Finnish Verb Types

Learn various types of verbs in Finnish

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These Finnish lessons were written by Josh Pirie.

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Finnish Verbs

Just as the nominals had four principal parts, so too will the verbals have four principal parts for the student to master. These are made up of first the basic infinitive (which will always end in -a/-ä or any assimilated form of -da/-dä and -ta/tä), then the first person singular present, then the third person singular past (what we in English call a "simple past"), and finally the past participle, which is a N22 nominal. There are only eleven verbal types, and they too carry gradation with voiceless plosives.


Type 1 (V1): nukkua, nukun, nukkui, nukkunut ("sleep")

V1s are the most common type of verbal in Finnish. Like N1s, they feature the back and front versions of mid to low vowels: o, ö, u and y.


Type 2 (V2): tuntea, tunnen, tunsi, tuntenut ("know")

This, like N2, seems to make more sense when considering that t > s before i. N2 nominals also had this kind of palatalization.


Type 3 (V3): pyrkiä, pyrin, pyrki, pyrkinyt ("strive")

The only difference between V2 and V3 is the same as the difference between N2 and N3: V3 has as its thematic vowel an i instead of an e.


Type 4 (V4): esittää, esitän, esitti, esittänyt ("present")

V4 does not take -a, but rather -ä as its infinitive marker. This is a similar difference in N4 and N5. V5 will feature infinitives in -a.


Type 5 (V5): kirjoittaa, kirjoitan, kirjoitti, kirjoittanut ("write")

The Dog & Cabin rules takes effect here. Just as disyllabic stems in N5 had a partitive plural in -ia if the stem vowel was o or u, and the partitive plural had the -oja ending otherwise, so too will V5s carry a third principal part in -oi if the infinitive does not have an o or a u in it. "To give" is antaa, annan, antoi, antanut, but "to take" is ottaa, otan, otti, ottanut. There is no -o- in this form because there is an o in the stem.


Now, we start to see some of the -da/-dä verbs. Up until now, we've seen the basic STRONG + WEAK + STRONG + STRONG gradation pattern. From V6 to V11, we'll see a WEAK + STRONG + STRONG + WEAK pattern.


Type 6 (V6): saada, saan, sai, saanut ("get")

There is a double vowel before the infinitival ending -da/-dä in V6. In the third principal part, the appearance of -i will force the vowel to shorten.


Type 7 (V7): kuulla, kuulen, kuuli, kuullut ("hear")

There are two l's in the infinitive simply because one of them used to be a d. The second d is removed before the personal endings are affixed. Historically, the infinitive would have looked like kuulda. Verbs of this type aren't restricted to endings of -lla/-llä; there are also -nna/-nnä and -rra/-rrä infinitives, each of which carries a historical d that has been assimilated for ease of pronunciation.


Type 8 (V8): nousta, nousen, nousi, noussut ("rise")

In this type, the infinitive marker -da/-dä has become -ta/-tä as a result of assimilation of voicing (voiceless /s/ triggering the /t/ sound). This verbal type always has an s before the infinitive.


Type 9 (V9): tavata, tapaan, tapasi, tavannut ("meet")

The -t- has disappeared in the second principal part, hence the double aa. Once again, due to palatalization, the third principal part will use s instead of t. In the past participle, the t has assimilated to n. Historically, the forms were tavata, tapatan, tapati, tavatnut.


Type 10 (V10): merkitä, merkitsen, merkitsi, merkinnyt ("mark as")

This verbal type is characterized by the appearance of -i- in the infinitive and -itse- in the second principal part (the present stem). As in V9, the t in the past participle has assimilated to n. 


Type 11 (V11): vanheta, vanhenen, vanheni, vanhennut ("become old")

V11 is reserved for those verbs that carry the meaning of "becoming" something, like vanheta ("to become old"), nuoreta ("to become young"), etc. It too has a special characteristic in the second and third principal parts: an epenthetic -ene-. 



Finnish Vocabulary and Grammar

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