Finnish for busy people

Sitten Silloin – “Then” in Finnish

This short article is meant to shed some light on the difference between sitten and silloin. Especially sitten causes confusion with some language learners because you can use it both the express something in the past and to refer to subsequent actions in the present or future.

1. Sitten “Ago”

The word sitten can often be translated as “ago”. In these types of sentences, they can be replaced with viime in some cases (e.g. viikko sitten = viime viikolla; kuukausi sitten = viime kuussa).

Finnish English
viikko sitten a week ago
kaksi viikkoa sitten two weeks ago
kuukausi sitten a month ago
kolme kuukautta sitten three months ago
vuosi sitten a year ago
viisi vuotta sitten five years ago
kauan sitten a long time ago

2. Sitten “And then”

In addition, sitten can be used when you’re telling the sequence of a group of events.

Finnish English
Hän heräsi, haukotteli ja sitten nousi. He woke up, yawned and then got up.
Syön ja sitten tulen. I will eat and then I’ll come.
Sitten oli aamiaisen aika. Then, it was time for breakfast.
Opiskelin ensin Puolassa, sitten Suomessa. I first studied in Poland, then in Finland.
Tulen sitten kun olen syönyt. I will come (then) when I have eaten.

3. Sitten “in that case”

The word sitten can also be used to express a solution or conclusion.

For example, if someone expresses that they don’t want to be alone, you can say Tule sitten mukaan! (“Come with us then!” = “In that case, come with us!”).

Another example would be a situation where someone expresses that they do know what you’re talking about. You could say Olisit sanonut sitten! (“You should have said something then!” = In that case, you could have said something!”)

4. Silloin “At that time”

With silloin you are referring to a specific point in the past that you could specify, e.g. “back then when I…”. As a beginner learner of Finnish, you’re not likely to need this word much. Nevertheless, it does have its uses when describing past events.

Finnish English
Opiskelin silloin lukiossa. I was studying in highschool at the time.
Silloin oli lauantai. It was Saturday at the time.
Silloin kun lähdin oli pimeää. When I left it was dark.
En silloin tiennyt, että… At the time I didn’t know that…

That’s it for sitten and silloin! Hopefully this article helped you understand when to use these two words. Let me know what you think in the comments! You could learn more out about other adverbs of time like sitten next.

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