Finnish for busy people

Lie Lienee – Expressing probability – Potential

This article deals with the words lie and lienee but also more widely with ways to express probability in general.

1. The form lienee

The form lienee is the potential third person form of the verb olla. The potential is used to express that something is likely but not certain. For example, Syönen tänään hyvin means “I’ll probably eat well today”.

You can conjugate all Finnish verbs in the potential, but only the verb olla looks this different from its basic form: minä lienen, sinä lienet, hän lienee, me lienemme, te lienette, he lienevät.

Finnish English
Asia lienee selvä. The matter is probably clear.
Hän lienee sairas. He’s probably sick.
Hallitus lienee päättänyt. The government has probably decided.
Ulkona lienee satanut. It has probably rained outside.

2. Mikä lie

In addition to lienee, you might also come across the shorter form lie. The usage of lie is often limited to the phrase mikä lie, which is a fairly common way to express wonder or guesswork in every day colloquial language.

Finnish English
Mikä lie tarkoitus? What could the point be?
Mikä lie totuus? What could be the truth?
Lanka tai hius tai mikä lie. A string, or a hair, or who knows what.
Jumala tai mikä lie, joka loi meidät. God or whatever, who created us.

3. Lie Lienee Example Sentences

Finnish English
Se lienee totta. It’s probably true.
Lienemme samassa liemessä. We’re probably in the same boat.
Lienette kanssani samaa mieltä. You probably agree with me.
He lienevät jo lähteneet. They probably already left.
Lienee varma, että… It’s probably certain, that…
Hän lienee jo lähtenyt. He has probably already left.
Lieneekö se totta? Could this be true?
Aika kurjaa, jos totta lienee. Pretty miserable, if true.
Eiköhän liene viisainta, että… It’s probably wise now to…
Lienet oikeassa. You’re probably right.
Mikä lie uusi virus tämä on. Or whatever new virus this is.
Eipä liene moista ennen nähty. This probably hasn’t been seen before.

4. Ways to express probability

We can express probability in a variety of ways, as becomes clear from these sentences that all refer to me probably eating well today.

  • Syönen tänään hyvin. (with the potential)
  • Syön todennäköisesti hyvin tänään. (todennäköisesti is an adverb of probability)
  • Syön varmaan hyvin tänään. (varmaan is an adverb of probability)
  • Taidan syödä hyvin tänään. (with the verb taitaa)
  • Saatan syödä hyvin tänään. (with the verb saattaa)
  • Luulen, että syön hyvin tänään. (with the verb luulla)

Please realize from the list above that there are many other ways besides lie and lienee to express probability. The potential is certainly not the most common way to do so. Lie is an interesting little word, but you will mainly see it in the phrase mikä lie.

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