Thursday, April 2, 2015

Referative construction

I like to call this the end of Finnish grammar. Of course, there's no end, but if you can use this structure correctly, you already know quite a lot! The referative construction is not very common in spoken language, but it is used a lot in written language and for example in hospital reporting.

This is how you would normally say something:

  • Potilas kertoo, että hän asuu yksin. - The patient tells that he lives alone. 

When writing, you can save space and time by dropping että, taking a VA-participle and adding a suitable possessive suffix:

  • Potilas kertoo asuvansa yksin. - The patient tells that he lives alone. 

What about if there are two different subjects?  If you have someone else telling what is going on, and you want to use this structure, you have to have the second person and the VA-participle in the genitive form, but you don't need the possessive suffix.

  • Poika kertoo, että potilas asuu yksin. - The son tells that the patient lives alone. 
  • Poika kertoo potilaan asuvan yksin. - The son tells that the patient lives alone. 

If something happened in the past, use the NUT participle. Notice how nut becomes nee before the suffix, which might be a bit confusing.

  • Potilas kertoo, että hän kaatui. - The patient tells that he fell over.
  • Potilas kertoo kaatuneensa - The patient tells that he fell over. (Actually, kaatuneensa can mean either kaatui, on kaatunut or oli kaatunut.)

Again, there can be two subjects. When using the referative construction, the second subject and the NUT-participle are in the genitive form.

  • Poika kertoo, että potilas kaatui. - The son tells that the patient fell over.
  • Poika kertoo potilaan kaatuneen. - The son tells that the patient fell over.

Here's a table that hopefully clarifies it all: 

  Which participle?
  One subject

  Two subjects


Potilas kertoo asuvansa yksin.                         
Poika kertoo potilaan asuvan yksin. 


Potilas kertoo kaatuneensa.  
Poika kertoo potilaan kaatuneen.


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About the author of this blog:

My name is Hanna Männikkölahti, and I am a native Finn who gives private lessons via Skype and simplifies books into easy Finnish. Please leave a comment, if you have something to ask about Finnish. Click here to see all my courses.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kiitos sulle! :)