Finnish Infinitives and Participles

Learn about infinitives and participles in Finnish

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Finnish Infinitives

The infinitives listed in the previous section are all part of what we call the first infinitive. There is a special construction, however, in which a translative -kse- is added right onto the first infinitive to show purpose. It must also be accompanied with a personal possessive suffix. With the verb kaivaa (V5 "to dig") and the noun kuoppa (N5 "hole"), I can say "My father went to the cape to dig a hole" as Minun isä meni niemeen kaivaakseen kuopan. This construction is also possible with what we call the third infinitive. The third infinitive is formed by taking the strong-grade third person plural form without the ending -vat/-vät and adding instead -ma/-mä. This newly-formed third infinitive becomes a N4/N5 and can now be inflected in the inessive, elative, illative, adessive and abessive cases. The example above could easily be rendered as follows: Minun isä meni niemeen kaivamaan kuopan, where the third infinitive is in the illative case. However, this form does not emphasize the purpose as the translative + possessive suffix form does. The third infinitive is mostly used to allow for case markings on verbs.

The second infinitive is also used to allow for case inflection, but for more specific purposes. It's formed by removing the infinitive marker -a/-ä, -da/-dä or -ta/-tä and replacing it with -e-, onto which will then be added either the instructive case or the inessive case + in some situations, a possessive suffix. This construction is used where in English we would instead use adverb clauses of time. An example with the inessive case is: Professorin puhuessa kirjoitimme vihkoihimme "While the professor spoke, we wrote in our notebooks" lit. "With the professor's speaking, we wrote in our notebooks"). Another example with the inessive case is: Olimme juuri syömässä teidän tullessanne ("We were just about to eat when you came" lit. "We were just in eating in your coming"). Note tullessanne = tulla ("to come") > tulle- > tullessa + -nne possessive suffix. When using this construction with the instructional case, suffixes are not used. These are used to answer the question miten? ("how?"): 

A: Miten vastaan kysymykseen? ("How do I answer the question?")

B: Vastaa käyttäen infinitiivä! ("Answer using an infinitive!")


The fourth infinitive isn't really an infinitive. It's simply a way of making a verb into a noun, ending in -minen and becoming a N17. From the noun kala ("fish") we get kalastaa ("to fish") and from that we can form a new noun, kalastaminen ("fishing").

Example with 1st INF: Minä haluan kalastaa. ("I want to fish.")

Example with 2nd INF: Minä on varovainen kalastaessani. ("I'm careful when fishing.")

Example with 3rd INF: Tule kalastamaan! ("Come and fish!")

Example with 4th INF: Minä pidän kalastamisesta. ("I like fishing.")

(Note: The verb pitää (V4 "to like") takes the elative case, hence the -sta ending.


Finnish Participles

Finnish has past participles, which are the fourth principal part of every verb type, and also declinable as N22 nominals. There also exists a present participle: it is formed by removing the -t from the third person plural form in the present tense. From the verb laulaa ("to sing") we get he laulavat ("they sing") and finally laulava ("singing"), which can now be inflected as a N4/N5 nominal, as in laulava nainen ("the singing woman").



Finnish Vocabulary and Grammar

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