Finnish Grammar

The morphosyntactic alignment is nominative–accusative; but there are two object cases: accusative and partitive. The contrast between the two is telic, where the accusative case denotes actions completed as intended (Ammuin hirven “I shot (killed) the elk”), and the partitive case denotes incomplete actions (Ammuin hirveä “I shot (at) the elk”). Often this is confused with perfectivity, but the only element of perfectivity that exists in Finnish is that there are some perfective verbs. Transitivity is distinguished by different verbs for transitive and intransitive, e.g. ratkaista “to solve something” vs. ratketa “to solve by itself”. There are several frequentative and momentane verb categories.

Verbs gain personal suffixes for each person; these suffixes are grammatically more important than pronouns, which are often not used at all in standard Finnish. The infinitive is not the uninflected form but has a suffix -ta or -da; the closest one to an uninflected form is the third person singular indicative. There are four persons, first (“I, we”), second (“you (singular), you (plural)”), third (“s/he, they”). The passive voice (sometimes called impersonal or indefinite) resembles a “fourth person” similar to, e.g., English “people say/do/…”. There are four tenses, namely present, past, perfect and pluperfect; the system mirrors the Germanic system. The future tense is not needed, because of context and the telic contrast. For example, luen kirjan “I read a book (completely)” indicates a future, when luen kirjaa “I read a book (not yet complete)” indicates present.

Nouns may be suffixed with the markers for the aforementioned accusative case and partitive case, the genitive case, eight different locatives, and a few other cases. The case marker must be added not only to the main noun, but also to its modifiers; e.g. suure+ssa talo+ssa, literally “big-in house-in”. Possession is marked with a possessive suffix; separate possessive pronouns are unknown. Pronouns gain suffixes just as nouns do.

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