Finnish for busy people

Kun and kuin in Spoken and Written Finnish

The “rules” for when to use kun and kuin in spoken language are different from what the general guideline is for kun and kuin in written Finnish. Let’s take a look at what makes them different!

Table of Contents
  1. Kun and kuin in written Finnish
    1. Kun used to express time
    2. Word chains with kun
    3. Kuin used to express comparisons
    4. Word chains with kuin
  2. Kun and kuin in spoken Finnish
    1. Kun used to express time
    2. Kun used to express comparisons
    3. Kun used to express causality
    4. Kun used in place of että

1. Kun and Kuin in Written Finnish

Kotus is the institute that defines how official Finnish should be used. For kun and kuin, the rule is pretty clear:

  • Kuin is used for comparisons
  • Kun is used for expressing time

1.1. Kun used to express time

When expressing time, we can translate kun straight to the English “when”.

Finnish English
Tulen, kun olen valmis. I’m coming when I’m done.
Kun sataa, jään sisään. When it rains I stay inside.
Kun olin imuroinut, lepäsin. When I had vaccuumed, I rested.
Kuuntele, kun puhun! Listen when I talk!
Tulen heti kun ehdin. I’m coming as soon as I can.

1.2. Word chains with kun

Word chains like “aina kun” and “silloin kun” are very common in Finnish. I’m limiting the examples below to the ones that are beyond a doubt the most common.

Finnish English
Vierailen aina kun voin. I visit whenever I can.
Tulen heti kun voin. I will come as soon as I can.
Tulen sitten kun olen valmis. I will come when I’m done.
Luen samalla kun syön. I read while I’m reading.
Nyt kun mietin asiaa… Now that I think about it…
Joka kerta kun hälytys soi… Every time when the alarm rings…

1.3. Kuin used to express comparisons

When we’re comparing things, we use kuin in written Finnish (“than”). This is the most common with the comparative of adjectives (eg. isompi, pienempi) and the comparative of adverbs (eg. nopeammin, paremmin).

Other possible translations are “as” and “like”, as you can see in the sentences below. The important thing is that there’s a comparison present in all these sentences.

Finnish English
Anna on nopeampi kuin Antti. Anna is faster than Antti.
Anna juoksee nopeammin kuin Antti. Anna runs faster than Antti.
Sain enemmän kuin tuhat euroa. I receive more than a thousand euros.
Anna on yhtä nopea kuin Leena. Anna is equally fast as Leena.
Olen tänään yhtä väsynyt kuin eilen. I’m as tired today as I was yesterday.
Kaikki on sama kuin eilen. Everything is the same as yesterday.
Työpaikka on kuin toinen koti. The work place is like a second home.
Hän on kuin sisko minulle. She’s like a sister to me.

1.4. Word chains with kuin

There are also many word chains in written Finnish with kuin, such as “niin kuin” and “ennen kuin“. There are many of such phrases, but I’m limiting the examples below to the ones that are beyond a doubt the most common.

Finnish English
Tule ennen kuin juhlat alkavat! Come before the party starts!
Niin kauan kuin musiikki soi. As long as the music is playing.
Hän oli ikään kuin läpikuultava It was like he was translucent.
Aivan kuin minua ei olisi. As if I didn’t exist.
Kaikki oli niin kuin pitikin. Everything was as it should have been.
Hän on [yhtä kaunis kuin] sinä. She’s [just as pretty] as you are.
Juokset [yhtä nopeasti kuin] minä. You run [just as fast] as I.
Hän ei muuta kuin laiskottelee. He doesn’t isn’t anything but lazy.

2. Kun and Kuin in Spoken Finnish

You can almost forget kuin in spoken language. The word kun is generally used in all situations. We can even shorten kun into ku in spoken language! This doesn’t mean kuin is totally extinct in spoken language, just that it’s less common in colloquial language.

2.1. Kun used to express time (spoken)

We could use the exact same example sentences as higher up in the article, because this use of kun is the same in both written and spoken Finnish.

Finnish English
Mä tuun, kun oon valmis. I’m coming when I’m done.
Ku(n) sataa, mä jään sisään. When it rains I stay inside.
Se lähti ku(n) se oli syönyt. He left when he had eaten.
Mä vastasin ku(n) puhelin soi. I answered when the phone rang.

2.2. Kun used to express comparisons (spoken)

While in written language kuin will be used for comparisons, in spoken language ku(n) is perfectly fine.

Finnish English
Anna on nopeempi ku(n) Antti. Anna is faster than Antti.
Mä oon pitempi ku(n) sä. I’m taller than you.
Oon yhtä väsyny ku(n) eilen. I’m just as tired as yesterday.
Tää on ku(n) toinen koti mulle. This is like a second home to me.
Se on ku(n) sisko mulle. She’s like a sister to me.

2.3. Kun used to express causality (spoken)

We can use kun as a synonym for koska (“because”) both in spoken language and in written language. In spoken language, this is pretty common, while in written sources you are more likely to see koska.

Finnish English
En tullut kun ujostelin. I didn’t come because I was shy.
Jäin kotiin kun en muuta keksinytkään. I stayed home because I couldn’t think of anything to do.
En auttanut kun en tiennyt miten. I didn’t help because I didn’t know how to help.
Myöhästyin kun sain väärät ohjeet. I was late because I got the wrong directions.

2.4. Kun used in place of että (spoken)

Subordinate clauses that start with että “that” can get kun in spoken language. This is fairly tricky because it definitely isn’t possible for all että-sentences; just some.

Finnish English
Anteeksi ku(n) häiritsen, mutta… Sorry that I’m disturbing, but…
Kuulin ku(n) sä tulit sisään. I heard that you came in.

Read more elsewhere

I’m glossing over many of the more complicated ways to use kun and kuin in this article. I’ve only included the things that I think you will need to become fairly fluent in Finnish (perhaps up to level B1.2). If you’ve advanced past that point, you could check out the following articles:

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