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Brief Guide to Finnish vol. 2 — Question suffix particle

Juho Vepsäläinen

While preparing for the upcoming conference, you may have spent some time learning the basics of the Finnish language. This time we’ll leap to advanced level — all done by using only a single phrase.

I’ll demonstrate you five quite common scenarios of daily life in Finland. And how we‘re able to survive from almost every situation by using a simple language rule called “kysymysliitepartikkeli” (“question suffix particle”).

If you’re having a presentation🔗

Standing in front of a crowd may be a stressful situation. A situation where the speaker needs to break the ice and win the confidence of an audience. The easiest way is to test whether the microphone merely works by asking:

“Kuuluuko?” (“Can you hear me?”)

And if the mic is on, the audience will reply:

“Kuuluu!” (“Yes, we can!”)

If you’re having dinner🔗

Manners on a dinner table in Finland follow the standard rules, but sometimes people get confused with all the utensils.

You may find yourself holding a fork and asking “Where does this belong to?”. Of course, a friendly waitress will help you by pointing the right place and replying “Over here”. And because you want to be polite as well, you can confirm his/her guidance by asking:

“Kuuluuko?” (“Does it belong here?”)

And then the waitress will reply:

“Kuuluu” (“Yes it does”)

If you’re having a small talk🔗

When it comes to small talk, Finns love talking about two topics. The first one is the weather. The second one is any possible topic while being in a sauna.

You can approach a fellow Finn simply by asking “How are you doing?”. In 99% of the cases, he will reply “I’m doing fine”. Since you probably want to continue the conversation, you can ask another question:

“Kuuluuko?” (“Really?”)

And because Finns always tell the truth by default, he’ll reply:

“Kuuluu” (“Yes I am”)

In 1% of the cases, you might get their life story as a response. So be careful when asking this question!

If you’re going too far with the conversation🔗

You should be aware that Finns have strict personal space and some topics should not be discussed of at all.

A typical Finnish reaction is to shout: “This is none of your business!”. To show your concern, you’re allowed to push the conversation a little by replying “It actually is”. Doing this will get any Finnish person a bit confused, and they will ask:

“Kuuluuko?” (“Oh, it does?”)

You have to keep a solid line and reply:

“Kuuluu” (“Yes it does”)

If you’re playing a game🔗

If you’ve ended up this far and fellow Finn wants to challenge you to a board or card game, you’re doing it very well.

It’s time to learn some additional Finnish. For instance, you hold a card with mystical illustration of a moon bone; you would ask “What is this?”. And the Finn will reply “A moon bone”. You will repeat the actual answer by asking:

“Kuuluuko?” (“A moon bone?”)

And the Finn will repeat the answer:

“Kuuluu” (“Yes, a moon bone”)

The above is possible because “kuu” (moon) and “luu” (bone) can be combined into a single word “kuuluu” (moon bone) which happens to overlap with other usages.

Learn to say “hi” in the next part of the guide.