Finnish for busy people

The Verb Käydä – Many Meanings #4

The verb käydä is used very often in Finnish. It has multiple meanings and is important even at beginner levels. In this article, we will go over the different uses.

If you’re a beginning, concentrate on the first two (or three) parts below, as they are the most commonly used.

1. Spending time at a place

The most common use of the verb käydä will generally just be translated as “to go” English. For example, in English, you generally say that you go to the store or the post office. By that, you mean that you’re going there and will be spending some time inside that place.

In Finnish, the verb “to go” mennä is more specifically used to mean the actual act of going; the journey to a place. In contrast, the verb käydä means that you spend a short amount of time at a place. Just to be clear, you can say Minä menen kauppaan “I go to the store” using the verb mennä. However, the verb käydä will be the go-to verb that Finns will use: Minä käyn kaupassa.

In order to make the difference clear, you could translate käydä as “to visit”, because in English this conveys at least somewhat the same idea of going somewhere for a short period of time.

Finnish English
Minä käyn tänään kaupassa. I will go to the store today.
Minä kävin eilen pankissa. I went to the bank yesterday.
Haluan käydä sadassa maassa. I want to visit 100 countries
Kävin ystäväni luona. I visited my friend.

You can find many more example sentences on this primary use of the verb käydä in this article.

2. Spending time doing a designated action

There are certain less concrete situations where you also utilize the verb käydä. For example, you will “visit” the bathroom, the shower and work in Finnish. This meaning of the verb implies that you go to a place to do the designated action of the location.

2.1. Käyn suihkussa & Käyn vessassa

For example, Käyn suihkussa will be translated liberally as “I took a shower”, but literally means that you went there, spent a short time doing the designated action of the place (aka washing yourself) and then exited the location. Finns don’t say Otan suihkun (literally “I take a shower”) because, in its most concrete meaning, that would somehow require you to take the shower into your hands.

The same is true for Minun pitää käydä vessassa, which is literally “I have to visit the toilet” and more liberally translated “I have to pee”.

Finnish English
Kävin jo suihkussa. I already took a shower.
Minun pitää käydä vessassa. I have to pee.
Kävitkö jo vessassa? Did you go to the bathroom already?

2.2. Käyn töissä

In Finnish, talking about going to work will also require the verb käydä: Minä käyn töissä. This means that you’re going to be at work for a certain amount of time, doing the designated action of the place.

Finnish does have a verb for “to work” (työskennellä), but it is used much less frequently. Most of the time you will use käydä for doing your actual job, while työskennellä is reserved for telling people where your job is. So, Minä työskentelen pankissa is used to express that you have a job in a bank. You can also use Minä olen töissä pankissa to convey the same meaning, but not käydä. The sentence Minä käyn pankissa just means you’ll be in the bank, not that you work there.

In addition, there are the phrases Minä menen töihin and Minä olen töissä. The verb mennä is more focused on the journey to the place. Someone could call you, ask what you’re doing, and you’d say Minä olen menossa töihin “I’m going to work”.

The use of the verb olla (Minä olen töissä) will convey the meaning that you spend time at your actual place of work, but it doesn’t specifically mean that you’re doing your job there; you’re just there.

Finnish English
Käyn töissä joka arkipäivä. I (go to) work every day.
En käynyt eilen töissä. I didn’t (go to) work yesterday.
Kävitkö eilen töissä? Were you at work yesterday?
En halua käydä töissä. I don’t want to go to work.

2.3. Käyn tekemässä jotain

In addition to using a noun to express the place where you go, you can use a verb to describe what you’re going to do. This verb will also appear in the missä-form, the third infinitive‘s inessive case.

Finnish English
Kävin tervehtimässä mummoa. I went to say hello to grandma.
Kävin hoitelemassa asioitani. I went to take care of my things.
Hän kävi kyselemässä töitä. He went to ask for work.
Käyn katsomassa itselleni uutta takkia. I’ll go look for a new coat for myself.

3. Completing something

Usually, the verb käydä will be followed by a place in the inessive case (-ssA). This is true in all the examples up to this point of the article. You can, however, also use käydä with an object. This is the case when you complete a course for example.

The phrase Käyn koulussa means “I go to school”, as in “I spend time studying at school”. In contrast, Käyn koulua refers to completing your education. If you’re still doing this, you will use the partitive case: Matti käy koulua. If you’ve completed it, you will use the genitive case: Matti kävi peruskoulun.

Finnish English
Kävin lukion kotimaassani. I did high school in my home country.
Hän kävi koulua vain vuoden. She only went to school for a year.
Kävin tietokonekurssin. I did a computer course.
Olen käynyt peruskoulun ulkomailla. I completed primary school abroad.
Tytär käy toista luokkaa. The girl is in second grade.
Hän kävi kesällä rippikoulun. He did confirmation school in summer.

4. To fit, to be okay

The verb käydä can also be used as a synonym for sopia. It’s used to express that a day or arrangement works (is okay) for someone.

Finnish English
Maanantai ei käy. Monday doesn’t work.
Käykö tiistai? Is Tuesday okay?
Kortti ei käy ulkomailla. The card doesn’t work abroad.
Käykö luottokortti? Is a credit card okay (to pay)?.
Käykö se sinulle? Is that okay for you?
Kyllä, se käy hyvin. Yes, that works well.

5. The running of a machine

When you want to describe how a machine is running, you can use the verb käydä.

Finnish English
Moottori käy. The engine is running.
Moottori kävi epätasaisesti. The engine was running unevenly.
Moottori käy katkonaisesti. The engine runs intermittently.
Moottori käy tasaisesti. The engine runs smoothly.
Kone käy täydellä teholla. The engine runs at full power.
Vanha takkini käy vielä täydestä. My old coat still fully works.

6. To begin or cause feelings

The translative case (-ksi) is used when changes take place. When combined with the verb käydä it can express that a certain emotion comes to be.

Finnish English
Minun kävi Mattia sääliksi. I felt sorry for Matti.
Eeva kävi levottomaksi. Eeva became restless.
Aika käy pitkäksi. Time is going slow.
Se kävi mahdottomaksi. It became impossible
Tilanne kävi kestämättömäksi. The situation became intolerable.
Tilanne kävi sietämättömäksi. The situation became unbearable.
Tilanne käy yhä sotkuisemmaksi. The situation keeps getting messier.
Pojan kävi kateeksi toveriaan. The boy was jealous of his friend.
Odotus kävi hermoille. The wait got on my nerves.
Se käy hermoilleni. It gets on my nerves.

7. To happen in a certain way

Finnish English
Niin käy usein. That happens a lot.
Kuinka siinä kävi? How did it go?
Kuinka hänen kävi? How did he do?
No, kuinkas kävi? Well, how did it go?
Hänelle kävi nolosti. It was embarrassing for her.
Sehän kävi näpsäkästi! That went slickly!
Tässä käy vielä huonosti. This won’t end well.
Se käy sinulle vielä kalliiksi! It will end up costing you!
Hänellä kävi säkä. She got lucky.
Hänellä kävi hyvä onni. She got lucky.
Hänellä kävi tuuri. She got lucky.
Harmi että kävi näin. Too bad that’s how it went.
Kaikki kävi hetkessä. Everything happened instantly.
Yritetään, kävi miten kävi. Let’s try, whatever happens.
Se kävi hyvin kaupaksi. It sold well.

8. Other uses

The following table contains some phrase-like uses of the verb käydä.

Finnish English
Kävi ilmi, että… It became clear that…
Käydään se yhdessä läpi. Let’s go through it together.
Käy taloksi! Make yourself at home!
Käykää sisään! Come on in!
Kello käy. Time is ticking away.
Karhu kävi hänen kimppuun. The bear attacked him.
Kello käy kahdeksaa. The clock is ticking eight.
Asia käy yli ymmärrykseni. It goes beyond my understanding.
Käy pitkäksesi! Lay down!

9. Sayings with the verb käydä

  • Ylpeys käy lankeemuksen edellä
    • Literally: “Pride comes before the fall.”
    • Meaning: If you’re too arrogant you’re going to fail.
  • Rikkaus ja onni eivät aina käy käsikkäin.
    • Literally: “Wealth and happiness do not always go hand in hand.
    • Meaning: Money doesn’t always make people happy.
  • Tie miehen sydämeen käy vatsan kautta.
    • Literally: “The way to a man’s heart is through the stomach.”
    • Meaning: A man will love you if you cook for him?

That’s it for this deeper look at the verb käydä! Hopefully you learned something new!

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Under the meaning “to visit”, why are all the examples in inessive except for “I visited my friend”? Is it because of luona? Does the postposition’s case supercede the case of the verb? Thanks!

Inge (admin)

Very perceptive of you! No, it’s not because of postpositions. Luona – just like kotona – is the missä-form.

Luona, kotona, ulkona, kaukana and takana are all old Finnish words that answer to the question “missä”. This is in fact a historical thing: the -na form used to be mainly used for saying things were “in” something way back in Finnish history. Likewise, the partitive used to be used instead of -sta to express “from”. We can only see this in a couple of words in modern Finnish.

Missä: luona, takana, ulkona, kaukana, kotona
Mistä: luota, takaa, ulkoa, kaukaa, kotoa
Mihin: luokse, taakse, ulos, kauas, kotiin


Weird, I had no idea! Thank you so much for broadening the horizons! 😀