Finnish ways and means

When you do two things at the same time, is that always the same as doing one thing by means of another? And vice versa?

In Finnish, there are two ways to say 1) a way of doing something and 2) simultaneous actions. In both, more than one verb is used and one of them is expressed in a special case of one of the infinitives (yes, Finnish verbs have more than one infinitive! Have a look at this handy explanation and the other hyperlinked ones below.) Why these two ways in particular interest me is that although the boundary between them is fuzzy, they are not always readily interchangeable.

1) The third infinitive in the adessive case.

Arki parenee vaihtamalla. ‘Daily life improves by changing.’ (VR (Finnish State Railways) advertising slogan.)

In the example, daily life improves ‘by means of changing’. Or does it improve at the same time as changing?

Ostamalla Karhua, et voi voita kylpylälomaa, mutta saat täyttä olutta. ‘When you buy Karhu, you can’t win a resort holiday, but you do get real beer.’ (Ad for Karhu beer.)

Here, the point is that unlike other beers with their promotions, buying Karhu isn’t a means to winning a holiday. But this is where I start to get confused: it’s just as easy to translate this (as I have) as ‘when you buy’ as ‘by buying’.

2) The second infinitive in the instructive case.

Raja ruuhkautui mennen tullen. ‘The border was congested by coming and going.’ ( an article about how the 4 Nov. holiday in Russia brought a lot of traffic to the border posts.)

This could be the only example I could translate as ‘by means of coming and going’. To say ‘at the same time as coming and going’ seems nonsensical to me: the comings and goings were the reason for the congestion.

Messukeksuksen ravintolamaailma monipuolistui saaden mukaansa myös uuden Fazer Cafén. ‘The conference centre’s restaurant world diversified when it got a new Fazer Café.’ (Fazer website. And yes, I do mean a ‘restaurant world’: that is what a collection of more than one food outlet in one place seems to be called these days in Finland!)

Again, I find this instantly open to interpretation and could easily imagine it meaning ‘it diversified by getting a new café’.

In all of the above, I feel the ideas of simultaneity and utility fighting for primacy in my mind. A similar issue exists in English: ‘when’ often means ‘because’, but not always. Similarly, in Finnish, the border did not clog up because it came and went: it clogged up at the same time people came and went. Perhaps this is why two forms exist, even if they are not always that clearly defined.

Quiz time! Tietovisa! What do the Finns think? Do the opposites of the examples above make sense? Can one say the following?

Arki parenee vaihtaen.

Ostaen Karhua, saat täyttä olutta.

Raja ruuhkautui menemällä ja tulemalla. (My gut feeling already tells me this is really strange!)

Ravintomaailma monipuolistui saamalla mukaansa uuden kahvilan.


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