Finnish grammar

This article deals with the grammar of the Finnish language. It is probably best to read the main article first. There is a separate article covering the ways in which spoken Finnish differs from the formal grammar of the written language.

Pronouns

The pronouns are inflected in the Finnish language much in the same way that their referent nouns are.

Personal pronouns

Somewhat like in English, the personal pronouns are used to refer to human beings only. The personal pronouns in Finnish in the nominative case are listed in the following table:

Interrogative pronouns

Reflexive pronouns

Noun forms

The Finnish language does not distinguish gender in nouns or even in personal pronouns: 'hän' = 'he' or 'she' depending on the referent.

Cases

Finnish has fifteen noun cases: four grammatical cases, six locative cases, two essive cases (three in some Eastern dialects) and three marginal cases. Notice that the word in a given locative case modifies the verb, not a noun.

Inflected plural

This uses the stem of the partitive plural inflected with the same set of endings as for singular nouns. The suffix is "-i-", and it suppresses long vowels; it may only appear before another suffix.

Noun/adjective stem types

Vowel stems

Vowel stems are generally invariable. However, the ending vowel can change.

The diminutive form mostly lives in surnames which are usually very old words to which most Finns have forgotten the meaning. Some of the most common:

And here are some examples of adjectives inflected to agree with nouns:

uperlative formation

The superlative of the adjective is formed by adding '-in' to the inflecting stem. For example:

Irregular forms

The most important irregular form is:

Where the inflecting stem is 'uude-' but the superlative is 'uusin' = 'newest'.

Postpositions and prepositions

Postpositions are more common in Finnish than prepositions. Both postpositions and prepositions can be combined with either a noun or a possessive suffix to form a P-positional phrase.

Postpositions

Postpositions indicate place, time, cause, consequence or relation.In postpositional phrases the noun is usually in genitive:

Some postpositions can also be used as prepositions:

To form the plural, add '-kaa' or '-kää' to the verb's stem:

3rd person imperatives

Potential

The potential mood is used to express that the action or state expressed by the verb is likely but not certain, and is rare in modern Finnish, especially in speech. It has only the present and perfect tenses. The potential has no counterpart in English.

The characteristic morphology of the Finnish conditional is -ne- inserted between the verb stem and the personal ending. Furthermore, continuants assimilate progressively (pes+ne- → pesse-) and stops regressively (korjat+ne- → korjanne-). The verb "lie" always replaces the verb "olla" "to be" in the potential mood, e.g. the potential of "on haettu" "has been fetched" is "lienee haettu" "may have been fetched".

Potential forms exists for both definite and indefinite voices, and for present and perfect tenses:

The first infinitive long form is the translative plus a possessive suffix (rare in spoken language).

Third infinitive

This corresponds to the English verbal noun (-ing form), and behaves as a noun in Finnish in that it can be inflected, but only in a limited number of cases. It is used to refer to a particular act or occasion of the verb's action.

The third infinitive is formed by taking the verb stem with its consonant in the strong form, then adding 'ma' followed by the case inflection.

The cases in which the third infinitive can appear are:

Though not an infinitive, a much more common -MINEN verbal stem ending is the noun construct which gives the name of the activity described by the verb. This is rather similar to the English verbal noun -ING form, and therefore as a noun, this form can inflect just like any other noun.

Past active participle

Basically this is formed by removing the infinitive ending and adding '-nut/nyt' (depending on vowel harmony). For example:

Present passive participle

It is not required for the action to be in the past, although the examples above are. Rather, the construction simply specifies the subject, the object and the action, with no reference to time. For an example in the future, consider: "huomenna käyttämänänne välineenä on --" "tomorrow, as the instrument you will be using is --". Here, "käyttämä" "that which is used" describes, i.e. is an attribute to "väline" "instrument". (Notice the case agreement between "käyttämä-nä" and "välinee-nä".) The suffix "-nne" "your" specifies the person "owning" the action, i.e. who does it, thus "käyttämänne" is "that which was used by you(pl.)", and "käyttämänänne" is "as that which was used by you".

It is also possible to give the actor with a pronoun, e.g. "sinun käyttämäsi" "that which was used by you". In standard language, the pronoun "sinun" "your" is not necessary, but the possessive suffix is. In inexact spoken usage, this goes vice versa; the possessive suffix is optional, and used typically only for the second person singular, e.g. "sun käyttämäs".

Negation of verbs

Present indicative

Verbs are negated by using a 'negative verb' in front of the stem from the present tense (in its 'weak' consonant form):

Note one exception: when the 'te' 2nd person plural form is used in an honorific way to address one person, the singular form of the participle is used: 'te ette puhunut' = 'you (s, polite) did not speak'.

Imperfect indefinite

The negative is formed from the third-person singular negative verb - 'ei' - and the nominative singular form of the passive present participle (compare this with the negative of the imperfect indicative):

Adverbs

A very common way of forming adverbs is by adding the ending '-sti' to the inflecting form of the corresponding adjective:

Because of the '-i-', the stem vowel can change, similarly to superlative adjectives, or to avoid runs of three vowels:

or:

and:

The location of the thing whose existence is being stated comes first, followed by its stative verb, followed by the thing itself. Note how this is unlike the normal English equivalent, though English can also use the same order:

Note what happens to the verb in the English and Finnish versions when the meaning is plural.

Note that the verb remains singular in Finnish existential statements when declaring more than one item. The English construction moves the verb to a plural form because English follows the beds as subject whereas the Finnish construction treats the beds as objects (it is essentially ADVERB-STATIVE VERB-OBJECT)

ee also

*
* Finnish phonology


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