Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Four important forms of Finnish verbs

I like to teach the past and perfect tenses quite early, as you hear and need those forms in real life just as much as the present tense. Therefore I also like to talk about the four important verb forms. While you memorize the basic form, you might as well learn three additional forms. (Update in 2018: I have a podcast episode about the verb forms!)

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. Just drop the and you have the stem of the verb. It is used in the negative conjugation of the verb, and also when giving commands:

  • 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.
  • Lue! - Read!
  • Älä lue! - Don't read!

More posts to read:

3. Luin

The past tense can be kind of tricky with the different vowel changes. You know, when you add the past tense i some other vowels might change or disappear. However, if you just memorize four important forms of each verb, you'll learn the past tense system automatically. (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 positive past tense conjugation.

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)

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!

About the author of Random Finnish Lesson: 

My name is Hanna Männikkölahti. I am a professional Finnish teacher who gives private online lessons and simplifies books into easy Finnish. Please read more in and follow this blog, if you want to be the first one to know when I post something new. 

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