Finnish for busy people

Varma, Varmasti and Varmaan – Sure Certain Certainly Probably

This article goes over the usage of the words varma, varmasti and varmaan. It also gives you a better idea of the different degrees of certainty, ie. how to express how certain you are about something.

Table of Contents
  1. Degrees of Certainty – Kuinka varma olet?
  2. The Word Varma
    1. Varma – “Sure, Certain”
    2. Varma – “Safe, Reliable”
    3. Varma – “Confident”
  3. The Words Varmasti and Varmaan
    1. Varmasti “Surely, Certainly”
    2. Varmastikin “Surely, Probably”
    3. Varmaan “Probably, Possibly, Supposedly”
  4. Other Related Words

1. Degrees of Certainty – Kuinka varma olet?

Varma is an adjective. It can be used to talk about people: you are sure about something. It also can be used to say that something is certain.

Finnish English
täysin varma completely sure
sataprosenttisen varma 100 % sure
satavarma 100 % sure
vuorenvarma absolutely certain
ehdottoman varma absolutely sure
aivan varma quite sure
aika varma pretty sure
ei varma not sure
ei kovin varma not really sure
ei lainkaan varma not sure at all
epävarma unsure, uncertain
itsevarma self-confident
idioottivarma foolproof
takuuvarma guaranteed

2. The Word Varma

Below, you can find example sentences of the word varma used in different contexts.

2.1. Varma – “Sure, Certain”

The word varma will require the mistä form of the thing you’re sure of.

Finnish English
Olen varma päätöksestäni. I’m sure of my decision.
Olin varma voitostani. I was sure of my victory.
Oletko varmastä? Are you sure about this?
Oletko aivan varmastä? Are you absolutely sure about this?
Olen täysin varmastä. I’m completely sure about this.
Olin aika varma, että voittaisimme. I was pretty sure that we would win.
En ole varma hänen tunteistaan. I’m not sure of his feelings.
En ole kovin varma itsestäni. I’m not very sure of myself.
En nyt ole ihan täysin varmastä. I don’t think I’m completely sure of this.
Poliisi on vuorenvarma murhaajasta. The police is absolutely certain of the killer.
Voitto oli varma. The victory was certain.
Yksi asia on satavarma. One thing is absolutely certain.
Olen satavarma, että olen oikeassa. I’m completely sure that I’m right.
Tätä voi pitää varmana. This can be considered certain.
Olen varma (siitä), että kaikki järjestyy. I’m sure that everything will work out.
Olen varma, että minulla on syöpä. I’m sure I have cancer.
Olen varma, että hän puhuu totta. I’m sure that he’s speaking the truth.
Olen varma, että tein oikein päätöksen. I’m sure I made the right decision.
Oletteko varmoja, että haluatte tämän? Are you (plural) sure that you want this?
Olimme varmoja, että päätös oli oikea. We were sure that the decision was right.
En voi sanoa mitään varmaksi. I can’t say anything for sure.
Mikään ei ole vielä varmaa. Nothing is certain yet.
Tästä ei ole vielä varmaa tietoa. There’s no certain information about this yet.
Nyt se on varma! It’s certain now!
Varmaa on vain epävarmuus. Only uncertainty is certain.
Olen epävarma tästä. I’m unsure about this.
Olen itsevarma. I’m confident.

2.2. Varma – “Safe, Reliable”

When you want to express that something is safe or reliable, you can use varma. In the following sentences varma functions as an adjective which is followed by a noun.

Finnish English
Tämä on ainoa [varma keino] laihtua. This is the only sure way to lose weight.
Johtajakoulutus oli [varma valinta]. Leadership training was a sure choice.
Asunnon osto on [varma sijoitus]. Buying an apartment is a safe investment.
Hoitotyö on aika [varma työpaikka]. Nursing is pretty secure employment.
Säilytä autonavaimesi [varmassa paikassa]! Keep your car key in a safe place!
Tämä oire on [varma merkki] tartunnasta. This symptom is a sure sign of infection.
Podcast tarjoaa [varmat naurut]. The podcast is sure to make you laugh.
Valokuitu on [varma ratkaisu]. Fiber optics is a reliable solution.
Meiltä saat aina [varmaa laatua]. You always get guaranteed quality from us.

2.3. Varma – “Confident”

Finnish English
Hän työskenteli [varmoin ottein]. She worked with confidence. (ote = grip)
Hän maalaa [varmoin vedoin] maisemaa. She paints the landscape with confidence. (veto = stroke)
Hän piirtää [varmalla kädellä]. She draws with a sure hand.
Meitä ohjattiin [varmalla kädellä]. We were guided with a sure hand.
Hän on [varma puhuja] ja esiintyjä. She is a confident speaker and performer.

3. The Words Varmasti and Varmaan

Using the words varmasti and varmaan can be tricky. These words can mean the exact opposite of one another. However, they can also be used as synonyms!

In official written Finnish, these two words mean something different: varmasti means “certainly, surely”, while varmaan means “probably”. In spoken Finnish, however, both of these words can be used to express that the speaker is sure about something.

I suggest that – at least to begin with – you use these words the way they work in written Finnish: use varmasti when something is certain, and varmaan when it’s probable.

3.1. Varmasti “Surely, Certainly”

By rephrasing a sentence, you can go from varma to varmasti: “Oletko varma, että haluat kirjautua ulos?” (Are you sure you want to sign out?) can be rephrased as “Haluatko varmasti kirjautua ulos?”.

Varmasti can usually be translated as surely, certainly, positively and definitely; ie. there’s no doubt.

Finnish English
Löydämme heidät varmasti. We will find them for sure.
Lopputulos on varmasti hyvä. The end result is definitely good.
Osaatko varmasti? Are you sure you know how to?
Oletko varmasti valmis lähtemään? Are you sure you’re ready to leave?
Tästä on varmasti eri mielipiteitä. There are definitely different opinions on this.
Muutoksia tulee varmasti. There will definitely be changes.
Pahin aika on varmasti vielä edessä. The worst is certainly yet to come.
Mainonta vaikuttaa varmasti ostopäätöksiin. Advertising certainly influences purchase decisions.
Akku tyhjenee hitaasti mutta varmasti. The battery empties slowly but surely.
Ei varmasti anneta periksi. We’re definitely not giving up.
Kyse on [lähes varmasti] myrkytyksestä. It is almost certainly poisoning.
Poliitikko myrkytettiin [melko varmasti]. The politician was quite certainly poisoned.
Minä aion [aivan varmasti] äänestää. I will most certainly vote.

3.2. Varmastikin “Surely, Probably”

In some contexts, varmasti can also be used to express probability rather than certainty. Especially with the suffixes -kin, the meaning shifts to a smaller degree of certainty, which makes it a synonym for varmaan.

In many of these situations, you can compare these phrases to the English “must be; must have”, which also expresses a certain amount of certainty while not specifically telling you how certain it is.

Finnish English
Hän on varmastikin myöhästynyt. He must be late.
Hän varmastikin oppii sen pian. He will surely learn it soon.
Asia varmastikin unohtui. The matter must have been forgotten.

3.3. Varmaan “Probably, Possibly, Supposedly”

The word varmaan is generally used when the speaker is supposing, inferring that something is a certain way. In some cases varmaan is used as a certain type of indirect question: the speaker is looking for a confirmation of what they are supposing.

In written language varmaan expresses uncertainty, while in spoken language it can in fact mean that you’re certain. My examples have all been chosen and translated to express that we’re looking for confirmation. This matches up with the written meaning of varmaan.

Finnish English
Olen varmaan samanlainen kuin kaikki muut. I’m probably just like everyone else.
Minun olisi varmaan pitänyt yrittää kovemmin. I should probably have tried harder.
Olette varmaan huomanneet muutoksen. You’ve (plural) probably noticed the change.
Olet varmaan oikeassa. You’re right I guess.
Hän ei varmaan edes huomaa. He probably doesn’t even notice.
En varmaan ole ainoa. I’m probably not the only one.

4. Other related words

I have a whole separate article on adverbs that express certainty, probability and unlikelihood. Here are some examples of such words:

Finnish English
ehkä maybe, perhaps
kenties maybe, perhaps
kai maybe, perhaps
luultavasti probably, likely
mahdollisesti possibly, potentially
ilmeisesti apparently, evidently
oletettavasti presumably, supposedly
todennäköisesti likely, most probably
kaiketi probably, likely
todellakin absolutely, certainly
totta kai of course, certainly
tietenkin certainly, naturally
taatusti certainly, definitely
epäilemättä without a doubt
takuulla for sure, most certainly
ilmiselvästi obviously, plainly

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