Finnish Cases

Learn about the various cases of Finnish

Finnish Flag

These Finnish lessons were written by Josh Pirie.

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Finnish Cases

The cases will be expanded on later in the tutorial. It is important to introduce them, however, before going into the forms of the principal parts mostly because the principal parts are made up of some of the cases. The word "case" is the word we use to signify a specific ending and its form/use. Unlike Russian, where cases are few but each carries a large number of grammatical functions, Finnish cases are quite light; they each carry no more than two or three functions, often no more than one. 

The cases are divided into the four syntactic cases, which make up the principal parts of nominals, and eleven semantic cases, three of which have become quite obsolete and are no longer productively used. The four syntactic cases are the nominative, accusative, genitive and partitive. The nominative case is the dictionary case: when you look up words in the dictionary, you will find these. This is the "default" case, but the stem is not predictable from the nominative form. The stem is taken from the genitive form. The genitive case is used mostly for possession and it always ends in -n; like English but unlike Latin, the possessive form comes before the possessed noun in Finnish. (I bring up Latin because it too has a genitive, which also yields stems onto which case endings are placed in the oblique cases.) The partitive is the case that is used almost as commonly as the nominative in Finnish; it carries the meaning of partial, or mass, whereas the nominative carries the meaning of the entirety. In English, we grammaticalize this with the use of definite and indefinite articles. The accusative is almost a non-case in Finnish, as it carries the same form as either the nominative or the genitive, depending on the sentence type. When we need to determine the declensions of nominals, we look to the nominative singular to give us the dictionary form, the genitive singular to give us the singular stem, the partitive singular (which will always end in -a/-ä or -ta/-tä, but is otherwise unpredictable), and the partitive plural, which yields the plural stem. The plural stem, incidentally, will always carry an -i- or a -j-.

The semantic cases are grouped into different subsections: the internal locative cases, which show location in, into and from within, and the external locative cases, which show location on, onto and from on top of. There is also a translative case and an essive case, which are called role cases. The three obsolete cases are the abessive, instructive and comitative. The functions of these will come later.

 


 

Finnish Vocabulary and Grammar



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