Thursday, January 24, 2013

Question words

There are two ways of making questions in Finnish: with a question word or with the question ending ko or . This post is about the most common question words.

  • Mikä sun sukunimi on? - What is your last name?
  • Mitä sinä teet? - What are you doing? What are you making? (This is the partitive form.)
  • Minkä värinen se on? - What colour is it?
  • Missä sinä asut? - Where do you live?
  • Mistä maasta sinä olet kotoisin?  - Which country are you from?
  • Mihin sinä menet? / Minne sinä menet? - Where are you going to?
  • Minä päivänä te lähdette? - On which day will you leave?
  • Kuinka vanha sinä olet? / Miten vanha sinä olet? - How old are you?
  • Miksi sinä et soittanut?  - Why didn't you call?

Notice how the words kuka and kumpi change:

  • Kuka tuo mies oli? - Who was that man? (In spoken language, tuo is often toi.)
  • Kenen tämä on? - Whose is this? (Don't say kukan, because it means flower's.)
  • Kenellä se on? - Who has it? 
  • Keneltä sinä sait tämän? - From whom did you get this?
  • Kenelle sinä annat sen? - To whom are you going to give it?
  • Kumpi se oli? - Which one was it?
  • Kumman sinä haluat? - Which one do you want?
  • Kummalla se oli viimeksi? - Which one had it the last time?

Hmm. This post might be the right place to discuss the annoying difference between Mitä kuuluu and Miten menee, or the reason why the answers I'm fine and How about you are different.

  • Mitä kuuluu?  = How are you? / What is audible? (Ok, a horrible translation, but you know the meaning.) 
  • Hyvää, kiitos. Entä sulle?

Mitä is mikä in partitive, so the answer should be hyvää, ihan hyvää, or something else in the same case. The question How about you is Entä sinulle or Entä sulle, because the long version of the Mitä kuuluu is actually Mitä sinulle kuuluu. 

  • Miten menee? = How is it going?
  • Hyvin, kiitos. Entä sulla?

Since the question is miten, the answer should be an adverb such as hyvin or huonosti. The long version of the question is Miten sinulla menee, so you should ask Entä sinulla or Entä sulla, if you want to know how the other person is doing.

p.s. Here's a Memrise course with Finnish question words. 


  1. The two approaches can also be combined to question a question:
    Kukako tuo mies oli?

    1. Not really. A very unorthodox phrase, even if grammatically correct it would sound strange and unintuitive to a native speaker.

  2. Hei,

    thanks for the wonderful posts

    Can you please explain when to use Missä, Mistä and Mihin


    1. missä = where?
      mistä = from where?
      mihin = to where

      Missä sinä olet?
      Mistä sinä tulet?
      Mihin sinä menet?

  3. How do i get to figure out which question form is related to which verb?

    1. Hyvä kysymys! You have to know which ending the verb takes. In linguistics, it's called "case government". We often talk about "verbin rektio" in Finnish. For example "Minä rakastan SINUA" --> "KETÄ sinä rakastat?" or "Mä tykkään SUKLAASTA. --> "MISTÄ sä tykkäät?" Perhaps this list will help:

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