1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Finnish
  4. >
  5. "Teacher, is that word correc…

"Teacher, is that word correct?"

Translation:Opettaja, onko tuo sana oikein?

July 22, 2020



Am I supposed to understand "oikein" as the superlative form of the adjective "oikea" or the positive form of the adverb "oikein"? I would think that "sana on" would take a predicative complement (therefore, the adjective) instead of an adverb, but according to Wiktionary (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/oikea#Usage_notes), it is generally inappropriate to use the superlative of the adjective "oikea" because "oikea" itself is already sufficient and "oikein" sounds the same as the adverb.


'Oikein' is used as an adverb in this sentence. It's actually super rare to see 'oikein' as an adjective - I'm from Finland and I realized that it's a superlative only after doing research just to help people who are learning Finnish on DL. I can't think of any example where I'd use the superlative at all, so much so that I can't even "feel" it as a superlative anymore.

There's also usage notes about the superlative on Wiktionary:

The superlatives oikein and väärin are rarely appropriate, because right and wrong are often understood as absolutes, and because of the homonymy with much more frequently used adverbs. People tend to circumvent them by saying eniten väärä, lähinnä oikeaa and eniten oikea, choosing another adjective if available (e.g. kiero, oikeanpuoleinen, oikeellinen) or using kaikista as determiner.


Hi MCR+, in the sentence -oikein- is actually used as an adjective, even if, to you, it seems to be an adverb. It is just that nobody thinks about it as an adjective anymore. There is no action in the sentence that -oikein- modifies, so it is not an adverb.


Hmm. You might be correct. That's exactly what I meant with it being rarely used as a superlative and no matter how much I think of it, I can't wrap my head around it and make it feel like a superlative, even if it basically would be one. If you think about it, it's not the superlative in English either? Correct or right but not "the rightest". I don't know if this is actually used in English ever but what the quote in my previous comment says, if wanting to emphasize the superlative in Finnish, you can say something like: "Tuo sana on kaikista oikein." but it still sounds weird, because if there's multiple things that are correct, how can one of them be more right than the others? But definitely interesting one, I need to look more into this! With a placement it works better but even then I'd say "oikeimmanpuoleisin rakennus" rather than "oikein rakennus".

///Edit: I browsed the wiktionary link a bit more and even if in English it's an adjective, Wiktionary lists the Finnish one as an adverb:

(of a view, opinion) Only used in olla oikea (to be correct, correspond to the reality)

Hänen vastauksensa oli oikein. = Her answer was correct.


Thanks, MCR+. Sometimes languages do funny things. Hard to remember!


You are right that in English it is most common for the adjective "correct" to be used as an absolute, that is, without comparative or superlative gradation. This applies to the use of "correct" to mean "true," which is normally understood to be an absolute quality. On the other hand, it is less common, but not unheard of, to use "correct" to mean "accurate," in which case it would admit of comparative and superlative gradation. Some things (for example, descriptions) are more accurate than others, and in a given set of things there may be one thing that is most accurate. Some people may use "more correct" and "most correct" to describe these things (though never "correcter" or "correctest"). In some philosophical books I've even seen the phrase "most true," although that was translated from ancient Greek, so that may not be the best example of normal English-language style.

I'm still wondering why in Finnish the adverb "oikein" ended up being the word to qualify views and opinions instead of an adjective, as you quoted from Wiktionary. To me, it looks like the adverb is modifying "olla," which is not something that I can remember would be done with "to be" in English. I suppose it's just a Finnish quirk—definitely an interesting quirk, so thanks for sharing.


In English -being well- could be similar.

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