Finnish Noun/Adjective Declension
Declension of nouns and adjectives happens when they are used in a sentence to express exactly what is happening. English has largely (but not wholly) dropped its declension and is a word order language. "The man bites the dog" is rather different in meaning from "The dog bites the man", though the words have been simply re-arranged to change the meaning. In Finnish, as in other declined languages, the words have to change their forms so you know exactly who is biting whom (oh look, there's some of our leftover declension!). The previous examples are simple subject-object sentences (the biter being the subject doing the action, the bite-ee being the object or receiver of the action), and are usually in the case known as Accusative in many languages. However, there are other grammatical situations that use different cases, and Finnish happens to have 15 of them. They can be broken down into the Grammatical Cases, Local Cases and Marginal Cases. Hover over the orange "Example" to see an example for each.
The endings below are added onto the declined word stem, which is usually taken from the Genitive. Sometimes the Nominative and Genitive stems will be identical (see valo), and sometimes the Partitive has a separate stem. Consonant gradation also needs to be taken into consideration, so that a word can look vastly different, depending on which case it is in (käsi). The information below is for singular nouns/adjectives, though the plurals are by and large the same. To indicate plural an i is added between the stem and ending, though this can also alter the resulting form of the word (i sandwiched between two vowels changes to j, etc.). Sometimes the added i causes another vowel to "drop out" (koira). But for starters, learn these to become familiar with the case endings.
The Grammatical Cases
- This is your friend. It is the form you find in the dictionary, and used for the subject of the sentence. Example
- (-n) Possessive case. The Genitive stem is very often different from the Nominative, and is usually the stem used for the rest of the cases. Example
- (-n) Used for direct objects of completed actions. Example
- (-a/ä, -ta/-tä, -tta/-ttä) Ending depends on the vowel situation of the stem: one vowel, two vowels or a consonant, and ending in 'e'. It is used for objects of incomplete actions, for specific numbers of things, and almost always for certain "uncountable" nouns. Example
The Local Cases
These are divided into the internal and external local cases, and there are three of each with analogous meanings. Most countries and cities take the internal ones, but there are exceptions.
- (-ssa/-ssä) "Inside" or "in". No movement is indicated. Example
- (-vn*) "Into" or "to". Ending is the last vowel repeated + n. If there are already two vowels, the ending becomes -hin/-hon/-hun, depending on the last vowel, and if the stem ends in two of the same vowel, the ending becomes -seen. Whew. It's not as insane as it sounds. Example
- (-sta/stä) "Out of" or "from". Also used when talking about something, or when liking something - the object will take the Elative. Example
- (-lla/-llä) "At" or "on". Example
- (-lle) "To" or "for". Also used like the Dative in German. Example
- (-lta/-ltä) "From" or "off of". Also used for things at a certain time, or when something smells or tastes like something. Example
The Marginal Cases
- (-na) "As a..." Used when describing your profession, or when things occur on a certain day. Example
- (-ksi) Used when things become or turn into something else. Also used for language. Example
- (-in) "By means of". Used in the plural. Example
- (-tta/-ttä) "Without" Example
- (-neen) "With". Rarely used, not used in spoken Finnish. Usually Genitive + 'kanssa' is used. Example