Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Four important verb forms

When studying verbs with my students I like to introduce the past and perfect tenses quite early, as you really hear and need those forms in the real life just as much as you do the present tense. I also like to talk about the four important verb forms: when memorizing the basic form, you might as well learn three additional forms that will come in very, very handy.

These are the four forms. Let's use lukea, to read, as an example:

 1  LUKEA  the basic form
 2  LUEN  1st person singular present tense
 3  LUIN  1st person singular past tense
 4  LUKENUT   past participle, active

1. Lukea

The basic form is often used after another verb. Here are some random examples:

2. Luen

When you know the so called minä-form you can obviously talk about things you do, but you'll also know the weak stem of the verb, or at least are aware that there might be some consonant changes ahead. Check out the verb types for more detailed description, but don't take the consonant change too seriously and let stressing over it hinder your Finnish studies!

You can review the personal pronouns and endings here.

The minä-form also shows you the form of the verb in negative present: Just drop the n and you have the form to use with ei.

  • Minä en lue. - I don't read. 
  • Sinä et lue - You don't read. 
  • Hän ei lue. - S/he doesn't read. 
  • Me emme lue. - We don't read.
  • Te ette lue. - They don't read. 
  • He eivät lue. - They don't read. 

That is also the form you use when you make commands, e.g. the imperative form. (Tule! Mene! Syö! Lue! Kerro! Ota! Anna! - Come! Go! Eat! Read! Tell! Take! Give!) That is, giving commands to one person. It's a little bit different when talking to more than one person.

3. Luin

The past tense can be kind of annoying with the different vowel changes. You know, when you add the past tense i some other vowels might change or disappear. (There's a logic to that and I'll post about it later.) However, if you just memorize each verbs with this "method", you'll learn the past tense system automatically, it sticks to your brain like the worst earworm, and don't have to worry about it. Just like you might have learned the irregular verbs in English, Swedish and German. If there is a consonant change in present, it's the same in the past tense.

4. Lukenut

The fourth form is my favourite, because you can use it in so many structures, and it seems to be hard to remember that it is the form that you need in the negative past tense. Here are some examples:
  • Miksi sinä et soittanut? - Why didn't you call? (negative past tense)
  • Anteeksi, en muistanut. - I'm sorry, I didn't remember. (negative past tense)
  • Oletko käynyt Lontoossa? - Have you been to London? (perfect tense)
  • Minä en ole lukenut sitä vielä. - I haven't read it yet. (negative perfet tense)
  • Olin jo mennyt nukkumaan, kun ovikello soi. - I had already gone to sleep when the doorbell rang. (pluperfect tense)
  • En ollut vielä käynyt suihkussa, kun taksi tuli. - I hadn't taken a shower yet when the taxi arrived. (negative pluperfect tense)

Anyway, you will probably hear this form the most when people talk about what they didn't do. (en ollut, en mennyt, en ostanut..) It would be so logical to say en oli*, en meni* or en osti* as that is the system in the present tense, but now you know better!

p.s. Check out my Memrise course about the four important forms.

You might also like my post about the past tense and past tenses in Finnish.

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