to express knowing things, while osata means to know how to do things.

The Verb Saada

The verb saada has two meanings that are super common: to be allowed to (e.g. saan tulla) and to receive (e.g. saan lahjan). However, it’s a very versatile verb with other meanings as well. There is a separate page on the verb saada that dives even deeper in its meanings.

  1. To have permission to do something
  2. To receive something
  3. To cause something (saada + accusative + third infinitive)
  4. To manage something (saada + passive past participle)
Finnish English
1 Äiti sanoi, että saan tulla teille. Mom said that I can come to your place.
1 Ilman ajokorttia ei saa ajaa autoa. Without a driver’s license, you’re not allowed to drive a car.
2 Kaikki ovat saaneet kahvia. Everyone has gotten coffee.
2 Sain lahjaksi pelkkiä kirjoja. I only got books as a present.
2 Sain vakavan rangaistuksen. I got a serious punishment.
3 Tiina sai minut itkemään. Tiina made me cry.
3 Kevään lämpö sai kukat kukkimaan. The warmth of spring made the flowers blossom.
4 Sain hädin tuskin avattua oven. I barely managed to open the door.
4 Sain läksyt tehdyksi vartissa. I managed to do my homework in 15 minutes.

The Verb Voida

The verb voida most commonly expresses that something is possible, that there is nothing obstructing or preventing something from happening.

  1. To express that something is possible
  2. With questions and request
  3. To be able to influence something
  4. Health status
Finnish English
1 Sokea ei voi nähdä. A blind person can’t see.
1 Voin auttaa sinua. I can help you.
1 Mietimme, mitä voimme tehdä. We’re thinking about what we can do.
1 Teline voi pudota, joten varo vähän. The rack can fall, so be careful a bit.
1 Älä huuda, joku voi kuulla. Don’t yell, somebody could hear.
2 Voitko lainata minulle rahaa? Can you lend me some money?
2 Voisitko avata ikkunan? Could you open the window?
3 Lääkärit eivät voineet taudille mitään. The doctors couldn’t do anything about the illness.
3 En voi sille mitään. I can’t do anything about that.
4 Miten voit? How are you doing/feeling?
4 Voin oikein hyvin. I’m doing/feeling really well.
4 Potilas voi huonosti. The patient is ill.

What makes #3 and #4 above so interesting is that in these two instances, the verb voida is used on its own. This is unusual, because voida is mainly an auxiliary verb, meaning it mostly appears in verb+verb constructions (e.g. voin mennä, voidaan syödä, voitko tulla).

The Verb Pystyä

Pystyä “to be able to” is a spoken language verb, which is a synonym for the verb voida. As such, you can use it when you mean you can do something without anything obstruction or restricting you from doing so. The verb pystyä will require the second verb attached to it to appear in its third infinitive form.

Finnish English
Pystytkö siihen? Can you do it?
Pystytkö auttamaan minua? Are you able you help me?
Potilas pystyy jo kävelemään. The patient can walk already.

The Verb Kyetä

The verb kyetä has the exact same meaning as pystyä: “to be able to”. It’s a spoken language alternative to the verb voida. Just like pystyä, it will require the second verb attached to it to appear in its third infinitive form.

Finnish English
Kykenetkö tappamaan? Are you able to kill?
Hän ei kykene kävelemään enää. She’s unable to walk anymore.
En kyennyt auttamaan. I couldn’t help.

This is the end of the article about the verbs osata, saada, voida, pystyä and kyetä. A similar article you might be interested in is this one which explains the verb taitaa, saattaa and mahtaa.

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What about verb “jaksaa” ? en jaksa = I can’t

Inge (admin)

Similar to these, yes! Jaksaa is “to have the energy/willpower/strength to do something”. That verb will be in a follow-up article to this one, where I take a closer look at jaksaa, viitsiä, kehdata and ehtiä. Not sure when it will be published, but.. some day :p