1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Finnish
  4. >
  5. "Emme kai me vaan häiritse?"

"Emme kai me vaan häiritse?"

Translation:I hope that we are not disturbing?

June 30, 2020



When I did this sentence, the correct solution was, "I hope we are not disturbing."

In English, there should be a pronoun or a noun after "disturbing."


It also suggests something is wrong (i.e., "disturbing") with the speaker.


That's true. Without a pronoun or noun after it, the word "disturbing" is an adjective modifying the subject, which in this case is "we". And yet it's a verb in the Finnish sentence.


Another interesting quirk is 'disturbing' used in this way has a much more negative connotation. "We are disturbing" is almost always used in the emotional sense, like a gory movie. (as opposed to a physical, light/sound, disturbance).


Sorry I am too stupid to disect the grammar, so: can the finnish have that meaning (the "disturbing" refering to the "we" )?

As opposed to refering to the discussed apparently missing "you" which a non-humerous rendition might put on the end of the sentence.


I'm really confused about this sentence. As far as I can tell it's made up of 'me emme kai' which means ' I hope we are not' and 'vaan häiritse'. I just don't understand how 'vaan häiritse' comes from häiritä - would a kind finn please tell me how is this phrase made up? Thank you!


This sort of thing delves into the kind of territory that would ideally be worried about after getting the basics covered, because grasping it is more about having a feel for the quirks of the language rather than semantics or grammar. When taken out of context "kai" can be translated to words like "perhaps", "maybe" and "probably", and when "vaan" is taken out of context, it can be translated to "but rather" and it can also be a colloquial form of "vain", which can be translated to words like "only", "just", "merely" and "exclusively". The latter form is what this particular instance of "vaan" is. But like I said, semantics hardly plays a role in making sense of their roles in this sentence, because their usage in this case is idiomatic. In order to understand it properly, you would need to have a grasp of the intricacies of how tone can be modified with various words and particles, so it's tricky to explain it to an outsider looking in, but I'll give it a try.

When a negation is followed by "kai", it can function in a similar way as the word "surely" can sometimes function in combination with a negation, such as in "Surely you can't be serious?". In other words, it can be used as an additional element in framing something as undesirable and/or unlikely. In "Emme kai me vaan häiritse", the speaker is using "kai" to frame the disturbance as an undesirable thing. In other contexts, it can be used to frame something as unlikely, for example in "Ei kai se nyt niin vaikeaa voi olla", which can be translated to "It can't be that hard".

"Vaan" is even trickier to explain. It seems that you've studied German at least a little bit, so maybe it will help to point out that it's in a similar class of words as the "filler words" from German, such as "mal". They are thrown around here and there to give the speech a certain type of flair, such as in "komm mal her!". In that particular example, the usage of "mal" is very similar to the usage of "vaan" as a flair word, since the Finnish translation could be "tule vaan tänne!". In English, it can be translated to something like "come on over!". It's difficult to describe exactly what kind of flair the "vaan" gives in "Emme kai me vaan häiritse?", since it has a rather subtle effect which also varies somewhat depending on the context, but the more you observe the usage of that kind of "vaan" and other similar filler elements in real world usage, the better you'll understand them. Nobody ever told me how German filler words work, but I've seen them in use so much that at some point it all just clicked in my brain. Their Finnish equivalents can be very similar, although they are often in the form of a suffix.


I agree, this is an unnessarily complex sentence for a basic course. And yes, Finnish has loaned a lot from German in various stages, so that "komm mal her" and "tule vaan tänne" is an excellent comparison.


Agreed. This sentence does not belong in level 0 or 1. It may come up because of Duolingo sentence randomization, only there is something wrong with the programming here.


What does the word vaan has to do with German? It's not related to German at all according to etymology dictionary. It comes from the word vajaa. Please don't make things up.


I did not claim that they had any etymological relationship, but I agree with KristianKumpula with his observation of comparable usage of filler words.


Thank you! So "vaan" in this context adds an apologetic tone?


It's rather tricky to put it into words, but I wouldn't describe it like that exactly. All I can say for sure is that it also has something to do with framing the disturbance as undesirable.


Oh, I like the German "mal" and it isn't reslly a filler. It literally means "once" or maybe has a feel like US "one time", and can soften the imperative tone on "komm hier" (come here) to something like "why not come over here one time"


Häiritä is a class 5 verb , that is finishing in -itä or -ita, changing into -itse- when conjugated : häiritä /häiritse-, minä häiritsen


That would explain its inclusion ... but it sounds like it has been employed in an overly difficult sentence.

[deactivated user]

    I noticed someone downvoted the sentence. One of the moderators explained why you should never do that, because the sentence could become untraceable i.e. the language volunteers will no longer be able to find the sentence. I upvoted the sentence to zero. If you want the sentence to attract attention, upvote it so it will get a higher priority.

    P.S. I do not know the details of how it works, but once you understand that down-voting a sentence is bad for the development of the course, it kind of sticks with you. Maybe a moderator can explain exactly why down-voting a sentence is a bad idea.


    In the finnish sentence there is no indication of a first person speaking, shouldn't it be translated in "hopefully, we are not disturbing"?

    • 1316

    It's an idiomatic use of the word "kai" (probably, perhaps), which presents the speaker's perspective. I have seen it in a variety of sentences with different English translations that usually involve the speaker's pov: I hope, I guess, I suppose, I think - depending on the main verb and the context. So in Finnish, the first person singular does not have to be present as it is implied.

    Some examples from my dictionary:

    • kyllä kai: I guess so

    • ei kai hän kauan viivy: I don't think he'll stay long

    • pitää kai lähteä: I suppose we must go


    Is this really a question in Finnish? If the translation is even close to correct in English, it shouldn't have a question mark following it.


    As Kristian and others, including me, have pointed out, this is more about semantics than grammar. There is no question word per se, so in that sense you're right, there shouldn't be a question mark, but…

    Let's take first the English sentence "How do you do". It is formed like a question, but usually you don't expect a truthfull answer. The formal answer is to repeat the sentence, a less formal would be something like "Very well, thank you".

    In contrast the Finns generally don't use such empty phrases, partly because we valuate one's personal space a lot and asking such questions would be felt like intrusions into one's private life. Therefore before interrupting one you ask if they mind being interrupted.

    Let's take a real life example. My wife and I go to see our neighbours, who we know very well. They live a couple of houses away, at a very short walking distance. When entering their yard we see, that the neighbouring couple is sitting by a table in their garden. Even when we know them well and seeing that they are not clearly occupied by anything, a following dialog will take place:

    • Emme kai vaan häiritse?

    • Ei, ette häiritse, tulkaa vaan : No, you're not interrupting anything, plese enter, (the most likely answer)


    • Itse asiassa kyllä : Well, in fact yes

    Which they may complete with a reason or leave it untold. In any case we should not felt offended and leave the yard quickly.

    • Selvä, palataan toiste : Ok, see you later [lit.: Let's get back to the matter later]

    So Emme kai vaan häiritse? is for all practical purposes a real question for which you expect a real answer.


    Emme kai vaan häiritse? Itse asiassa kyllä.

    Oh dear... I thought people over here in Eastern Europe are straightforward often coming across as rude but I can't even imagine hearing something like that, lol.


    I have read through the whole thread and appreciate the various comments. And I agree--the subtleties in this sentence are beyond a student at my level! Maybe it could be replaced with something more accessible.


    Agreed! Though if it's to stay, the phrase "We're not interrupting, are we?" would seem a far better translation than the one given (which isn't a natural-sounding sentence at all).


    Where is the "I" of I hope in this sentence? Could it not also mean we hope that we are not disturbing?


    There isn't, because you express things in a different way in English and Finnish. Read the comments of KristianKumpula and me.


    If 'Emme kai me vaan häiritse' means 'I hope that we are not disturbing?', what would be 'We hope that we are not disturbing?' ?

    • 1316

    There wouldn’t be any difference. ”Kai” does not explicitly express any person. The English translation tries to render the idea conveyed by the finish adverb + context and just assumes that the speaker expresses their personal opinion and as such ”I” is a bit more likely/logical.

    Would you actually use ”we hope” in a situation where a group of people interrupts somebody else? I don’t think I ever would.


    Imagine a group of people entering a room together, where there are already some people (e.g. a sports hall); it would be natural for the spokesperson of the group to state to those already in the hall "We hope that we are not disturbing you". It might even sound menacing ;)


    You might read my example above.


    Good. So if I were coming alone, I would say

    • En kai vaan häiritse?

    but here me : we, shows that I'm not alone.

    As Kristian explained, translating this into English is more about other things that straight grammar. Jileha has a good point, try to render the idea conveyed, not to translate word by word.


    I read through the whole thread also and still wonder why it ends with a question mark.


    Leaving aside the complexity of t his sentence already debated across several posts here, why does it start with "emme" and the person is only on the third position? Wouldn't starting with "Me emme..." make more sense?


    No, it would not. As I have answered in this discussion, this is understood as a question, and a question cannot begin with a pronoun.


    WE hope that WE are not disturbing



    If you read the comments by Kristian and me, you will notice that this exercise is very much about how speakers of the languages express things differently rather than how to directly translate between the languages. I am not sufficiently versed in English to say, whether one person speaking in the name of a group should be expressed by "we".


    "I hope that we ... " and "We hope that we ... " are interchangeable, to my mind. I guess it depends on the speaker as to whether they want to act as a group spokesperson or not.

    My issue is with the word "disturbing" ending the sentence - it's very awkward and brings the sentence to a shuddering halt. Hence my suggestion of "We're not interrupting, are we?" to get the verb away from the end (and include two WEs).


    Yet another cultural difference. Such end questions are considered by many (me included) very annoying in Finnish. Avoid them.


    Why's that? They're very natural in English so this translation should be accepted.


    I just tried to point out that their use in Finnish should generally be avoided. So do not say

    • Emme kai me vaan häiritse, vai häiritsemmekö?


    "Emme kai me" is "we hope we". For "I hope I" I would expect "en kai minä". Could somebody explain please?


    I think I answered this in one of my comments here.

    Learn Finnish in just 5 minutes a day. For free.