Sunday, February 7, 2016

Imperfekti - Past tense in Finnish

How to make the past tense? Basically, you just add an i or si after the verb stem, before the personal ending. All verb stems end with a vowel. Some vowels stay, some disappear and one turns into another vowel.

1. o, u and y stay:

  • sanon > sanoin - I say. I said.
  • puhun > puhuin - I speak. I spoke.
  • kysyn > kysyin - I ask. I asked.

2. a, ä, e and i go away:

  • ostan > ostin - I buy. I bought.
  • heitän > heitin - I throw. I threw.
  • menen > menin - I go. I went.
  • tarvitsen > tarvitsin - I need. I needed.
  • pakenen > pakenin - I escape. I escaped.
  • tanssin = tanssin - I dance. I danced. (Yes, they are the same.)

3. Sometimes a becomes o:


4. With the verb type 2 verbs, the first vowel is dropped when you add i to the stem. (Käydä is an exception as käyn becomes kävin in the past tense.)

  • syön > söin - I eat. I ate.
  • juon > join - I drink. I drunk. 
  • vien > vein - I take away. I took away.
  • saan > sain - I get. I got.

5. Finally, all verb type 4 verbs  and some verbs in the verb type 1 have si in the past tense:

  • pakkaan > pakkasin - I pack. I packed.
  • haluan > halusin - I want. I wanted.
  • tykkään > tykkäsin - I like. I liked.
  • tiedän > tiesin - I know. I knew.
  • ymmärrän > ymmärsin - I understand. I understood.
  • lennän > lensin - I flow. I flew. 

p.s. Notice that the third person singular has only one i in the end. Sometimes people accidentally double the i, but don't.

  • hän lähtee > hän lähti - S/he leaves. S/he left.

If this was useful, you might also like my post past tense in a nutshell.

Tein ensimmäisen selkomukautuksen kesällä 2016, ja nyt niitä on jo neljä!
(2018 päivitys: viisi.)

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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. Take a look at my available group courses and all my simple Finnish novels. 

5 comments:

Chloe Millar said...

Thank you this is very clear and easy to understand, I have been trying to remember this for a while!

Hanna Männikkölahti said...

Eipä kestä. Kiva kun voin olla hyödyksi! :)

Ali Vajahat said...

this blog directly targets the real problems that Finnish learner are facing. Great blog! Hyvää bloggi!

chicklet said...

How do you say I took a finnish course

Hanna Männikkölahti said...

Hyvä kysymys! I'd say "Opiskelin suomen kurssilla" or "Olin suomen kurssilla."