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Sanoa Puhua Kertoa – Verb Differences

Early in your Finnish studies, you will come across the verbs sanoa, puhua and kertoa. If you’ve made your way to this page, perhaps you’re wondering which verb you should use in what situation. Let’s take a look at the differences between these three verbs!

The verb puhua means “to speak” or “to talk”. It’s used with languages and just generally related to the ability of talking. The verb sanoa means “to say”. The verb kertoa usually means “to tell”. Kertoa and sanoa both require you to have something to say. The difference lays in the length of what you’re saying: kertoa generally involves retelling some event, while sanoa can be as little as one word.

Finnish English
Minä puhun vähän suomea. I speak a little Finnish.
Haluan oppia puhumaan suomea paremmin. I want to learn to speak Finnish better.
Lapsi on oppinut puhumaan. The child has learned to talk.
Voisitko puhua vähän hitaammin? Could you speak a little more slowly?
Hän puhuu aina totta. He always speaks the truth.
En voi puhua nyt, olen syömässä. I can’t talk now, I’m eating.
Minä sanoin huomenta kaikille. I said good morning to everyone.
Anteeksi, mitä sanoit? Sorry, what did you say?
Voisitko sanoa sen uudestaan? Could you say it again?
Hän sanoi, että hän rakastaa minua. He said that he loves me.
Kerro minulle, mitä teit eilen! Tell me what you did yesterday!
Voisitko kertoa opettajalle, että olen sairas? Could you tell the teacher that I’m ill?
Saanko kertoa sinulle jotain? Can I tell you something?
Älä kerro tätä Tiinalle. Don’t tell this to Tiina.

There are some situations where more than one verb fits into the same sentence.

Finnish English
Kerro / Sano terveisiä äidillesi! Give me regards to your mother!
Älä puhu / kerro / sano tätä kenellekään. Don’t tell anybody about this!

That’s all for sanoa, puhua and kertoa! However, there are many other verbs that are related to talking (e.g. keskustella, kuiskata and huutaa). We will have an article up about those soon!

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