Finnish Language

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

Nominative:
This is your friend. It is the form you find in the dictionary, and used for the subject of the sentence. Example
Genitive:
(-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
Accusative:
(-n) Used for direct objects of completed actions. Example
Partitive:
(-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

winter

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.

Inessive:
(-ssa/-ssä) "Inside" or "in". No movement is indicated. Example
Illative:
(-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
Elative:
(-sta/stä) "Out of" or "from". Also used when talking about something, or when liking something - the object will take the Elative. Example
Adessive:
(-lla/-llä) "At" or "on". Example
Allative:
(-lle) "To" or "for". Also used like the Dative in German. Example
Ablative:
(-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

Essive:
(-na) "As a..." Used when describing your profession, or when things occur on a certain day. Example
Translative:
(-ksi) Used when things become or turn into something else. Also used for language. Example
Instructive:
(-in) "By means of". Used in the plural. Example
Abessive:
(-tta/-ttä) "Without" Example
Comitative:
(-neen) "With". Rarely used, not used in spoken Finnish. Usually Genitive + 'kanssa' is used. Example

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Hän tuli kauniine vaimoineen. "He came with his beautiful wife."
Tulitko tyhjin käsin? "Did you come empty-handed?"
Valitettavasti, olen rahatta. "Unfortunately, I am without money."
Tämä kirja ei ole englanniksi - se on suomeksi. "This book is not in English - it is in Finnish."
Toivottavasti en tule sairaaksi! "Hopefully I won't get sick!"
Olen työssä tietokoneinsinööri. "I work as a computer engineer."
Syntymäpäiväni on lauantaina. "My birthday is on Saturday."
Haisen savulta. "I smell like smoke."
Menen punttisalille joka päivä. "I go to the gym every day."
Ystäväni on ovella. "My friend is at the door."
Isäni on Saksasta. "My father is from Germany."
Tämä kirja on suomen kielestä. "This book is about the Finnish language."
Pidän savukalasta. "I like smoked fish."
Menen kouluun nyt. "I am going to school now."
Asun Helsingissä. "I live in Helsinki."
Ostan maitoa. "I am buying milk."
Ostan kirjan. "I'm buying a book."
Koiran nimi on Pekka. "The dog's name is Pekka."
Auto on valkoinen. "The car is white."