Sunday, October 14, 2012

Finnish transitive and intransitive verbs

What's the deal with transitive and intransitive verbs in Finnish?  And what do they mean anyway? Can you tell by the looks which is which?

Basically, all verbs are either transitive or intransitive, depending on whether they can have an object or not. Sometimes different verbs in Finnish look quite similar to each other and therefore cause confusion. However, not all verbs have a transitive or intransitive counterpart.

Here's a post about object rules. You might want to check it out before you read further. 

Transitive verbs can have an object.

  • herättää: Herätä minut kuudelta. - Wake me up at six.
  • kaataa: Voitko kaataa minulle maitoa? - Can you pour me some milk?

Intransitive verbs cannot have an object and there is often an idea of something happening by itself.

  • herätä: Mihin aikaan heräsit? - At what time did you wake up? 
  • kaatua: Voi ei, mun lasi kaatui! - Oh no, my glass tipped over!

Many intransitive verbs end with ua or yä. (You can be creative and try to form new verbs with this ending!)

  • jatkua: Jatkuuko tämä kurssi keväällä? - Will this course continue in the spring?
  • unohtua: Mun avain unohtui kotiin. - My key was forgotten (forgot itself) home.
  • löytyä: Avain löytyi sängyn alta. - The key was found (found itself) under the bed. 

These are the transitive equivalents of the verbs:

  • jatkaa: Jatketaan matkaa! - Let's continue the trip!
  • unohtaa: Mä unohdin mun avaimen kotiin. - I forgot my key home. 
  • löytää: En löytänyt avainta mistään. - I didn't find the key anywhere.

Another common intransitive ending is utua or ytyä. With these verbs, there's often an idea of doing something to yourself.

  • siistiytyä: Minä käyn siistiytymässä. - I'll go and tidy myself up. (Such as check up my make up and change clothes.)
  • käyttäytyä: Muista käyttäytyä! - Remember to behave!
  • heittäytyä: Älä nyt heittäydy hankalaksi! - Oh come on, don't be difficult! (to throw oneself)

Again, these are the transitive equivalents, the ones that are used with an object.

  • siistiä: Voisitko vähän siistiä olohuonetta? - Could you clean up the living room a bit? (siistiä is almost the same as siivota, but maybe not as profound cleaning.)
  • käyttää: Osaatko käyttää sitä? - Do you know how to use it?
  • heittää: Heitä se minulle! - Throw it to me!

If the verb ends with ttaa or ttää, it's usually transitive and needs an object. These verbs often mean to make someone do something or to feel like doing something.

  • sammuttaa: Muista sammuttaa valot. - Remember to turn off the lights.
  • kasvattaa: Aiotteko kasvattaa tomaatteja tänä vuonna? - Are you planning to grow tomatoes this year?
  • pudottaa: Älä pudota sitä! - Don't drop it!
  • pissattaa: Pissattaako sinua? - Do you need to pee?

These are the intransitive counterparts:

  • sammua: Luulin, että ne sammuvat itsestään. - I thought they turn off automatically.
  • kasvaa: Oletpa sinä kasvanut! - My, have you grown!
  • pudota: Taas sinä putosit sängystä! - You fell off the bed again!
  • pissata: Älä pissaa lattialle! - Don't pee on the floor!

If this was useful, you might like this Google Drive document about transitive and intransitive verbs.

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.  


Anonymous said...

The last idea of making something do something can be daisy-chained:
sammua: to turn off (or extinquish)
sammuttaa: to turn off (or extinquish) something
sammututtaa, sammutattaa: to have someone turn off (or extinquish) something
sammututattaa/sammutututtaa/sammutatuttaa: to have someone have someone turn off (or extinquish) something
Of course, any more iterations easily end up sounding non-sensical. Even this last one I gave is a bit iffy.

I think the structure comes from -us being "re-verbified" e.g. sammuttaa => sammutus (the act of something being turned off/extinquished) => sammututtaa. I wonder if Hanna would tell us more about this teettojohdos.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. It makes so much sense


Unknown said...

kiitos. minä opin joskus tänään.