Finnish ways and means

There are two Finnish verb forms I’d like to discuss. One is used when you say you do one thing by means of or simply by another:

Arki parenee vaihtamalla.

Daily life improves by changing (through change). 

The other is most commonly used for two simultaneous actions:

Työllistä välittäen – valitä työllistäen

Employ while caring – care while employing. (Name of a project.)

Other people have explained the


The reason these two together interest me is that although I’ve said, above, that ex. 1 is for one action done ‘by’ another and ex. 2 is for two actions done at the same time, it’s not that simple. While construction 1 seems to be fairly consistently used to mean ‘doing one thing by means of another’, construction 2 is less uniform of meaning. When I think about ex. 2, I wonder whether it just means “care at the same time as you employ”, or does it, for Finns, have a hint of “take care of people by employing them”?

This verb välittää is very common in the run-up to elections. Last year one local election candidate’s slogan was “Vastuullisesti, välittäen”, and I’m not sure if he meant “responsibly caring”, or just that his responsibility came with a dollop of caring, as an afterthought. I know I’m getting obtuse, but I think there’s a difference between “caring responsibly” and “caring and being responsible at the same time”.


The big question is are these two the same or different? Although they do overlap, there is, in my non-expert opinion, a difference. In the first example, daily life gets better with the help of a tool called change. In the second, the doctor’s giving of the wrong drugs wasn’t a means to an end: it just happened at the same time. So, at least in these two cases, there is a difference.

This is all a very theoretical issue for me as a learner of Finnish because in the rare cases I do need so say one thing is done by doing another, I use the -malla form, as in the first example. The second is largely restricted to set phrases such as “Hyvää viikonloppua toivottaen”, “wishing you a pleasant weekend”, at the end of emails.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s